We spent 12 nights at Burnt Store marina at a dock, partly due to the terrible weather that kept blowing through. Rain and 30 knot gusts are not something we want to encounter out on the water. So while we were waiting, we finished up some of the boat to-do items, grocery shopped and saw the new Star Wars movie. We shared happy hour with some new fellow sailors we met on the dock and got to have dinner with Keyan and Amy (and their puppies) at their lovely new house.
Her Diamond at Burnt Store Marina
Although we tried to get Bill and Michael to come into the Marina, they decided to weather the rough seas out at Caya Costa on anchor. On Christmas day we finally broke free and had a beautiful sail across the bay to join them motoring down the ICW to St James City. We anchored right off shore and took a picnic down the river to Woody’s restaurant, which of course was closed for Christmas. We enjoyed the hospitality of their deck anyway. The weather didn’t quiet cooperate and it rained on us a bit as we motored up the river, but it did stop long enough for us to enjoy our happy hour, toast the new sailing season and the pleasure of being with good friends.
Brian and Jackie Driscoll along with Brian's sister MaryLynn and Husband Richard came to visit and we spent a beautiful afternoon on the water.
When you agree to buddy sail with another boat, you enjoy the pleasure of their company but also the heartache of their boat issues. Our original plan was to do an overnight to the Dry Tortugas right from Burnt Store and we had the weather window to do it. Unfortunately, when the boys motored from Safe Cove to Caya Costa they realized that their auto pilot was not working. Understandably, they were not comfortable doing an overnight without an auto pilot. Hand steering can be tiresome and doing it in the dark throughout the night is really rough. So, right off the bat we had to go to plan B. That meant working our way down the Florida west coast and then, if we still had a weather window, going west in short manageable jumps to the Dry Tortugas/Fort Jefferson.
So that is what we have done this past week. After St James City we went to Marco Island, somewhere we had never been before. We had in the past been reluctant to enter the harbor because of less than encouraging comments on Active Captain. Active Captain is a crowd sourced app that gives you information on anchorages, harbors and various routes. People leave comments about their experiences, and most often we have found this information to be reliable. But John, our dock neighbor at BSM suggested that we talk to a friend of his to get some local knowledge about Marco Island. Other people we have met during the past two years had also given us names of anchorages that they recommended. So this was the year to try it. We call John’s friend who was very knowledgeable and Bob called Tow Boat US to ask them their recommendation for entering the harbor and selecting an anchorage and we were off.
Sheila enjoying a vegetarian cheese burger
This will be a stop none of us will soon forget. The entrance had plenty of deep water as we entered on high tide but the markers were a bit challenging to follow. We found a lovely spot to anchor, had a nice dinner at Snook Inn and then dinghyed back to the boat. Bill and Michael have a more powerful engine on their dinghy so they offered to be the chauffeurs, which we accepted. At midnight we got a call from Bill explaining that their dinghy had been stolen and the Sherriff was on his way to their boat to take their statement and investigate. He called because he didn’t want us to wake up and see the strobe on their boat and perhaps the Sherriff’s boat and get concerned – that was thoughtful. Of course when something like this happens you can’t help but run through a whole series of what ifs. What if it was stolen and they can’t get another one for a week? Where do we wait out the week? Are they going to say f…. it and head back to Safe Cove since the boat is already on the market? And so on.
The Sherriff was not convinced that the dinghy had in fact been stolen as he had not seen a dinghy theft in his 30 years on the force. The next morning Bob and Michael set off in our dinghy to look for the wayward craft. Understand that we are anchored out on a river and without a dinghy there is no way to get to shore. A short time later, Bob called to say that they had found the run-away dinghy unharmed and were on their way back. Crisis and insurance claim averted!! It appeared that the dinghy was just not tied up sufficiently for the current in the river. I am being kind here – Bill screwed up – which we all do at one time or another.
Her Diamond sailing through not so great weather with the Jenniker flying. Isn't the blue and white sail handsome?
Next stop was Indian River. We had stopped there together the prior year on our way back to Burnt Store but anchored at the river entrance. This time, we motored up the river about a mile and found an absolutely perfect spot that allowed us to see a beautiful sunset. We were also privileged to see lots and lots of dolphins playing along the way – jumping out of the water. This was the most dolphins we have seen in any one spot. In the morning there was a dolphin that came up right next to the boy’s boat to say good morning. I never tire of seeing these amazing animals.
And now we are sitting at Shark River in another beautiful anchorage. Here the bugs are a real nuisance so we are down in the cabin after having shared a happy hour on the boys’ boat where I finally won a game of cribbage.
So how is it going you might ask? We have had many firsts.
First time at Marco Island,
First time going up the Indian River and
First time going all the way to Marathon (our destination tomorrow) without stopping in a marina.
We have been able to sail (not motor sail) at least a portion of every day’s trip. We made water with our water maker and got good quality water. We weathered a squall outside of Marco Island which caused the buildings to completely disappear. We turned around and waited out the squall as we were not going to enter a new harbor in the rain and wind gusts and then we entered safely.
I am trying to take one day at a time and not get too wrapped up in planning out multiple days. I am staying grateful that we have this opportunity. I am proud of us for what we have accomplished and how Bob stays calm and is able to fix all of the little things that go wrong; like the leak under the sink in the head. I am missing family and thinking about how I might want to do this differently next year; but more of that in a future blog. This is long enough for now. I am off to cook dinner.
Sorry that there aren't more pictures. We will do better next time.
More to come…….