From cast-off to LaBelle


Today is Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Since the last post we’ve had a several adventures already.  Here’s a recap:

Thursday, January 25th:

After enjoying a nice late lunch at Ephesus with our old Café Gardens staffer, Sam Arthur of Sarasota, we cast off from the Safe Cove dock at 5:15 pm for a 45 minute run to anchor at the south end of the lake in the South Gulf Cove waterway system. “Run” in this instance means moving mostly at idle speed through the canal past a number of homes.  (A couple of these guys will yell at you if your wake is at all visible.)  We spent a lovely evening on the hook with a superb sunset and the purple martins working all about us in full force.  There must have been thousands of them and they were still there at sunrise glinting purple and iridescent green in the morning light scooping up mosquitos.  They were obviously brilliant in their work as we never encountered a single bite.

1.25.18 South Cove Lake Sunset

Friday, January 26th:

The El Jobean tide showed a high at 11:55 am so we got a leisurely start to the day. Our draft is less than 4 feet, but there are some shallows beyond the self operated lock to get into the bay.  On my daily maintenance checks I noticed that the oil in “Big Red” was down a bit so added some.  The Ford Lehman 135hp power plant for Sabbatical has impressed me so that I’ve given it the moniker “Big Red”.  (Love this motor.)

The forecast was for NE to E winds of 15 to 20 knots. Now, if we were heading out in our 18’ Boston Whaler, I’d have said “No freakin’ way”, but Sabbatical is 36 feet and 12 ½ tons so we pull anchor and slip out though the South Gulf Cove self-operated lock at 12:37.

South Gulf Cove Self operated lock

It’s breezy, but what the hell, on we go south from the mouth of the Myakka River into Charlotte Harbor. There are white caps, but so what, at Howey Academy; we rowed our crew shell in whitecaps all the time.  No big deal.  Well, 15 – 20 knot winds translate to small craft warnings and waves (even in the harbor) of up to 5 feet or more and shortly we’re getting tossed about.  At this point, I know we’re not going back and we’re just going to have to tough it out until we get past Cape Haze where we turn to the west and get the wind behind us.  I know it’s going to be several hours of pounding before we make that turn at our snail like pace of less than 8 knots and I turn slightly east to get more into the wind so we’re not taking right on the beam.

1.26.18 Charlotte Harbor   1.26.18 Burgee

Things get a little dicey and the dinghy gas cans go sliding around the fly bridge as we bounce around. Several things hit the deck including Jane’s butt.  Our mascot, Chester, a Florida Anole (lizard) comes out and seems unfazed.  Somehow, we take hope in this.  About this time we realize that our AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association) burgee (it’s a tiny triangular flag) rips off into the drink.  Jane takes the helm to bring us around, and I get on the deck with the big net to retrieve, but alas, our burgee sinks before we can get back to it.  In the cabin, the microwave has slid on to the stovetop and the coffee pot nearly fell from its perch.

Safety gear was donned.  1.26.18 Charlotte Harbor boat safety

We finally arrive at marker 5 which clears us around Cape Haze and to turn to the west heading toward Boca Grande Pass and Pelican Bay, our intended anchorage.

1.26.18 Marker Five at Cape Haze

With the wind behind us the cruising is smooth and efficient. The waters turn to green and a big dolphin is jumping along our starboard side bow.  It’s like he’s trying to see what we got on the bow.  I grab the camera and the shy guy goes below to avoid my photo shots.  When we get into the Intracoastal, I set a waypoint in the GPS because this will be where we finish the Great Loop and “cross our wake”.  At 1615 we anchor in the lee of Pelican Bay.  There’re around 15 boats in the popular anchorage.  After dinner we enjoy the moon and pop a bottle of champagne given by Joe Morales for such an occasion.  (No more details are recorded in the log after this point.)

Saturday, January 27th:

We awaken to a pretty morning with slight breezes. After breakfast and devotion we pull anchor at 10:20.  Jane is at the helm and I’m trying to watch the anchor as it needs considerable washing as we motor along to get the mud off.  After a few minutes Jane alerts me that the depth is reducing quickly.  I look up to see where we are and then it’s too late and we’re aground.  I realize I should have given her more details about the route out of Pelican Bay.  We get Sea Tow (think AAA for boats) alerted and on the way.  I know the high tide is at 1103 so at that time, I re-crank “Big Red”, put it in reverse and call upon all his 135 horses.  We slip right off into navigable depths, alert Sea Tow to our good fortune and we’re on our way to Fort Myers.  It is 39 miles of breezy and mostly sunny but uneventful cruising, but at some point Jane has gashed her shin in the cabin.  So we’re two days into this adventure and we’ve already had rough water adventure, run aground, blood and bruises, nervous sweat and a couple of tears.  I knew it would be an adventure, but this seems a little much.  At 1630, I ask for and get preferential docking at Fort Myers City Yacht Basin.  I want dockage that is easy to get into since Sabbatical is a single screw vessel with no thrusters and I’m a novice skipper.  They give us an alongside berth near the fuel dock for two nights.  We dock without mishap.

1.27.18 Fort Myers Yacht Basin

Right away we met some other Loopers, Mark and Lezlie Snyder from Texas. They seem very likeable.  Debbie Sanders Lawson, an old classmate from Howey Academy came to visit and drove us to dine at Ford’s Garage.  Very cool theme restaurant with hose clamps for napkin rings and shop rags for napkins.  We enjoyed our dinner and visit with Debbie.

Sunday, January 28th:

Morning duties included pumping out the holding tank. It’s a crappy job.

Pumping out

Then we rode our folding bikes and attended services at First Christian Church then on to Publix to stock up. My sister, Susie and her new boyfriend Jay came by in the late afternoon and we walked up for a meal at The Lodge.

Susie Jane and Jay

This downtown area of Fort Myers is really neat with lots of options for dining, etc. We looked at the weather and decided we should stay put another couple of days.  We talked with the Snyders about cruising together across the Lake Okeechobee route.

Monday, January 29th:

We visited the Edison and Ford winter homes/museum by bike. It was very interesting.  I can only imagine what it was like when Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone got together in Fort Myers during the early part of the 20th century.  Our tour guide Ryan was well versed and the history, houses and museum fascinating to say the least.

Edison Estate

We went to lunch with Lezlie and Mark at the Mexican restaurant, Cabos, and afterward planned our route for Wednesday departure. When we returned to the boat for a nap, we learned that the marina was going to make us move to a slip on H dock.  Didn’t really want to do this since it was still blowing pretty hard, but they had already reserved our space for a 70 foot sport fisherman.  It didn’t go well and I got our bow rail scraped up on our new next door neighbor’s anchor but we did finally get into the slip in spite of the well-intended marina staff hawking ill-advised instructions from the dock.  This was nerve-racking for sure. We had Mark and Lezlie aboard for docktails in the evening and enjoyed getting to know them better.

Tuesday, January 30th:

As soon as I woke up, I knew what I had to do. I needed more training and practice docking.  I called on Captain Billy Drennen who had spent time with us giving instruction when we rented “Patience”, a 32’ Grand Banks last May.  Captain Billy is a USCG 100 Ton Master with decades of experience.  Luckily, Billy had the day off and was willing to come right on and give us whatever instruction we needed to gain confidence and experience in operating Sabbatical.  Billy is super nice and very patient.  We spent about 3 ½ hours in the wind docking in every possible situation.  I gained another level of boat handling competency this day and on returning to the marina, we backed into the slip without a glitch.

Captain Billy  Steve and Captain Billy

The next day, Jane told me about this:

July 30 Horoscope for Cancer (June 21 to July 22):

“Make things easy on yourself. Go ahead and ask for some help.”

We attended docktails aboard Nearly Perfect at 1700. There were a total of 14 and several Gold Loopers.  Heard lots about how we need AIS, Radar and AutoPilot.  The Loopers we met are great folks and very congenial.  I think I can get used to this.  We went with the Snyders to the Firestone rooftop bar to wind up a special day.

1.29.18 Docktails aboard Nearly PerfectDocktails aboard Nearly Perfect

Wednesday, January 31, 2018:

0930 Captain Billy shows up with additional docking lines as a gift. Man, oh man!  This guy just has a true servant’s heart.  Kent from Rising Tide helped us cast off at 1100.  The Snyders in Antonia followed us out as we made our way up the Caloosahatchee.  We cleared through the Franklin lock at 1315 which raised us about three feet.  At 1505 we were through the Fort Denaud Swing Bridge and docked like pros at the La Belle City dock at 1600.  After docktails on Antonia, Jane whipped us up some vegie pasta with Italian sun dried tomatoes for dinner which we enjoyed with a wonderful cabernet.  This has been a beautiful day cruising.  Now I’m getting relaxed.

1.31.18 Dinner at La Belle dock

8 thoughts on “From cast-off to LaBelle

  1. Glad that things are smoothing out a bit after sort of rough start. Looking forward to seeing our cousins when you get to Georgetown, South Carolina.
    Nice writing in the post.


  2. So glad you enjoyed a few more days in Fort Myers … it really is a great place to live. Glad you met some fellow Loopers and enjoyed church and dining in downtown Fort Myers. I love reading about your adventures … keep the stories coming. Travel safe my friends!



  3. Away you go. I like Labelle. There is a hardware store there that went out of their way to help me confab something to repair my sink. Wi fi from the library. I heard they rebuilt the docks. We had to drop our anchor to hold the bow straight ou and back up to the dock where we tied off the stern.


  4. Jane, thanks so much for including me with your blog distribution. As a loper want to be who has not been able to convince my wife what fun adventure it would be for us, I will be sharing your posts with her. I have looked at a 36 Albin for sale in Jacksonville. But it did not look as beautifully maintained as Sabatical. Fine boat! Herb


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