Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rendezvous Fever

Last post we were in Fort Myers Beach about to have a party - it turned out to be some kind of party....

Tammy here...

We had Norm and Vicki from Tide Hiker and Pam and Jim Shipp from Silver Boots over for a quick impromptu cruisers cocktail party while we were docked at Moss Marine in Fort Myers Beach - wherever several cruisers congregate, there is bound to be a party which is why we keep a ready supply of quick appetizers on board! It was great to meet Pam and Jim, who are also headed to the Bahamas after the DeFever Rendezvous which we are at now (more later). About an hour into our cocktails, we heard a cry for help - Norm who was down on the dock returning from his boat was the first to respond. A minute later we heard what to a cruiser are very terrifying words "man in the water" - Doug and I immediately grabbed a life ring and went running. Turns out a guy two boats down from us had lost his balance and gone into the water between the dock and his boat, a space of all of a couple feet - how he didn't hit his head on either the dock or his boat amazed us all. By the time we got there, Norm had an arm under one shoulder and Doug immediately got the other one but the guy was too exhausted or panic stricken to even help them get him up into the boat and being 250 pounds (at least) of dead weight made him pretty tough to handle with no leverage. John had joined us by then and got a hand on his belt and together the three guys were just about able to hoist him onto the side of his boat out of the water. What a close call - had he hit his head or we hadn't been around, he easily could have drowned. It was a sober reminder of the dangers of this cruising life even when doing something as simple as stepping onto your boat, something we've done so many hundreds of times before! While the party continued, it was a more subdued group after that.

The next day we stayed over in Fort Myers Beach and got to explore the town a little - the Gypsies had ventured out the afternoon before to scope out the best local bars so this time we knew where to go! Wahoo Willies was a repeat stop for the food, the pitchers of cold beer and the people watching - I even got a picture with my new tattoo parrot look-alike (his name was Opus - we think his long-haired hippy owner was a California wine critic in his prior life!)

We checked out the beach which I guess is fine if you like ten thousand other people (many of them in speedos - heh, if I had to see it, you all need to have the visual too - why else have a blog!!) breathing down your neck and kicking sand up into your face....not our style! So we walked the fishing pier to absorb the local color - the pelicans and various birds were fun to watch but after too much humanity (picture Hampton Beach on a stoking hot Saturday in the middle of summer), we needed a coldie (or two) away from the crowds!!! We settled in at a very cool bar called SOB (I can't make this up - it actually stood for smoking oyster brewery - but its just too fun) where we had a few cold beers and the boys had a dozen raw oysters that they claim were great (I won't say what I think they taste like....)! There was live music and great people watching so we were happy!

We headed back to the boat and sat topsides where we watched white herons and pelicans fearlessly walking up and down the docks and using the pilings and our boat rails as convenient resting spots - they were really quite spectacular and very photogenic. Some looked like they were posing for us as they would turn one way and then the other as if to make sure we got their "good side" - one heron even walked down the dock as if he/she was on the runway on America's Next Top Model!! We were treated to yet another amazing sunset before calling it a night.

The next morning we helped Silver Boots, Tide Hiker and Isolde III throw off their lines to head to the DeFever Rendezvous - we were all heading to the same place but we wanted to wait for a little more tide before heading out. We followed a couple hours later and had a wonderful steam on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway or GIWW - the sun was shining bright, the dolphins were out in droves to play and it was one of the warmest days we've had so far on this trip!!

Three hours later we dropped anchor between Useppa Island and Cabbage Key and were greeted in the anchorage by cruisers we hadn't seen in awhile (Steve and Di on Aurora who we last saw in Stuart, FL and Bart on Dewlap who we last saw in Charleston, SC)!

That afternoon we dropped the dink and headed into Useppa Island to pick up a pair of foldable bikes that Doug had made plans to buy from one of the other DeFever cruisers (isn't the internet great!!) - now all four Gypsies will have bikes to explore when we get to places - we're very excited!! While there, we saw Lynnie and Rick of Rickshaw and Norm and Vicki from Tide Hiker (members of the Marathon Gang of 12). That evening we headed in to Cabbage Key for cocktails (did I mention there is usually a cocktail party involved when two or more cruisers gather??) Well this was the DeFever Rendezvous with about 140 other cruisers and about 45 DeFever boats so this was a whopper of a weekend party! It was great to see Steve and Di from Aurora again, as well as Bob and Stephanie from September Song and Robin and Jim of Adventures (the Marathon Gang of 12 back together again - scary!!) but it was also great to meet a bunch of other DeFever cruisers!!

Yesterday was a full day of seminars and socializing, but Doug and I snuck in a little walk around Useppa Island. Useppa is a private Island that boasts both a national historic site designation and a national botanical garden classification. The landscaping and indigenous flora and fauna on the island are breathtaking as are the water views from almost everywhere on the island. There are wild orchids growing on palm tree trunks and spanish moss hanging from enormous banyan trees that span whole walkways! We crossed paths with osprey, turtles. ibis, geckos and various other birds out in the wild and along the pathways that span the island, all of whom seemed to look at us as intruders on their personal island (and we were). There are no cars allowed on the island - golf carts and feet are the sole means of transportation with a stray bike here and there. The island is reminiscent of another time and place, one where people wore white to play croquet out on manicured lawns and you were required to wear blazers to dine in the formal dining area (both exist at Useppa). I guess when you think of the state of the world today, such formalities and throwbacks to better times don't seem like such a bad idea after all!

Today we are sitting on the boat watching a squall line rip through the anchorage - the winds are reaching up to 30 knot gusts and the rain is just starting to slack off, all of which is putting a crimp in the open boat visitation out in the anchorage.

No one appears to be leaving their boat for the time being - we're all just riding it out for now catching up on blogs, emails and the like. Hopefully the wind and the seas will slack off in time for us to dinghy in to Cabbage Key for the late afternoon cocktails and dinner that close out the Rendezvous - otherwise we're going to get wet!! What - did you think we'd miss cocktail hour??

Click here to see a Google map or our location in Ft. Myers Beach.

Click here to see a Google map of our location between Useppa Island and Cabbage Key.

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