We’d hoped to get to Marathon before the weekend, but the wind and waves refused to cooperate.Dana said Saturday looked good.Sunrise at 7 meant we could slip lines at about 6:45.No worries.Should get to Faro Blanco before dark.
Saturday morning the alarm popped at 5:45.Fog.Fog? FOG? WTF?We haven’t seen fog for what seems like months, and it picks this morning? That’s some BS right there. The only thing thicker than the fog was the mosquito swarm.Apparently we were the only food source up before dawn. Word got around.
However, we had a 10-hour day and only about 10 hours of daylight. So off we went, noting that 9 months ago this fog—particularly coupled with the narrow and shallow and curvy channel—would’ve paralyzed us into complete submission. We might’ve stayed all winter.
But now, being the nearly-competent mariners that we’ve become, we made it out to the Gulf safely just as the fog dissipated. In time to see the flock of white pelicans on what might not be named Pelican Island but should be.
From there, we all enjoyed smooth boating, despite the clouds that suggested storms that never really arrived. The straight line down to Marathon took us about 12 miles offshore. But in only about 15 feet of water. Perspective is a funny thing. Fifteen feet seems pretty shallow when miles offshore, but 15 feet on the Trent-Severn would’ve felt like the Marianas Trench. Also, we’re as close to Cuba as we are to Marco Island, our next to last stop before now. Crazy.
Our dear friend Janet suggested that we need to post photos of MistyPearl’s interior. Here’s the cabin where we napped during the cruise. Not at the same time, of course. Someone had to steer.
Maybe we’ll add photos as things are presentable. Anyway, we napped here. The girls napped and argued on what Robin (Crossroads) calls the fiberglass beach. All in all, a very nice cruising day.
When we pulled away from The Yards with Big Daddy waving us off over 7 months ago, reaching Marathon seemed like it would be a huge accomplishment.Now we’re here. And in fact, it feels like a huge accomplishment.
Faro Blanco probably will be our home until the end of February.Unless we change our minds, which seems to happen with regularity. That also probably means no blog posts for a bit. The girls leave us this week, which is sad. Nobody wants a daily update about nothing remotely interesting.We’ll still keep some notes and take some pictures, of course, and sprinkle them in from time to time so we can preserve memories.
Unless we decide to cruise down to Stock Island this will be as far south as the Loop takes us.Which means we’ve hit all four primary compass points.Which doesn’t mean much, but it’s something.
We saw 3 ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.We saw 3 ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning. Actually we saw way more than 3 ships as we left Marco Island.* On Christmas Day, in the morning. We also saw jet skiers.And tourists crowding the railing on tour boats.And charter fishermen.And parasailors.
That’s right, parasailors. On Christmas Day, in the morning.Don’t these people have homes?
In the song, by the way, the folks are sailing into the Little Town of Bethlehem. Of course Doug looked on Google Earth.Nope.The fully-booked inn and the stable and the manger and the hay all were surrounded by West Bank desert.And probably Israeli tanks. No navigable water whatsoever. We even looked at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, just in case.Still nope.
Maybe everybody just wanted to enjoy another beautiful day on the water. It indeed was a beautiful day on the water as we approached the dangerous Cape Romano Shoals.
The Cape Romano Shoals might be called The Graveyard of The Gulf if (1) the folks around here were as overly-dramatic as those running the Great Lakes museum gift shops on which we’ve previously commented and (2) the water around here was more than about 10-feet deep. Mostly if you shipwrecked on these shoals it would just ruin your day as you sat waiting for help or high tide. Dana timed things out perfectly, of course, and we successfully worked around the skinny water on our way into the Ten Thousand Islands. Ten Thousand Islands? Sweet. We’ve already done the Thousand Islands. And the 30,000 Islands. That’s now up to total of 41,000 islands. Unfortunately we’ve already used up our salad dressing jokes.
Anyway, a quick PSA regarding Everglades City. We’ll get to the cool stuff later, but this is a note for any Loopers traveling behind us with nothing better to do than read our diary. The scary myths about getting here are just that: myths. Anyone who safely passed through Canal Lake in Ontario or made it in and out of the marina in Alton, Illinois, will have no difficulty at all. We made a time-lapse to prove it. (And to prove again that Doug worked out the kinks.)
The point is, it’s really easy to get here once one commits to going a few miles out of the way. And it’s worth going a few miles out of the way. Very much worth it. In fact, this may be our favorite stop so far, and we’ve been to some really cool places. It helped that we were met by champagne-carrying crews from Forever Friday and The Lower Place. And Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
That said, Everglades City is to a city whatMiniPearl is to a Carnival cruise ship. But that’s part of the charm. Only 400 or so full time residents, but a decent-yet-not-overwhelming tourist trade. Mostly people come to see the Everglades.
Which brings us to airboats. Ever since seeing Gentle Ben and all of Opie Taylor’s family before he was Opie Taylor (and McCloud before he was McCloud) airboat-scooting through the Everglades on all sorts of implausible adventures, airboats have been on our list. Turns out there are two types of airboat tours. One is the kind that buzzes around Barron River by Everglades Isle where we’re docked.
It’s actually kind of funny, yet sad. As soon as someone spots a dorsal fin in the river, the airboatloads of folks who’ve never seen a dolphin scream in towards it. They did make a good subject for Doug’s first hyperlapse drone video though.
No offense to the airboat companies running these tours, but they suck. Because they don’t actually go into the Everglades.
The other kind of airboat tour starts several miles deep in the mangroves. We chose Captain Mitch.
This was one of the coolest things we’ve done. Not just in Everglades City, but on the entire Loop so far. The trip took us about 10 miles deep into the alligator and python infested glades, as called by the locals. No other boats to be seen. Or heard. Because these suckers are loud.
At one point the captain/guide spotted two alligators sleeping on a shallow bank. Or pretending to sleep on a bank in order to lure delicious Arizonans to a horribly painful encounter. Apparently forgetting that airboats have no brakes or reverse, the dude at the controls coasted in a bit faster and further than he wanted, planting us about 5 feet from the biggest one.
This after telling us that these monsters can leap 6 feet out of the water. We’re no mathematicians but that would seem to work out to an unacceptable 1-foot overlap into the being-eaten zone. He later admitted that it was an unintended close call. None of us were marinated or sauced, however, so we all survived.
The restaurant sign proclaims that Everglades City is “The Fishing Mecca of the World.” Non-Muslims aren’t allowed within the Mecca city limits so we’re unsure what to make of this, but in the 80s Everglades City was more like the Mecca of weed. According to the documentary we watched on Amazon Prime, 80% of the adult male population of Everglades City and Chokoloskee were imprisoned for smuggling “square grouper,” using shallow water and secret hidey-holes to dodge The Man. The Man, of course, almost always wins.
On Thursday, Robin (TheLowerPlace) suggested a dinghy trip across Chokoloskee Bay to the Cuban restaurant. So she and Charlie piled in theirs, Mike and Mary (ForeverFriday) piled in theirs, and we all climbed aboard MiniPearl. We figured about 30 minutes to go the 4 miles. We figured wrong. The Bay was the color of tea, meaning we couldn’t see the bottom that Mike’s handheld depth gauge put at less than 2 feet in most places and less than 1 foot in some places. Which also meant idle speed with motors trimmed so the props barely touched the surface. Which meant an hour and a half. Which meant we were really hungry when we finally docked at Chokoloskee Island Park. And by “docked” we mean pulled up onto the mud flat amongst the ubiquitous pelicans. Remember when we spotted pelicans in Illinois or someplace and thought they were really cool and novel? They’re still pretty cool, but hardly novel.
The lunch was delicious and the company was outstanding.
By the time we left the tide was up a foot so we put all the props in the water and planed back to the big boats. Wheee!
Ok, now about Everglades Isles. This place mostly caters to million-dollar motor coach people, which we aren’t. But the docks are padded concrete and floating. With the good kind of 240-volt power that would’ve worked for SecondWave.** Wicked-fast WiFi. The grounds are immaculate. The clubhouse is better than most country clubs.
Private theater. Free laundry. Bar. With tender. Amazing bathrooms. Pool. Hot tub. Pretty much everything one might want. Plus an attached lighthouse that has a really neat-o staircase. Basically any Loopers who skip this just because it’s out of the way or because someone at docktails said it’s too shallow are missing a real treat.
Mallory kayaked around until her phone jumped into the water. Dana and the girls took turns modeling for airboat tourists who were fascinated by the seat we dangled over the water.
We Mini-Pearled around again before prepping for the marathon to Marathon tomorrow.
* Note to those Loopers traveling behind us. Marco Island Marina has the softest toilet paper we’ve encountered to date. These things are important when you live on a boat. Marine TP generally is about 180-grit yet dissolves immediately upon seeing liquid approaching. This stuff was woven from the down of angel wings. Soft. Thick. Absorbent. Ohhhhh.
** RIP SecondWave, sold to the highest bidder. Congratulations to Karen. Condolences to Brent.
Another perfect day for cruising, this time down to Marco Island. Perhaps the most surreal Christmas Eve in recent memory, although it’s not like the girls enjoyed a lot of White Christmases in the Valley of the Sun.
About halfway down, we passed Naples off our port side. (Naples, Florida, not Naples, Italy.) Otherwise not much to see along the way.
Just before Marco Island the crab pots started popping up. These floats aren’t the same as the Chesapeake variety, which look like, well, crap pot floats. These were different, yet strangely familiar.
Then it hit us. Actually it just hit Doug, since Dana’s youth was a bit more high-brow. Who else fondly recalls the stupidity of Mad Magazine?
Anyway, neither a holiday on the water or crab pot bombs seem to bother the boys. Oscar enjoyed the lack of snow on the bow.
We docked safely at Marco Island Marina, starving and looking for a great place to eat. The dockmaster recommended a place that’s the “best” on the island. Yum. And closed. And most every place else was closed. Maybe that’s what they mean by Island Style. However, we ended up satisfied and back on MistyPearl for Christmas Eve games. After all, crushing the girls in cards is what Christmas really is all about.
The marina in Everglades City is expecting us to roll in Christmas afternoon. We’ll probably arrive too late for the traditional Belknap Christmas air boat ride through the swamps, so we’ll tee that up the day after.
As we anticipated, those big winds hit us full force on Friday. 40- to 50-knot gusts. Contrary to what we anticipated, however, the west winds took a hard right at Bowditch Point and slammed us directly from the north, leaving us pretty much unprotected. We spent the afternoon hunkered down, narrowly avoiding injury from patting ourselves on the back for shrewdly purchasing oversized docklines. We ain’t saying we beat the devil, but we drank his beer for nothing. The biggest problem turned out to be getting the boys to shore without them being blown away like teeny tiny star-sized kite tails. At least it wasn’t raining or overly cold.
The wind died down overnight, and Saturday was gorgeous. Which meant drone time for Doug and beach time for everyone else.
The best part of Saturday, however, was dinner and a concert with Jerry and Deena in the MahiMahi concert hall. Jerry was the concert and Deena was the music stand. Both were wonderful.
No concert, but Sunday was even better from a weather perspective. We all piddled around and killed the day with nothing really noteworthy.
It’s looking more and more like we’ll be cruising down to Everglades City on Christmas. Assuming we make it to Marco Island tomorrow. We’re a bit concerned, however, because there aren’t any Christmas songs about Santa dodging alligators and pythons while delivering presents in the swamps.
Speaking of Holiday music—and related to our last post—we’ve had a bit of debate on the propriety of mocking Christmas songs. Doug thinks the juxtaposition of Baby Jesus and a talking snowman and such justifies a deeper discussion about the genre. Everyone else on the boat thinks Doug misses the entire point of the Christmas season and should just shut up and join the off-key family choir.
Yesterday was everything Tuesday wasn’t. The sky was gray all day. We had to wait for bridges. We hit choppy dolphinless water and boat wakes that tossed our decorated Christmas shrub to the floor. But we forged ahead, since Fort Myers Beach is our port in the storm barreling towards us with predicted 40+ knot winds.
So we did what Dana would do from roughly May through January if given the option: crank up Christmas music. If dissected, Christmas often is kind of dopey. For example, likening a star to the tail of a kite makes no sense. Doug looked up the Guinness World Record kite. It was just over 10,000 square feet, which is huge for a kite. We don’t know how big that kite’s tail was, but regardless it’s really really small for a star that’s at least 4.3 light years away and would not be visible to shepherds and drummer boys and such. Nobody else on the boat, of course, cares much for Doug’s view of things.
Anyway, after an unexpected detour caused by our discovery of a low fixed bridge in the way, we rounded the bend down to Fort Myers. Dana spotted an eagle on the perch where we usually see sea birds of one sort or another.
We also almost were run over by BigDaddy. Not the real Big Daddy, of course, since he’s probably still docked at The Yards where he was the last person to see us as we started The Loop, but a fishing boat that stole his nickname. Captained by some dude who had no courtesy for us as we docked in the wind and tide.
Fortunately we managed to get to Pink Shell anyway.
Mid-afternoon, we started smelling sulfur. By about 6 it was unbearable. Then the CO alarm started beeping. Oh great, an off-gassing forward battery under our bed. (Which actually was a relief because if a crew member had been off-gassing that volume the rest of us would be in for some very long days and nights.) But we have no car and no way to get another battery. Fortunately the resort had a room available, so we schlepped dogs and stuff across the street.
The amazing part of the story relates to Diversified Yacht Services. Doug called them and left a message at 7, well after business hours. An hour later Eileen called back and promised to get a tech on it first thing. Scott called back at about 8 this morning. By 10, Chris had delivered a new battery, all for a cost of about half what West Marine charges for the same battery. Those guys are our heroes.
Once the new battery was installed and the place aired out, we headed into the wind, which whipped up the sand and surf to the point we all were forced to toss our sandals into the air to see how far the wind would take them.
The start of the storm chased us into MistyPearl for the day, although we ventured out long enough to enjoy dinner with Jerry and Deena aboard MahiMahi. Our last meal with MahiMahi was at Bobby’s Fish Camp.
Tomorrow the brunt of the storm will hit. Hopefully we’re fendered and tied sufficiently to avoid damage. Unfortunately no go on the whole Christmas-in-Marathon thing. Assuming we can get out of here on Monday, Santa will find us either on Marco Island or in the Everglades. Like Tom Bodett, we’ll leave the lights on for him.