Thursday, February 26, 2009

The View from the West Coast

Marathon is in our rear view mirror (OK boats don't really have rear view mirrors but we do have a backup camera!) and Useppa Island for the DeFever Rendezvous is in our sights...

Tammy here....

We left all our new friends in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn heading out for new adventures. While we had an awesome time there, we were all getting itchy to be on the seas again. After all it was a sense of adventure and a certain kind of wanderlust that caused us to chuck our old life in favor of cruising the high seas. So it only seemed fitting that we would set out from Marathon buddy boating with Robin and Jim Roberts on Adventures, another beautiful 49' DeFever like ours. We met them as the sun was cresting the harbor and headed north through the Moser Channel and under 7 Mile Bridge.

I like it a LOT better going underneath that bridge than over it, that's for sure!! We had an almost perfect day for steaming - the water was that unbelievable cerulean/turquoise blue that appears in every island vacation commercial and it stretched for as far as the eye could see. We crossed the Florida Bay and entered the Gulf of Mexico where there wasn't any land in sight (and yet the water was still only about 10-12 feet deep!) We saw so many dolphins I lost count - some played in our bow wake while others just graced us with their beautiful and always happy presence. We saw sea turtles as they came up for air and flipped us a flipper (pun intended), but the highlight for me at least was seeing a manta ray jump about 5 feet out of the water right in front of the boat, pirouette and dive back in the water just as gracefully as a ballerina - it was unbelievable!

We finally arrived at the Little Shark River in the Florida Everglades National Park where we planned to anchor for a couple days - we passed a couple boats at the mouth of the river and after that, we were in a scene from Deliverance. As we headed upriver, we entered this unbelievably beautiful stretch of wilderness with dense red mangrove trees lining both sides of the river.

The wildlife outnumbered us by about a million to 6 (the 4 Gypsies and the 2 Adventurers). After getting our anchors set good (the current in the river was whipping which always makes for an interesting anchor and close anchor watches), we sat topsides on the flybridge and were treated to an unbelievable show of fish jumping, dolphins blowing, pelicans feasting and ibis doing fly-bys in herds! Forget people watching - this had it beat hands down!

As the cocktail lamp was lit, the Adventurers headed over to Gypsies for cocktails and dinner in their 13 foot dinghy with 30 horse power motor (not that we have dinghy envy - much!) We had a great night of fun and camaraderie as we swapped boat stories (some of them even semi-true). Robin tried to tell us of the "polyester mites" attacking our boat, but by now we are relatively "old salts" and didn't fall for it (OK she knew we wouldn't and was really telling us a story of how she had messed with some friends of theirs) - in Morehead City, NC we had already encountered the shrimp-like critters that eat at the bottom of the boat causing quite a ruckus! After key lime pie it was time for them to head back to Adventures to rest up for a day of exploring - we were so full and content that we even forgot to check for alligators on the shores that night (probably not something we really needed to see!!)

The next day we both headed off in our dinghies to explore the Little Shark River and its various tributaries and "secret passages" - we explored for several hours but the highlight came in the first 15 minutes when we had a couple dolphins decide to play in the bow wake of our dinghy!!! One came up close enough to me that had I not been so startled I could have reached over and patted him (or her) - as it was, I recovered sufficiently to get a picture of him the second time he surfaced.

It's one thing when they play in Gypsies' wake, but to have them play with us in the dinghy when they are so close was just too cool - he dove back and forth under our boat a couple times and seemed to be having as much fun as we were. On the rest of the ride, we saw lots of pelicans, ibis and herons of all colors, but we missed the big snapping turtles that Jim and Robin saw - we took their word for it and refrained from swimming when we got back to the boat (as if the thought of alligators didn't scare us enough)!!

That evening over cocktails on the flybridge with Robin and Jim, we formed the game plan for the morning - an early departure together even though we were headed to different places the next night. During the night we had anchor adventures - we kept hearing strange noises (which in a boat is not a good thing) and finally around 2:00 am when the current was starting to turn us once again, we realized that our anchor snubber had let go from the chain. Doug and I got out on the bow with a flashlight, retrieved the snubber and proceeded to re-hook it and let out more chain. Given that the windlass and anchor chain are right over Colleen and John's stateroom, there wasn't any chance of not waking them up - so it was a Gypsies anchor party at 2:00 am - these things happen. The good news was that our anchor stuck hard and fast in the Little Shark River mud/sand despite the current!

The next morning held its own "adventure" for us - as we headed out the Little Shark River into the Gulf it was extremely low tide (OK you probably know what is coming!) But we headed out bright and early happy to lead the way and find the shallow spots for Adventures. The first time we hit bottom, we were able to back off and find a little more water (another inch or two max) but the second time we weren't so lucky as there was a sailboat anchored right in the middle of the channel entrance and a much stronger than forecast (gee there's a shocker) wind pushing us further onto the shallow spot. So we made the best of the next hour by reading until the tide started to come in and we could float free - what else are you going to do??? After about an hour we were back on the seas headed to Marco Island - when we finally hit water more than 8 feet deep, it was cause for celebration and much rejoicing on Gypsies (but it took awhile!)

And to make a great day just a little better (ha ha), the wind was whipping which kicked up the Gulf of Mexico into quite a state given how shallow it was - so we basically fought snot (a legitimate nautical term) for about 9 hours since we were often making less than 7 knots! Colleen and the boat kitties didn't have such a wonderful day. We saw lots of dolphins, sea turtles and spotted eagle rays so it wasn't a total loss but we were pretty darn glad to head into Marco late that afternoon.

As we pulled into the harbor, we saw a large sailboat capsized and sitting on its side - and we thought we had had a bad day - suddenly things were looking up!

We tied up to a little (20 foot) dock at the Snook Inn and after quite a feat of line handling spanning no less than 3 docks, we were secure and having several beverages of an alcoholic persuasion on the flybridge. Our docking feat was captured on camera by no less than 15 blue hairs who were checking out the sunset with video recorders - luckily we looked like we knew what we were doing.

Since the slip was free, we treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner at the Snook Inn - fresh seafood and coldies under heated tiki huts with live music - how could you go wrong! We couldn't and felt rejuvenated - the day had become just another boat story to tell the next time we have a cruiser party. Turns out that seems to be tonight - we are in Fort Myers Beach after a beautiful steam and there are three other DeFevers in the marina including Norm and Vicki from Tide Hiker, part of the Marathon Gang of 12! Sounds like as good a reason as any to have a party!!

Click here to see our location in the Little Shark River.

Click here to see our location in Marco Island.

Click here to see our location in Fort Myers Beach.

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