Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Boat People Invade 5th Avenue

If you ever wondered where all the money is on Florida's west coast, we've found it - it's in Naples! From extravagant homes with million dollar landscaping that line the Gordon Pass and the residential neighborhoods of Olde Naples to the diamond and art gallery encrusted 5th Avenue (no I'm not kidding - it looks like Rodeo Drive East), Naples is the playground of western Florida for the rich and famous....and for a couple days, the Gypsies.

Tammy here....

We have had a ball being boat people in Naples for the past several days - we have been docked at the city marina which is right next to one of our new favorite bars/restaurants called The Dock. The trip in from Sanibel gave us our first inkling that Naples was a different kind of place - as we came up the three miles of the Gordon River to our slip, we passed unbelievably beautiful homes that you generally only see in architectural digest and where the yearly landscaping bills have to cost more than our boat!!!

It seemed that each house got bigger and more ornate as we went...pools of all sizes and shapes, fountains and sculpture gardens lining the expansive patios, great turrets towering over the spanish tile roofs and always palm trees swaying in the breezes. We couldn't ogle as much as we wanted though due to the flurry of boat traffic in the channel - we happened to arrive on a sunny Sunday afternoon when every boater with more money than brains or boating skills was out in their go fast wanting to make a statement. The statement to us was to get off the waterway as soon as we could before some yahoo wanting to impress the 20 something on his bow in a thong lost his concentration and slammed into us at 40 knots!!! From what we've seen, boater's etiquette doesn't seem to exist in Naples - nor does the "well policed no wake zone" - yikes!

Once we got tied up at the docks, we were in dire need of a cold beer so we made our way to The Dock - a very funky bar/restaurant with an open air vibe that made us feel right at home.

After a great lunch, Colleen, Doug and I were off to explore Naples for the afternoon - not really knowing where to go we just sort of wandered around. The pizza place that Bob from September Song had told us about was closed so we figured that would be a treat for the next day. Somehow we made our way over to 5th Avenue which is a cross between 5th Avenue in NY and Rodeo Drive in LA - unbelievable stores (with prices to match) surrounded by swaying palms and flowering bougainvilla and hibiscus.

We people watched our way down one side of the street and back the other before heading off in search of a cold beer we could actually afford - surprisingly (or not) we found ourselves back at The Dock for happy hour!

Thinking to have a quiet evening on the boat after many days of DeFever rendezvous and post-rendezvous parties, we walked back to the boat only to find a trawler next to us in serious need of help getting into the slip. So of course as boaters, we immediately started working the lines to get them in - turns out they were a single screw engine and their bow thruster wasn't working - no wonder they needed a little help. We chatted for a few minutes thinking nothing of it but about 1/2 hour later the captain came over and invited us to (yup you guessed it) come over and have cocktails on their boat as a thank you for helping them out. So much for drying out....

We had a great time meeting Captain Tom, a very young 85 year old gentleman who loves to cruise so does as often as he can, while still balancing a 60 year marriage to a woman who really doesn't like boats that much. He cruises for about a week or two each month and then goes home for the rest of the time and he said it's been working that way for years - who can argue with that?? He cruises with a great gal named Di who handles lines, cooks and is wonderful - we hope to run into her in the islands somewhere on other boats she also crews for. Rounding out the party were Debbie and Mack who run one of Tom's marinas (we think) in Texas. What is so fun about this lifestyle is that despite not really being in the mood to party, we had a wonderful time getting to meet some really neat people - everyone has such interesting stories and it's always fascinating to hear how everyone came to be living this life!

The next day, after several boat tours on Gypsies for Tom and Di and helping them off with their lines - they were headed for Fort Myers Beach, we set out to do some more exploring of Naples. We walked down into the "historic section" which was really another shopping district just in slightly older buildings but the architecture and gardens with their overflowing fountains were very chic. We had another great lunch at the Olde Naples Pub which was not exactly what we expected upon hearing its name - instead of an old beer smelling, dark wood pub that immediately came to mind (our kind of place), we sat outdoors under a vine encrusted portico eating salads the size of a platter (burgers just seemed too mundane for such a place)!

Then it was off to the beach and the fishing pier - obviously we had hit it at spring break because the mass of humanity was something to behold!! Not wanting to linger too long, we continued our walk through a truly magnificent neighborhood with houses and gardens that each fought for your attention. Houses in peach, sage green and carmel with turrets and spanish tile roofs blended in behind wrought iron fences and gardens overflowing with fountains and statues - yet somehow it all worked without being too tacky or gaudy. The neighborhood led us back to 5th Avenue and so we walked the length of 5th Avenue again in our boating attire (tee-shirts, keens, ponytails, tattoos and earrings - yes Doug too) getting our share of stares along the way (maybe it just seemed like that!)

We found our way to Tin City (OK we thought it said Sin City from a distance...bummer) down along the water - it is an area of shops and restaurants in an old restored oyster processing plant and found a great little bar/restaurant called Pinchers Crab Shack just in time for happy hour. The 2 for 1 draft beers were welcome after the long walk and while normally Doug would have been the first to take advantage of the $6 dozen oysters, we were still stuffed from lunch and wanted to make sure we had plenty of room for pizza that evening!! After walking along the water for a time, we headed back towards the boat stopping in the Pickled Parrot for a drink (do you really think we could just walk by that one??) We stopped by the pizza place to get a menu and to see how late they would be open - no way were we going to miss out on pizza again! The pizza lived up to its reputation (thanks Bob!) - but I'm not sure I've ever been that stuffed before - well, maybe (although it could have had something to do with the cookie dough we ate afterwards) .... anyone stopping in Naples really does need to make a stop at Napoli's for pizza!!

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at the local cafe/market - they have a couple tables out on the sidewalk, local papers to read and pretty good food (although you are limited to four choices). Walking back to the boat, we heard two ladies on bikes yelling to us to stop - turns out one of them was Beverly Bangs, a friend from Kennebunk Beach, ME!!!!! It never ceases to amaze me what a small world we live in. We had a great time catching up and they came over to see the boat - it was great to see old friends especially in such an unexpected way!

We had a great steam yesterday to Marco Island where we are anchored in Factory Bay - we spent the afternoon soaking up rays on Gypsies watching all the boat traffic. The wind died down so our anchorage was incredibly still and peaceful, making for a great night. Today we woke to a spectacular sunrise and plan on dropping the dink and going exploring - its what we cruisers do!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location in Naples at the City Dock.

Click here to see a Google map of our location in Factory Bay off Marco Island.

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