Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fitting Out in Fort Myers

After we arrived in Ft. Myers, it rained for three days.  We then spent some time cleaning and waxing, until the weather turned too hot!  With near record highs in the upper 80s, Jack decided it was time to install bilge pumps in both hulls.  Two trips to West marine and hours of snaking wires and tubes occupied the next couple of days.  The project ended successfully with two new, functioning bilge pumps.

During the second day of the project, the air conditioner could no longer keep the boat cool.  Fellow boaters and the marina recommended air conditioning repairmen, but the idea of paying 65 dollars just for someone to come to the boat, and then 65 dollars an hour to fix it didn't have much appeal.  Finally, we called Mermaid, the manufacturer who happens to be in Fort Myers.  They said to bring it in and they would have a look.  Sounds easy, right?

As you can see, the reverse cycle unit and electric contol box are crammed into this little box.  We had to disconnect the wiring and remove the electrical box first, followed by the unit itself, which barely squeezed through the opening .  The next morning we arrived at Mermaid at 8:30 a.m.  Dave the technician found the coolant leak in no time, and we left the machine in his capable hands.  Two hours later he called to say it was done.  He had also cleaned the raw water system with Actibrite and repainted the unit, which looked brand new. Talk about great service!  We can't say enough good things about Mermaid.  Reinstalling the unit was not too difficult once we figured out how to get it back into the little box, and now it works great.

Our other major project was to replace our standing rigging.  Our friend Captain Joe Hanko does rigging and, after inspecting the rig, stated that we could probably go another year or two; but we wanted to be proactive so that we had confidence in the rig.  The rigging job took longer than anticipated because of supplier issues, but we also learned a lot.

Here Joe is demonstrating how to assemble a Sta-Loc fitting.  The blue head covering is a new look for Joe, whose scalp was sensitive from previous sun exposure.

Joe hauled himself up and down the mast innumerable times with his 4 to 1 ratio block system and climbing harness.  When the last wire was replaced, we tuned the rig.  That too was a great learning experience.

With the rigging job completed, we could bend on the sails.  With the sails out of the way, Sue began to stock the boat in earnest for our impending departure for the Florida Keys!  One of our last jobs was to test the outboard.  Our always reliable two stroke Mercury would not start!  Fortunately, our friend Tom Nelson of North Fort Myers repairs marine engines.  Tom graciously took on the job immediately, and two hours later he had disassembled the carburetor, cleaned the jets, reassembled everything, had her purring like a kitten!  It is great to have friends like Tom and Connie.

Despite the work, we have managed to maintain an active social life too.  We enjoyed several "happy hour" discussions with Dale and Antha Koonce off the PDQ 32 Mongoose Magic before they left to visit their daughter for the holidays.

The marina sponsored a pot luck Christmas party on December 17th that was very well attended.  We hosted a shrimp boil at Craig and Helen Wilson's home in North Fort Myers that was great fun and great eating.  The arrival of John and Brenda from Sudbury, Ontario, aboard the Gemini Catamaran "Some Dream" accelerated the social activities even more. 

John and Brenda know how to have fun.  "Happy Hour" is always a very entertaining event.  We have enjoyed many of those.  John and Brenda took us to dinner on Christmas Eve at Icabod's.  Then we walked past the Edison and Ford estates and their glittering decorations and through a neighborhood where many of the residents place candles in paperbags and thus line the street each Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day the Admiral cooked a turkey breast aboard "Passage", and we enjoyed another fun filled dinner with Brenda and John.

Phil Dolsen, a friend from home who sails "Changes" out of our yacht club on Lake Erie drove down from north of Tampa to spend one afternoon with us.  It was great getting all the news from home. 

We also enjoyed brunch in Punta Gorda with good friends Lee and Betty Booth, who met us half way between Arcadia and Fort Myers.  We savored a fine breakfast at IHOP and then checked out the boats and shops at Fisherman's Village.  It was a beautful day with clear skies and cool temperatures.  Lee and Jack especially shared many laughs after not seeing each other for over a month.

Because we are not quite ready to leave Legacy Harbour Marina, we will miss the current weather window to head for Marathon.  Our next chance looks to be around New Year's Day.  We still have quite a bit of work in order to have Passage ready to cruise.  Hopefully, all of this socializing will not disrupt this scheduled departure.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Prepping Passage

Wednesday the 25th of November brought cloudy skies and rain.  When the rain stopped at about 10 a.m., we scrubbed Passage's decks for five hours before the skies opened up again.  Returning to the Best Western in Clewiston, we showered and walked under the umbrella to Sonny's Open Pit Barbecue for our second straight night of excellent pork.

Thursday morning we celebrated Thanksgiving by finishing the scrubbing of the decks.  As you can see from the before and after photos, Soft Scrub with Bleach does an amazing job when applied with adequate elbow grease.

After lunch I applied the first coat of cleaner wax to one side of a hull while Sue began cleaning the boat's interior.  Two tired sailors then headed back to Clewiston, where we feasted on on overcooked whole chicken from Wal-Mart and went to sleep early.

We drove down the two mile dirt road to the Glades Boat Storage yard on Friday determined to prep the boat to move aboard the next day.  As usual the Florida cows were unimpressed by our passage.

Sue spent most of the day cleaning and organizing the interior while I started the engine, the refrigerator,  checked the drive leg, and applied cleaner wax to the hulls.  By the end of the day we were moving our "stuff" from the car to the boat.

Saturday morning we moved aboard Passage.  The lack of water aboard made living in the "tree house" primitive, but Lucy was relieved.  She hates being put in her cage and traveling in the car.  She settled right in on her settee and was one contented kitty until the temperature dropped to 50 degrees overnight.  To combat the cold she sprinted around the boat with a ball in her mouth, complaining to anyone who would listen.  We pretended not to notice.

Sunday we prepared for the launch by loading the last of our goods aboard and by shopping for food in La Belle.  Then we applied the finish coat of Armada T wax to the hulls, which looked better than ever.  Jack painted the centerboards; and we were ready for launch day, as were our neighbors in the yard, Carl and Margaret aboard "Trust Me", who we will see again in Marathon.

Monday the intrepid , highly professional crew of Proctor, James and John appeared the with travelift.

The usual prelaunch activities occurred.

Passage was launched by about 9:30 a.m.  The water stayed on the outside of the boat, the engine started right up and another winter of living aboard and cruising was underway.  After three miles we passed through the Ortona Lock, which lowered us about 8 feet.

During our twenty eight mile passage, we motored through bridges at La Belle, Ft. DeNaud and Alva.  The bascule bridge at La Belle was fairly commonplace.

There were only a few boats at the free dock in La Belle immediately after the bridge.

The swing bridge at Ft. DeNaud is unique.  The bridge keeper must leave her house and walk out to the middle of the bridge to open her up.  We waited for her, as well as the Australian flagged sailboat we had passed two miles before the bridge.

We arrived at the surprisingly empty Franklin Lock Campground and Marina about 2:30.  We spent the rest of the day sterilizing and rinsing out our water tanks before enjoying a nice porterhouse steak dinner and falling exhaustedly into bed.

On December 1st we stayed put.  We did install our running rigging, but mostly we relaxed and enjoyed the people and scenery at the Franklin lock.

On  windy Wednesday, 12/02/09, we motored for two hours to Legacy Harbour Marina in downtown Fort Myers.  We backed into slip C-10 next to three other Gemini catamarans.

  That evening we enjoyed our first happy hour with Antha and Dale  Koonce of the PDQ 32 catamaran Mongoose Magic.  We discovered that we had met them briefly in Vero Beach in 2006!

We will spend most of December here working on the boat and visiting with friends in the marina and town.  It will be almost a month before we head for the Florida Keys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heading South

After a week of packing boxes and suitcases, Sue and I enjoyed the Grand River Yacht Club Commodore's Ball on Saturday, November 21st.  With our last Ohio recreational activity behind us, we got up early Sunday morning and packed the car.  The dingy had been loaded with an anchor, power cords, dock lines, etc., a few days before.  My beautiful daughter Kimberly came over to help winterize the water pipes in the house; and, of course, to say goodbye.

We carried our complaining cat Lucy to the car, and we left Painesville at the the crack of 10:00 am. 

 We drove 6.5 hours to Wytheville, Virginia the first day, and 11.5 hours to Melbourne, Florida on day two.  Except for a steady rain during most of our time in North Carolina, the drive was pretty easy. Perhaps the highlight of the drive was passing our good friends Lee and Betty Booth, who were driving their coach to Arcadia, Florida for the winter.  We enjoyed the horn honking and waving so much that after we pulled into a rest area for a quick restroom break, we were able to then pass noisily by again.  Lucy was very good, spending most of the day sleeping in her cage or on Sue's lap.  It took about 30 minutes for us to get to our room each evening, probably because we packed so light.

After only a 2.5 hour drive we arrived at the Glades Boat Storage Yard on Tuesday the 24th at 10:30.  Happily, she was sitting in the work yard adorned by a clean coat of black bottom paint.  John had finished sanding and painting on schedule.  Sue opened up the boat, held her breath and rushed in and out of Passage, removing the dozen formaldahyde bags that successfully kept the interior clean and mildew free.

Passage's decks sport an ugly coat of green and black, so our first job will be to take our four bottles of Soft Scrub with bleach and get to work.  Wednesday will be a fun day!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

West Coast Cruise

On Friday, March 6th, we met "Kinsella" at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin fuel dock. Craig and Helen Wilson had brought her out of their North Fort Myers canal the previous night at high tide; and Craig slept aboard. Helen went to work, and Craig was singlehanding for the day. We motored down the Caloosahatchee River in light air and anchored at Bimini Basin.

Craig arrived shortly and rafted off of "Passage". After work Helen came to Bimini Basin by car, and Craig delivered her to "Kinsella" by dingy. Soon thereafter we enjoyed the first of many visits for "happy hour".

We spent two nights at Bimin Basin, visiting Ace Hardware, West Marine and Publix the next day. Sue and I dingied down some of the canals in Cape Coral, and we all enjoyed the ice cream stand next to the park at Bimini Basin.
Sunday we hoisted anchor and joined the weekend crowd on the Caloosahatchee. The day's trip would prove to be uneventful except for the Bald Eagle perched in a tree on a spoil island right next to the channel. He was eyeing the parade of passing boats with suspicion.

We were only able to sail about 40 minutes on Pine Island Sound because of the light winds. We anchored in Pelican Bay between Cayo Costa and Punta Blanca by 2:30. After enjoying happy hour with the crew from "Kinsella", we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Monday proved to be a busy day. The two crews hopped into their respective dingies, motored to the dock at Cayo Costa State Park and walked the mile or so across the island to the beach, which is only accessible by boat. There were some spring break students using the campsites, so there were more people than usual on the beach. We searched for shells and relaxed on the white sand next to the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We then headed over to Cabbage Key for lunch. For Sue and me it was a rare opportunity to enjoy a second "Cheeseburger in Paradise" in less than a month.
As you can see, Helen, with bag in hand, had planned on some major shelling.

Wednesday, March 11th, began with Jack fishing from the dingy without success, a common outcome for the captain of "Passage". At 3:15 we weighed anchor and headed south. We managed an hour of slow sailing on Pine Island Sound, but our late start forced us to motor most of the way to St. James City on the bottom of Pine Island, where we anchored at 6:45.

The next morning we were off early to beat the big boat traffic through the Miserable Mile. We turned south and motor sailed in light air down to Gordon Pass, the entrance to Naples. While entering the pass we saw two more Bald Eagles sitting in trees next to the waterway. Seven miles down the ICW brought us to the absolutely beautiful Keewadin Island anchorage, which was packed. Most of the boats were small runabouts there to enjoy the uninhabited beach for the day. They left by 5:00 pm, so that we had a quiet evening.

The beach at Keewadin Island was loaded with shells. Sue collected some beautiful specimens, and we tossed several live sea stars and small fighting conchs back into the water. The captain fished off of the stern of "Passage" with his usual lack of success. The current in this anchorage was incredibly strong, since we were right next to the pass. The water flowed in between the hulls so fast that unhooking and hooking the dingy to the davit lines was a real challenge. The dingy was pushed so hard that creating slack in the line to remove the shackle from the boat took all of our strength. We learned that slack current was the best time to raise and lower the dingy.

On Friday the 13th "Passage" left the anchorage to cruise north solo. When the onshore breeze finally filled in, we sailed the last two hours to Matanzas Pass and Ft. Myers Beach . On the way we trolled, with the usual results.

We entered the mooring field and grabbed ball #48 at 3:30. Lowering the dingy, we motored to the dingy dock, signed in at the Matanzas Inn, which supervises the mooring field, and headed to Dairy Queen at the beach for a sundae. We enjoyed our first shower with unlimited water in a week, and settled in for a quiet night. Saturday was Shrimp Festival day at the beach, so we caught the end of the parade and toured the arts and craft show. We enjoyed people watching, too.

We decided to sail to Ft. Myers on Sunday. The admiral determined that we could ride the current all the way if we left at 1:30, so we did. We hoisted sails and enjoyed a spirited sail up San Carlos Bay, under the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, and into the Caloosahatchee River. In the Lower Caloosahatchee we reached speeds up 9.6 knots, plus another knot of current!

Once the river turned more northerly, we sailed mostly downwind wing on wing. We enjoyed a pleasant sail all the way to the Legacy Harbour Marina, where we docked at 4:45 pm. As we settled in to watch 60 Minutes on CBS, the local affiliate interrupted to announce that the space shuttle "Discovery" had just launched. As I watched the view of the launch from the Ft. Myers tv camera, I glanced out the window of the cockpit door and saw the same scene over the Rt. 41 bridge! We jumped up and followed the launch with our own eyes. The bottom half of the vapor trail was red in the evening sun, and the shuttle reflected the sunlight for several minutes as it rose into space. What a fitting ending to a memorable cruise.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pine Island Sound Cruise

Passage departed Legacy Harbour Marina on Wednesday, February 25th for a brief cruise on Pine Island Sound. We sailed most of the Caloosahatchee River, then motored across the Miserable Mile, past St. James City and then turned north into Pine Island Sound. A favorable wind shift enabled us to turn off the Westerbreak engine and sail up the sound. We dropped the main off Punta Blanca and motored into Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa.

 We dropped the anchor, then celebrated todays sail with a shower, followed by tea time while we watched the evening news. The night sky was littered with stars, and we slept well.

Thursday we hopped into the dingy and motored over to Cabbage Key.

We savored our burgers while seated at the inn which inspired Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise." The dollar bills on the walls and ceiling were even thicker than during our last visit.

After lunch we dingied over to Useppa Island to check out the private island of the rich and famous. This view of Useppa Island is from the Inn on Cabbage Key.

Then we explored some hidden coves in the area, including one in the hook at the bottom of Punta Blanca, which hid three large sailing vessels. Deep water to enter this cove was right up against the beach, but once in there the shelter was excellent. While exploring a hidden pond on Cayo Costa, we encountered Rod and Nancy Jensen off the Gemini Catamaran "Nancy T". Rod was busy catching dinner, so we only visited briefly.

We decided to shorten our cruise after learning of a strong cold front due to arrive on Saturday night, so on Friday morning we weighed anchor and motored into the southerly breezes and continual powerboat wakes. After nineteen miles, we anchored in a large cove on Sanibel Island southwest of Pine Island's St. James City.

This area is part of the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. We hopped in the dingy and motored to the entrance of Tarpon Bay. We were greeted by a school of frolicing dolphins. Although the bay was larger than expected, we decided to check it out. Half way across we passed some small islands inhabited by hundreds of pelicans. The smell on the leeward side was powerful and interesting. We eventually found a lodge where one could rent Kayaks, and, of course, a souvenir shop. One of the nature guides then told us we could use a "cut" in the peninsula and save a couple of miles going back to the boat. Even though he warned that we might have to walk the dingy over the sand bar, we went for it. The cut is visible behind "Passage".

We didn't need to walk the sand bar, but we did raise the outboard and paddle over it in about 12 inches of water.

After a very peaceful night, Sue weighed anchor and hoisted the main sail. We had a lovely sail across the bottom of Pine Island and through the "miserable mile", which must be longer than the name implies. It was Saturday the 28th, and the power vessels were out in force. Even so, we enjoyed our sail up to the first Cape Coral bridge on the Caloosahatchee, where the wind failed us; and we were forced to motor the six miles or so to Fort Myers and our dock at Legacy Harbor.

Friday, February 20, 2009


On January 9th we left Ft. Myers and motored down the Caloosahatchee to Bimini Basin in Cape Coral. We spent two nights at anchor in this lovely, well protected basin. We dingied to the park and walked to the Cape Coral Arts and Crafts show. A large section of the street was closed, and the art show took up several blocks. Impressive! We had a nice time, and Sue learned all about Webkins. Lucy didn't seem to enjoy the anchorage because of the missing dock. No escape!

We awoke on Monday the 12th to a wind shift to the north and FOG! Raising the anchor took some work because of the excellent holding, but once it broke free we were off. A very strong cold front was due in a few days, and we wanted to be in the keys. We motored because of our light downwind course, and the fog finally lifted at 11:30. Passage swung at anchor in Rookery Channel just off the ICW south of Naples by 3:30. As usual, we were the only boat in this pristine anchorage surrounded by mangroves. Tuesday Passage motored two hours down the ICW through Marco Island to Goodland. After running aground once (not easy in a catamaran), we took a dock at the Caloosa Yacht Club and Marina. This gave us the opportunity to explore Goodland and feast on fish at The Little Bar. Yummy!

On Wednesday Passage enjoyed a beautiful broad reach sail in two to three foot seas, reaching a high speed of 9.88 knots. We anchored in the Everglades National Park in the Little Shark River along with four other boats. Thursday's light north winds forced us to motor all the way to Marathon, where the bridge keeper greated us with a warm "welcome to paradise."

Passage was assigned mooring O-4, where we stayed for about three weeks. Paradise was colder than advertised, although it was 10 to 15 degrees warmer than Ft. Myers. Sue's Honda EU2000 generator got a good workout keeping us warm on the mooring. The City Marina has a beautiful new shower and laundry facility. Unfortunately, a lack of sewer permits meant that it was closed. Instead of 14 showers for 226 moored boats, there were three. Demand was high, and hot water was elusive. We actually did get a warm shower once! Nothing is so bracing as a cold shower in 60 degree weather. Showering on the boat was sometimes more comfortable, even if it was out of a sun shower. Lets not even talk about the laundry situation.

We took two round trip bus rides. The first was to the Pine Island Flea Market, which is always interesting. The second was to Key West, which was more eventful than usual. The bus line raised their rates 50 percent, so we were forced to pay $1.50 each for the 50 mile bus ride. We arrived in plenty of time to shop for T-shirts before grabbing a front row table at the famous Sloppy Joes bar. We enjoyed a fine lunch while Sue drooled over her favorite entertainer, Brian Roberts.

We had a great time. Sue, never a shrinking violet, chatted with Brian during his first break. I insisted on taking their picture. Look at her glow!

Sloppy Joe's was such a big hit that Sue decided to forego visiting Mallory Square at sunset and seeing The Cat Man! Thus we took a bus back to Marathon before dark.

We enjoyed Lunch with Jim and Sharon Angel at The Keys Fishery, located across the street from the marina. We ate several times at our favorite eatery, Dockside, even though we had to find our way back to the boat in the dark. John and Brenda from Some Dream shared dinner with us twice, including our 15th wedding anniversary dinner. The live entertainment at the Dockside is always excellent. We also met Jim and Laurie O'Shea at dockside. They sail an Island Packet named Kismet. We enjoyed visiting with them so much that a visit for happy hour aboard Passage followed, and then we even ran into at Key West Bight. Talk about fun!

Then the weather window opened for our sail north, so we left paradise on Monday, February 9th. We enjoyed a great sail to the Little Shark River, sailing at over 6 knots 30 degrees off the wind. The only excitement was the jibs refusal to roll up at the end of the day. After considerable coaxing, she complied; and we anchored at the mouth of the river, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

A second great day of sailing carried us to Goodland, and two more hours of motoring brought us to Rookery Channel, where we anchored an hour before dark. Wednesday the wind died after less than two hours of sailing, so we fired up the iron genny and rode the current up the river to Legacy Harbour Marina and the end of our cruise to the Florida Keys.