Slappey shoved off the dock at Legacy Harbor on the last day of February. We travelled only about 12 nm to a nice, protected pocket in Cape Coral called Glover Bight. From one view, the wilds of the mangroves….from the other, a Marriot resort and the canals of Cape Coral; not exactly remote. However, you can dinghy around the canal to a restaurant called Rumrunners, so Glover Bight is popular. It also afforded us great protection from a blow that came from the Northeast and blew for nearly a week. When we could finally escape Glover Bight, I had an idea that I wanted to go out into the Gulf, to the outside of Sanibel Island, where others had spoken of a nice anchorage off a remote beach, and access to the great shell beds. Others obviously had a more comfortable swell pattern, though, because my vision of a lovely two days of going back and forth to a quiet beach was shattered by an egregious, sloppy, rolly anchorage, and about a thousand Spring Breakers spread out over the beach. So much for Sanibel Island by sailboat. Early the next morning we continued up the outside to Boca Grande inlet, which is one of the deeper and easier passages from the open Gulf to the Gulf ICW. Through the inlet and around the corner is another very popular anchorage at Cayo Costa State Park, and Pelican Bay. It has a very shallow, complicated entrance, but we managed to get in and anchored without grounding, a feat beyond many other boats in the anchorage, who put on a show for us every day both coming and going. The park has a very nice beach, some trails, a camping area, and is only accessible by boat. Plus….ice cream at the little park store, and a volunteer ranger talk about sea turtles. Weather those days had been excellent, with warm (to hot) afternoons, but cooler nights. And dare I jinx myself….no bugs. We had hoped to get up to Punta Gorda, at the top of Charlotte Harbor, but they had no room, so we opted next for Burnt Store Marina. I had often read about Burnt Store on this Coast, and it appeared to be pretty popular, if remote. Well, the marina itself has seen better days, but the rest of the Burnt Store area was full of snowbirds and buzzing with activity. It was also quiet (after the lounge bands shut down,) and very pretty, with dolphins, and some resident manatees who put on a show for us. But it was remote; Punta Gorda was miles away, as was anywhere else, so we got a car for a few days. With transportation, we could get to Sarasota, Punta Gorda, Pine Island, and Boca Grande.
After our week at Burnt Store, we started south again through the Gulf ICW, which is even shallower, and more full of zippy power boats than the East Coast ICW. They also rarely slow down for you, and thus throw continuous wakes at you. This appears to make them very happy. We stopped for the first night outside Cabbage Key, which is a small island with a famous Inn and restaurant, possibly the inspiration for “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” or possibly not, but they really play it up for the tourists. The walls and ceiling of the restaurant were covered in dollar bills, signed by those who donated them, and featured very busy and haggard waitresses. It was a nice setting, though. Further down the next night was Merwin Key, and an outdated approach with our chartplotter that had us nearly aground. Once on the right track, it was a quiet night by the mangroves, again…no bugs! This must mean that we are due for a real infestation at some point. Nobody gets out of here that easily.
Finally, for the last of our West Coast foray, we travelled down the outside to Naples. It was crazy busy in the channel leading up to Crayton Cove, right in the middle of Old Naples. The Naples City Dock has also seen better days, and is, in fact, near decrepit. Rumor has it it is due for total replacement this year, but the part of it still standing was stuffed with boats and fishing charters and cruise charters, and a gazillion pelicans. They have cheap mooring balls for rent, but by city charter, one can only stay four consecutive days at either dock or mooring, and then may stay in another location there for an additional four days only, to total eight days in thirty. Naples does not covet boat people. Nor do they appear to need the tourist money; they have plenty of money piled around. The whole of the middle of Naples would fit into the most exclusive blocks of Manhattan. I mean every shop, and every restaurant. That is, till you get a couple miles out of town on the Tamiami Trail, where it is quite plebian. We took a bus out to the excellent Botanical Gardens, is how we found that out. After our four days on the mooring ball, we were off to the Florida Keys, with a first stop planned for the Dry Tortugas, and a post to be created at a later date.
The other side of Glover Bight
Rumrunners, on the canals of Cape Coral
Sunset over the Gulf, Sanibel Island
Inside Pelican Bay
A trail in Cayo Costa State Park
The Gulf is quite blue-green
There were settlers here before it was a State Park, the earliest ones were Cuban.
The near-empty transient docks of Burnt Store Marina, near Punta Gorda
The restaurant and Patio Bar just beyond our dock. Lotsa loud crooning going on, but not too late
Somewhere in the Burnt Store neighborhood
A manatee visits the dock
Very shallow approach to Bokeelia, at the tip of Pine Island
Bokeelia is much too shallow for the Slappey; glad to be in a car for our visit to Pine Island
On the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art, and the Circus, in Sarasota
From the very large miniature circus in the Circus Museum
Sarasota was the Winter home of John Ringling and his family, and their home and gardens now house
the Ringling Museum of Art and the Circus Museum.
You can tell I loved the Gnome garden
From downtown little Boca Grande
Beautiful color, but shallow water, surrounds Boca Grande
Dollar bills taped to the walls of the Cabbage Key Inn Restaurant
Slappey in the anchorage across from Cabbage Key
We had a placid trip down to Naples; the Gulf was a lake
Crab, or possibly lobster pots, are everywhere in the area
Looking out over the decrepit docks; mooring field is in the background
A nice walk to the beach in Naples
The Old Town neighborhood near the pier and beach
The Portaslappey waits at the (barely floating) dinghy dock
5th Avenue in Naples
The Naples Botanical Garden
And right on cue, here he is!
And here’s another critter; John swore he was harmless
So that was our trip to some of the West Coast; I write this from the anchorage in the Dry Tortugas. The story of the tortured passage to here to be relayed at a later date.