After spending approximately a week in Clearwater, we moved on to St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, where we spend five nights. Technically, this is where Mark completed, or as they say, “Crossed His Wake” doing the Great Loop. In 2003, Mark arrived in St. Petersburg on our 40′ Sailboat, Beau Soleil, after bringing it down from Milwaukee via the Great Lakes, east coast and around Key West.
St. Petersburg has changed a lot during the last 11 years. There has been substantial development of the downtown area; many new high-rise condos, restaurants and shopping areas. The marina is easy walking distance to most attractions, but there is also a trolley which is available. While there we took in an art festival, a weekly food entertainment festival and flea market. We saw our first movie in six months – Catching Fire, part of the Hunger Games Trilogy. It was great! We had planned on spending about three days there, but strong east winds along with heavy morning fog kept us there longer.
We departed for Sarasota on the third day of morning fog using radar extensively. When going underneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge we were physically under it before we saw it. Fortunately, the fog lifted shortly thereafter and we had an easy run down the ICW down to Sarasota. We had made reservations for four nights in the Sarasota Public Mooring field. By the time we arrived the wind and waves had picked up so that attaching our boat to the mooring ball was a real challenge. It took us approximately 45 minutes to finally get the boat secured. Mark sent Pauline in to have a drink!
That night we experienced the roughest night on the boat to date. The winds picked up to 40 miles an hour, gusting to 50. While we were somewhat protected by tall buildings up-wind of us, the waves, as they frequently do, curved around a point of land and hit us from the side. This caused the boat to roll excessively from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. It was too rough to sleep below, so we came up to the saloon and embraced ourselves against the motion. The cats got sick. We had food flying out of the pantry locker (brown sugar canister broken all over the floor), and one table lamp on the floor. What a night!
Fortunately, the next morning the wind died down to 25 mph. While still too rough to launch the dinghy and go ashore, life onboard was bearable. The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, we saw sunny skies and calm winds and were able to launch our dinghy and visit the city of Sarasota. We stopped for breakfast, then walked to a nearby grocery to pick up a few last things for our Thanksgiving dinner. Pauline prepared a turkey breast and all of the trimmings – enough food for six, but only the two of us! Leftovers. . . yummy!
The following day we went ashore, toured the city, shops and had a fine dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Saturday saw us continuing South on the ICW to Venice, where we went out into the Gulf, proceeding outside to Boca Grande. We did this to avoid seven of ten bridges that we would have needed to have raised to proceed under if we had stayed on the ICW the entire way. It’s much quicker to go outside, than go down the ICW. However, the trade-off is to dodge crab pot floats most of the way. After joining the ICW again at Boca Grande, we motored a few more miles south and anchored off Cabbage Cay (pronounced Key). Cabbage Cay is a popular bar/restaurant on the Gulf Coast; supposedly where Jimmy Buffet got the inspiration for his “Cheeseburger in Paradise” song. We anchored in exactly the same spot as we did in 2004 while spending the summer on our sailboat.
After a peaceful night, we continued down the ICW to the Caloosahatchee River. We then motored up 14 miles up the river to our destination of Legacy Harbour Marina in downtown Fort Meyers. The trip up-river was very interesting. This was the first warm, sunny day in two weeks for the Gulf Coast and it seemed like every power boater in the area was bound and determined to spend it out on the Gulf. We were going up river and they were all going down river. We literally passed hundreds of boats in a two hour time period. More boats than we probably passed in the last three months.
Legacy Harbour Marina will be a wonderful place to spend December, January and February. It is two blocks from Downtown Fort Meyers. Very modern, wonderful facilities and great staff, and filled with many boaters like us who are spending the winter here. There is an active social calendar (Monday night movies in the on-site Tiki Hut, Thursday night Pot-luck dinners along with other organized gatherings). This past Sunday night, there was a “girls only” Pajama/Martini party, in which Pauline participated in. It was a great opportunity for her to meet many of the ladies on boats here. She had quite a good time and also won First Place for the best decorated reindeer! The ladies split up into groups of five. Each group had a bag filled with pantyhose, balloons, bells, ribbons, candy canes, crepe paper and tissue paper in order to put their creative efforts to work in making a reindeer with antlers. What fun. At the Christmas Party, all of the ladies are going to get up and sing the “Sisters” song from White Christmas. Fort Meyers itself has a vibrant downtown historic area with many fine restaurants, a weekly Farmers Market, free shuttle bus service. We think we will thoroughly enjoy our stay here.
One of the reasons we chose the Fort Meyers area was that we have several old and new friends who have homes down here. Some are second homes. Those include Kirby and Susan Shoaf and Tim and Ann Lawler from our Milwaukee days. Pat and Gigi Noble, Dennis and Kathy Battles, and Chris Bauer and Dee Dee Peligren from Mark’s banking days. There is also a couple who are good Breckenridge ski buddies, Jeff and Laurel Belay. Bob and Monique Mustard, who lived in Frisco, now have a home in Fort Meyers. Our good friends Scott and Jean Hickey are going to be here in January looking for property in Naples. Of course, there are also people coming down in this area to visit who we will see, including Linda Thompson and Alan May. We will also be spending time with one of our fellow-Loopers, Anita and Don Gulseth from Manitowoc. There will be here, this time, in their RV.
Our friend, Andy Horn, arrived from Milwaukee about a week after us by driving down our 2001 Toyota Tundra pick-up truck. We now have wheels again (by the way the only possession, besides the boat, that we own)! We spent the first day driving around buying Christmas lights, stockings, etc. to decorate our boat for the Holiday. On December 11 there is a marina sponsored Christmas Party where they will be having a “Boat Decoration” contest. Pauline is determined to win it (at any expense). Andy flew back to Milwaukee but will be joining us again later this month. He will be then “cat-sitting” Ming and Pema from 1/1 – 1/18, while we are back in Colorado working the Music Festival in Steamboat, skiing, visiting friends, and fitting in doctor appointments.
Speaking of Ming and Pema, they of course had to get the lay of the land and take any opportunity to jump ship and explore the surrounding boats. They are often admired when they are perched on the bow pulpit by walkers-by. There are plenty of people, AND dogs walking the dock. I’m not sure how they choose when to jump off the boat, but they somehow manage to do it when no-one is around. Although, we do get told by others if they see them on another boat. They only go a short distance (so far), but we don’t like it when they are on other boats. One of these days one will take off with them! We wish that we could install a GPS tracker on them which would notify us when they are off the boat! We have bought little LED lights for their collars which we can see if they are off after dark. They are enjoying not moving for now.
The Christmas holidays are upon us and everyone is getting in the spirit here at the marina, including us. Pauline attended a ladies only PJ/Martini party and won Best Decorated Reindeer! Boats are getting decorated and last night the judging took place. Pauline’s persistence in purchasing more lights, etc. paid off! Ha ha! We won 3rd place and a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant!
In case you are wondering why there are no photos in this blog, it is because we are having some “iCloud issues”. I have had this blog written since before Christmas and was waiting to upload photos. However, here it is 1/6 and I still am having problems.
We hope to have this taken care of soon. But unfortunately, photos taken have not gotten where they should be! Ah, technology. Hope you enjoy the read in any case.
Until next time, we wish everyone a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!