"We're finally going to Florida!"

ICW: Second Leg (April 21 - May 8, 2000)
After a brief layover in Brunswick, GA, we continue on south.

Friday, April 21, 2000: Plan for the Second Leg

We anticipate that the second leg of our journey down the ICW will contrast greatly with the first. While we were cold for much of the first leg through Virginia and the Carolinas, we anticipate being hot for much of the second leg down Florida's coast. The heat will bring insects -- something we really didn't have to worry about during the first leg. On the positive side, though, we hope to make much of this leg on the "outside", in the coastal Atlantic, if the weather is favorable. We hope that this will give us significantly more sailing time than we've experienced thus far. We're praying for weather!

In any case, following is our tentative schedule for this leg of the trip. And yes, we've broken the second "half" of the journey in half again, because it's all taking quite a bit longer than we expected, and we don't feel the need to rush. With luck and good weather, this leg should bring us to Ft. Lauderdale.

Mile 681 to 711: Brunswick Georgia to Cumberland Island: Submarines sometimes surface between Miles 708 and 711! We plan to anchor near the Sea Camp Dock and Visitor Center, then dinghy over to visit southern Cumberland Island (Sea Camp and Dungeness) for the day.

Mile 711 to 778: Cumberland Island to St. Augustine Inlet: Weather permitting, we hope to go outside via the St. Mary's River (Mile 715). We'll come back inside either at the St. John's River (Mile 739), or through the St. Augustine Inlet (Mile 778), provided we can get either some local knowledge or a current chart of the inlet. Going outside will skip five bridges.

Mile 778 to 830/845: St. Augustine to Daytona / New Smyrna Beach: If weather is bad, we'll stay inside, and end up in Daytona (Mile 830). Weather and charts permitting, we'll go outside from St. Augustine Inlet (Mile 776) to Ponce deLeon Inlet (Mile 843). Going outside makes for about a 75-mile day, including getting to the marina from the inlet, but we skip six more bridges.

Mile 830/845 to 893/897: Daytona / New Smyrna Beach to Cape Canaveral / Cocoa: We'll do this day via the ICW; otherwise, we'd have to go all the way around the shoals east of Cape Canaveral, and it would actually take longer. Unfortunately, the ICW leads through the aptly-named "Mosquito Lake", so we'll have to bathe in bug repellent. If the weather forecast is favorable for the upcoming day, we'll spend the night in a marina near the end of the Cape Canaveral Barge Canal (Mile 893); otherwise, we'll spend the night in Cocoa (Mile 897). If we stop in Daytona the night before, this could be a fairly long day.

Mile 893 to 966 OR 897 to 952: Cape Canaveral to Ft. Pierce OR Cocoa to Vero Beach: We can go outside from Cape Canaveral (Mile 893) to Ft Pierce (Mile 966), or we can take the ICW from Cocoa (Mile 897) to Vero Beach (Mile 952). Going outside makes for another 75-mile day, including getting to the marina, and we only skip one bridge.

Mile 952/966 to Mile 1018: Vero Beach / Ft Pierce to Lake Worth/Palm Beach: If weather's good and we go outside, we won't be able to come back in via Jupiter Inlet (Mile 1006), because it has a 6 knot current over 5 feet of shoals at the entrance. We'll go on down to Ft. Worth Inlet (Mile 1018) at Palm Beach instead. If weather's bad and we stay inside, we'll have to contend with no fewer than TEN bridges! Snorkeling is particularly good in Lake Worth, so we might give it a shot.

Mile 1018 to 1066: Lake Worth/Palm Beach to Ft Lauderdale: There are 21 bridges on the inside route, only 6 of which open on demand! We'll go outside if can. If weather's bad, we might even wait a day, and do some snorkeling in Lake Worth. We'll find an anchorage in Ft Lauderdale for a week, rent a car and drive back to check on Claude, pay bills, etc.

Monday, April 24, 2000: Back to Brunswick

First thing in the morning, we loaded our bags and a bunch of groceries into the rental car, then drove back to Brunswick. The drive took forever, possibly because we kept driving through scattered thunderstorms, and because we stopped off in St. Augustine to inquire about entering the St. Augustine Inlet. (All our charts show the inlet as a big grey blob, with a note that says, "Channel and markers change frequently, and aren't charted. Obtain local knowledge.") A guy at the local bait and tackle shop assured me that I wouldn't have any problems, but advised me to favor the greens on the way in.

We finally got to Brunswick, and unloaded our stuff in between rainstorms. I returned the car, discovering that it had cost us exactly as much as if I had rented from Hertz. The moral: If you're renting a car for a long drive, you're better off with a major brand.

Tuesday, April 25, 2000: Layover in Brunswick

After checking the weather forecast, we decided to spend another day in Brunswick, rather than fight 25-30 knot winds and scattered thunderstorms. We spent the day planning the third leg of our trip around the Florida Keys. This leg will be a little trickier because there are several pieces of the ICW that we simply can't use, either because there are low bridges, or because they're not deep enough.

We went out to dinner and had some really good shrimp. The casino boat returned around midnight, disrupting an otherwise serene evening.

Wednesday, April 26, 2000: Brunswick, GA (Mile 686) to Cumberland Island (Mile 710)

We got up early and checked out in time to make the 8:30 opening of the Lanier Lift Bridge. We crossed St. Simons Sound again, then went down Jekyll Creek, into Jekyll Sound, and down the Cumberland River past King's Bay. King's Bay is home to six Trident submarines, and we had hoped to see one surface, but we only got a glimpse of one in its giant hangar.

At the south end of Cumberland Island, we reversed course and headed north up the deep water by its coast, then anchored up by Greyfield Inn. We dragged our dinghy out of its locker for the first time ever, and eventually managed to get it inflated and assembled. We started the outboard for the first time, and it worked fine. We dinghied back south to Sea Camp Dock, and drove the dinghy up on the beach, where we lashed it to a tree.

We walked across the island to Sea Camp, which was almost as pristine as I remember it. We walked south down the beach, and saw several wild horses. We cut inland again to Dungeness, and saw even more wild horses on the back lawn of the old estate. On the way back to our dinghy, we saw a coral snake and bunches of armadillos.

Our dinghy was still there when we got back to Sea Camp Dock, and we headed back to our boat as the day grew late. The engine cut out twice inexplicably -- something we'll have to investigate further. Once back to the boat, we decided to stow the dinghy again -- a task that became a lot of work. We spent almost an hour trying to find an elegant way to deflate and stow the dinghy, and finally just rolled it up and stuffed it in the locker. That will require some more thought.

We had dinner and watched Star Trek. As it turns out, we had better phone and TV reception on Cumberland Island than we've had in most of the major ports we've visited!

Thursday, April 27, 2000: Cumberland Island to St. Augustine, FL (Mile 778)

We were concerned about navigating the St. Augustine Inlet, so we got a very early start, hoping to enter the inlet an hour or so before high tide. I did take time out to swap the propane tanks so that Theresa could fix some coffee.

We went south down the St. Mary's River and out into the ocean for the first time. We had a beautiful sail down the coast, but we only had 5-15 knots of wind, so we kept the motor on to make better time. Our autohelm ("George") cut out twice for no apparent reason, but we rebooted him and he started working again. Odd. Concerning. The traveler on the main outhaul also seized up, apparently due to some crushed plastic ball bearings. Something else to fix.

We reached the St. Augustine Inlet by 3:30pm, and circled at the mouth for a little while trying to figure the channel out. We called our marina on the VHF, and they recommended we talk to SeaTow, whom we called reluctantly. The SeaTow guy gave us decent directions, though, and we made it through OK, despite some nasty following swells, even on such a beautiful, relatively calm day. The giant cross on shore makes a good landmark upon which to enter the channel.

We passed through the scenic Bridge of Lions, then docked at the fuel dock and filled up on diesel (26.5 gallons, engine hours 946, net 27 hours). We then moved the boat around the corner to our slip, where we pumped out the holding tanks. I also refilled the forward water tank.

We showered, then walked into St. Augustine, seeing the Castillo di San Marcos, the oldest European fort in the Americas. (Theresa had visited the fort back when she was six, and she recalls it seeming a LOT bigger back then!) We also walked by the Spanish Quarter, Flagler College, and the Basilica di San Augustine. We had dinner at Lynch's Irish Pub, then stayed for the live music -- an 80's cover band called "Little Green Men".

Friday, April 28, 2000: St. Augustine, FL to Daytona Beach, FL (Mile 830)

We were a little hungover, so we got a relatively late start (9:00am). The weather forecast called for 20-25 knots of wind, 5-6 foot seas offshore, and scattered thunderstorms, so we decided to stay inside the ICW rather than go offshore again.

From St. Augustine, we went down the Matanzas River for most of the day. Just before the Matanzas Inlet, a passing boat alerted us to two bald eagles sitting on the beach, apparently fishing. A few minutes later, we came to the Matanzas Inlet, where we encountered some serious shoaling, and even bumped ground right at the mouth of the inlet. Once through that area, we passed Fort Matanzas, and spent the next couple of hours feeling our way down the narrow and shallow channel of the ICW.

The wind blew madly all day, gusting up to 32 knots on several occasions. Scattered showers pursued us all day, and we got rained on hard for about five minutes. I was glad that we were inside, rather than offshore -- not so much because it would have been a hard sail to windward, but because I really didn't want to have to navigate either the St. Augustine Inlet or the Ponce de Leon Inlet in that kind of weather. We did see lots of dolphins, as well as scads of boats headed north.

We docked at English Jim's Marina in Daytona, and I took a nap while Theresa showered and did a load of laundry. After I woke, I removed the traveler on the main outhaul, losing several bearings overboard in the process. Once I got it all below, I sorted the bad bearings from the good ones, then replaced them all. Theresa returned, and we painsakingly reinstalled the traveler, feeding the remaining ball bearings into their slots one at a time with a pair of tweezers!

Theresa also made a great dinner, and watched a whole pod of dolphins play and feed right beside our boat. We updated the logs, and went to sleep. Tomorrow's going to be a another long day of Intracoastal Waterway.

Saturday, April 29, 2000: Daytona Beach, FL to Cape Canaveral, FL (Mile 893)

As planned, we spent the day in the ICW. As soon as we left the dock, we had to pass under three bridges in rapid succession. The first two opened on demand, and we caught the last one perfectly, so they really didn't slow us down much.

As we continued south, the ICW narrowed and shallowed out considerably. We caught up to a tugboat "ALIA" at the north end of Mosquito Lake, and decided to follow him for as long as he continued on our way. As it turns out, this was almost 40 miles -- all the way down the Mosquito Lake, and a good distance down the Indian River. Alia drew 6 feet, and we saw him bump ground several times. We spoke to him a few times on the VHF, and his only advice was "There's just no water in here." We draw 5'9", and our depth sounder alarm was going off the entire way. I've never been so happy to see a tug.

From the Titusville area, we could see Kennedy Space Port, but the space shuttle wasn't out in the open. They must have wheeled it back into its hangar.

We parted ways with Alia at the Canaveral Barge Canal, where he continued south and we turned east. Across the Banana River, we waited for and then entered the Canaveral Lock. That was a real trick, because there were half a dozen little fishing boats also waiting for the lock, and they weren't paying much attention to what they were doing. Once inside the lock, we found a space along the right wall, and managed to tie up nicely despite the other boats. The lock opened, and the water level rose 1-2 feet. The other boats pulled out, but there was a Coast Guard boat waiting on the other side, so everyone was driving at a near standstill. This made navigation even more difficult, but we made it on out the other side without incident.

We passed under another bridge, and called Cape Marina, where Theresa had made reservations. They couldn't decide which slip to put us in, and we circled for several minutes waiting for them to send someone out to help us with our lines. The slip itself was very snug (kind of like our slip in Annapolis, but with boats on the far side too), and we were glad we had someone to help catch the boat on our way in.

By the time we got the boat secured and I went up to the office, everybody had gone home, even though it was only 5:00! We didn't have a key to the showers, but Theresa introduced herself to another couple at the marina, and they agreed to let us into the bath house so we could shower.

Sunday, April 30, 2000: Cape Canaveral, FL to Fort Pierce, FL (Mile 966)

The weather forecast today was 10-15 knots out of the northeast, with seas 3-5 feet. This didn't sound bad -- particularly relative to our long day of shallow water yesterday -- so we decided to go outside.

As we left Cape Canaveral, the wind wasn't really doing much -- languishing about at 5 knots from the north. About 30-45 minutes south of the Cape, though, we heard a report over the VHF that someone had spotted two waterspouts east of Cape Canaveral. We looked back behind us, and saw a big black cloud hanging over the Cape. The sky started darkening around us, and our autopilot quit working. The winds freshened to 15 knots, and Theresa took the helm as I pulled everything out of our stern locker to tinker with the autohelm. Theresa dodged a thundercloud (by heading a little out to sea), and I finally managed to get the autohelm back online.

Unfortunately, "George" couldn't steer a straight course with the now big swells coming off the stern quarter, so we had to continue steering manually. Worse yet, spending thirty minutes with my head down in the stern locker left me feeling awfully queasy, so Theresa had to take the helm for much of the rest of the trip. Every time I went below to plot our position, I came back up feeling queasy again. In retrospect, I probably should have taken some Dramamine right away.

Eventually, we reached the Fort Pierce Inlet. Once inside, the seas were almost calm. We called our marina (the Pelican Yacht Club), and they sent someone out to help us tie up to the fuel dock. We bought fuel (32 gallons, engine hours 972, net 26 hours). Our fuel efficiency was a bit lower than usual because we spent so long yesterday at higher than normal RPM's in order to keep up with the tugboat.

We moved the boat around to our slip, which I laid us into beautifully (in contrast to yesterday's docking). We hooked up our power, turned on the air conditioning, and went ashore to take showers. Afterward, we had dinner at the nearby Chuck's Seafood.

Monday, May 1, 2000: Fort Pierce, FL to Palm Beach, FL (Mile 1018)

The morning's weather forecast called for winds 15-20 knots, with higher gusts and scattered thunderstorms. We decided to stay inside, despite the 10 bridges we had to pass. The worst of these were at Jupiter Inlet, where the currents were running swiftly in our direction of travel, there were three bascule bridges back-to-back, and the little fishing boats were out in force. Just to add to the fun, the Jupiter Federal Bridge only opened one half of the span, and it opened really slowly, so I had to hold position in a following current to get lined up properly. Dicey.

Below Jupiter, we entered North Palm Beach. Palm Beach is home to some very wealthy people, and many have built mansions along the waterway. We saw single-family houses that looked like resorts, and we saw several motoryachts over 100 feet long.

Once we reached the Lake Worth Inlet, we called the Sailfish Marina to get directions in to our slip. As has been the case almost every time we call a marina, their directions were incredibly sketchy. Our slip was very long -- so long in fact that we didn't even use the two pilings off the stern because the middle pilings were at our stern. One look at the boat next to us explained why -- it was over 70 feet long.

Once we were all tied up for the night, I took the opportunity to hose the salt off of everything and refill the water tanks. The water was incredibly clear, and we could see all kinds of tropical fish swimming just under the dock. Theresa met one of our neighbors who offered us some fish fillets (moonfish) which we grilled for dinner. They were excellent.

We checked the weather forecast before we went to sleep, and the outlook for the following day was pretty decent. Encouraged by the weather and our easy progress so far, we decided to push on through to Miami, rather than stopping in Fort Lauderdale. Beyond that, we decided to keep going as long as the weather held out.

In light of my difficulties with seasickness on our last outside passage, Theresa suggested that I try one of the Scopomine patches, so I put one on before I went to sleep. Kind of scary that something stuck to your skin can have any kind of pharmacological effect.

Tuesday, May 2, 2000: Palm Beach, FL to Miami, FL (Mile 1090)

I felt almost hungover in the morning, but we got an early start, and had a good sail down to Miami. The swells were only 2-4 feet, so I took the patch off soon after we got into the ocean. Still, I felt kind of rotten all day. To make matters worse, our autopilot quit working again. It still shows the rudder position and bearing, but every time I try to engage the autopilot, it complains that it doesn't have enough voltage. "George" definitely has some loose wires somewhere.

We pulled into Miami's Government Cut around 4:00pm, and called Miami Beach Marina, where we bought fuel (??? gallons, engine hours 988, net 16 hours), then moved our boat around the corner to our slip. This slip was over 20 feet wide, and 60 feet long. It dwarfed our boat, and made it difficult to secure the lines. We got some help from the neighboring sailboat, "Galaxy".

I tinkered around with the autopilot some more, then finally gave up. We went to dinner at Monty's. Alltogether, it was a really nice marina, but it was also incredibly expensive ($1.85/foot!).

Wednesday, May 3, 2000: Miami, FL to Caesar Creek (Mile 1116)

The weather forecast could best be summarized as "more of the same", so we pushed ahead toward our next anchorage at Caesar's Creek. I took half a Dramamine, and we had a wonderful sail south, arriving at the entrance to Caesar's Creek by noon.

As we made the approach, though, we hit a shoal at the entrance to the creek, right where our chart shows 9 feet of water. Before we knew what was happening, we were hard aground, with the wind pushing us onto the shoal from the east. We managed to turn the boat around, but we couldn't get free, and had to call TowBoat US. Since Caesar's Creek is part of Biscayne National Park, they had to report the grounding to the Park Service, who also sent a boat out to write up a report.

The park ranger got to us first, with blue lights flashing, and I began to worry that he'd add insult to injury by writing me a ticket for disturbing the precious grass in the creek. (It seems that the grass is particularly important somehow, so the Park Service has chosen not to dredge the creek, and has instead allowed it to silt in completely since the charts were last printed.) He just took information for his report, though, and stood by as the TowBoat US guy arrived and attempted to pull us free.

Unlike our first towing experience at Wrightsville Beach, this one didn't go so well. It was about 40 minutes before the TowBoat US guy arrived on the scene, and the tide had been falling the entire time. We ran aground with our depth sounder reading 4.5 feet, and it was reading just over 3 feet by the time he arrived. The TowBoat US guy tried to pull us seaward first, but without any success. We then re-ran the towing line, and he swung us around toward the creek, and attempted to pull us farther into the creek, where there was still some deep water. We got turned around, but still wouldn't budge. Lastly, he tried attaching a rope 10 feet up our mast, so he could kedge us over a bit, but this didn't work either. In the end, he gave up, and told us that we'd have to wait for the tide to turn and float us off. He turned us back around to face the sea, and both he and the park ranger went home.

It was a pleasant day, but Theresa and I were too freaked out by our predicament to enjoy it. We set an anchor in the seaward direction (east), but the wind and sea pushed the bow back in toward the creek anyway, dragging the anchor with it. With each wave, we felt the keel bump against the bottom.

Around 4:00, our depth sounder was once again reading over 4 feet, so we decided to see if we could get free. Theresa reeled the anchor in as I rocked the boat back and forth, trying to swing the bow back out to sea. I got the bow turned around, and then, just as suddenly as it all started, we were free!

Though we were free, we didn't have much place to go. We didn't have time to go all the way back to Miami, and there wasn't another place to stop until the cut-through at Lower Matecumbe. Before he left, we had asked the TowBoat US guy for his advice, and he suggested that we just nose up to the shore north of Caesar's Creek, and drop the anchor. He seemed to think that we could spend the night safely there. We took his advice and set our anchor in 10 feet of water, with our nose facing straight out into the Atlantic. It's kind of rolly, but I have high hopes that we'll make it through the night OK.

Thursday, May 4, 2000: Caesar Creek to Lower Matecumbe Key (Mile 1170)

Theresa and I didn't sleep much last night, but the anchor didn't drag, and we woke to find ourselves exactly where we anchored. We headed back out around the mouth of Caesar Creek, then continued south down Hawk Channel through the John Pennekamp State Park. The wind was still blowing steadily out of the east, so we put up the sails and hauled along at almost 9 knots under both sail and power. Theresa was exhausted, so I took the other half of my Dramamine and drove most of the way.

The first major channel from the outside of the Keys to the inside is at Lower Matecumbe Key, south of Key Largo and north of Long Key and Marathon. The chart observes that the channel is subject to shoaling, and we encountered this in spades. As the depth alarm started sounding, Theresa went up to the bow to spot the shoals, and we felt our way slowly up to the bridge. We made it to the bridge without running aground, and passed under it safely.

Unfortunately, the other side of the bridge wasn't much better, and we had trouble finding any deep water. Theresa called the marina where we had intended to stay, and they told us that they hadn't dredged since last year's hurricanes, and didn't have enough depth for us. We reluctantly decided to anchor out again, though this time we were on the inside of the Keys, so we felt much more protected.

Theresa fixed some dinner, and I spent an hour or so plotting our course for the next day, and entering waypoints into the GPS. The guide book suggested that we stay inside the Everglades Park boundaries to avoid crab pots, so I did my best to accomplish this while still avoiding the shoal areas.

The night was rolly part of the time (when the current was running in through Channel Two) and quite calm the rest (when the current was running out, and pulling us into the lee of Lower Matecumbe). I slept quite well, but Theresa was up most of the night again, worrying about the anchor dragging. She doesn't place as much faith in the anchor alarm on the GPS as I do, I guess.

Friday, May 5, 2000: Lower Matecumbe Key to Little Shark River (~40 NM)

We got an early start, and spent the first hour of our day crawling along with the depth alarm ringing in our ears. We turned northwest from Long Key to follow the ICW alternate route up toward Cape Sable and the Everglades. Our charts showed 7-8 feet of water along the route, but our depth sounder read much less. At one point, it actually showed 3.5 feet, but we continued moving, and that's when I realized that the sounder was reading grass on the bottom, rather than the actual seabed. This meant, of course, that we really had no idea how much depth we actually had!

In any case, we soon made it up to the infamous Yacht Channel -- a little cut between two shoal banks, each only a foot deep, and all out in the middle of the Florida Bay, almost completely out of sight of any land. There are two marks on the channel, one red and one green, and they look really wierd sitting out there in the middle of nowhere. As we approached, though, it became obvious that these two marks were absolutely critical to any northbound boat drawing more than a foot of water -- the pass between them is the only deep water for miles around.

Once past Yacht Channel, we found some slightly deeper water, and the depth alarm finally shut up. I went below and replotted our entire course to put us into deeper water. The supposedly ubiquitous crab pots suddenly seemed the lesser of the evils. By the time I was done, we were past Schooner Bank, and we finally put up some sail and started making some headway. It was a little surreal, really, because we were hauling along at 8.5 knots, but there were almost no waves, and the helm required almost zero effort.

We did see crab pots, and we also saw the crabbers tending them, but it was nothing like the crab pot density that we'd seen in parts of the Chesapeake Bay. We had to keep an eye out for them, but the pots weren't that big a deal. We also saw tons of grass streaming downwind from the Everglades Park, but this eventually cleared up as we moved north.

The waves picked up as we neared the East Cape, but then dropped off again as we rounded it and sailed on past the Middle Cape. We finally rounded the Northwest Cape, and headed due north for the last leg of the day. We were well ahead of schedule for the day, so we throttled the engine back to idle for the first time in weeks, and enjoyed actually sailing our boat for a change. The peacefullness was downright startling!

We reached the Little Shark River quite early in the afternoon, but found several boats already anchored in the creek. The wind was still blowing steadily out of the east, and the forecast called for more of the same for several days, so we decided to just nudge up to the shore and drop the anchor.

We set the anchor in 9 feet of water, then went below to check our position on the charts ... and that's when the head-scratching started. According to the chart, we were anchored in 5 feet of water. U.S. charts give depths based on mean low water, so we began to wonder just how much tide there was here anyway. We got out our Reed's Almanac, and spent nearly half an hour figuring out how to read it. In the end, we decided that the tide was probably going to drop us nearly 5 feet -- well below mean low water!

We went back up top, hauled up the anchor, and moved farther offshore to a spot that the chart showed with 8 feet of water. The water had already dropped nearly a foot since we'd anchored the first time, and our depth sounder read 10 feet -- indicating that we had about 11.5 feet of water under us.

Satisfied that we would be OK, we went below, had dinner, and watched some TV. Disturbingly, the water level continued to drop precipitously, and by 9:30pm, our depth sounder was reading 4.5 feet -- meaning that we were practically aground. Sure enough, we felt a few bumps, and then all was still, and we knew that the keel was stuck in the mud. Low tide wasn't predicted for another hour, so we waited and watched anxiously as the boat slowly heeled over to port. By my calculations, the water must have dropped another half foot, meaning that it had fallen a total of 7 feet since we arrived at the anchorage! If we had stayed in the first spot, we would have been sitting in only 3 feet of water, and might have sustained some serious damage. As it was, the tide reversed on schedule, and we felt the boat refloat itself around 11:30pm, at which point I went to sleep.

Saturday, May 6, 2000: Little Shark River to Marco, FL (~60 NM)

We had plenty of water under the boat when we left in the morning, and we made good time motorsailing up toward Cape Romano. In fact, we had the longest, straightest leg of the trip yet, sailing for almost 40 nautical miles straight on a heading of 310 degrees.

As we neared Marco, we were so early that we considered going on to Naples, but decided in the end to stick with the plan. We found a marina in Marco that could accomodate us, but they told us that we'd have to buy fuel at a different marina. We made our way in to that fuel dock, but there was no one there to help us, so we docked the boat ourselves. Still, no one appeared to help us with the fuel, and Theresa asked, "So, what? Is this self-service or something?" We heard a muffled electronic voice say, "YES". Funny. It had been four days since we bought fuel in Miami, so we needed fuel badly (29 gallons, engine hours 1020, net 32 hours). Our fuel efficiency was better than average because we spent several hours the day before with the engine only idling.

We stayed the night at the Marco Island Yacht & Sailing Club -- a very nice marina that's at the end of the Marco harbor, right before the fixed bridge, but well worth the extra distance. We had our first showers in four days, and went to dinner at a really good Mexican restaurant. We also hooked up the air conditioning, and enjoyed a pleasant evening.

Sunday, May 7, 2000: Marco, FL to Gasparilla Island (~60 NM)

We had another long, straight passage northwest today, though the wind wasn't as steady as it has been for the last several days. In fact, it dropped off to almost nothing around noon, but then picked up again in the late afternoon. And it was really hot for the first day of the trip. Either the high pressure center over south Florida is breaking apart, or weather on the west coast of Florida is just very different from weather on the east coast.

We had intended to stay in a marina on the back side of Gasparilla, but the only one we could find wanted $2.00/foot, and they were rude on the phone. We decided to anchor out again, and I chose a spot on the north side of Boca Grande, right up against the beach. The weather forecast called for 5-10 knot winds out of the east, but the wind was blowing a steady 10-15 knots out of the northwest as we passed Captiva Island, so we didn't know what to expect. I kept asking, "Why don't we ever see boats anchored off a beach?" Not knowing the answer, we set our anchor, hoping that the wind would drop off after dark and swing around to the east, putting us in the lee of the land, and protecting us from the swells.

As it turned out, this is almost what happened, but not quite. The wind blew strongly until almost midnight, at which point it swung to the southeast, and blew fairly strongly for most of the rest of the night. Sometime in the early morning, the wind finally did as predicted, and swung around to the east, dropping to 6 knots. We were buffetted all night by uncomfortable swells, even in the morning when the ocean was almost completely flat.

Monday, May 8, 2000: Gasparilla Island to Tierra Verde (~70 NM)

Around 6:00am, Theresa and I gave up on getting any sleep. We got up, readied the boat, and hauled up the anchor at first light. We were underway by 6:40am, well before sunrise. Frankly, we're not morning people, we didn't sleep well, and it felt awful to be awake. The only thing that motivated us was that we'd actually be home by evening!

To add to our miseries, the wind died to a whisper, so we were forced to proceed under power alone. We took turns napping, but sometime after noon we started finding firefly-like bugs (called "lovebugs" locally) landing on the boat, and they soon numbered in the scores. They don't bite, but they like crawling into shady spots -- like up your sleeves or shorts -- and this made their arrival terribly uncomfortable. We tried heading further offshore to avoid them, but with the wind puffing along at 2-3 knots from the shore, this didn't really help.

I called ahead to reserve a slip at the marina across the street from our townhouse, but they wanted as much for a slip as we were paying in Annapolis. Apparently, that's a "marina/resort", and the slip fee includes complete resort facilities. Nice for liveaboards, I suppose. I called another nearby marina, and got a rate that was less than half as much.

As we passed the entrance to the southern channel into Tampa Bay, we saw several large pods of dolphins, and dozens of dolphins came over to play in our bow wake! This is the first time that dolphins have played in our wake since we left the Chesapeake!

We entered the Pass-A-Grille channel around 3:00pm, and motored into the yacht basin. It was really wierd to be back, finally, and to be seeing everything from the water -- and from our own boat. We found our slip, and docked without any problems. We're here!

We hooked up the power, then started packing everything up -- a job that took quite a bit longer than I ever would have expected. I hitched a ride home with one of the marina hands, then returned with the truck. I borrowed one of the carts, and wheeled two whole loads of stuff back from the dock to the truck. Meanwhile, Theresa defrosted the refrigerator and freezer, and dealt with packing up the food.

By 5:30pm, we were finally home. Exhausted, but happy to have made the journey safely.


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