Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #80 Pelican Bay and Beyond

Well, I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, but maybe writer’s malaise. It’s taken me over a week to get back to writing in this log.

Right after posting the last log we left Pelican Bay for Ft. Myers Beach, one of our old favorites. In years past we had anchored in the protected haven, but on our last visit (2½ years ago) we discovered a mooring field so vast that any hope of anchoring was quickly dashed. The worst of the situation was the total lack of service on the part of Salty Sam’s, the marina charged with managing the mooring field. At that time we testified at a town meeting regarding our inhospitable welcome, and we wrote letters describing the dismal experience (the term “money-grubbing” comes to mind) awaiting other cruisers. Happily, things have changed dramatically. Apparently, the suck-every-last-dime behavior of the Salty Sam’s owner became too much for the town to bear, and last fall management of the mooring field was turned over to a different marina, Matanzas Inn. This year calling Matanzas Inn for a mooring assignment was a breath-of-fresh-air experience. Each time we contacted the office we got a pleasant, helpful response, very unlike our previous experience with Salty Sam’s. Although the daily fee has increased somewhat, we felt as if we were actually getting something for our money. The dinghy dock (temporarily a pontoon boat until a permanent dock is built) is conveniently located for going ashore on the beach, the shower (singular, not plural—a downside soon to be rectified), was very neat, clean, and spacious, the lounge happy hour was very tasty and reasonable, and the pool was immaculate and refreshing. Although the mooring field was largely unoccupied, Ken, the pump-out boat attendant, indicated that it had been about 80% full during the winter. Ken had ideas and plans for improving the moorings, and seemed to be eager and happy in his new position. All in all, we were really glad we went to Ft. Myers Beach this year.

The best part of our visit, though, was seeing Serendipity enter the mooring field and pick up the mooring behind us. Last year we thoroughly enjoyed time spent in Marathon with Nancy and Jay on Serendipity. Since that time they’ve traveled north as far as Cape May, NJ, and spent several months in the Bahamas over the winter. We knew they were on their way north up the Gulf coast, and we hoped to meet up with them along their way. We were elated to renew our friendship for a couple of days in Ft. Myers Beach. Jay and Nancy will be taking Serendipity up the Tenn-Tom Waterway all the way to Kingston, TN, close to Knoxville, to spend some time with family. We wish them well and hope to meet up with them again at some future anchorage.

We’ve continued to have some equipment snafus. One of our reasons for going to Ft. Myers Beach was to get parts and/or service for the dinghy outboard. It was becoming balky and uncooperative, at times reducing us to paddling to get back to our mother ship—a risky proposition in any wind or current. And, since the dinghy is our only transportation to shore, we didn’t relish the idea of being stuck on the boat for days on end. Jim managed to find a marina which specialized in Yamaha outboards, but service from them couldn’t be scheduled for a week or two. They agreed to order the parts that Jim thought would be helpful, with the promise that the parts would arrive in three days. I know what you’re thinking. But guess what? The parts actually came in a day early!! And the best part is—they worked! After a few hours of cleaning and restoring the carburetor Jim got the outboard purring contentedly. Success tasted sweet.

Today we left Ft. Myers Beach and are back at Cabbage Key. On the way we were able to correct another snafu. This one was of our own creation. Last summer we came up with a wonderful idea for how to turn our extra bilge space into a wine locker. We bought shelving and bins, and Jim finished the project quickly and successfully. What we managed to overlook, however, was that the shelving material was rubber-coated METAL, and that its location was almost adjacent to the flux-gate compass for the autopilot. In the last log I described Otto III as being recalcitrant and inattentive in steering accurately. When Jim was on the phone describing the problem to a Raymarine tech, the tech’s comment that maybe something metal had inadvertently gotten too close to the compass hit home. In an ah-ha moment Jim realized that the wine locker shelving was confusing Otto and keeping him from performing optimally. After removing the shelving and giving Otto one more chance to prove himself after recalibration this afternoon, success was again sweet.

Pelican Bay is a little slice of heaven here in southwest Florida. How do we know this? Well, dolphins are notoriously intelligent, and they seem to favor these waters. Each sunny day that we’ve been here we’ve spied several groups frolicking, jumping, and generally enjoying life. The puffing sounds emitted through the dolphins’ blowholes as they breathe are a constant accompaniment to our activities. Curiously, there’s one dolphin (whom I’ve dubbed “Snorkel”) whose breathing sounds exactly like a snorkeler. I’d love to know why this particular animal seems to labor in breathing as though he/she had a history of smoking. Not a likely explanation, though, since dolphins are notoriously intelligent.

Pelican Bay dolphin
Pelican Bay dolphin

Today brought another serendipitous anchorage rendezvous, although not with Serendipity. A few months ago we were asked to serve on the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s Concerned Cruisers Committee, mostly regarding the problematic anchoring restrictions that are spreading throughout Florida’s communities. Herman, another member of the committee, has been fighting some heroic battles over the issue in Marco Island. After admiring Grendel, the beautiful Passport 40 that anchored nearby this morning, we learned upon a quick hello that the captain was none other than said Herman. He and his wife Fran were out for a relaxing two-week cruise and happened to choose a Pelican Bay stop on the same day we were here. We had a delightful happy hour as we traded cruising stories. We look forward to visiting with them again in the fall on our next stop at Marco.

Another highlight of our day was a visit with the manatees. A small offshoot from Pelican Bay leads into a serene lagoon populated by a large herd of manatees. This year we’ve only spied one or two each time we’ve dinghied into the lagoon, and we’ve wondered where they may have secreted themselves. Today, though, they were out in force and quietly surfaced all around us as though to welcome and inspect us. With faces only their mothers can love, their gentleness makes them beautiful creatures nonetheless.

We had planned to head into Burnt Store today for laundry and, more importantly, a visit with Carla and Greg of Spellbound. However, the forecast was ominous and we chose to sit out the rainy day at anchor. After some brief showers this morning the sun is once again out—too late to make the move today. Still, it’s a treat to sit and listen to the dolphins, the birds, and the quiet.

Pelican Bay rainbow
Pelican Bay rainbow

After a fun three days with Greg and Carla we’re back in Pelican Bay. It occurs to us, though, that the bay is mis-named. While there are usually pelicans in evidence, especially near their favorite roosting mangroves, the profusion of dolphins is the bay’s calling card. As mentioned above, a large group (herd? pod? family?) of them seems to call the bay home. We never tire of their company.

Pelican Bay sunset
Pelican Bay sunset

Unexpectedly, we’re back at Burnt Store. No, we haven’t had a breakdown, and we really weren’t in need of marina life again so soon. But Jim has had a concern for some time that our charging system may still be not quite up to snuff. He’s tried with limited means to assess the Balmar alternator and the Ideal regulator, but he’s been wanting to have an expert take a look-see and hopefully work some magic. Through a recommendation from Paul of Puffin Jim located a guy who could work us into his schedule tomorrow morning here at Burnt Store Marina. So we came in early enough to take advantage of the pool and laundry. Another happy hour with Carla and Greg was an added bonus.

There’s bad news and good news about the charging system. The bad news is that Steve wasn’t able to fix anything. The good news is that there seems to be nothing broken. The alternator and regulator were diagnosed as doing their respective jobs adequately. Adequate may not be optimal, however, so we may have a new Balmar regulator installed in the fall. We also must do some insulation work to the refrigerator and freezer boxes to keep from draining the batteries too badly. Anyway, it’s a relief that we don’t have to wait for parts for once! We chose to stay in the marina for another night to get shipshape and charge up completely—not to mention the karaoke at the bar!

Ten hours of motorsailing brought us to Sarasota for another visit with Mike. We’ll also use the car for some errands over the next week.

Another cruising season, such as it was, is coming to an end. We have a few projects to complete this week, but at the end of the week Caloosa Spirit will be mostly de-commissioned for another hurricane season. A week from tomorrow she’ll be hauled once again in St. Petersburg to sit on the hard for 3-4 months while we occupy an apartment in Indianapolis. The primary reason for our extended stay in Indy this summer is the final preparations for the joyous day of our daughter Lauren’s wedding to Alex on September 8. We eagerly anticipate this life-changing event, knowing that there’s much to do in the next couple of months. We also eagerly anticipate getting back out on the water in the fall, and we pray for a longer—and healthier—cruising season next year.

Lauri & Alex

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Sunday June 24, 2007

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