Friday, November 15, 2019

Sail to Fort Meyers Beach, Florida

We spent 5 nights at Pelican Bay. The last three were a bit rough because of the strong North to NE wind. I was ready to get on down the coast and see what was next. We were up before sunrise on November 10th. It was a beautiful morning and we had that same NE breeze at between 15 and 20 knots. The forecast was for it to ease off later in the day.

We were able to pull the anchor without too much problem, but it was stuck hard in good sand and mud. Once we were on our way, we had to motor straight into the wind to get out of the bay. That also allowed me to raise the mainsail. As soon as we cleared the channel, we fell off the wind and then I put out the genoa. SHIFT took off! I just love the feeling of acceleration. We made one jibe and we were headed down the coast. We were averaging 7 knots. It was awesome. I had full sails up in 15 knots just a little aft of the beam. The sea state was flat due to the east wind. It was our best sail yet.

I never get tired of seeing SHIFT flying under full sails. 
We were making great time. About half way down the coast we saw what looked like a sailing school over by the shore. We could not count how many boats there were in the class.

We sailed on and made it to Sanabel Island. At that point we had to turn due East to make it to the inlet at Fort Meyers. The problem was that the wind had now shifted to straight out of the east. We decided that we had plenty of time and made a few tacks to move east. It was fun for a while, but then the wind just died, so we started up the motor and came on in the channel. We motored into a very protected mooring field in the town of Fort Meyers Beach. The winds were calm and we had a beautiful evening. I don't think the boat rocked all night. We both slept like rocks.

Over the past few days, I have taken a number of pictures of this area. Some of them came out very cool. I am going to post a bunch here and make comments on them.

I got this shot of the moon set under the causeway. 

Sunset in the Mooring Field
Moon set over a totally quiet bay of boats.
This Blue Heron decided that our dingy was a good place to do some fishing. 
I love reflection shots.
I have been spending most of my evenings out in the cockpit watching the movements around the bay. We have a large shrimp fishing fleet just across from us and a bunch of bayside bars and restaurants.

The main reason that we came here, was to use some of the facilities that are here at the marina. The mooring ball is about $15 per night, which gives us access to the dingy dock and the showers, water, mail service, laundry and access to walk around the town. We have been taking full advantage of the access to get some things squared away. The first order of business was to get the dingy working properly. When we arrived we tried to go to shore to check in. The dingy died and we were stuck. The silver lining to that cloud was that Craig and Susan happened by in their dingy and saved us. They then took us to check in and back to our boat. We hope to see them again later in our trip. I spent the next morning working on the motor and had it kind of jury rigged together good enough to make another attempt to get to the dingy dock. This time we made it. Then we found the bus stop and found our way to Walmart to get a new gas tank and gas line. I also bought a number of other things on my list. I also placed thee on-line orders that would come to the front desk.

The good news is as of today, the dingy is working well and the sea strainer is sorted. We should be good to go. Now, the plan is to have some fun while we are here. In my next entry, I will show you what we find to do in Fort Meyers Beach, Florida.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Video of our First Day Traveling on a Sailboat

This video is out of chronological order. I finally had time and power to stitch together some videos of our first day actually traveling on the sailboat after we left the marina for good. The dolphins at the end are kind of cool. Click the link below to take you to the video.

First Day Traveling on a Sailboat November 4, 2019

Life on a Sailboat. Problems and Postcards.

I am writing this entry from the mooring field in Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida. We are very well protected. The big northern that brought snow to the northern US, has just arrived. Even though we have some gusty winds, and the temps may plummet to the high 50's, all is good. Before I can write about how we got to Ft. Meyers Beach, I have to go back about a week...

In my last entry, I told you about some problems we were having with our dingy motor. A dingy is very important in this lifestyle. It is your primary means of transportation after you drop the hook to get to shore to enjoy the place you have sailed to. Without a working dingy, you are stuck on the boat.

We are OK in small spaces, so we are fine just hanging out reading a book or writing, but it can get old after a few days.

On November 8, I got up and got to work. I do have a fair amount of experience working on small motors. Racing motorcycles for 40 years has been very helpful. My guess was that we had a clogged jet in the carburetor. I watched a Youtube video on how to take it apart and got busy. The main problem is working on the motor over water. You have to be very careful not to drop something. It is not like looking all over the shop floor for a part that has found a hiding spot. The good news is that it was a calm day and I did not drop anything into the bay. I got the carburetor off and took it apart and my guess was correct. I was able to use a bread tie to clear the very small opening in the jet and then reassembled it. It still did not run correctly. I checked a number of other things including the fuel line, but no luck. I then took the carburetor back off again because you always have to do things twice on a boat. After putting it back on the second time, it worked!

They say cruising is doing boat work in exotic places. Here is proof positive. Beautiful bay, perfect day, working on a carburetor.
It worked for a short time and then it died again, but this time it seemed to be running out of fuel. I played with the fuel line and got it working but I had no confidence in it. I decided to put the dingy up on the davits and have it ready for our next travel day. The weather was gong to get bad anyway. I would rather put the dingy up in good weather. We would be stuck on the boat until we sailed to Fort Meyers. The weather looked good for a move on the 11th of November. 

A northern was coming in the next day, so we just hunkered down and waited it out. We had pretty good protection, but it did get pretty rolly when the wind was out of the direct north, but it was mostly from the NE. The anchor held and we were mostly comfortable.

Our batteries needed some help, so I decided to run the diesel for an hour or so. The bad news is that while checking the engine, I found a sea water leak. It was a slow leak coming from the sea strainer. No problem, I had purchased a rebuild kit. I pulled it off and replaced all of the gaskets, but it still leaked. That is when I noticed a crack in the sight glass. It will be fine for now, but another thing I have to order. 

I was a little frustrated to keep having issues to deal with. I really thought that I had done a good job preparing the boat to not have these kinds of issues. Oh well, at least I know how to rebuild the carb on the outboard and repair a sea strainer.

When weather patterns get unstable, it creates some interesting cloud formations which equates to great sunsets.

I will end this entry there and pick it up with the day we finally left Pelican Bay. Come back to see how that sail and arrival went. It turned out to be a very interesting day.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sail to Pelican Bay, A Special Day That Almost Ended Poorly

I am making this entry on November 10. We are still anchored at Pelican Bay. Much has happened since we have been here. Some of what has happened has been amazing and good and some not so good. I will tell you all about it in this entry and the ones that follow. I have not written for 5 days  because we are working through some battery issues, which has prevented me from using my laptop. I think I now have a better understanding of our charging systems and have a plan that should allow me to post as often as I would like. For now, let me tell you about November 6th and 7th.

We did leave Blackburn Bay on November 6. We awoke early and were greeted with a beautiful sunrise.

We had a very pleasant day sailing down the coast. Just as we pulled out, another one of the sailboats in the anchorage left right behind us. We ended up sailing together most of the day without ever making contact.

Here is a shot of Fancy Free. She was our buddy boat for the day. Her dingy was named "Footloose"
We took an inside passage into Boca Grande Pass that saved us from going out and around and then motoring into the pass into a stiff current. To do this, you have to be very close to the beach and the pilings in the picture below.  We never saw less than 11 feet, so all was good.

Coming in close to the beach to stay in the channel. Kim on bow watch.

Local Brown Pelicans looking at us passing buy. 
We got the hook down and settled in to this beautiful place. We came to this anchorage back in August with our friends, David and Janice. This is where we ran aground. This time we did just fine.

This was an interesting boat. When they dropped the dingy, I saw Kimberling City, Missouri was their hailing port. It was amazing that we came all this way and a Missouri boat was parked right next to us. We did meet them and had a nice conversation. They are on their way back from Key West.
November 7th, was a very special day. It was Kim's Birthday. I am so lucky to have a wife that will do all of these crazy adventures with me, so I wanted to make it special. It was also the one week mark for our cruising life. We started the day by dropping the dingy. I had waved at another Island Packet that had come into the anchorage just after us and noticed the name "Lena Bea" on the transom. That name sounded familiar. I did some looking and I was correct. It was a boat that was sailed in a book, "A Once Reluctant Sailor" from Minnesota to Punta Gorda, FL. It was sailed by Wayne and Michele Sharp. Wayne was a customer of mine for many years in my working life. I had no idea if they still owned her, but we stopped by and were delighted when Michele came out on deck to greet us. We then spent the next hour on their boat catching up. What are the chances that the one person that I know, that is a sailor, would be in the same anchorage with us? Simply Amazing and Awesome! We really hope to see them again in the coming years when we are passing through this area.

After that, we went to the beach and I got the now standard "Kim on a beach" photo.

Kim on a beach with shells in hand.
After the beach, we took the dingy to Cabbage Key for dinner. This is a famous old Inn, Marina and Restaurant. They are famous for everyone attaching a dollar bill to the ceiling. Sadly the dinner was a bit of a disappointment, but it was still a nice time.

Kim in front of the Cabbage Key back porch.
We decided to cruise over by Useppa Island and then back to Pelican Bay via the ICW. Just as we turned to return, the motor on the dingy started running very poorly. Then it would only idle. We did have a fisherman come by to check on us, but we ended up taking two hours to run at idle speed all the way back. The good news is we made it. I guess this was another lesson for me to test my patience. I now knew what my project would be for the next day.

As it turned out, that was not the only project I had to do over the coming days. A northern came in and brought cooler weather and strong winds. I will tell you how we did in my next entry.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Time to Sail South

We stayed anchored in Manatee River for 3 nights waiting for the weather to clear. We saw winds of just a bit over 20 knots, which is not that bad, but we will be conservative. Monday, November 4th looked like a perfect day. The forecast was calling for 10 to 15 knots out of the east and then dying off around 2 PM. That is exactly what it did.

We decided to sail about 45 NM to Venice, Florida. We got up at about 6 am to make sure we would be anchored well before dark. It was a beautiful morning with the wind just as predicted. We set our sails before we left the river and stayed on the same port tack until we made the turn (a jibe) to go through the inlet and head south.

We set the auto pilot and just made minor corrections the entire way to Venice. The wind started at 10-12 knots and then picked up to about 15 to 18. We were doing between 6 and 7 knots most of the time. The boat was balanced and very comfortable. We both think it was our best day sailing yet.

Kim in her place of comfort. No seasickness on this day.
Perfect Day

Under full canvas
As we got to Sarasota, the wind picked up to 15 to 18 and it just got better.

We had some water over the rail, but still very comfortable. The boat is a bit salty now.
Kim contemplating life on a lean.
I have added one additional thing to my Navigation system. An Android tablet running Navionics software is great to double check the chart plotter and to give us some redundancy.

New tablet and mount. No lost visibility.
We got to the Venice inlet, but we were about 9 miles offshore. We had to do that to stay on the wind. We planned to make a tack and head to land. The problem was that it was now 2 pm and the wind just died. I mean like totally died. It became dead calm and the water was like glass. It was crazy how fast it changed. We fired up the motor and cruised on in. During that time we were greeted by a pod of dolphins on the bow. Kim went up to talk to them and they stayed there for about 5 minutes. She LOVED it! Sadly, no pictures.

We came in the inlet and motored up the ICW about 2.5 miles. We had to open one bridge and then dropped the hook in Blackburn Bay. It was glass smooth and we had a beautiful evening. We had another very cool dolphin encounter that I did get on video. Check out the video to follow to see that.

We had the local rowing team come by with their coach. They had a girl coxswain, just like my niece Katherine.

Our anchorage at Blackburn Bay. We were surrounded by beautiful homes and a nice sunset.

SHIFT ready for bed after a long days work.

Just one more sunset shot. 
We liked this anchorage so much we decided to stay 2 nights. It really had more to do with the weather than anything else, but we are not in any kind of hurry to get south. We have had a lazy day just reading and relaxing today. We are planning to sail tomorrow, but we will see.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Adventure Has Begun

We have spent the past two weeks in the marina getting ready to go. We turned in the rent car on October 19th and thought that was it, but an opportunity to help a friend and use their car for a few days presented itself, so we jumped at it and did some last minute additions to the boat.

David and Janice moved their boat, "SloMotion" down to Marathon in the Keys. To make that happen, David sailed single handed down to Marco Island. We took Janice down to Marco to get on the boat and sail with David down to Marathon. We had Janice's car for 4 days while they made the three stop trip. We then drove the 5+ hours down to Marathon and picked them up, so that David could get his truck, and Janice could continue with a number of things including her job in Tampa. Thanks for the use of the car, David and Janice. We are so happy to help you with the car shuttle.

During the 4 days we had the car we added about $300 to our provisions, which brought the total to right at $1000. We also added a new to us sail. The former owners of the boat had decided they did not want the Spinnaker that was on the boat when they bought it. It had been at a sail consignment shop in Sarasota for the past year and a half. When we went sailing with Don he offered to give me the sail. I have always wanted to learn how to fly a spinnaker, so I said YES! The sail will need a dousing sock, but other than that, it looks beautiful. I can't wait to fly it. This sail will be used in light wind when going downwind. 

After doing our last provisioning run, we found we had more storage space available. We decided to restock our fresh veggies and and added to our supply of non perishable food.  We also hit the laundromat one more time. We then took the time to do a touch up on the varnish job on the boat. It came out looking pretty good. We just did a light sanding and then added three coats of Spar Urethane. It looks like a touch up every six months on the sun exposed teak and a complete job every two years will be the way to go. 

We enjoyed our time at Snead Island Boat Works. We met some great folks and it was tough to say good bye. It always is, but it will be great when we see them again. Hopefully, this time out on the water.

Jeff and Julia on Oo La La, a cool Westsail 32. Our port side neighbor.
I have been watching the weather closely and watching the cold front that has brought very cold weather to the rest of the country. We have seen the reports of snow in Denver and Kansas City. We have still be in the high 80's in central Florida. The front finally made it to our area on November 1. That is also the day that we were planning to leave the marina.

We awoke to noticeably cooler temps, albeit still shorts and t-shirt weather at about 70 degrees. The big difference was the lack of humidity. It felt great. The wind was blowing about 15 knots out of the north. The anchorage we had chosen for our first day was not going to have great protection from the north, so we opted to go to an anchorage all of 1.4 NM from the marina. Yep, that was our first day, 1.4 miles.

We spent the afternoon, watching the dolphin and other fish and birds around the boat. The wind was nice and kept the boat cool and comfortable. We dropped the dingy and took a trip to Emerson Point Preserve.  We have been intending to visit from land, but never got around to it. I am sure we did more miles in the dingy than the big boat on this first day. Here are a few shots of our views around the boat:

A shot of SHIFT at anchor. You may notice she is a bit down in rear. She is fully provisioned for our 4 to 5 month cruise.

Not a great shot, but I finally got a dolphin picture.
This boat broke loose of the anchor and washed up on shore during the last big storm a few weeks ago.

Our neighbor for a few hours in a beautiful Catamaran. 
Looking across the river at Desoto Point. 
I am not sure how long Caroline has been here, but it looks like it has been a while. She is lying about 100 yards northwest of us. 
Large homes on the Bradenton side of the river
We have to get in shot of the nice sunset and sunrise of our first night of this trip.

We enjoyed the nice cool evening in the cockpit.
Beautiful Morning

Our neighbor leaving early
We took a second dingy ride this morning over to Emerson Point Preserve and took advantage of their facilities and talked to the volenteer in the visitors center. Bob is an interesting guy and told us all about the ancient Indian Mounds on the site. We took a short walk to check out the mounds.

Lots of Spanish Moss
Looking up at one of the mounds. This one is the temple mound.

When we returned to the dingy, the tide had fallen and we were high and dry. 
It was an uneventful first couple of days. We do have another front coming in tonight, so we will sit tight and see how that impacts our comfort level. For now, other than a few boat wakes we are very comfortable. In my next entry, I will write about actually going somewhere, come back to see how that works out.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Adventure Will Begin Soon, But First a Storm

I know in my last entry, I said that the next entry would be the beginning of our trip south for the winter. I decided to add at least this one entry to chronicle the last two weeks before we leave the marina.

We arrived back in Palmetto, Florida on October 17. We rented a car at the airport in St. Petersburg to be dropped off at the Enterprise office in Bradenton. After stopping at the boat to turn on the refrigeration, we headed to Walmart to buy non-perishable foods. We were hoping to buy enough food to last us most of the winter. We filled two shopping carts. The bill came to right at $500. Our rent car was actually a small 4 door pickup. We filled the back seat and covered the floor of the bed.

Kim was not sure it would all fit, but this boat continues to amaze us. It all fit with room to spare. We would need that additional room.

This picture shows about half of the non-perishable food we purchased.
On Friday the 18th, we were up early and on the road to St. Pete to pick up our sails. That went well and then we hit the West Marine and Home Depot for a few needed hardware items for the boat. Then it was off to Walmart again for the perishable items. We spent another $200 to bring the total on food to $700. We put a lot of thought into what to buy that would be in good shape as we travel. I hope it all works.

When we arrived in Florida, there was a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that was soon upgraded to Tropical Storm Nestor. The storm was going north of us, but we were expecting some storm surge and wind and rain. We were up a few times during the Friday night/Saturday morning checking dock lines and watching the water rise. We only got about a foot of storm surge and some hard rain, but not much wind...yet.

All looked good, so we headed over to Tampa to by a wetsuit that I had found on Facebook Marketplace for about a third of new price. It turned out to be in perfect condition and should be perfect for me to get in the water when it is cold to do what needs to be done. On our way back, we noticed the wind had picked up significantly. By the time we crossed over the SkyBridge it was blowing at least 30 to 40 mph. When we arrived at the marina I did not like what I saw. The wind was at the worst direction. Right through the mouth of the basin. Our boat was right in line with the wind and we had no protection, because we had no boats on our starboard side. We were getting pushed hard into our port side pilings and had a small scuff mark on the rail. We spent a few hectic minutes tightening our lines and getting our fenders in the best possible places.

Here is a shot looking down to the mouth of the basin. 
The wind gauge showing 30.6 knots. We saw sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts about 35. 
The wind lasted most of the rest of the day, but thankfully shifted to more out of the south and that gave us more protection.

We now have a new boat behind us when we back out. This is an even larger sport fishing boat. with a jet ski and a skiff on the bow.

We invited Don and Kim, the former owners of our boat, out for a day of sailing. Wednesday, October 23 looked like a perfect day. We had a nice north wind that brought in some cooler weather. We had a strong wind at between 15 and 20 knots. It was an exciting ride as we crossed Tampa Bay a few times. The wind eased as we headed for the marina, but the perfect direction allowed us to sail right up the river to the marina for the first time. We had an awesome day with great people. I really liked having the experienced extra hands. We need to do more of that.

Don and Kim, our new friends. We certainly hope to spend more time with you as our path cross in the future. 
Today, we had lunch with Mike, our former broker and now our good friend. Mike has been so great to work with and has kept up the great advice. We had heard he was having a health challenge and wanted to say. "See you later" before we left. If you read this, All the best, Mike! Thanks for everything. We asked Mike to take our picture on our boat before he left. It seemed fitting for him to take it.

This will be the "Before" picture. You can see how calm the marina looks on a normal day. 
It looks like we may have one more little adventure before we leave the marina. I may get to write about that in my next entry.