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Archive for the ‘Florida – West Coast’ Category

Having decided to head back to the Florida East Coast, we were once again in familiar waters. We opted for a pause in Bimini Basin/Cape Coral for a few days before ducking back into the Okeechobee Waterway. Fortunate timing let us catch the Cape Coral Farmers Market again; we also hit Publix and a nice little new-to-us Italian grocery, Paesano’s, for some re-provisioning, along with less fun but necessary chores… a trip to the laundromat and an oil change for the Red Queen. Of course we also had to visit a just opened craft brewery we discovered just down from the laundromat.  Big Storm Brewing Co., which was quite good, is apparently also run by folks with a sense of humor… always appreciated.

Our final day in the area was for play; Ohio friends David and Joyce who were spending a month in Naples came up to visit. We had lunch, followed by dessert… my second visit to Ice Screamin  , which is dangerously close to our anchorage.  This little ice cream spot is  another Working Cow distributor… a family-owned company in St Petersburg, FL that make the most amazing handmade ice cream.  I “discovered” them earlier this winter at a little place on the north end of Boca Grande.  Good stuff, but you can only get it in Florida.

 

Saying farewell to Florida’s West Coast, we ducked back into the Okeechobee Canal to once again make our way across the peninsula.  It was a leisurely trip, including a pretty but buggy night on the hook near Moore Haven where the little critters were apparently quite taken by our solar Luci light (photo below); ordinarily over night we only show our top-of-the-mast anchor light, but in creeks frequented by smaller faster boats who aren’t always looking high, we’ll sometimes show an additional low light, in this case our Lucie light.  We also took a layover day at Port St Lucie Lock Marina where we were fortunate to catch the occasional Saturday tour of the lock system.  It’s one of five locks operated by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Okeechobee Waterway.  One more day on the water found us back near Fort Pierce where we were reminded what color water is supposed to be.  The difference between the lake and the cleaner water near Ft Pierce inlet was striking.  I’ve blogged a bit before about the politics of Florida’s water, so I’ll not climb on that soapbox again, though the issue is very much ongoing.

Back on the East Coast, we again took a mooring at Vero Beach, pausing for almost exactly a month this time.  We did a few small boat projects… replaced the carbon monoxide detector, repaired our (secondary) Engel fridge that had gotten a wild hair and decided to stay in freezer mode all of the time, and replace yet another fan that had died.  The primary goal for this stop was to get Mike’s re-injured foot sorted out.  We was able to get an appointment with very good podiatrist who, after an X-ray and exam, declared it to be a “poorly healed fracture”.  Apparently a corrective surgery would have been potentially more damaging than helpful, so she referred him to a pedorthist (there you go, your new word for today) who fit him with a custom orthopedic that fits in a real pair of shoes.  They are a perfectly normal-looking pair of New Balance tennis shoes, but… shoes… not flip-flops or Keens; Mike has taken to referring to them as his Frankenstein shoes.

To take the edge off of all of the above, we also made a visit to another new-to-us craft brewery, Walking Tree Brewery.  It’s off the beaten path in Vero, but not so far from where we were pedaling for these appointments.  Their beers were quite good, but I was particularly captivated by their logo.  Florida mangroves are nicknamed “walking trees”, thriving at waters edge, one foot on land, one foot in the water.  I was also quite taken by a piece of original artwork at the brewery, depicting a terrestrial and watery yin/yang.

LS_20180426_074949 Fort MatanzasHaving resolved Mike’s foot issue to the extent that it can be resolved, we pushed on to St Augustine. It’s been our habit to pause here for a bit on both our southbound and our northbound runs, but it’s always especially a treat to spend the week of my birthday in this beautiful old city. This year was no different. Actually I share my birthday week with several of our St Augustine friends, so it was a bit of a rolling celebration.  Before arriving in St Augustine though, we paused for a night at one of our favorite nearby anchorages, complete with a view of Fort Matanzas.

It was a jam-packed week, catching up with cruising friends locally, crossing paths with friends from elsewhere who just happened to be passing through while we were here, and meeting some new folks who we hope to cross paths with again later this summer. We revisited all four local craft breweries and are happy to report that all are going strong; in fact one has recently added a rotation of food trucks. There were several visits to the Hyppo for gourmet popsicles, including my free birthday pop; Blood Orange Cheesecake has officially made my list of favorites. A new find this stop was a recently opened bakery, Bakersville Bread Company. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. Here’s hoping they make a go of it.

One of the best parts of being in town for my birthday week is the opportunity to attend the annual Gamble Rogers Music Festival, now it its 23rd year. The festival runs all weekend and features a wide array of regional and local performers. As usual, we caught a few of our favorites and were introduced to some new stuff.

DG 2018 05 Gamble Rogers Festival

crew of BuBu3, LaLuna and Cheshire, Gamble Rogers Festival, 2018

As much as we love St Augustine, we have our sights set on getting a bit further north this coming season. It’s been about 18 months since Cheshire and her crew have been north of the Florida/Georgia line, so we’re looking forward to getting into some higher latitudes. We’ll head north, hope for some cooperative weather for an outside run or two. Next pause: Oriental, NC. Destinations beyond that tbd.

JB 2018 0507 Cheshire departing St Augustine

Cheshire departing St Augustine, photo credit: Jennifer Barringer

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After our stretch in the Everglades, we paused in Cape Coral for another short bit to regroup. Basic things actually… refilled propane tanks, made a hardware store run, did some laundry, and reprovisioned. Sadly, a nice independent grocery that we found last month, Sweetbay, now had signs up that it had been bought by Winn-Dixie. Sad, another independent bites the dust. Luckily the local Publix was another nearby option during the closed-for-transition stretch. We also bicycled to an ABC Liquor and Wine Country location that we’d not visited before, so our bilge/wine cellar is now restocked. Last but not least, we had to check on the burrowing owls that I was so captivated by last month. At our previous visit, the nesting season had just begun. This time around, we wandered some of the residential back streets and found some new-to-us nests. Several were occupied, though the owls were much more vocal, much more protective than last month. We figure there are now babies to protect/defend or something, though none above ground yet. According to what I’ve read, that may be another month or so. Alas, we won’t stick around that long.

So, where to next? We’d considered the possibility of heading over to the Sanibel/Captiva/Pine Island area to do some more exploring, maybe get the kayak in the water again. After a check of the upcoming forecast, we nixed that idea. Rain, wind… not fun for kayaking. Instead, we decided to move on. We’d do the Okeechobee Canal back across the peninsula to the east coast. We spent one day motoring to LaBelle, FL where we tucked in at the free dock where we’d stayed on our west-bound trip as well, deciding it was a fine place to wait out the weather, which turned out to be a bit of wind and one day of light rain.  Not so bad.

Live Oak in LaBelle, FL

Live Oak in LaBelle, FL

Our second visit to LaBelle did not disappoint. This time we were able to check out the LaBelle Heritage Museum (small fee) which we’d missed last time due to their limited hours, where we were entertained by a lovely older couple who apparently run the place. You’d have thought she was my mother she was so excited for our visit, and he was a walking encyclopedia of the history of the area and its characters. They also have big plans for expanding the museum, which involves relocating a couple of historic buildings to the property, they’ve begun referring to as a “campus”. Really, in LaBelle. Fun stuff though. We enjoyed our morning walks around town beneath the canopies of live oaks, covered in recently resurrected resurrection ferns after the recent rains, met a few other cruising couples on the free dock and scored some more books from the free shelf at the local library. We also make it a point when taking advantage of free docks along the way, to do our part to contribute to the local economy. Having just come from Cape Coral though, our needs were few, so we were forced to spend our dollars at the local restaurants. Oh, the hardship. Forrey Grill was a fine place for the Captain to get his chicken wing and draft beer fix. Two Peas Cafe was a bit of a walk, but a nice breakfast stop. On our final day/night in LaBelle, we met another couple who came in to the slip next to us, mentioned they’d heard about a BBQ place, and in less than 5 minutes of meeting, we had a plan to dine together at Log Cabin BBQ, a yummy place we’d enjoyed our first time through. It did not disappoint.

Leaving LaBelle, the winds were still not looking nice for crossing the open and fairly shallow lake (translate: choppy waters and mostly on our nose), we opted to take the so-called Rim Route around the south shore of the lake. It’s a bit longer, a lot more protected, and is said to be more scenic. In fact, it proved to be an incredible birding stretch. We spent a day getting to a little pocket of an anchorage near South Bay and liked it so much we decided to stay for a few nights. That’s the beauty of this cruising life; most often, we have no schedule, so if we find a place we like, we can hang out a bit. In a place we don’t care for, we can move on. Anyway, because this end of the lake is so shallow, it attracts a lot of wading birds. My binoculars got a lot of use, the camera a bit more challenging as most of the action was out of reasonable zoom distance, but I gave it my best shot. We saw a lot of alligators on the shoreline while underway, but only one in the anchorage… sliding past the galley window in mirror-still waters one evening.

So, we birded some, read some, got some boat chores done, including cleaning and polishing several sections of the plastic/isenglass cockpit enclosure while listening to the radio broadcast of the first race of the IRL season. (Side note: Very excited to have Juan Pablo Montoya back in the IRL this season!) It was a relaxing stop, and amazing that with the exception of the first night when there were a couple of trawlers anchored around a bend out of sight, we had the place to ourselves.

Back on the East Coat again, and heading north. Stay tuned.

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From Little Shark River Bay, we had a nice brisk but manageable wind to sail.  We made it not quite to Coon Key Pass just south of the Marco Island area,  when decided to stop for the night at WhiteHorse Key.  It proved to be a nice spot, still amidst the mangroves, but with fewer bugs!  The next morning had us motoring in to Coon Key Pass (inside to avoid a huge run outside around the Cape Romano Shoals, translate: huge shallow area), through the Marco area… oops, forgot it’s Saturday, so all of the week-enders are out!  We did see some wildlife around the Marco area though, including a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites; we had a great view with binoculars, but alas, a bit too far and in light too bright for good photos.

We ducked back out at our first opportunity to get a bit more breathing room for a nice outside run, a slow sail in light winds from Marco to Naples.  It was here, off Keewaydin Island that we were greeted by a huge pod of dolphin!  I love watching these creatures, and have been trying to capture a decent photo since the beginning of our cruising days, but usually end up with only dorsal fin shots.    Today would be my lucky day.  Photo below.

We made a short day of it, decided we’d stop to pick up a mooring ball in Naples for the night… grab a hot shower, launder some sheets, top off fuel and water.  Alas, no propane readily available here.  I thought I would lose my mind on the run back inside and up Naples Bay.  Besides being Saturday, we’ve decided Naples is just too full of guys with more money than manners on humongous sport fishing boats.  Madness.  Truly, it was a bit like trying to to make your way by boat through a freaking washing machine.  Enough said.  Just about undid my Everglades-induced zen state, but not completely.

Anticipating more weekend craziness, we were up and out at first light to retrace our steps, make our way back out to the gulf.  Thankfully we encountered only one boat full of jerks on our way out, still, one too many.  It was a beautiful morning, but the forecast promised increasing wind and waves in the afternoon, so we decided to motor sail a bit (using the engine and in this case, the jib as well).  Indeed, it was getting a bit rolly as we approached Big Carlos Pass north of Ft Myers.  A nice tailwind pushed us in, and became a crosswind as we turned up east the Caloosahatchee River.  Before long though we had the anchor down in a familiar spot, Bimini Basin in Cape Coral where we spent a few weeks last month.  We rewarded ourselves with dinner ashore, pizza and draft beers at Nice Guys Pints and Pies.  We’ll hang out here for a week or so, regrouping if you will.  Today’s agenda, while waiting out some weather, was to take advantage of our first solid internet/WiFi connection in weeks to catch up on the blog.  In the coming days, visits to the propane refill station, the grocery, liquor store, laundromat, hardware store, etc are all in order, in addition to a few boat chores.  Exciting stuff.  We might also have to take a peek and see if there are any burrowing owlets have entered the world since our last visit here.  And the Captain wants some chicken wings.

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Well, we’ve set a new-for-us record, a solid week without phone service, internet access, etc. In fact, while we saw an occasional fishing boat, the only voice we heard besides one another’s for the entire week was the voice of NOAA/National Weather Service on the vhf. Kind of nice actually. We started out from Russell Pass on Saturday 0308, in light and variable winds. Once we dug out and rigged our screacher (our light wind sail, Gemini’s version of a spinnaker), we enjoyed a long slow sail from Russell Pass to Little Shark River. (We’d had it out some time ago, but only to check for major holes, so this was the first time we actually had it up. Nice.) We pulled into Little Shark River Bay and dropped the hook just before sunset. We were in the company of several other boats, though every one was gone by 9am the following morning. Apparently this is a big stop over anchorage for folks enroute to/from the Florida Keys and Florida’s west coast. For us however, this place would be a destination, not merely a stopover point.

Over the course of the week, we made various hops up the Little Shark River, eventually spending a couple of nights in Tarpon Bay before heading back down. We spent most mornings exploring the mangrove islands and tunnels by dinghy and kayak, and most afternoons hanging out in the cockpit reading.  I’ve especially enjoyed the not-demanding-of-brain cells novels of Randy Wayne White and Carl Hiaasen, both of whom live and set their stories in south Florida.

Being so remote, it was also a great place for star-gazing.  Or might have been.  We settled for only quick glimpses.  Alas, the remoteness of the place also means the absence of mosquito fogging trucks, which was fine with us.  It just meant that in mere seconds after sunset, if not before, we needed to have the boat buttoned up pretty tight or be ravaged by mosquitos and even worse in my opinion, no-see-ums.  We have screens for all of the hatches, but learned in the first day or two that even our small led reading lights would coax the no-see-ums right through the screens.  Our routine after dusk was to open only the more remote-from-the lights hatches until after we went to bed.  It seemed to work.  By the way, so do the essential oil based/non-chemical NoNatz products we ordinarily use,  but even they don’t stand up to the bugs of the Everglades.  My humble opinion.

There is actually tons of information I could share about the Everglades.  The Everglades National Park website is actually very good.  It has some comprehensive information and some cool old photographs.  Dig deep in the menus for stories about Guy Bradley, an early conservationist who was actually murdered for his efforts to protect birds when they were being sought for their plumes; Ernest Coe, who spearheaded efforts to establish the National Park; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a writer who also had great influence.  Her classic, “The Everglades: River of Grass”  has been added to my “to read” list.

The Everglades is also at great risk though.  Decades of destruction, some intended, some not, much in the name of development, have wreaked havoc on the flow of water that makes the Glades the place that it is.  I’ll not go into details here, because I might not be able to stop myself, but for those who are interested, the following are some places to start.  Wikipedia has some informative articles about the draining and development that created the problems, as well as attempts at restoration.   Current efforts, including information about the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, a major undertaking indeed, can be found here.  The more we cruise, the more we see, the more there is to be curious and learn about.  One more for my reading list: Michael Grunwald’s “The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of  Paradise”.

We’ve actually ended up staying in the Little Shark River vicinity longer than originally planned waiting out some winds in the Gulf. This far south, there is no so called “inside route”, like the Gulf and East coast ICW routes, so we wait for water and winds that will allow for a comfortable stretch on the open water of the Gulf of Mexico.  Today we did a little routine engine maintenance, oil & filter changes, etc.  Tomorrow, if the forecast holds, we’ll start back north.  Stay tuned.

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Everglades City FL is no doubt a bit of Old Florida. Early on there were the coastal mound-dwelling Calusa Indians. With the early settlers, it evolved into a shipping port for produce and seafood. I’ve read that the commercial fisherman “diversified” if you will in the 1970’s when a fair amount of pot was passing through these ports. Federal agents put an end to all of that in 1983, a major big deal apparently. Everglades City was even the county seat Collier County) for a time some hurricane came to visit, after which the powers that be decided to move things up to East Naples.  It’s a bit of a sleepy place today.

Our berth while in town: the Everglades City Rod & Gun Club, of course, the only show in town actually for cruising boats. The club/restaurant overlooks the Barron River, along which a long dock was built to accommodate those of us who visit by boat. Not a marina by any stretch of the imagination, but it was cheaper than advertised, and despite not having potable water at the dock, they let us use a faucet nearby to haul jerry cans of water to the boat. Bonus points for that.

More than a century old, in its earlier years the Rod & Gun was apparently quite the place, claiming visitors including a number of presidents and Hollywood stars among others.   The facility itself is fascinating, full of the expected rods and guns and a taxidermy collection of the various victims of said rods and guns.  Definitely a boys club.  They’ve closed the 2nd floor guest rooms, but have built a number of cottages on the property available for rent. Based on our brief visit, the restaurant remains quite popular, but pricey, and with mixed reviews according to the Captain’s research. We opted not to dine there, but very much enjoyed the pool, complete with small waterfall. In fact we were one of only two boats on the dock and the only people using the pool at all during our brief stay.  Check out both their website and this Hunt Magazine article for a bit of history and some nice photos.

We arrived late morning and after getting Cheshire secured, we decided to bicycle to the Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor’s Center (very small but nicely done), and on to Chokoloskee, FL.   Chokoloskee Island is a wee place, a few miles south of Everglades City.  I would suspect, based on the real estate occupied by RVs that the population fluctuates a bit with the season.  The reason for our visit to the island was to check out the historic  Smallwood Store.

Opened in 1906 by Ted Smallwood as a general store/trading post/post office, Smallwood Store remained in operation until 1982, and was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970’s.  In the late 1980’s, one of Ted’s granddaughters decided to reopen the place as a museum.  It’s a time capsule, really, a fascinating glimpse into history.  Check out the website for more of the story and some photos, in addition to some of my photos below.  Lunch followed at Havana Cafe on the island, another excellent pick by Captain Mike.

Back in Everglades City proper for the afternoon, we stopped in to check out the Collier County’s Museum of the Everglades which I’d heard mention of during our visit to Naples. It also gave a nice overview of the history of the area, though interestingly no mention of the  marijuana smuggling.  (Funny as at one point, more than 3/4 of the adult male population of the town had been arrested for related activity; seems noteworthy to me.  For the really curious, check out the story here.)

After a dip in the pool at Rod and Gun, we took a late afternoon bicycle about town exploring… found a couple of fish markets, (picked up a couple of slices of key lime pie to go at Triad who were getting ready to close or we may have stayed for dinner.   Instead, the Captain chose  Camillia Street Grill where we enjoyed a few beers,  a mullet special and BBQ gator ribs.  The gator ribs were actually a bit of an afterthought when Mike saw a plate of them being delivered to a nearby table.  Pretty tasty actually.  The leftover gator ribs and pie made a fine meal a day or so later.  It doesn’t get much more Florida authentic.

The following morning, we walked into town one last time, scouted and picked up a few things at local grocery, then headed out. We’d decided to tuck into an anchorage at Russell Pass to wait out some winds/weather and ponder our next move. At this point, we’re at the northern most portion of the Everglades, the tip of the iceberg really. We’re good for water and provisions. Our limiting factors now are diesel fuel and propane (required for our primary fridge and for cooking), neither of which was readily available in Everglades City best we could tell, though with better planning we could have gotten fuel before leaving Marco Island… hindsight. In the end, we decided we’ve got fuel enough to do some exploring south if we count on finding some sailing winds along the way, and the propane we have left should last us more than a week. So, south we shall go.

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Southeast of the Marco Island area, one enters a different Florida. The Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge along with the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve manage a good deal of the coastline and islands. Established in 1996, this refuge is newer than some we’ve visited on the east coast, and at 35,000 acres, serves as an important buffer between the development from the north and the Everglades to the south. A couple of Florida state parks and a state forest share a bit of access as well. Beyond that is the Everglades National Park. Plenty to keep us busy for a few weeks.

We headed out of Smokehouse Bay on the north end of Marco Island on a Saturday morning. Although we had some anchorage and paddle trail information for spots in the vicinity of Goodland FL, we opted to get a bit further flung in hopes of escaping some of the week-end crowd. We headed out of Coon Key Pass and set our sights on Panther Key which turned out to be a lovely spot. Unfortunately, just as we arrived, our plans hit a bit of a snag.

When we lived on dirt, I honestly didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about where our water came from. Turn on a tap, there it is. Hot, cold, plentiful supply, it’s all good. Being the tree-hugger that I am, I’ve always been mindful of not wasting water… always ran only full loads of laundry, a full dishwasher, watered outside only when necessary, etc. Many many years ago, after an incident with a busted hot water heater that flooded our basement, I’ve made a point of knowing where the water main is and how to shut it off. Then we moved aboard. As I’ve written before, Cheshire has two 30-gallon fresh water tanks, which are really only 25 gallons each of usable water because of how the fill and vent hoses are placed… not a good design to say the least, but we manage. When we expect to be out away from docks for a while, we’ll also fill our two 6-gallon jerry cans. As we were arriving at Panther Key, Mike was at the helm and I’d gone below to the galley, turned the faucet on for a bit of water… nothing. Went to the head, tried that faucet, nothing, nada, not a drop.  That’s never happened before. A few minutes later, after getting the anchor set, Mike did a bit of detective work and found that while we were underway, a hose had come loose under the galley sole. Since we’d both been in the cockpit, and since we were under power, not sail for this stretch, neither of us heard the water pump run for longer than usual, which would have been a big clue. Turns out all of the water in the starboard tank, right down to the pick-up hose, had been pumped into the starboard bilge under the galley sole. Since Cheshire doesn’t have bilge pumps,  we have a couple of manual pumps aboard and were able to pump the water out of the bilge and into the galley sink.  Mike made a quick repair to the hose and we were good to go. Thankfully it takes a manual Y-valve rotation to access the alternate tank, so we didn’t drain both tanks dry. And the starboard bilge is now cleaner than it’s been in a very long time. Unfortunately, it was a pretty big hit to our fresh water supply, particularly as we head into the wilds,  and would impact our plans a bit.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed a delightful couple of days near Panther Key, got the kayak in the water again and did a couple of morning paddles exploring the area. Monday afternoon, we decided to move south a bit further to an anchorage near Russell Pass/Chokoloskee Bay where we’d be striking distance from Everglades City, the next stop on our make-it-up-as-we-go-along itinerary.

under the galley sole

under the galley sole

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Tucked into an area on the north end of the Ten Thousand Islands, midway between Naples and Marco Island is a pretty little spot called Rookery Bay, which is only a very small part of the greater Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  We’ve visited several of these NERR locations which I’ve written about previously, including two locations of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve in north Florida (blog posts here and here)  and Sapelo Island in Georgia.  Having scouted an anchorage appropriate for Cheshire in the northwestern corner of the bay, we decided that this would be a fine spot for the maiden voyage of our new/replacement SeaEagle inflatable kayak.

Rookery Bay NERR

map from Rookery Bay website

Though I read that this Reserve has a very nicely done Environmental Learning Center (fancy talk for Visitors’ Center), alas, it’s not easily accessible by water, so we’ll add that to our list of places to visit the next time we’re in southwest Florida with a car.  (Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is also on the list.)  This particular Reserve was designated in 1978, 110,000 acres in all, more than half of that acreage being water, the rest mostly mangroves and fresh/brackish marshes.  I read a piece somewhere that spoke of the small bit where we’re anchored, Rookery Bay proper, nearly having a road built through it in the mid-60’s when some developers decided they needed to snap a line/road between Naples and Marco Island.  Hard to imagine now when I gaze out of the cockpit and with the exception of two buildings in the distance, all else is water and mangroves.

We arrived midday and decided to put the “new” kayak in the water for a test paddle.  When Mike called the company and learned they’d be replacing our damaged one, he was told that they’d been redesigned in the couple of years since we ordered our first one.   Per their website, the new version is said to be “sleeker, faster and lighter”.  Indeed, the slightly asymmetrical shape gives the bow a narrower profile, so it does cut the wind and waves a bit better.  Either that or we’ve gotten to be much stronger paddlers in the last week or so… not likely.  Plus, they’ve added a couple of detatchable waterproof (or at least water resistant) storage pouches, one forward and one aft which are very handy.  All in all we’re pleased.

The following day brought calm waters and a light breeze.  Feeling ambitious, we headed off across the bay, a 1.5 mile open water paddle to pick up a marked paddle trail I’d read about.  The Shell Point Canoe Trail was developed by the Friends of Rookery Bay, a 2 mile paddle through some winding mangroves.  Initially it seemed we were the only ones on the water.  We had joined the trail mid-route though, and as we neared the put-in, we had company, including a flotilla of folks who appeared to have signed up for a paddle tour.  We were reminded of fortunate we are to have the flexibility to go when and where we want.  We have the same sense of gratitude every time a “party boat” complete with tour guide is out for a dolphin watch or sunset tour or whatever, that when they’re gone and the dolphins come back out to play and the sun sets, we’re still here.

In any event, the mid-day wind had picked up as anticipated, so our paddle back across the bay was a bit more challenging.  Instead of our beeline of earlier, we braved the wind for a shorter stretch, tucked into the lee side (protected) of the mangrove-lined shore and had a relaxing paddle back.  Our new system of using a 2-gallon garden sprayer to give the kayak a fresh water rinse before stowing worked out very nicely.

We so enjoyed the quiet of this spot that we opted to stay for another day, and this morning had a short motor down to Smokehouse Bay, a nice, albeit fairly civilized, little spot tucked into the north end of Marco Island.  We’d gotten a tip from a fellow cruiser that the nearby Winn-Dixie had a dinghy dock, and sure enough, they did.  We took a long walk to stretch our legs, had a yummy lunch at Lee Be Fish, a restaurant/market that Mike had scouted, and did some grocery-shopping on our way back.  So, we’re provisioned for a week or more and tomorrow will continue our exploring through the Ten Thousand Islands and into Everglades National Park.  At some point I’ll expect we’ll be out of cell phone service for a time, but we’ll see.   As always, stay tuned.

Note: The photos below, as with all of my “from the kayak” shots, were taken with my LifeProof-cased  iphone 4S, so photo quality is not great, but better than nothing.  I’m still learning the camera feature, which is even more challenging in bright light on the water.  That said, sometimes you just need to see it in person.  But, for what they’re worth…

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