Brewster becomes queen of the mer-people

This is a detailed account of the past month on Peacemaker recorded by Captain Josh:

It’s only because the north winds are roaring through our anchorage at 20-25 kts and gusting at 35+ that I finally told myself to sit down and write something. No more work or repairs can, or should, be done for the rest of the day. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. The past couple of days we’ve found it nearly impossible to get onto the dinghy without getting soaked by the chop or accidentaly dropping Brewster into the water as we transfer her into it. And that makes it even more difficult to get into town to buy groceries, boat parts, or the most essential, find wifi. It’s not that I don’t want to sit down, relax, and write the epic tale of Peacemaker and her crew and how we were attacked by pirates, discovered Neptune’s golden horde, met the Gulf of Mexico mer people and Brewster somehow became their queen, but it’s still been really hard to simply find the time. So now, with our 37’ home swinging back and forth, rocking with the waves, and toying with the idea of ripping the 35lb Delta anchor from the mud and drifting us into land, I had the chance to look back on our daily logbook and reminisce about the past month of living in a move-able home with sails.

The route as of 02/03 – 03/06

FL Map 0a

 [01] 02/03, Palmetto, FL

Palmetto dockage: Twin Dolphin Marina, well-protected, expensive marina, nice showers.

We bought a boat! Oh wait, you probably already knew that and hardly care anymore, but for us, this is where it all began. Peacemaker had been kept in the Twin Dolphin Marina by an extremely nice couple, Dave and Carline Ash, and as we’ve come to find out, very well-mantained. We still needed some repairs though. New additions, and rip-outs were on the list for Peacemaker and we found that Shell Point Marina in Ruskin allows you to live-aboard while the boat is ‘on the hard’ — which we find out later adds a new level to the term, ‘boat trash.’ We only spent two nights at Twin Dolphin as the cost of having a slip there was out of our budget, so nervously we pulled away from our nice, safe dock that morning for the first time. All went well, we had beautiful weather and even got the sails up on our own! Everything’s going according to plan. duh duh duuuuuh!

[02] 02/04, Palmetto to Shell Point Marina, 25.5nm

Shell Point dockage: Wet slip for two days – on the hard for a week, not the greatest ammenities.

Coming in to Shell Point, I learned mid-tide and a 4.5’ draft don’t always agree with each other. The channel was shockingly shallow and we leisurely ran Peacemaker aground for the first time a few hundred yards out. We swore a bit, broke free, and made it in. Not too bad.

A second valuable lesson in one day: Just because someone offers you advice, that does NOT always mean it’s good advice. When too many people come to help a rookie pull in to dock for the first time, it’s like a freakin’ circus! Everyone’s shouting at you what to do, where to throw a line, what the preferred knot is to use, and where the best bars in Ruskin, FL are (there are none). All I could hear was the engine grumbling and my heart racing anyway, so none of it soaked in, but if you’re docking for the first or second time, it helps to relax.

After all the hub-bub, I believe my first docking experience went pretty well, and despite a panicked look and white knuckles, Leah and I could still high-five a success and slam the cheapest of cheap beers after we tied up. That’s right! I can’t even afford craft beer anymore!

An excerpt by Captain Leah:

After two nights docked, it was finally our turn to be pulled out of the water and put ‘on the hard’ while Peacemaker’s bottom was repainted and a little corrosion on the rudder was repaired. Since Josh was at the helm to pull out of the dock at Twin Dolphin and into the slip at Shell Point, it was my turn. Looking back, I wish I’d have practiced some boat maneuvering before this! Hindsight’s 20/20, right? I gracefully eased back out of the slip and around the dock, so I was feeling pretty good.. but then I had to guide Peacemaker around a docked boat that was semi-blocking the straight path into the boat lift. We were heading in at too harsh an angle, so I reversed to allow time to straighten out. But as I reversed, Peacemaker backed closer and closer to the docked boat. There wasn’t time to throw out fenders as we were within inches of hitting it! Tried as we did to push away from it with all our strength, we heard the screws in our rub rail scraping along the blue paint strip of the other boat… Ugh, such a sickening feeling. When the boats parted, Josh jumped on the helm, managing to straighten out and get into the lift well. The lift operator and several others were there ready to take our lines and tie us in position there as the lift pulled us up. We got off the boat, relieved that the ordeal was over, but still shaken after our first collision. We saw the owners walking from their car and down the dock, unaware of the ‘kiss’ our boats shared. In the end, approaching them with an honest confession – backed with a modest “bribe” – got us a clear conscious.

 Back to Capt J:

What we learned that day: Driving a boat is not like driving a car. Current, wind, tide, speed, waves, and panicked haste, especially panicked haste, all come into play when at the helm. Some actual good advice I received later that day from our new neighbors in Shell Point was:

Only go as fast as you want your boat to hit something.

When our boat was taken out of the water, I was told to unhook my rolling furler because it wouldn’t fit in the travel lift. I knew what that meant, but had no idea on how to do it. In come our new friends and neighbors, Patrick and Ciera. As I was confusedly mumbling to myself back on board, Patrick asked if I needed to unhook my rolling furler because he had to. Immediately, my eyes lit up when he said he could show me how. It was much simpler, as is everything on a boat if you just look hard enough. After loosening the back-stay turnbuckle, Patrick showed me where the pin was that I needed to pull, and after rigid advice not to drop it into the water (he had dropped his), huzzah! We pulled it out and the job was done.

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At Shell Point, the major repairs were:

– Paint bottom.

– Repair some fiberglass on rudder.

– Removed 2 x 50 watt solar panels – and sold them on Craigslist.

– Added 2 x 160 watt solar panels.

– Took out old massive refrigerator compressor.

– Added Norcold ice box conversion kit. (specific model and review on a later post)

– Built an insulated wall to split the ice box in half. (It was huge!) Now we have dry food storage in addition to a more energy-efficient refrigerator.

– Took out air conditioner because it could only be used on shore power – and we plan to be anchoring.

– Built fuel can railing.

– Built shelves inside lockers (closets).

– Unpacked.

– Cleaned a lot!

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Before I write anymore, I first want to send a big thank you to my dad and Brenda because they were the biggest help of all throughout the boat buying and repair portion of this trip. They’re living the dream as full time RV’ers making their way around the US — and soon Canada — and they were gracious enough to make their way down to Florida during the winter months to help out. Not only did they let us do laundry in their RV, but they fed us (Brenda’s an excellent cook and my dad’s great on the grill!), bought us good beer, took us out, and let us borrow their car to run errands. That wasn’t the half of it either, my dad also made it a point to sweat out half his body weight helping us in the high heat, ripping out the old AC unit and helping me put up the new solar panels! All he wanted in return was a couple of good sails with us! You can follow their adventure as they make their way north to Alaska at wienerbago.wordpress.com

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After a week, Shell Point Marina was finally behind us! I pulled away from the travel lift this time with my dad, Patrick, and the travel lift operator holding the lines as I effortlessly backed away. Oh, it went so well! We’re on our way!

“What the…?”

That’s right! 200 yards later in the same spot in a slightly too-low tide, we ran aground again. Luckily, we anticipated this and were able to easily back our way out into deeper water and keep moving.

[03] 02/12, Shell Point Marina to Boca Ciega Bay, 18.3 nm

Boca Ciega Bay anchorage: 27° 43.888′ N, 82° 043.926′ W, 6’ depth, well protected, scenic.

We left Shell Point around 2:30pm and Boca Ciega Bay was the closest place to anchor, which was the next concern on the many lists of concerns – we’ve never anchored! Our instructor in the UK never showed us because no one anchors in the English Channel. No bays. It didn’t matter though because as we approached our anchorage, a new problem presented itself. A bridge! A bascule bridge! A bascule bridge is in our way! For those that don’t know, a bascule bridge is a bridge that splits in the middle and opens upwards to allow boats through… but how do we get it to open? We never received instructions or a bridge door opener in our intro to sailing package (and if anyone is wondering, peanut butter comes in that package.) Well, after motoring in circles, Leah finally discovered how it all works in Waterway Guide’s Southern Florida edition:

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CH 9 on VHF – call to Bridge master.

Josh: Structure E, Structure E, this is sailing vessel Peacemaker, Peacemaker, coming at you from the north, requesting the time of your next bridge opening.

Bridge master: Peacemaker, I have you, the bridge opens on request every 30 min.

Time – 4:31

J: Copy that Structure E, so are you opening soon?

B: Next bridge opening is at 5:00

J: I’ve been out here for a while.

B: You have? What time is it now, Peacemaker?

J: Just after 4:30, Structure E.

B: Oh shoot, sorry Captain, I didn’t see you out there. Unfortunately I can’t open the bridge till 5:00 now. I swear I haven’t even been drinking! I just didn’t see you.

J: (mumbles some incoherent swears as he circles around for the twentieth time) Haha. Copy that, Structure E. Awaiting next bridge opening. Peacemaker out. (more swearing)

After all that, we found a peaceful anchorage, and during a gorgeous sunset, we went over what we assumed and read were proper anchoring procedures.

For anyone nervous about anchoring for the first time, don’t be! It’s easy.

1. Point into wind.

2. Drop anchor.

3. Give engine a push of reverse or let wind drift you back, all the while, letting out more and more rode.

4. The anchor should have dug in by now.

5. Rule of length: a 5:1 ratio in good weather, 8:1 ratio in bad. (i.e. 50’ rode in 10’ water or 80’ rode in 10’ water.)

6. Check to see if anchor is holding. A good anchor should hold your sailboat in full reverse. Dive on it if you’re unsure.

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Even though I checked every 30 min, our anchor held and we enjoyed many a good cheap beer!

[04] 02/14 – Boca Ciega Bay to Long Boat Pass, 26.2nm

Long Boat Pass anchorage: 27° 26.275′ N, 82° 040.761′ W, good coverage, pretty scenery.

Conversation leaving Boca Ciega Bay:

“Pull up anchor! Turn about! DAMN! We ran aground again?! How deep is this f*%#@ing keel?”

This was the third time we’ve run aground. I know it sounds scary and you’re probably picturing us fully tilted over and able to walk on the sand, but it’s not that bad. Everyone does it now and again. A valuable lesson is that charted depth is somewhat inaccurate due to sand shifting from storms and current. Now we give ourselves an extra foot of depth before we anchor. Peacemaker draws 4.5’, but I won’t anchor in anything giving less than 6’ on the chart.

Q: How to get your boat unstuck in a little bit of sand?

A: Tie a line to the bow, get out the ol’ 6hp dinghy, and zip around the bay wrestling it free, all the while giving the prop a bit of power. It also helps having two people on board.

After about 10 min, we broke free and were back on our way.

Fun nautical fact: Rope is not called rope on a boat – it’s line. Anchor chain/rope is called rode.

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This was our first passage in the Gulf of Mexico! The wind was perfect, we put the sails up, and we cruised at about 4.5-5kts to our next anchorage. Our route took us a little farther out this time because our ‘black’ tank, which is another word for poo tank, was half full and there’s a little line on the nautical charts that’s called a ‘3 nautical mile line’. That’s where you’re legally allowed to dump your poo out. Sounds easy right? It should be. Poo goes in the water. We have a pump called a maceration pump which is supposed to make it extra easy and suck everything out without touching anything. It’s a dry pump that isn’t supposed to need priming and when you hit the button all your poo goes bye bye. As we made it to the poo line, we discovered the pump didn’t work. The pump ran, it just didn’t suck anything out. After an hour or two of not enjoying the Gulf of Mexico and the gorgeous day, but instead staring at a half-filled tank of poo, taking poo pipes off the entire flush-out system and trying to prime the poo pump, and cursing a poo pump I really really really didn’t want to take apart, I put the cover back on and snapped my fingers, “out of mind!”

Long Boat Pass was beautiful and serene, but a bit crowded, so we decided to slip in between…

“Are you F&$@!ing kidding me?! We ran aground again?!”

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Yup. The fourth time so far. The second time that day. (Don’t worry, it won’t be our last). This one was my fault for sure. Even though every decision should be blamed on the Captain of the day, which wasn’t me, I still suggested we slip behind a boat instead of in front to reach a good spot to anchor in. That decision put us into shallow waters. Yes, they were charted as such.

Q: How to get your boat unstuck in a little bit of sand for the second time in one day.

A: Give the engine a little push and pull. That didn’t work?

A: Hook the dinghy up to the bow and pull whilst giving the engine gas. Still didn’t budge?

A: Hmmm, “Hey! You need a tow?” Find a nice passerby with a 50hp engine on his fishing boat. You still haven’t moved?!

A: Dig your way out? It’s harder than it sounds when your breath hold is only about four seconds.

A: (Curse a bit first) Take the anchor, put it in the dinghy, motor it about 60’ at a 90° angle away from the bow, drop it, and winch it back in on one of the sail winches. C’mon! That had to have worked. Now I’m getting frustrated!

A: Last thing I can think of. Wait till high-tide, which will be near midnight. – About 11:30pm, check on depth with depth sounder. It’s getting deeper? You’re drifting! Rouse your wife from her slumber and winch on the anchor line like there’s no tomorrow. Your wife steers and powers up the engine…You’re free!

[05] 02/14, Long Boat Pass to Little Sarasota Bay, 17.4nm

Little Sarasota Bay anchorage, 27° 14.160′ N, 82° 031.228′ W, 8’ depth, nice, calm, surrounded by beautiful homes.

Nothing super-exciting happened on this passage, so I’ll briefly skim through. We stayed in the Intra-Coastal Waterway as the wind wasn’t great and we were kind of in a hurry to get Punta Gorda, so Peacemaker dutifully motored her way there.

However, when motoring and living aboard a boat, fuel and water are needed. We were running half-way empty on both. That means that I needed to pull into Marina Jack’s crowded service station for the first time. All eyes were on me and after a quick VHF chat with the fuel guy, I had a place to go. Shaky hands and a quick-beating heart are no match for the unyielding need to simply do what you need to do, and when you can simply laugh off all the worries of docking an unmanageable 37’ sailboat into a small slip, the words that I remembered the most were of Patrick, “only go the speed you want your boat to hit something.” I went slow, I know how the prop walks, the current was pushing me into the dock, the wind was nowhere to be found, and inch by inch, I gave the 44hp diesel a bit of power, took it away, a bit of reverse, take it away…the rudder is basically useless at this point. Leah has her eyes open and the lines ready. Every fender is out. The steering is all in the propeller now…bump…nailed it! My advice to anyone helming a sailboat for the first time is to practice keeping the boat in one spot. It doesn’t matter where you are, but practice keeping the boat still. It seriously helps understand the way it will move.

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Marina Jack review: 5 stars! Not only was the kid who grabbed our line as nice as could be, but after we told him this was our first time filling up, he showed us how to do everything. He even sucked out the poo tank for us! Water – free. Fuel – averagely priced. Poo suckage – free.

Little Sarasota Bay was beautiful and we were by ourselves. We anchored successfully, didn’t run aground, and had no problems that we could think of. With that success behind us, we cracked some beers and did our happy dance! Only later did we realize it was Valentine’s day, so still trying to be romantic despite our lack of showering, we whipped up some “Black and Blues.”

Black and Blue Ingredients:

– 1 oz Black rum (cheap)

– Blue flavored Gatorade (whatever that is) to the top of a fancy glass

– Amazing sunset

[06] 02/15, Little Sarasota Bay to Lemon Bay, 21.2nm

Anchorage: Lemon Bay – 26° 56.622′ N, 82° 021.799′ W, 6-7’ depth – good coverage, secluded.

As I search through the logbook we wrote absolutely nothing down about this passage, so I’m assuming that when we got there via the Intra-Coastal Waterway, we cracked some beers, did a dance, and crashed at 9:30pm.

[07] 02/16, Lemon Bay to Punta Gorda, 33.5nm

Anchorage: Punta Gorda – 26° 56.196′ N, 82° 003.867′ W, exposed coverage from N, 8’ depth.

If you’re wondering why we’ve only stayed in each anchorage for a day and not really spent time enjoying ourselves and exploring where we are, it’s because we were on a bit of a time crunch. We’re meeting Leah’s parents in Punta Gorda where they’ll reunite us with Brewster, who’s been away from us for an entire month. They’ve been taking care of her in St. Louis (which we thought would be a week or two) and were then kind enough to road-trip down to Florida with her. An enormous thank you to them! Plus, my dad and Brenda are also RV’ing there so it will be like a huge family holiday.

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The passage to Punta Gorda brought us into Charlotte Harbor. 20-25kts westerly winds and some amazing sun allowed us to have one of the best sails so far. We reefed Peacemaker for the first time and made a good 6kts through the harbor. After finding a nice anchorage in dinghy’able distance from Fisherman’s Village, we made it to town, dumped all our trash in a forgiving dumpster, and met my dad and Brenda for dinner.

– The next day, we met up with Leah’s folks and a very confused yet super-excited Brewster! After lunch together, we dinghy’ed them out to Peacemaker where everyone stayed for the sunset and a cup-pa tea. Brew passed out immediately.

A word about dogs on a boat: No, they don’t want to pee or poo because there’s nothing natural to do it on. Everyone offers advice – nothing has worked. I filled up an aluminum tray filled with beach sand, threw some barnacles in it, collected another dog’s pee and rubbed it on the sand – nothing.

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Now she goes when we dinghy to land, which isn’t every day, or when she’s about to burst. We give her treats every time she does it on deck, but she’s still reluctant. I rinse it off with a bucket of sea water.

We stayed in Punta Gorda for a few days spinning yarns and telling tales of our piratical adventures with the mer people and Neptune, letting the parents pay for our food and drinks, but showing them as much gratitude as humanly possible. We have nothing to offer, but our love! And a sail! So, if you remember, it was my dad’s requirements that he get two sails out of us.

Sunday (02/19), I dinghy’ed everyone, and I mean everyone, onto Peacemaker. We had 6 plus a dog on board!

We performed our boat christening ceremony with beer & wine, some great wind and sun. We toasted to Neptune, Aeolus, and other gods of the winds, and went through the other happy dancing, voodoo cleansing, chakra ordeal that you do when you buy a boat:

“It’s easy to grin, when your ship comes in. And you’ve got the stock market beat, but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile,when his shorts aren’t too tight in the seat.”

“Spalding, get your foot off the boat!” – Judge Elihu Smails

Then, in keeping with tradition, we closed by bashing a bottle of bubbly on the anchor! (Thank you, Uncle John and Aunt Tammy!)

The sail was amazing! Great wind, good sun, lot’s o’ drinks. Everyone took a turn at the helm, a few sat in the pulpit in front overlooking the water, helped winch the sails, and everyone explored Peacemaker and had a good time.

Rich pulling halyardDad winching halyard

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(02/20) – Monday’s wind died to 5kts, so our second sail with the folks wasn’t as thrilling. We ended up motor-sailing around, but at least there were sun and libations to be had.

We stayed and hung out with the folks, till 02/22, accepting their loving hospitality by borrowing their cars, eating out more than we ever would, and generally, missing them and enjoying their company. Eventually we had to part ways though, and wished a bon voyage to everyone, as we each headed our different directions.

[08] 02/23, Punta Gorda to Pelican Bay, 22.3nm

Anchorage: 26° 41.485′ N, 82° 014.624′ W, 7’ depth, calm, beautiful, secluded.

A bit on rain: I was captain today. Mainly because it was supposed to rain, but the wind wasn’t supposed to be too strong, so I volunteered to get us to the next anchorage.

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Big mistake! As soon as we left, we should have returned. It was my decision as I was captain. Sailing in the UK was still worse at times, but we were close-hauled into the wind and the waves were breaking hard over the bow. What a ride! I had a friend ask if I was nervous that day and to be truthful, I wasn’t. What I was concerned about was that we had the dinghy towing behind us and as each wave hit, we thought that would be the one that would rip the poor thing loose, never to be seen again. The rain was a bit daunting, but I had foul weather gear and a harness which I donned immediately. Leah and Brewster stayed below since there’s no reason for everyone to be miserable. Brewster had a harder time without me (she has a bit of separation anxiety) so, with her life-jacket on, we occasionally let her into the cockpit. My favorite part of the whole ordeal wasn’t rocking through the 5’ waves, feeling the spray on my face, or watching Peacemaker gallop as if she was dutifully doing her job – no, it’s the part when you arrive at your anchorage – that very minute! – and the wind subsides into nothing, the waves diminish, and a beautiful double-rainbow appears off in the distance.

“Oh, cruel fate! Damn you, Neptune… Oooh, amazing rainbow! Mmm, good cheap beer! Ahh, what a life!”

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Pelican Bay was mentioned to us by Miles and Carol, the wonderful couple who sold us the dinghy. They also introduced us to a series of books their friend and author wrote: Ed Robinson. Trawler Trash; Poop, Booze and Bikinis; and Leap of Faith. Trawler Trash is fictional, yet somewhat true account of a man who gives it all up to cruise south west Florida, and a lot of it takes place in Pelican Bay and where we’ve been and are heading.

A bit on Pelican Bay:

1. Cayo Costa state park is an island located off Pelican Bay and the Gulf and is only accessible by boat. What a cool place to explore, so we dinghy’ed up to the dock, paid $2, said “hey” to the ranger with Brewster in tow, and walked the mile to the Gulf side to see the beach. You can follow the trails, camp, explore, but when you get to the beach – NO DOGS!

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A word on no dogs anywhere: F*$! YOU!

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In my opinion, people have less of a right to be in a state park than dogs do. In fact, the ranger who didn’t tell us dogs weren’t allowed on the beach and who was now paving the enormous dirt road with a huge tractor, solely so the tourists who take the ferry to Cayo Costa to experience real nature and get driven by a pickup truck pulling a trailer with seats to the Gulf side ruined our disappointing mile walk back to the dinghy because his F&*!ing tractor diesel was spitting exhaust and filling the path with super-fun fumes.

That is my disappointingly detailed description of our trip to Cayo Costa State Park. Fight the system! Read Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey and join the cause!

2. There’s an inlet in Pelican Bay that’s easy to find if you simply drive around in your dinghy. We shut off the outboard and rowed in after seeing two kayakers staring at a particular area. We were curious to what they were looking at and quietly rowed near. Manatees! Right next to us! We even saw a small croc slithering by! If you’re near, check it out. They had tour boats coming through too, which I don’t recommend, but a kayak or canoe would be aces!

3. There is no light or noise pollution there except our anchor light and the stars were in the billions! Spectacular!

[09] 02/24, Pelican Bay to Sanibel Island South, 37.7nm

Sanibel Island South anchorage: 26° 27.180′ N, 82° 001.709′ W, 14-18’ depth, exposed, choppy, fishing/lobster boats everywhere. Doable, but not great. Easy dinghy access to Lighthouse beach.

Sails up and we were on our way once again! The wind was weak and behind us so we motor sailed out in the Gulf, but despite the engine running, we still enjoyed a sunny and nice day. We anchored in the bay, which was unprotected against easterlies, but still listed on the charts so we said what the heck. Million dollar homes, a pretty bay, and some bridges was our view, After we dropped anchor, we took Brewster out to Lighthouse Beach via dinghy, having seen a dog on it when we came in. It wasn’t pristine white sand, but shells, shells, and more shells, which is what it’s known for – shells and shell collecting (I don’t condone shell collecting, having watched the Brady Bunch movie. Now I’m super nervous about the bad luck Marsha got when she took that rock from Hawaii! And really, what the heck are you going to do with a bag of shells? Show it to your friends? Neat! they’ll say.)

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Anyhoo. Sanibel was a pretty island, but without a car it was near impossible for us to get anywhere. We found an ice cream shop (Pinocchio’s) – no wifi, but delicious waffle cones. A diner (Lighthouse Cafe) – no wifi or dogs, F%&@ You! Finally we walked to Sanibel Marina where they had a small shop and an outdoor area overlooking the marina with decent wifi. We purchased a couple o’ Buds, ooh la la!, and nursed them for about 3 hours while we caught up on emails, news, research, etc.

That night the winds picked up and the unprotected anchorage did not give way to an easy sleep. Sanibel was fine, but not for poor cruisers such as ourselves. Enjoy it with a car, plenty of money and a family vacation.

Side Note: I will praise Sanibel for their natural beaches that allow dogs of all types!

[10] 02/26, Sanibel Island to Fort Myers, 5.2nm

Fort Myers anchorage: 26° 27.417′ N, 81° 56.152′ W, 8’ depth, be careful – gets shallow, good coverage from wind except too near the channel, a bit dodgy.

Literally just across the way, we left Sanibel for a more protected anchorage and we needed fuel and water. Pulling in, this was our busiest harbor yet. I pulled in like a champ (a little touch of reverse, a little play forward, drift, a tad reverse, drift, ooh, that’s nice!) A dude calling himself Captain Ron took our lines and chatted to us about every little thing he’s done in life. Nice guy.

Moss Marina Review: 3/5

Diesel – cheap

Gasoline – cheaper than Marina Jacks. (Dinghy fuel)

$10 for water! So we filled every bladder, bottle, and tub that we had and even sprayed off the boat a bit.

Dear Diary – Today we need supplies! So let’s dinghy up to the city dock (free dock under the bridge = awesome!), walk the 2 miles to the grocery store…spring break?! WOOO! Screw groceries! Let’s go to the beach and check out the party! NO DOGS?! F&#@ YOU, BEACH! YOU ALLOW ALL THE DRUNK A-HOLES OUT THERE, BUT NOT MY WELL-BEHAVED DOG!

“But Josh, not all dogs are…”

F*#& YOU TOO! THERE’S A HUGE PARTY ON THE BEACH AND I’M HAULING TWO CASES OF BUSCH AROUND! LET ME PARTY!!!!

That was the longest 2-mile walk back…ever.

Our anchorage was also one where I felt as if I needed to lock the boat after we left. That’s not to say the derelict boats upturned in the mangroves was a bad sign, or our neighbors with barnacles growing on their hulls was a bad sign, or that Captain Ron said that’s where you’ll get your boat broken into was a bad sign. I just felt like locking up the boat that day. In the end, it was one of the most peaceful anchorages and I’d highly recommend it.

[11] 02/27, Fort Myers to Naples, 30nm

Naples anchorage, 26° 6.187′ N, 81° 47.481′ W, 8’ depth, extremely secluded coverage, but in an area where the homeowners probably don’t want you there.

We’d intended to make it to Marco Island, but as we headed SE, Aeolus or whoever’s in charge of the wind decided to be a jerk and blow from the SE also. Decision – we weren’t going to make it by the end of the day. That’s not to say we couldn’t make it, but it would’ve been midnight by the time we pulled in. That’s because I was determined to sail the whole way.

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A lesson in sailing: You can’t sail directly into the wind. Approximately 45 deg off the wind is optimal so you have to tack (zig zag) back and forth. We made progress, but slow progress, so we opted for a new anchorage.

As we dropped anchor, I did a pano of the pristine, multi-million dollar homes we were out in front of and asked Leah if, in fact, this was an actual anchorage. She said it was in the charts. That’s all I needed. We were ‘boat trash’ once again. Especially as we showered on deck, washed our clothes on deck, drank Busch beer on deck – sometimes the bourgeois elite need the little reminder that, yes, they can own the beach, but it’s God’s water!

Naples was nice. The town had a touristy part and a local part. We couldn’t afford either so we milked our beers the first day we found wifi, and then milked our coffees the next.

Wifi’s been necessary to track some of our documentation, order hard to find spare parts, and the biggest bit is keeping family informed and checking the electronic mails. Leah has been exemplary in our documentation and planning and I still say to this day that we probably wouldn’t own a boat if weren’t for her! Kudos!

Naples is lovely, but after 3 days, our neighbors were peering from their blinds that cost more than our boat, wondering if we were staying for good. Time to move on.

[12] 03/02, Naples to Marco Island, 8.4nm

Marco Island anchorage: 25° 58.055′ N, 81° 43.298′ W, Factory Bay, 8’ depth, protected from Southern winds, not Northern, choppy as heck in strong winds. Close to town, with plenty of amenities, but no public dinghy dock.

I actually caught my first fish on the way here. In actuality, it may have been my first fish ever. It was about an 8” something or another; silver, fishy, scaly, but sadly not big enough to eat. I felt bad for it really, which is why I didn’t wait for Leah to grab the camera before throwing it back.

An opinion – which is solely an opinion and not meant to offend: I’ve never understood catch and release and I probably never will. If I can, I’ll happily kill and eat whatever I catch if it’s worth eating, but fishing for sport or relaxation is not for me.

 I digress: Yeaa! Here we are! Here I sit! In Factory Bay, being pounded by the northern wind as I write this.

Day one was amazing: It was so hot when we pulled in that we dinghy’ed out to the beach immediately and had a great time. Brewster was welcome on the beach, or at least there were no signs and no one complained. She’s still reluctant to swim, but loves tearing around and running. She’ll get it eventually. Every time I went out farther in the water, she tried to swim to Leah and I, up until her feet couldn’t touch ground, then she’d spin around and go back to shore.

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Later that night we met our neighbor, Gene, who’s cruising toward Key West in a trawler, Star. He dinghy’ed over to say “hey,” and introduce himself.

The next day sometime in the afternoon, Gene said, “hey” to us, but in a slightly different way.

Gene: Hey! Josh! Leah!

J&L: (Below deck) I think that’s Gene. I wonder what he’s up to?

G: Hey! Are you guys drifting or am I?!

J&L: (The surest way to check if you’re drifting is to look at land, and if you’re getting closer and closer, it’s probably you that’s drifting.) Holy s#@t, Gene! You’re drifting toward land!

G: You sure?

J&L: Yup! Your anchor must’ve broke free!

G: You got a moment? Can you help?

Bum bu bum baaa! So immediately, I sprang into action like a super-hero who was luckily wearing pants at the time and hadn’t gotten into his comfy pants yet because I’m sure even super-heroes are less likely, or quick, to spring into action in comfy pants or no pants at all. I dove into the dinghy, let the line loose, pulled the starter cord, and puttered my way to the drifting trawler. Gene at this point had started his engine before he hit another boat and was stationary as I threw my line to him and leapt aboard. The mystery of the dragging anchor was solved and we motored out a ways to reset it and got him back on track. A great back workout of pulling chain and an anchor from the water later and we’d made a new friend, who the next day, graciously bought us a good amount of beer at the marina bar!

In Marco Island we decided to stay a few extra days to make a number of repairs we’d been wanting to do for a while now; Oil/filter change, fuel filter change, learn how to change oil/fuel filter, bleed a diesel engine, buy spares for engine, finally add “St. Louis,” on the transom, climb the mast to see what all the fuss is about. Luckily, on Marco Island, the necessities; Publix, Napa Auto Parts, West Marine, post office, gas station are all in walking distance, however, there’s no public dock. That means you have to either pay the marina to come on land, buy a beer at the dockside bar, or tie up to a bridge, jump on land, and hope your dinghy doesn’t get towed by Collier County Police. We opted for option two despite our inability to afford it, but at least that meant we had wifi too.

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Now it’s Monday 6th, we’re hoping to leave Tuesday 7th for Marathon in the Florida Keys. The engine oil and filters are fresh, all the fuel filters have been changed, I learned how to bleed the diesel, unfortunately though, the wind was too rough to add the lettering and we’re still waiting on some spare engine parts and a couple of papers we need.

I guess that’s how it goes though. If we were in a hurry, we wouldn’t live on a sailboat that moves 4kts/hr. If we were meant to be rushed, then I wouldn’t have taken that midday nap. And if we were meant to be stressed, then we wouldn’t have cracked open another beer, taken a breath, and enjoyed the sunset that drifts effortlessly out of sight every night, blazing across the sky like a stunning streak of fire. IMG_7776

That’s it…that’s wrap-up of month #1. Now we’re caught up and will try to post shorter updates a bit more often.

Next blog – the Gulf of Mexico mer people want their queen back!

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One thought on “Brewster becomes queen of the mer-people

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