Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #41 Welcome To Our World

No one else heard the crash, but it hit us like a torpedo. This morning Jim was calmly making some entries into the computer when… no, no “ka-boom”. Just a silent “fatal error”. And this time it was truly fatal. The hard drive lay there expiring, and no amount of resuscitation by either Jim or Mike could breathe life back into it. A couple of phone calls to IBM confirmed that the hard drive is indeed toast, and a replacement is necessary. Fortunately, with the exception of the last 2½ weeks’ worth, all our data is backed up on an external hard drive. But since a Christmas visit to family in Indy is only a week away, we’ve chosen to have the new hardware sent there. Until we arrive, though, we’ll have no computer available for e-mail, internet, data entry, or navigation. Hello, 20th century.

Mike asked for a sail for his birthday, so that’s what we gave him—not the Dacron kind, but the out-on-the-bay, wind-in-your-face kind. It was a delightful way to spend a special day. Sadly, though, we said our good-byes for a while. Jim and I plan to leave Sarasota in the next couple of days to head south.

Despite yesterday’s good-byes with Mike, he came out to the boat once more for munchies and a drink after work. He managed to “forget” his coffee mug and jacket yesterday.

After a couple of days of preparation—including Jim’s exhausting job of cleaning barnacles from the bottoms of both Caloosa Spirit and our dinghy—we were finally ready to leave this morning. We awoke to an uncharacteristically cloudy sky with low visibility. Even though we have to navigate without the aid of “Ray” (our computer), we chose to make the run down the Gulf ICW, anyway. The visibility improved as the day wore on, but it was still a long day of motoring and watching for channel markers.

The highlight of the day was the “escort” we got for at least a couple of miles through Little Sarasota By. A single dolphin—I’ll call him Dunkin—traveled under us over that distance, surfacing every 15-30 seconds on our port side, then repeatedly diving beneath our hull. When I got out my camera, Dunkin kindly obliged us with a full breach. Unfortunately, he gave me no warning, so I missed that shot. We weren’t sure if he was hitching a ride on our wake, if he was alleviating boredom, or if he just liked our boat. Whatever his reason, we were happy to have Dunkin’s company for the 20-30 minutes he spent with us. We anchored for a quiet night at Cape Haze.

Dolphin escort

We heard on the news tonight that two of the major TV networks have refused to air a paid advertisement for our church denomination, the United Church of Christ, on the basis that the ad is “too controversial”. To put it mildly, we are outraged! We take great pride in our church’s openness, acceptance, and warm welcome to all comers—the model that Jesus showed us. That’s the message in the ad, and they say it’s controversial! The only conceivable way that the UCC ad could be seen as controversial is that it highlights the fact that some people do not feel welcomed in some churches. Surely, those churches don’t want that fact nakedly exposed, despite their pronouncements of denials, judgments, and exclusions. It appears to us that the conservative Christian right has once again brought their power to bear on the major media networks in an attempt to stifle those of us who proclaim a different truth about the inclusiveness of Christ’s kingdom. We know that some of our precious rights—those of women and gays, for starters—are targeted for demolition, but do they also now have our freedom of speech in their sights, as well? To view this “controversial” ad, you can go to www.StillSpeaking.com.

Over the past year that we’ve spent cruising Southwest Florida, we’ve been pretty much everywhere we’ve wanted to go and seen what we wanted to see—with one exception. Each time we’ve passed Gasparilla Island we’ve talked about stopping to re-visit Boca Grande, but there was always a reason not to. Today we finally crossed Boca Grande off our list of places to tour. We’d actually visited there on a couple of previous charters, but never on our own boat. The anchorage is iffy in terms of depth and space—a primary reason we’ve passed it up on earlier drive-bys. So we chose instead to leave the boat in the Cape Haze anchorage and travel by dinghy over the 6 miles of the ICW to get to Boca Grande. With minimal wave action and the dinghy on a plane at 15 knots, the ride was mostly dry and actually fun. We rented bikes in town to cover the 2 miles to the lighthouse at the south end of the island. From the museum at the lighthouse we learned something about the island’s history, including the various industries that thrived here over the last century—fishing and phosphate mining, to name two. Today, however, it appears that the only industries that matter are tourism and real estate. The island looks to be in danger of being swallowed up by encroaching condos and beach houses. Currently, though, restoration and repair appear to be ongoing after Hurricane Charley sideswiped the island almost 4 months ago. When we read that the storm raged past the lighthouse at 170 mph, it gave us pause. We once more contemplated the outcome had those 170-mph winds headed up Tampa Bay—straight over Caloosa Spirit—as originally predicted. Sometimes it seems that we lead a charmed life.

We’ve spent the last couple of days enjoying the anchorage at Cabbage Key one last time. We were particularly interested in seeing how the barrier islands are faring in Charley’s aftermath. Sad to say, the tall Australian pines with their soothing wind sighs may be a thing of the past, and the mangroves everywhere have obviously taken a beating. Few of the homes on Useppa appear to be unscathed; boarded windows and roof tarps are frequent sights.

The harbormaster at Cabbage key told us he and a few others stayed on the water-accessible-only island during the storm, primarily because they had no time to escape prior to the storm’s directional shift. He said winds were clocked at 150 mph, and the eye passed directly overhead. The only salvation from total destruction of the islands was the speed at which Charley raced inland. The Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant, built in the 1930’s, withstood the onslaught admirably, and while many of the rental cottages had significant damage, most repairs have already been made. We walked around Cabbage Key’s nature trail and were awed to see almost as many tree trunks horizontal as vertical. Sitting here in the gentle 10-knot breeze, it’s impossible to envision the vicious onslaught of the 150-mph winds that passed through here just a few months ago. But life goes on and God creates anew. The breath-taking poinsiana blooms seen from the observation tower may be gone for a while, but surely they will return another year. New growth is evident in the midst of the destruction.

Cabbage Key

We’ve traveled the rest of the way down Pine Island Sound and are anchored at Glover Bight on the Caloosahatchee. Tomorrow we’ll go into the Cape Coral city marina—a few miles up the river—to leave the boat for a month while we spend Christmas and New Year’s in Indianapolis. We’ve been able to use the time at anchor to pack.

Caloosa Spirit is resting comfortably at the Cape Coral Yacht Basin, and we’re waiting to board the flight to Indy. This will be our first northern Christmas in 3 years, so we hope we survive the temperatures. Mom has been eagerly anticipating our coming since we mentioned the possibility several months ago, but we were afraid we would have to cancel the plans when we had trouble finding a place to leave the boat. Marina space anywhere in Southwest Florida is in desperately short supply, especially in the winter months. But some dear soul somewhere cancelled plans to use a slip at the Cape Coral marina, so it was available when we called a couple of weeks ago. Better yet, the marina is both protected and affordable. The icing on the cake is how friendly everyone is. Officially, living aboard is discouraged, but we met several live-aboards anyway. Jim on Four Seasons, another Catalina 42, gave us a tour of his boat. Because it’s hull no. 1, the original prototype, the interior design and layout are fascinating and unique. Jim also offered to keep an eye on Caloosa Spirit while we’re away. Our neighbors in the next slip, cruisers getting ready to head south, offered to drive us to the airport. We hope to catch up with Gary and Renata on Yellow Rose in our future travels.

By the time you all receive this, our computer’s hard drive will have been replaced, and we’ll be in Indy through the holidays. We hope to see many of you while we’re there.

We wish for all a joyful and blessed Christmas, and a warm welcome in the family of Christ Jesus.

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

P. S. Don’t forget to look up Reaching a Far Horizon at www.lulu.com!

Posted Wednesday December 15, 2004

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