One of the reasons we love to boat is that we are more prone to make new friends while we’re on or around the boat. We met Alyn & Diane in our hometown, Traverse City, they also live there part of the year, we share a passion for boating. One day they stopped by to look at our Ranger Tug, which Jim often works on while it is parked in our driveway. It’s as simple as that and before we knew it (well, actually a few months later) we were visiting them at their home in Palm City, Florida. They found us a dock nearby to tie up to for the night and insisted we join them for an overnight at their home. We had a nice tour of Palm City, shared happy hour and pizza with a them and another couple and slept in a very cozy king-size bed. It was fun, we shared boating stories and laughed a lot.Continue reading...
Leaving South Bay Cove in the morning put us with an early arrival to our day’s destination of Indiantown, located on the St. Lucie River, just off the big lake.
On the way to our destination, we were intrigued by Slim’s riverside sign, too bad we didn’t have time to stop, it looked like it might be an interesting place off the river.
By the time we made it to Indiantown, the sun made a spectacular reappearance. Indiantown Marina looked like a peaceful haven for boaters looking to get off the water for a time.
Our neighbors at the marina were colorful and unique. This is a homeport for many and a very nice one at that. Loved how the woman on Pandemonium shaded her cockpit with a beautiful, big umbrella.
After two days on the boat, we needed to stretch our legs, so we headed toward town, we didn’t know if we’d make it there or not as it was already hot and humid at mid-day. Not surprisingly, we only made it to the end of the long straight road outside the marina, we could see the edge of town from there, but then turned around to head back to the boat. Look at what we happened to notice on the ground by the side of the road – if you guessed remnants of an alligator, you are right. Made us think twice about the wisdom of taking a long walk on that road.Continue reading...
From our one-night stop in LaBelle, we proceeded toward Lake Okeechobee (or in Seminole Indian language, Big Water), we’ll be taking the rim route around the lake instead of going straight across this time. The Okeechobee Waterway, which includes the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River, boasts a 134.3 nautical miles from west to east and is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the United States. You can transit the lake by going straight across or by the more protected, though shallower, rim route that follows the southern edge of the lake. We’ve never done this path before and are looking forward to seeing something new. We’ll stop one night to anchor at South Bay Cove, a spot Jim found on Active Captain and heard other boaters talk about. It is located at the southern end of the lake.
It was a very thickly overcast day so we did not get very good photos but when we reached the anchorage we were treated to a smoldering, slowly setting sun that got more intense as the early evening wore on.
To see more photos of Lake Okeechobee (when we crossed it a few years ago), Favors Great Loop Blog.
We went through a few locks today, not busy we were the only boat every time.
The rim route to Lake Okeechobee is lined on one side by this rock bank. They have been working on this for some time.
We got creative tonight during happy hour and used this bottle of hot sauce we found in our cabinet to put on top of some hummus. That and a few taco chips almost made a meal! We got the bottle from Mark Coles, Boating Georgian Bay, last summer during the 2014 Ranger Tugs and Cutwater North Channel Rendezvous in Little Current, Ontario, Canada.Continue reading...
Tribute to a Friend:
We lost a good friend. Tom Conrad passed away recently and the boating community lost one of its best. We met Tom and Patsy Conrad many years ago through AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association). If the Great Loop boating adventure did not exist, we probably would never have met – with the Conrads living in Florida’s Panhandle and us living in northern Michigan. What a loss that would have been for us. Because we shared a passion for boating and this adventure they call a “Loop,” our paths crossed and our wakes overlapped. Loopers, ourselves included, often say that one of best parts about doing the Great Loop boat trip is all the wonderful people we meet during our tours around the eastern United States waterways. Many of those relationships go on to become life-long friendships.
Tom was a sailer, a captain, a boater’s boater, a true friend to any human being, a person that would help you out without ever expecting anything in return. He took it upon himself to religiously help boaters cross the Gulf of Mexico by posting daily reports on AGLCA, during the season, giving them knowledgeable weather information. Tom was the kind of friend you might not see for a year and as soon as you saw him again, it was as if it was just yesterday… he had that gift. Tom made you feel at ease when you were in his presence, always asking about what you’ve been up to, what your future plans were and or how he could help you. We will miss Tom and wish him safe passage!
On our way east on the Caloosahatchee River today with our eye on making it to LaBelle’s free town dock for a one-night stay, we had to go through two locks to get there. The Caloosahatchee River always provides us with a scenic cruise and the easily accessible free dock was a welcome stop, one we had not taken advantage of before.
LaBelle was settled along the Caloosahatchee River, in the late 1800s. At the turn of the 19th century, rivers were the highways of Florida. The region was populated by cattle and citrus farmers in 1895.
The next morning before we shoved off the dock to continue down the river, we walked into town to drop some mail off at the post office and explore. Not a lot to see but we managed to find some interesting stuff to look at.
Jim found a few old cars to look at, a 1957 Studebaker and an old Chevy.
Not sure what a Swamp Cabbage Festival is, but think it would be interesting to attend. Too bad it’s in late February, we’ll be long gone and hopefully in the Keys by then. Here’s what we found out… swamp cabbage, otherwise called hearts of palm, comes from the state tree, the sabal or cabbage palm. There will be plenty of swamp cabbage to eat at the festival along with a rodeo, parade, beauty pageant (of course) and an armadillo race.
After spending the holidays at home in Traverse City, MI, we returned to Fort Myers, Florida for the start of our 2015 winter cruising season. Our plan this winter is to cruise to Key West from Fort Myers, spending most of our time in the Keys.
Friends of Tom and Patsy Conrad helped get True North, to Fort Myers. Eddy and Jeff co-captained the boat to Legacy Harbour and its owners, the Conrad’s who were anxiously waiting to see, and move back onboard their boat again. Linda, Skip and Lolly were the support team back at the marina, helping the captains into the dock. Nice job everyone!
Another Bike Night in Fort Myers, they are always a fun time!Continue reading...
We planned our winter trip to include a month at Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Myers. Many of our Looper friends stay in this area during the winter months, some of them at this marina. We find that boating is like that… we bump into Loopers or boaters we know everywhere we go, planned or not. We did parts of our second Loop with buddy boats, Bella Luna and C-Life. We know other Loopers that are here from being involved with AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association). In the past, when in Fort Myers, we’ve always stayed at Fort Myers Yacht Basin, but this year we wanted to be where our friends were even though the Yacht Basin is only a few blocks away.
When we arrived at Legacy, we were given a couple of choices for dockage, we chose the dock right out front of Joe’s Crab Shack. It was the perfect spot for Kismet for the month of March. Let the festivities begin!
The marina staff had some high standards for running the marina, we enjoyed getting to know the whole crew during our stay.
Tom and Patsy Conrad were in their slip on A Dock, we hadn’t seen them since the last AGLCA Rendezvous we attended.
Every Thursday there is a great Farmer’s Market under the bridge just a few blocks from the marina. Great spot for a market because in inclement weather the farmers are well-protected from the elements. This is a great place to pick up some fresh, Florida produce, flowers, herbs, plants, fresh fish and shellfish and even some microgreens (above and below).
Our friend, Louis, on Bella Luna (above), made a habit of giving his female boater friends blossoms off the gardenia plant he got at the market. Such a gentleman!
Needless to say, we ate well during our stay in Fort Myers including a day-trip over the river to Cactus Jack with Louis, Diane, Robert and Kay (below).
Just about nothing is as much fun in downtown Fort Myers as Bike Night! Thousands of bikes, of every conceivable shape, color and size, show up,once a month, for a spectacular party that goes on and on throughout the streets of downtown. Two or three bands keep the place hopping and if you want to buy a biker outfit, there are many vendors that will help you out.
And then there were the parties on the deck of the marina or Tiki Hut. We attended them all during the month of March. Starting with the marina’s Boater Appreciation Party (below).
Mike (above) is checking hands during the Dinghy Poker Run.
Hometown friends, Mike and Lynne, joined us for a week, no they didn’t stay on our boat, but rented an apartment close by. Our first boat trip with them was across the river to St. James City and the Waterfront restaurant on Pine Island. It was a rough ride over and docking waterside of the the restaurant was a little challenging, it was a fun trip.
While Mike and Lynne were still here we visited Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery. The staff provide a good tour and taste testing of some of their products.
Some of the women spent an afternoon shopping and having lunch, at Ichiban’s downtown. I have become addicted to their Hot and Sour Soup.
Jim and I went to soup at Ichiban’s another day and look at our fortune cookies!
McGregor’s Pizza was a favorite spot for pizza and calzones. They only have two tables in there, but we made it work many a time. EXCELLENT CALZONES!
Afternoon lunch (above) at Brad and Patti’s condo in Cape Coral, yes, it does seem we do everything in groups.
Another party at the marina! This time a small group of boaters had a Marina Appreciation Party. Louis, Diane, Butch, Kelle, Kay and Robert (below) planned a festive and delicious feast to honor the marina staff, with live music to dance to.
Diane, Patsy and Lisa (above). Diane, Kelle and Kay (below).
Louis’ favorite local BBQ pit catered the party.
Claudia (above, second from left), brought jell-o shots. Thanks Claudia!
Brunch on Kismet with arepas and fresh fruit.
Near the end of our stay a group of us went downtown to hang out at the top of Ford’s Garage, downtown Fort Myers. Great view of the river and downtown up there even a live band.
One last Happy Hour on True North, Tom and Patsy’s boat.
Near the end of our stay, fellow tug nuts, Cheryl and Rich, on Roam and Jess and Mike, on Illusions (below) came to visit at Legacy.
Across the river from the marina is this beautiful anchorage. We came to anchor at this spot a few times to get away from the commotion at the marina, so when our month’s time was up at Legacy, we came over here for one last night on the hook. First time I had ever seen a anhingha bird. He sat in a nearby tree for a long time until sunset came.Continue reading...
While at the rendezvous, we had an invitation to stay at a fellow tugnut’s dock in Sanibel. How could we pass that up? Steve and Laurie, on See Life Too, were so gracious to share the dock behind their house with us for a few days. Sanibel is a beautiful island with excellent shelling beaches. We borrowed our host’s bikes to go grocery shopping and visit an art fair, we also got some good walking exercise in on the beautiful trail near their house.
Our hosts, Laurie and Steve, on the back deck of Kismet for coffee cake and coffee. We were joined for breakfast by two other tugnuts, Dominic and Carolyn who just happened to be at a marina two blocks away.Continue reading...
We amused ourselves awhile one afternoon when this boat got stuck on a sandbar near our boat. They worked, with the help of another boat for quite some time to get free.
One afternoon we dinghied over to the beach at the adjoining Lover’s Key State Park. Beautiful beach on the Gulf with driftwood remnants lining the pass’ shoreline.
The second morning we decided to take a day trip for a lunch outing. We pulled anchor and headed two miles further south towards Big Hickory Bay and to Big Hickory Pass to find the Big Hickory Restaurant to have lunch. Again there was a well marked channel to Big Hickory Pass but that’s about as far south as one can boat without going out into the Gulf. Returning to New Pass, we were happy to find our anchorage spot still available and spent another night in paradise.Continue reading...
Not a lot going on this time around for the crew of Kismet in Fort Myers Beach. We usually take a mooring ball, but this time we docked at Gulf Star Marina. It was Sunday when we arrived and we were treated to live music at the nearby restaurant, Doc Ford’s. Our main objective while here was to hook up with some friends in the area.
We scheduled breakfast at this Greek restaurant on the beach with friends, Hal and Marianne, from Charlevoix, Michigan (Kismet’s one time homeport), they were renting a house on the beach and rode their bikes to meet us at the restaurant.
Next, Looper buddies Linda and Charlie, on Freedom’s Turn, met us on the boat, we had done parts of our second Loop with this couple. We later went out to dinner and while waiting to order saw this pitcher of beer. This method of keeping beer cold in the Florida heat is unique to say the least.Continue reading...
Pine Island boasts of having no traffic signals, tolls or high rises!
Although we have been on Pine Island by car before, we had never visited by boat. Jim did some research and found Olde Fish House Marina, a local marina in Matlacha Pass, situated smack dab in the middle of one of the most colorful little “Old Florida” towns in Florida. Matlacha is just a small part of Pine Island, when you cross the bridge going toward the bigger (18-mile long) Pine Island, Matlacha proceeds it. You will know you’ve arrived by all the colorful gifts shops lining the way. We stocked up on seafood and enjoyed touring the gift shops, all within a very short walking distance of the marina.
Pine Island is surrounded by mangroves, three aquatic preserves, acres of fruit groves and is home to may creative folks… artist, authors, song writers and poets. It is often referred to as “Florida’s Creative Coast.”
The restroom facilities were some of the most basic we’ve seen, but we are always thankful for a hot shower.
Andy and Mary drove over to the marina from their place, in Cape Coral, for cocktails and dinner out with us. It’s always a fun time when meeting up with friends from home.Continue reading...
Flotilla Cruise, Shark’s Teeth and Happy Hour on Heart Tug
Mike Rizzo had organized a post rendezvous flotilla to Cayo Costa State Park for a one-night group anchor event, about a dozen boats participated. First, after anchoring, most of us dinghied to shore and the entrance of the park where we caught a buggy ride to the beach – we all seemed to be on a hunt for shark’s teeth. Later that evening everyone was invited to Heart Tug for happy hour. Now, this seemed to concern a few of us because, although Heart Tug is one of the bigger tugs, a 31, we were just wondering how everyone was going to fit on the boat at one time and not sink it. To our best recollection, there were 22 or 23 people at the happy hour. We had to be careful of how we moved around and certainly we couldn’t all go to one side of the boat to get a better look at something in the water. I am happy to report we pulled it off and consequently think Heart Tug now holds the all time record for how many people on a Ranger tug at the same time.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together…
That was us today as we all “flocked together” at the Cayo Costa anchorage.Continue reading...
Kismet is hustling to get to Palm Island Marina, in Cape Haze, to attend the 2014 Ranger Tug Winter Rendezvous. Over the four years we’ve own our Ranger Tug, we’ve met lots of other owners, some we’ll see again at this rendezvous and we looked forward to making new friends during the rendezvous. The event was hosted by fellow tug owners, Ted and Carol Whittier and Mike and Jess Rizzo. Many thanks to all of them for a well-organized and fun Ranger Tug Rendezvous!
A Ranger Tug rendezvous is a good place to ask information of other tug owners. Everyone wants to help if there is a problem. One owner had a hard to diagnose situation in his engine room and look how many boaters stopped to give their two cents or to lend a helping hand.
We had already briefly met Frank and Salma (above), on Tortuguilla, during our night on the hook in Pass-A-Grille, Florida, in fact, we had told them about this rendezvous and they signed up to come. One morning they invited us over for a traditional Venezuelan breakfast. They served arepas, a dish we had never eaten and it was delicious.
There was an impromptu happy hour the day before the rendezvous started, it was a good chance to start meeting other tug owners and share tug information and cruising routes and stories.Continue reading...
We always enjoy stopping in Sarasota for a few nights. The city is vibrant and provides a nice break for two salty tugnuts. For our first two nights, we choose the mooring ball option, just outside the harbor, instead of docking at Marina Jacks like we usually do. It was calm enough and just a short dinghy ride to the marina offers us access to town and the ability to get our daily exercise while visiting the Farmer’s Market or stocking up at the grocery store.
The third night however, Jim had heard of a Hyatt Hotel nearby that also had a little marina, we decided to check it out and glad we did, it seemed like a little vacation from our winter cruising activities with its resort atmosphere, large pool, laundry facilities (right next to the pool, so I could do laundry and swim at the same time).
Our bounty from the Farmer’s Market. The pickles were “Hot!”
As you can see, we did not suffer from moving to this marina at the Hyatt. Pool and relaxing waterfall along with a nature trail to take our morning hike, adjacent to the hotel.
Christopher Shustak (above) When the Water Calls… We Follow
Charlotte Snider (below) Women On Board Cruising
Nothing much to report about our stay at Longboat Key. The weather turned bad our second day on the hook, so we tied up at Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant for our second night. Dockage is free if you have dinner at the restaurant. Dinner was great and we felt better tied to the dock during the high winds and rain that night.Continue reading...
Fort Dade was built during the Spanish American War and remained in military control for many years. In 1974 the island was turned over to the State of Florida and became a state park in 1989. In 1974 the southern portion of the island became Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge (also a bird sanctuary). Visiting Egmont Key should only be done during fairly calm water. Because there are no docks, one needs to anchor a ways off of the island shoreline and dinghy to shore. The shoreline is quite open and unprotected.
After securing our dinghy we walked up onto what used to be a brick lined boulevard of Fort Dade’s military base. Most of the housing, fire department, general store structures are long gone, so it felt eerie walking the streets and walkways of where a whole community of buildings once stood. There is still a manned lighthouse station on the island, as Egmont Key’s lighthouse still operates as a guiding light for passage into and out of Tampa Bay. We walked past the lighthouse, waving to the Ranger, as we worked our way to the west side of the island, to where the old remnants of Fort Dade remain. We stumbled onto many slow moving Gopher Tortoises, who make Egmont their home. Standing on top of where the gun turrets were mounted to guard the entrance to Tampa Bay we could easily see why, way back in 1849, Robert E Lee thought this would be a good place for a fort.
Jim walked out on the beach with the binoculars to check on Kismet, anchored off the Egmont Key.
The remnants of the fort were beautifully weathered, Lisa got some great photos of the old buildings.Continue reading...
As one leaves the Gulf of Mexico to enter Tampa Bay, Mother Nature provides two keys that stand sentinel to the entrance of Tampa Bay. In 1889, Mullet Key, to the north, and Egmont Key, to the south, had fortresses built to guard against invasions that never came, remnants of both forts remain today in the parks that were created in the late 1800s.
Robert E Lee made the recommendation, in 1849, that both Mullet and Egmont keys become fortified. Fort DeSoto, on Mullet Key, was built in 1889 and later abandoned by the military in stages from 1910 to the mid 1940’s. In 1962 Mullet Key was turned over to Pinellas County and became the Fort DeSoto Park.
In our quest to find new and unique anchorages during our winter cruises, we stumbled upon Mullet Key while doing some research of Florida West Coast cruising grounds. On the charts it looked like Mullet Key had all the elements we were looking for – no houses or retail establishments and an all natural environment. Mullet Key looked horseshoe shaped on the chart and its interior appeared to have a well protected anchorage. We knew there wouldn’t be any large boats anchored there, as the depth into Mullet Key’s interior basin is shallow, however, with our shallow draft, it was a perfect spot for Kismet to anchor.
As we approached the two keys, we began to follow the marked channel into the interior basin where we were treated to a pristine anchorage and we had it completely to ourselves for the night. Mullet Key, being a county park, has all the amenities for camping, RV sites with a small boat launch ramp, and access to near by fishing. In addition, the remnants of the Fort are available to tour and there is a wonderful white sand beach on the Gulf side of the key. We spent one-night on the hook, looking to depart for Egmont Key, located just south of Mullet Key, the next morning.
In the last few minutes before sunset, I went off to explore while Lisa made dinner.Continue reading...
Gulfport is always a good stop, the little town is within a short walking distance of the marina and has lots of little beach restaurants and gift shops. We are just here for one night. I loved the pine needle crafts I saw in one of the shops, very “Old Florida,” with all natural ingredients, long pine needles and raffia.Continue reading...
Lots of sights to see on the water today as we made our way to Pass-A-Grille.
We anchored in Pass-A-Grille, in a big well just behind the beautiful Don Cesar hotel (above).
We passed two “Rangers” today. The one above, looked like an interesting yacht. During our night at anchor we met the crew on Tortuga, the Ranger Tug below, while they circled the anchorage during and evening cruise. Frank and Salma just recently bought their tug and we would meet them later at the Ranger Tug rendezvous in Palm Island.Continue reading...