We leave Marco Island at 8:30 a.m.
"Marco Island to Sanibel" is one of our longest legs. Approx 40 nautical miles. We run maximum 5 nmph, so this will be at least an 8 hour sail - assuming everything goes perfectly. Which, as you know by now, is impossible.
Once again, a pretty morning, but very little wind. We sail for a few hours until 11:30 a.m. It is very difficult to bear the midday heat from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. on the sailboat so we (mostly me) make the decision to head into Naples to escape it for a few hours.
Other than our quick stop at WalMart when we blew a tire, I have never been to Naples, and I have definitely never seen the local houses from the water. Holy Crap, there are a LOT of rich people here:
My Account Director, April is from Naples. I think this is her house.
It takes us an hour or so to navigate the long channel into the city. Large boats fly past us every few seconds. We find a public marina where we fill up the tank and ask if we can dock the sailboat there next to the large yachts.
"NO!" Says dock worker #1.
"Do you know anyplace where we can dock the boat?"
"NO!" States dock worker #2.
Obviously, 'customer service 101' is not a required course to be a Naples city dock worker.
But right behind the public marina dock we notice a restaurant. I see an open slip. Can we go there?
"NO IDEA! And if you're done gassing up, you need to move this sailboat!"
Bite me, Naples city dock workers.
I don't know if this particular slip belongs to the restaurant or not, but I have built a career upon asking forgiveness instead of permission, so we hop back on the boat and we motor into the empty slip. We walk into the restaurant. I, of course, mention (rather loudly) that we have just sailed in from Key West - and we need lunch!
That gets other people at the tables talking. They look at us, and our little sailboat, a little differently now! They probably think we are studs. Pssshaw to the huge yachts around us.
We are seated immediately at an outside table, under a fan, next to our beloved sailboat. The couple at the next table starts asking us questions about our voyage. The waiter, hostess, bartender, etc., all come over to ask us questions about our adventure. Unlike the Naples dock, there are nice people here at this restaurant - even if we aren't on a yacht.
Ironically, the place is called: "The Dock"
Not inexpensive - go figure.
Great food though.
Great food though.
See all the yachts behind us! None of them, I assure you, just came from the Keys.
The Everglades and storms are starting to seem like a distant memory.
We ask the waiter if we can leave the boat for a little while we take an Uber ride to a West Marine to get another fuel tank.
He asks his manager.
"No problem," he says.
"No problem," says the manager. "Enjoy your adventure!"Thank you for your excellent hospitality "The Dock"! I give them 5 stars on Google Review before we leave. I rarely give 5 stars.
We take our Uber ride to West Marine, return with another backup fuel tank. It is about 3 pm now. The heat of the day is over, so we decide to head back out and sail for a while.
Another hour to get out of the channel and we are back in the Gulf of Mexico.
After a few hours of sailing, the sun starts to set. Our stomachs are full and it is a beautiful evening:
The wind has picked up. It's about 8:30 pm. It's getting late, but we make the decision to head for Sanibel Island anyway. We can actually see the lighthouse blinking white, so we know where our destination is - go towards the light! How far can it be? We can see the light!
But the lighthouse light is deceiving. It can be seen from 20 miles away, which is about how far away we are.
9:30 pm. Dark.
10:30 pm. Still dark.
11:30 pm. Dark. The wind has picked up. 4-5 ft seas. We're not really worried about storms, but we are at least 5 miles offshore and the relentless wind, hitting us directly in the face, is getting somewhat old in the dark - and we are tired. We consider turning off the motor and just sail, but that seems like a lot of work this late at night and we would actually go one knot slower. We keep pushing through under motor.
12:30 a.m. Dark. 5-6 ft seas. How come the f**king (fricking) lighthouse doesn't seem to be getting closer!
1:30 a.m. We finally arrive, kinda.
Once again, Nick makes another smart "Captain" move. For the last 5-6 hours, I have been guiding the boat towards the light. I'm purposefully going straight at it. As we approach the lighthouse, Nick pulls up Google Maps, switches to Satellite mode and informs me that the channel is waaaay off to my right. There are shoals directly in front of us. Well, that does make sense - hence the presence of the lighthouse. Duh.
Looking at the satellite version of Google maps in the pitch dark is like having night vision. Google maps show us EXACTLY where the shoals are and where the boat is (in real time) in relation to them. Nice move, Captain Nick. So I reluctantly turn the boat away from the light, to the right, where we escape the shoals. We eventually make it to the other side (North end) of Sanibel island where we know there is a dock and safe anchoring. 2:30 am. We anchor, and go immediately to sleep. After 18 hours of sailing / motoring, we are done.
Morning. Sunrise. Hot. 6:30 a.m. 4 hours of sleep.
Behind us, about 100 yards, two girls are on turtle patrol on an SUV. We wave - they ignore us.
People are on the dock fishing. They ignore us.
Nick goes for a swim.
"You should get in, he says".
"I'm not in the mood for a swim, Nick".
"It feels good", he says.
"I don't feel like it."
"It will make you feel more refreshed."
"Shut the "F" up, Nick. Leave me alone."
This is really the first time we start snipping at each other. Mostly, it is my fault. I don't do very well on lack of sleep.
I have been keeping a sailing log each day:
In my journal, I write, for the first time, that I am having feelings of "This sh*t is getting old". And we are only halfway to Clearwater! That fact doesn't help my morale this morning.
I make us some sausage for breakfast using Hancock Whitney's cutting board that they gave me at a Governor's Club luncheon a few weeks ago. I have actually been using this cutting board every day on the boat. Its seems appropriate to use it for our adventure up the Florida coast. Thanks Ben Graybar! (Best banker ever).
I feel a little better now after some protein, but I'm still not my normal, jovial self. I know it. Nick knows it. I need hot coffee, but I don't feel like pulling the grill out.
Now we have a decision to make. We can go around Sanibel island on the Gulf side, or we can save a couple hours and take the safe, scenic, inter-coastal route, under the bridge, up to Boca Grande pass. We make the decision to take the inter-coastal:
No problems getting under the bridge.
At first, it seems like a good idea. We can't use the sails, of course, but there are LOTS of things to look at on the shoreline, but here's the problem: There are also LOTS of boats. Big boats! As we head North up the inter-coastal, thousands of boats pass us.
We spend the day rolling and pitching from their respective wakes. Some of these boats are 70-80 ft long. They produce large wakes. Our little sailboat is no match for them. We aren't in danger of capsizing from them, but after 7-8 hours, they do get very irritating. Everyone flies by us with the wind in their hair - and they probably wonder why we choose to go so slow. Have I mentioned that I am not a patient man?
Sometime around lunch, we do make a stop at Captiva Pass to take a "wake" break and have some lunch. We park the sailboat next to several other boats and jet skis. Everyone around us is "hanging out". We do the same:
My cooking duties return.
Yes, the fresh Spanish Mackerel in the foil is delicious!
Another great picture, Nick.
We spend a couple of hours enjoying the water and beach. Nick and I walk on the island and take a few more pictures. The waves from the channel and passing boats are quite severe. We actually help a couple whose small boat has come ashore and they can't get it off the beach. We help them lift it. Our good deed for the day.
Oh yeah, one quick funny story. While I am cooking lunch on the boat, it is very wavy. The sausages keep rolling around on the grill. One accidentally rolls off and lands in the water. I can't reach it. The current pushes it to the boat next to us and on down the line to the other boats. A few boats down, I hear some people, scream. I know what is about. Oops. Sorry! :-) Feel free to take a bite out of it. It's good!
Now, I feel a little better, Bill Murray.
Time to go!
We continue up the inter-coastal being passed by more huge boats - through Charlotte Harbor. We do some Google research late in the day and discover that there are a couple of marinas just inside Boca Grande Pass - as you leave Charlotte Harbor. There are two marinas. Here is the first one:
As we putter by, we ask the well-dressed, young man on the dock if they have fuel.
He replies, reluctantly "Yes".
We don't really need fuel that bad since we have an entirely full backup tank. On the dock, I notice some ladies in evening gowns going inside for dinner towards the white-tablecloth covered tables. A 50 ft yacht behind us is about to dock.
Then, right next to it is this marina:
More our style.
Nick looks all refreshed in this picture because he was able to take a quick shower. But while he was in the shower, the lady walking away asked us (me) to leave. It was more like a demand. They are having a "ladies" fishing tournament and they need the slip that our boat is parked in - NOW! This slip:
Another funny, quick story:
The fishing boat next to us has a Captain on it that is preparing to take a bunch of ladies tarpon fishing in the channel. He is working on his rigs. Everybody here fishes for tarpon in the nearby Boca Grande channel. Anyway, Nick and I get on the sailboat and he starts the engine. Unfortunately, the engine only has one speed - forward. Neutral and reverse are broken. So I yell at him to turn the engine off. He doesn't hear me. I yell again, "Turn off the engine!" There is another fishing boat behind us waiting for us to depart and take our slip. Nick finally turns off the engine. As we are shoving off the pylons backwards, the Captain next to me asks, "You guys don't have reverse?"
I look him in the eye and say, "No sir, we lost it in a bad storm near Key West."
He sees, by my expression, that I'm not kidding. He looks at our little boat. He knows how far we are from the Keys. He just shakes his head. Only one gear - forward. Idiots.
I'll never forget the look on his face of incredulity.
We head out the Boca Grande channel. There must be 100 boats here - all within 10 feet of each other trying to catch tarpon. That looks like a madhouse. I'm glad I don't have to fish that way in Tallahassee.
We don't have a destination now; we just know that we need to keep heading North. We're thinking Venice might be our next stop, but it is a loooong way away.
The sun is setting as we come upon "Stump Pass" and little Gasparilla Bay. It's been a long day and we aren't anxious to sail/motor through the night again, so we take a hard right and safely anchor just inside the channel in a spot between two intersecting channels. This is our view from where we are anchored:
Behind me, a house is shooting off big fireworks.
Okay, so I did get a little tan.
Before we started our adventure, my brother Jeff (who lives in Safety Harbor) had made the offer, if we ever wanted it, to pick up Nick's boat trailer and come get us if we ever felt that we had had enough sailing.
Nick still seems pretty determined to make Clearwater. I give him the chart and a pair of dividers so he can perform his own distance calculations.
After working the dividers for a while, Nick says, "Man - it is a LONG way to Clearwater from here!"
"Yes sir, at least another 4 days. We've been on the boat for seven days now."
"You know Marc, I think I've seen everything that I need to on this journey. Up ahead of us are more beach bars, condos, etc."
"You're right, Nick. I feel the same way."
"Don't get me wrong" he states, "I have loved doing this, but do we really want to be on this boat, in 100+ heat for another 3-4 days?"
"Not really, Nick".
"Make the call to your brother," he says.
I make the call.
Jeff agrees to meet us in Venice, Florida tomorrow afternoon around 1:30 p.m. with the trailer. Thanks Jeff. You are a great brother.
We have just made the decision together to sail only one more day.
We enjoy the sunset.
We drink another beer.
We love the fireworks.
We go to sleep.
Tomorrow: Sailing - Final Chapter."