Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #35 Bless the Beasts and the Children

I’ve written here before about the fascinating people we meet as one of the greatest joys of cruising. Well, let me introduce Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber. They aren’t really cruisers. As a matter of fact, they probably don’t even qualify as boaters. But entertainers they certainly were this evening. These two showed up about 25 yards off our port quarter in a small Boston Whaler that was growling and straining to make headway. When I took in the scene, I observed that they had a mooring ball attached to their stern. Quickly, I realized that they were dragging not only the mooring ball, but also a very heavy mooring. I was uncertain where or when they had picked it up, but they seemed to be confused and baffled by the event. Their response to their predicament was—wait for it—to gun the engine to break free of the mooring! Which, of course, simply resulted in (1) towing the mooring at some speed, and (2) getting yanked to a stop with the outboard engine almost awash. Now, in all their wisdom, they decided to think about the situation while they lit another cigarette and pulled another brewskey out of the cooler. Their next move was to try again to tow the mooring, which, again, brought them up short—literally. By this time about 15 minutes had gone by, and, apparently, neither Tweedle-Dumb nor Tweedle-Dumber had considered getting into the water to dislodge the mooring cable. After about half a dozen attempts at what appeared to be their only considered solution—during which time they did make some progress away from our boat, fortunately—one of them got into the water to do something, unsuccessfully. Off they went once more trailing the recalcitrant mooring behind them. By this time, Jim had hailed the Coast Guard to come to the aid of these, shall we say, wayward inebriates, primarily because we were concerned about the end result of towing a mooring or anchor all over the bottom of the anchorage. At any time it could have dislodged an anchor attached to one of the anchored boats, creating a possible domino effect and havoc in the anchorage. Also, the two guys didn’t seem concerned about where they left the mooring, and it looked as though it might end up in the middle of the channel. Well, eventually, they got the mooring into shallow water, disconnected from it, and went merrily on their way. The Coast Guard boat came roaring down the channel, but passed the Boston Whaler, then developed their own engine problem. By the time the Coast Guard boat pulled up to us, Dumb and Dumber were long gone, perhaps making a stop at the local bar on their way. The Coasties were very cordial and appeared equally awed by the actions we described. To them, however, it may have just been one more day in Margaritaville.

Addendum to the Dumb and Dumber saga: In talking with David who lives aboard s/v Sundance here in the Ft. Myers Beach anchorage, we learned that one of those two guys has a cottage industry in the anchorage of “picking up” things that he thinks he might be able to use—like an old mooring anchor. So it turns out that he and his cohort were actually trying to tow that mooring! Show of hands—who votes for this explanation as more sensible than the previous one? Either way, I’m not sure whether this guy is Dumb or Dumber. But I hope he doesn’t decide that he can use anything that he sees on Caloosa Spirit. We keep everything locked up to discourage such entrepreneurial endeavors.

Mail has been received, oil has been changed, laundry has been cleaned, and food has been purchased. It’s time to leave Ft. Myers Beach and head north to St. Pete. Too bad we didn’t leave yesterday. We’ve had no rain or thunder/lightning for the past few days, but this evening we got a doozy. Thankfully, the storm came through while it was still light, rather than in darkness. We clocked some of the gusts at 40 knots! We stayed secure and the ground tackle didn’t even seem challenged. Most of the lightning stayed a distance away, although the rain came down in buckets. We hope to experience these common showers only at anchor as we make our way north.

After hours of motoring with no wind—hence, no sails—tonight we’re back at the Cabbage Key anchorage in Pine Island Sound. This has always been one of the most peaceful anchorages we’ve found—once the traffic on the ICW dwindles, anyway. We got snockered by another storm this evening, this time with more lightning and rain, but less wind. Because of this somewhat regular afternoon and evening phenomenon, we plan to do all our northerly travel in the mornings over short distances, and relax in the afternoons and evenings.

For a short time this afternoon, Jim was fascinated by the parrot sitting on a perch on the flybridge of the trawler behind us. After he pointed it out, I was intrigued also, especially since it had been extraordinarily quiet. Our previous experiences with parrots have shown them to be raucous birds. When I studied the parrot through binoculars, I said, “If that parrot is real, it’s the fakiest-looking real parrot I’ve ever seen.” Upon further inspection, we determined that the cloth-covered stuffed parrot was indeed mute—the best kind, in our opinion.

So much for morning travel. When we got up this morning, the weather forecast was predicting morning showers. Neither of us felt much like moving anyway. So we spent the day sitting still and enjoying this pleasant anchorage. The ospreys and dolphins make good company. In fact, the dolphins were so hospitable, they put on a show worthy of Marineland or Sea World about 25 feet off our port side. I sorely wish I had been able to capture on film the numerous jumps and splashes from the half-dozen bottle-nosed dolphins providing the entertainment, but if I had gone below for the camera, I’d have missed the show. All that was missing were the hoop and the announcer. Actually, the joy of watching was greater without the announcer telling us where to look. The surprise of each jump brought out the child in me as I laughed and clapped for the performers. The show lasted about 5-10 minutes, but the dolphins cavorted in the anchorage for some time thereafter. When we launched our inflatable kayak, we got even closer to the action, as they continued to feed and surface, sometimes as close as 10 feet away. Another treat of the day was a spotting of a roseate spoonbill feeding in the shallows. This is a pink-feathered shore bird with a long, flattened bill suitable for scooping up goodies on the flats. We’ve seen most of the varieties of herons and egrets, but this is one bird I’ve wanted to see as long as we’ve been in Florida, and today I got the opportunity. The picture isn’t great, but it was the best I could do from about 200 yds. Thank you, NOAA (National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration), for another faulty forecast. The predicted early storms that kept us here never materialized, but we would have missed the joys of this anchorage had we left today, as we had originally planned.

Roseate spoonbill

In the last couple of days we’ve motored up the Gulf ICW to Sarasota. We’ve tried to do the trip in somewhat short hops, but it’s still been exhausting. Following channel markers on the ICW is like driving down a highway that has no yellow centerline, but does have an occasional yellow line painted on either the right or left side of the road so that one doesn’t either run off the road or get stuck. When we left Pine Island Sound, NOAA was predicting very light winds and scattered thunderstorms, so we decided to come up the inside for protection. NOAA is not always helpful. Yesterday we had 12-13 knots of wind and sunny skies for the 28 miles of motoring up the narrow channel, and passing through 9 bridges. Of course, if we had had that prediction and gone outside to sail, we could easily have found ourselves with no wind, except what accompanied some walloping storm. Sometimes there’s just no winning. Anyway, we made it with no difficulty. Not counting the late start we got yesterday because of mechanical problems with the second bridge. Fortunately, the bridge tender at the first bridge right outside our anchorage told us about the delay at the next bridge, so we just hunkered down and waited for a go-ahead. The trip was also nerve-wracking because the three bridges south of Venice have been under construction for some time, and our last time through we swore we wouldn’t do it again until the construction was completed. We were uninformed about their status, but we chose the inside route anyway, hoping for the best at those bridges. The construction was farther along, so passing through them turned out to be far less hair-raising than we feared.

Today we had a delightful lunch once again with Fran, our friend from old times at Lake Monroe. She and her husband Bob were long-ago mentors, who helped to point the way for us toward the cruising life. When we still had our noses to the grindstone, we envied them their trailer-cruises. Sadly, Bob died several years ago, and Fran has not been cruising since. But she continues to be one of our cheer-leaders, and we enjoy visiting with her whenever we have the chance.

We’ve been in Longboat Key for the weekend, partly to wait for clear weather in St. Pete. Yesterday the gray skies hung overhead all day, with rain splatters the order of the day. However, we were fortunate in meeting live-aboards Carl and Judie on s/v Southern Cross, who had sailed their Catalina 470 down from their slip in St. Petersburg. We had an enjoyable dinner out together last night, and breakfast out this morning. As a retired submarine captain, Carl had some fascinating stories to tell. This afternoon we had a delightful visit from Christopher, one of our son Mike’s friends, who is now living in Sarasota. Chris had been living in San Diego near Mike, and we hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. Speaking of Mike, it appears that his plans have altered slightly. He and Steph are now looking into moving to Sarasota, rather than Tampa/St. Pete. He always did keep us guessing! Well, wherever they land, it will be fun to have them in the area.

Tomorrow, if the rain clouds cooperate, we’ll head to St. Pete to dock at “Petersen Marina” (Cathy and Carl’s dock), where we’ll be working on a few more boat projects. (They never end!) As cruisers, we try to keep our plans set in sand, so our tentative plan is to leave the boat at Petersens while we go north to Indy for a few weeks. Our time in St. Pete may or may not coincide with Mike’s arrival in south Florida, but one way or another we certainly hope to see him soon. We also hope to see many of you while we’re visiting Indianapolis next month.

Posted Sunday July 18, 2004

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