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.