Saturday, November 30, 2019

Sail from Marco Island to Indian River Pass

After having dinner with Doyle and Darren on November 21, we went back to the boat and were talking about our plans. Kim and I both felt like two days in this urban setting was long enough, so we started preparing to depart the next morning. We were excited for the next part of our trip. We would be heading around the Cape Ramano Shoals that extend about 10 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico at the end of Marco Island. At that point we would be heading almost straight east along the southern coast of Florida. This section of the coast is part of the Everglades National Park, so there is no development. Southwest Florida is mostly developed with houses and condos. We were really looking forward to some peace and quiet. We would not be disappointed.

I recorded a few video updates and stitched them together. You can watch this if you prefer to watch video vs. reading the blog:

Sailing Day from Marco Island to Indian Key Pass

We were up again before sunrise on the 22nd of November. We had a quick breakfast and started the motor to warm it up. Just before I raised anchor, the motor just stopped. I tried to restart it and it would not start. I had changed the Racor fuel filter the day before to make sure that a dirty fuel filter was not the problem with the engine RPM not holding. I had run the engine for a good 20 minutes after changing the filter and the engine ran fine.  I was sure we had some air in the fuel lines, so I followed the fuel bleed procedure that is quite easy on this boat, and did find some air in the fuel line. Once the fuel ran clear, I closed the bleed screw. I then asked Kim to start the motor, and it started right up. OK, not a good way to start the day, but I was glad that happened while we were still at anchor. It was another beautiful morning as we raised the anchor and motored out of Smokehouse Bay.

As we entered the gulf we had some good wind from the east, which meant great sailing conditions. We had wind with almost no swell. We were only going about 4 knots in 8 knots of breeze, but we had all day for the 33 mile trip, so we just kicked back and relaxed. Kim went up on the foredeck to look for dolphins.

A couple shot of us leaving Marco Island behind

Kim on Dolphin watch
As we approached the Cape Romano Shoals the wind dropped off to zero. It was like a huge glassy lake 7 miles out in the Gulf.

With the lack of wind, we fired up the motor and proceeded in the direction of our destination. The calm waters made it easy to stay on course through a narrow and shallow channel through the shoals. I was a bit concerned. I did not want to run aground out there, but thankfully we never saw less than 9 feet and all was good.

I was still fighting the issue of our engine not holding idle, so I found a string and made a cinch knot and that worked well. I was relieved that the problem was in the throttle linkage and not the engine.

That silver lever is the throttle. The rope fix worked perfectly.
Just to finish the story, I took the compass off of the Binnacle the next day and found the tension screw and tightened it up and we are now good to go. No more string needed.

We motored down the coast for about 2.5 hours in the totally calm conditions. We then made the turn for the pass at Indian Key. I was expecting to see other boats in the anchorage, but I would be wrong. We had the place all to ourselves. It was beautiful and quiet. We did see a number of fishing boats coming in and out of the pass heading up to Everglades City, but we were protected from their wake by Indian Key. What a great place.

Our view at Indian Key Pass

Another angle

I got right down to business and got the fishing pole out and immediately started catching fish. It was mostly Gaff topsail Catfish, but it was still fun. 

Fishing at sunset

As the day ended we had one of the best sunsets we have ever had. We had open water all the way to the horizon and that made it even better. 

It was a great way to end this day. We were not sure what we would do next. We had very marginal cell signal, but enough to check and download weather forecasts. It was calm that first night, but what would happen in the next couple of days? Come back to see the next chapter in this adventure.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Video Updates During Sail to Marco Island

I recorded a couple more updates while we were sailing from Fort Meyers Beach to Marco Island. Some people prefer watching the video to reading the blog.

Updates During sail to Marco Island

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sail from Fort Myers Beach to Marco Island

We left Fort Myers Beach on November 20. We awoke before sunrise and were greeted by a beautiful morning without a breath of wind. The forecast called for light winds early, but picking up with 10 knots out of the north by 8 am. We ghosted out of the harbor in glass calm water. We captured it on video. I shot the update and then Kim captured us going under the causeway.

Beautiful quiet morning in Fort Meyers Beach. The sun was not up yet. 

Click this link for video:
Leaving Fort Meyers Beach

As we entered the open water we had two other sailboats with us. All of us had our motors on because of the light winds, but we had the genoa up to help us along.

Two other sailboats on our port side

We finally got some wind to fill in. It was right behind us, so we decided to catch as much as we could and sailed wing on wing for a while. This caused us to sail a bit further off shore than we wanted, but at least we could shut the motor off for a while.

Wing on Wing. Our mainsail on the port side and the genoa on the starboard. 

The plan was to get far enough off shore to then jibe and catch the wind into the Capri inlet at Marco Island. Unfortunately, the wind died as we headed to shore and we had to motor for the last hour of the trip. We then cruised up a series of canals to a small bay called Smokehouse Bay. It is a very protected little bay that is surrounded by large houses and condos. There is also a marina with some restaurants along the shore. The main reason we came here is the Winn-Dixie grocery store. This is a grocery store that has a dingy dock. Yep, we were able to go grocery shopping in our dingy. It was a very cool experience. We bought just short of $100 in provisions. That was the first time we had done any food shopping since we left Palmetto, about 3 weeks before.

Smokehouse Bay in Marco Island, Florida

The boat on the right is one of the boats that sailed with us all day. The funny thing is he is also here in our mooring field in Marathon. It is also an Island Packet, but a 30. Boat name is Okbuyou. 
We had not been very social during the trip so far, but that changed on our second night in Marco Island. We made contact with Craig and Susan, the couple that rescued us when we had dingy problems in Fort Myers Beach. They have a house in Marco Island. We met them for a drink at CJ's. It was great to see them again. We really hope our paths can cross again in the future. Also joining us that evening was our good friend Doyle and his friend Darren. We had dinner and really enjoyed showing off our boat and their company for the evening.

Bad picture of Doyle at Mango's restaurant. Thanks for coming for a visit!
We had an enjoyable two days at Smokehouse Bay, but we felt like two days was enough. We were excited about the next stop. We would be going into the uninhabited area that is Everglades National Park. We had one major obstacle to overcome to get there, come back to find out what that is and how we did.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Fort Myers Beach

I am writing this on November 26th from Marathon, Florida. WE MADE IT!! We are safely on a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon. I have not been able to post to the blog because of the lack of an internet connection while in some very uninhabited places. I will write about that experience in coming entries. This entry will take us back November 11 through 19. We had sailed into the harbor at Fort Myers Beach and picked up a mooring.

We spent the first days in Fort Myers Beach taking the city bus to Walmart to pick up a new fuel tank for the dingy and various other parts. We then ordered some parts for the outboard that needed to be replaced. I was able to have those items shipped to the office at the marina. They all came in two days. I was able to replace the parts without issue and with the new fuel tank and fresh ethenol free fuel, the dingy was running perfectly. We were now able to get from the boat to land easily. We could take long hot showers and walk to the beach and anything else we wanted to do.

I also ordered parts for the sea strainer on SHIFT, and that also worked out well. No more leaks. I felt like we were as good to go as possible. I find it quite stressful to have problems when you are off shore. When I have problems it takes a while to regain confidence in the equipment. This boat work is a very important part of the experience. It allows me to get to know the boat better and to know what to watch for. With all of this "work" out of the way, we could have left, but we wanted to experience Fort Myers Beach before we left, so we extended our stay.

We took a walk down to the beach to see what we could see. It is a beautiful beach, but it was a cool cloudy day with temps in the lower 70's.

The Pier and beach front called "Time Square"

Condo's Along the beach

Kim at the pier. It was a cool day, but we were still wearing shorts. 
The next day we took a ride to the shopping area around Walmart and went to an authentic Latino market and restaurant. It was very good. We then did some provisioning and took the trip back to the boat.

The final day, we took a 4 mile walk along the beautiful beach. The sand is as soft as any sand we have ever felt. It was a beautiful sunny day and a great way to finish our stay in Fort Myers Beach.

This picture doesn't show the large number of people walking on the beach. 

Kim on a beach 

Cool RV park right on the beach 

We  walked along the beach doing what most people do.  Picking up shells and enjoying the warm sun and water. We did see what could be evidence of the Red Tide that is making news in this part of Florida.

A dead horseshoe crab
This was exactly the day we needed.  We went back to the marina and took long hot showers.  We were now ready for our next sail south. We had a 35 mile sail down to Marco Island.  I will tell you how that went in my next entry. 
I will leave you with another beautiful sunset from Fort Myers Beach. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Video update Sail to Fort Myers Beach

This is a short clip that I recorded while we were sailing from Cayo Costa State Park to Fort Myers Beach.  I am doing some updates via video because I think they better capture what we are doing. I am documenting our travels mainly for our future selves. If any of our friends and family get some enjoyment out of this, that is great.

Click on this link:
Sail to Fort Meyers Beach

Love to all,
Shawn and Kim

Monday, November 18, 2019

Dolphins, Dolphins, Everywhere!

The link below is to a video that I made from a number of clips that we shot while sailing on November 6, 2019. We were sailing from Venice, Florida to Pelican Bay, Florida. We love seeing dolphins and we saw a bunch of them on this day.

Dolphins, Dolphins, Everywhere!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sail to Fort Myers 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 Myers. 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 Myers 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 Myers 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.