Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #32 Buddy Boating

The alternator seems to be back in working order. Now we can think about moving on to the Keys. But there’s still another attraction that we’d like to visit before leaving Ft. Myers. We entertained Cathy and Carl for dinner, and had a very pleasant evening.

We took the bus up to Ft. Myers to visit the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. Thomas Edison built a winter home there in 1886, and Henry Ford joined him with his own home in 1916. By touring the two homes we learned a lot about both of them. Edison was an amazingly prolific inventor. He had over 1000 patents in his name, with at least one in each of 65 consecutive years. And I never knew that he was almost totally deaf. Interestingly, with all his creativity he never focused on developing or perfecting a hearing aid. The laboratory at the Ft. Myers home was devoted to rubber experiments. Edison wanted to develop a way to make rubber out of a plant indigenous to the U.S. His experiments led to a hybrid goldenrod plant that was 14 ft. tall, but the advent of synthetic rubber brought his natural rubber project to an end. Henry Ford met Edison when he began working on the development of a gas-powered vehicle. Edison gave him encouragement and support in his endeavors, and they became very close friends. At one point Ford gave Edison a banyan tree shoot from a tree in India. That shoot is now the largest banyan tree in the U.S., and second in size only to its mother tree in India. The bus trips up and back took as much time as we spent at the estates, but the trip was worth the visit.

Banyan tree at Edison Home

Carl and Cathy of Persuasion headed out this morning for the Keys. They’re planning on meeting someone there next weekend, so they chose to get an early start. We hope to meet up with them by the end of the week, but we weren’t ready to go today. Instead, we spent some time relaxing.

We spent the day doing laundry and grocery shopping, getting fuel, and getting ready to head out tomorrow morning. However, this evening when we ran our engine for our refrigeration, we discovered that the alternator isn’t charging again. So tomorrow we must chase down that problem…again! The frustration that we often felt a year ago in trying to get ready for cruising continues to haunt us, it seems.

It appears that the culprit in the alternator problem this time was a malfunctioning high voltage spike suppressor that Jim had installed with the repaired alternator to protect it from further damage. Some protection. After Jim disconnected the offending wire piece, the alternator seems to be working properly. We think we’re ready to leave tomorrow, barring anything else that decides to malfunction.

Every now and then in this cruising life we get a day that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Today was such a day. The engine started, the alternator worked fine, a cloudless sky, warm temperatures, wind on the beam at 10-15 knots, 1-2 ft. seas. Ecstasy. We haven’t had such a glorious sailing day in a long time. This evening we’re anchored off Marco Island behind a picturesque low, sandy island. Sun-downers have been consumed, along with a grilled swordfish dinner. Yum. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect day has been the battle of the bands among other boats and the house on the shore behind us. Oh, well. It’s a good thing we enjoy a variety of musical genres. We even got treated to a sunset with a mini-green flash.

Sunset at Marco Island

Today was almost as good as yesterday—enough wind to sail would have made it perfect. With no land in sight it’s rather surreal to view the sea as a mildly undulating ocean of glass. That’s what it was like for at least half of our 53-mile trek to Little Shark River, just north of Cape Sable on Florida’s southern tip. But the engine got us here, and the mosquitoes have not yet descended en masse. Unlike our previous visit here, there are several other boats in the anchorage. Even so, the only sounds of the night come from the numerous hoot owls in the mangroves. The dark is impenetrable. Marathon is our destination tomorrow.

Marathon has been a destination of choice several times in our past. On more than one cruising vacation we have wanted to make it to Marathon. But, aside from once picking up a charter boat and once passing through on Caloosa Spirit’s delivery, we’ve never actually “done” Marathon. Today, however, we’re here in the anchorage to stay for at least a week. Boot Key Harbor is one of the premier cruising destinations, in large part because of the number of other cruising boats and the accessibility of cruising needs. A West Marine maintains a dinghy dock right off the harbor, and other dinghy docks are within walking distance of grocery stores and a K-Mart—not to mention the ubiquitous waterfront bars. We look forward to becoming familiar with the lay of the land here. Also, we enjoyed meeting up once again with Cathy and Carl on Persuasion. They’ve been here for several days, and it’s good to reconnect.

Well, it was bound to happen some time. Jim has long needed a hobby, and he loves seafood. So what was the inevitable outcome of such a combination? That’s right, he’s now a fisherman! This morning Cathy’s brother (also Jim), who is visiting for a few days from Orlando, drove us to a fisherman’s toy store several miles up the road. After parting with a couple of boat bucks, Jim walked out loaded for bear…er, fish. This afternoon he wanted to try his luck, and I—having taken momentary leave of my senses—went in the dinghy with him. Well, the weather and water were beautiful, but I think my vibes of ambivalence kept the fish away. He only got a couple of bites, and (thankfully) they were both too small to keep. You see, I like to eat fish, but in the battle between fish and man, my sympathies usually lie with the fish. The battle seems singularly one-sided, considering the armaments of poles, lures, hooks, and other bait-box paraphernalia vs. the fish’s natural hunger and curiosity. Still, I like to think that a lot of the sea denizens end up laughing out their gills at the antics of the humans on the surface. They seem particularly crafty in the ways that they manage to nibble and steal the bait without snagging the hook. I can just hear them saying, “Just look at that nutcase up there, sitting in the hot sun, thinking I’m going to grab that hook! Hah! I didn’t fall off the seaweed barge yesterday! I’ll just take a little nibble and…Aargh! DEAD FISH! YUCK! I’m outta here!!” Well, that’s my fantasy, anyway. I’ll take my fish from a grocery store or a restaurant, thank you.

Jim's first fishing expedition

Okay, so maybe I was a bit hasty in my disparagement of catching fish. And maybe the fish aren’t the downtrodden but wily creatures of my fantasy. Maybe they really are one of the bounties of the sea that are rightfully part of the food chain—our food chain, that is. The guys went fishing again today, and they caught enough snapper to make tonight’s dinner. Mmmm-mmmmm, yummy! I even watched as Jim M. filleted the fish, but not to learn how to do it myself; I was just curious. I think they probably caught fish today because I stayed on the boat, and didn’t send out those negative vibes. At least, that sounds like a good excuse to get to enjoy the fruits without the labor.

We’re still in Marathon. Persuasion left this morning to go north up the East Coast, so we won’t be seeing them again for a few months. We had planned to go do something fun today, because there are a couple of places here we want to visit before leaving. However, the alternator had other plans. We just had to have the alternator repaired a couple of weeks ago in Ft. Myers Beach, and it has been working okay. But this morning in checking on it Jim noticed that one of the diodes was sparking. We kind of figured that it shouldn’t be doing that. So we scrapped our plans for the day and worked on getting it fixed again. Fortunately, Jim was able to find a place fairly close by that could work on it today, so we got it put back in and it seems to be working again. Tomorrow Jim wants to chase down an apparent energy leak from our engine starting battery, so “something fun” will get back-burnered again. It’s a good thing I’ve down-scaled my expectations of cruising; it helps me keep my sanity intact.

Well, the electrical leak is still leaking, but the alternator is working, and Jim fixed a fuse on the battery monitor. So today we took the day off to visit the Crane Point Hammock Nature Center and Museum. This is several acres on the bayside of Marathon that are still in a natural state, where once there was a small Bahamian community in the early 20th century. Prior to that, several hundred years ago, the land was inhabited by Caloosas and other Native Americans. Artifacts from those times are on display in the museum. A family by the name of Crane purchased the land in the 1950’s and lived there in relative isolation for some twenty years, and it’s been a protected area for several years now. We always find it interesting to learn something about earlier inhabitants of the ports we visit, especially at places protected from further modern development.

After cleaning corrosion crud off of a number of connections in the electrical system, we’ve decided that the electrical leak is something we can live with, and we put away all the stuff we had out while communing with the batteries. This morning we set out to visit Pigeon Key, the other site we had on our list of things to see here in Marathon. We expected a 2+ mile hike to visit the historic construction site of the Flagler Railroad, which was the first connection of Key West to Miami in the early 20th century. Fortunately, the dockmaster of the marina where we have dinghy dockage was on his way out by car and offered us a lift. We were monumentally appreciative—especially after finding upon arrival that the place was closed for visitors! So we only had to walk the 2.5 miles back. Pigeon Key will just have to remain on our list of must-dos for another day. This afternoon we did laundry in preparation for leaving Marathon either tomorrow or the next day. We’re heading for Key West.

Sometimes life takes serendipitous turns. Yesterday at the laundry (where we wouldn’t have been if Pigeon Key had been open) we happened to meet Mary Margaret and Paul of s/v Angel Heart, since it was laundry day for them also. Today they invited us to their boat for cocktail hour, and we had a delightful time sharing cruising stories. They’ve lived aboard for almost the same two years that we have. As most cruisers have said, the people we meet and making new friends are the best parts of cruising. Such occasions make all the boat-work worthwhile. Today we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to add Angel Heart to our list of boats to look for in future anchorages.

Tomorrow we’ll leave Marathon and head south toward Key West. There are a couple of anchorages we’ll visit in between, and we look forward to short passages on the way.

Fair winds and calm seas until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Monday June 7, 2004

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