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Florida's West Coast
Gasparilla Island & Placida
31-Hour Straight-Thru Sail from Marathon to Charlotte Harbor
Gasparilla Marina in Placida, FL
The Gasparilla Marina in Placida, Florida. Back on the mainland... We docked right across from the Marina Store (I took the picture above while sitting in our cockpit) with just 1.5 feet of water beneath our keel. Of course we checked the tide tables carefully. Up here when the wind blows from the North, it often blows water out of these basins. Such was the case on that day! Whew! But we also met a fabulous guy, John, who met us at the dock and showed us where to tie up. Turns out he grew up in Marathon! We talked for a while and discussed the rapid changes taking place all over the Keys. The Mom & Pop Marinas and Stores are getting pushed out by big Corporations buying up land at a record pace and at a record price! The real estate market is booming in the Keys... and it's a shame. Most cannot afford property taxes as they raise along with property values. How are teachers supposed to teach there when they can't afford to live there?
We had a marvelous time visiting with Bill's parents, Joe and Freida Ladd. They vacation in Port Charlotte every winter, having to sail up here to make the trip to Sarasota was a perfect opportunity for us to get together with them. They both look so good! Bill is always so happy to see his parents... it's so good to see them together, all smiles!
Charlotte Harbor Lighthouse in the background as we take the ICW past Cayo Costa.
Pigs or wild boars on the sandy beach of Cayo Costa.
Cabbage Key & Cabbage Key Anchorage
Kitchel Key Anchorage
(aka "Don't Call me Johnson" Anchorage)
To: A Bunch of Coconuts
Date: February 5, 2006
Hey my Lovelies,
We sailed to Charlotte Harbor over two weeks ago. Got here to make the trip to Sarasota where we'll cast Bj's Eternal Reef Memorial. Since Bill's parents spend their winters here at Port Charlotte, it was a good fit to do both.
Had a wonderful time at anchor after we tried to use a cruising guide to enter a "hidey
hole," to find out it was badly silted in. Hit bottom. Yup.
Fortunately, we were going very slowly, as the meandering channel didn't look very friendly to begin with... A guy in a boat asked if we needed help. I look down and the depth sounder
says " -- ". I'm still not interested in having my little baby tugged and prodded by someone we just met. "Groper!"
Bill says, "Yes, thank you! I'll toss you a line."
Charmaine says, "No, wait a sec."
Bill says, "Honey, we need to get out of here and this guy is going to help. We're going to do this thing!"
Charmaine says to September Sea... "Do you Really want this stranger to pull your ass offa here?"
I put her in gear and the bitch glided out.
Looks like she didn't want to be man-handled that day!
So we get into the basin of the so-called "Hidey Hole," and there's Jethro and one of his Bubba friends looking right at us as we enter... they both had that "Oooh, Strange Meat!" look in their eyes.
I did a U-turn faster than Janet's boob popped out at the Superbowl Half-time show two years ago.
Right back past the infamous grounding... it was worth it. I saw "Deliverance." Helllll no!
September Sea went past that area like she was allergic to it... maybe she could feel my urgency to get the hell outta Yee-Haw-ville. Black folks get nervous within earshot of rebel yells.
Gone! Outta there. No problem. We got all the way out through the serpentine channel and anchored about 100 yards from the first ICW (Inter-Coastal Waterway) (ICW marker.
In Claiborne Young's "Cruising Guide for Florida's West Coast," it says not to anchor out in the Charlotte Harbor after dark (yeah it do). LOL It didn't explain WHY... but I figured it was not due to Rebel Yells but rather that the waters can get rough when exposed to winds from the North.
Wind was from the South, but was to turn North, NE in a couple of days. Light winds were forecast until then.
Wife told Bill maybe we should put out two anchors just to be safe.
"Nah, don't need it. It's only gonna blow 10 knots tonight."
The next morning we were three miles away from where we had anchored the night before. We woke up to what sounded like surf hitting rip-rap.
It WAS surf hitting rip-rap. We were in 40 ft. of water with a wicked current and 4-ft.
waves. Our anchor had snagged and was holding on SOMETHING.
We get our naked butts up and rush to get things under control. We'll haul the anchor and head back to our anchorage and get coffee, breakfast and put a plan in motion to get to a
nearby marina. The one we were supposed to go into the following day, we couldn't because the north wind blew all the water out of their entrance channel. WAY too shallow for us.
Ever try hauling up a anchor without a windlass... 200 feet of chain in 40 feet of water? If you have, then you also know every curse word every spoken.
I know them all too now... as Mister Bill said them ALL right when he just about had it all up and something slipped and he lost half of his progress back to the deep blue... and he was
Finally got the manual windlass to help and we got the anchor and all it's chain back up on the boat. I had the engine running, but was now in neutral... Bill needs time to clear the deck of loose items going back into the chain locker.
I get the "OKay," from Bill and put the boat in forward...
I know that sound. I immediately put her back into neutral and the engine died. We definitely got something fouling up our prop. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I look behind me and can see the remnants of what appear to be rope coming out the back of the boat. Bill can't believe I'm telling him we got something in the friggen prop. He's tired,
and now he faces getting into 60 degree water to clear this mess out of our prop. AND we got four foot seas with an occasional 5-6 footer thrown in for good measure. The boat is rockin' and rollin' to the oldies! This is not good.
Bill says start her up again. I KNOW there's shit in the prop. But you know... I'm not the one who will be gettin' in the cold water, wet suit or NOT!
She's a mess.
And so am I. No bra, titties hangin' like pendulums on grandfather clocks... and some guy is curious and wants to sail REAL close.. maybe he wants to help. Nah. I'm going for it... I just might take off my shirt just to scare the shit outta him.
But Bill is getting out Bj's full-body wetsuit. Our boy saves our asses again! Two dolphin, in perfect unison... YUP... come by slowly to let us know that all will be well.
Bill's not impressed.
We were very, very fortunate this time with the dragging and the line in the prop... it appeared that the line may have been what caused us to drag... I dunno. But I will ALWAYS set two anchors in the future.
I'm sure some may have thought it curious a 36-foot sailboat sloop going backwards for three
miles. We may be on the front page of the Charlotte Harbor Gazette.
Infamous again. Dayam.
We decided to sail to Gasparilla Marina up farther north in Placida, we'll get coffee later...
Had a nice time there, met up with Bill's parents. They both look great. Great visit with them both.
We rent a car and drive to Sarasota to take care of our business there (getting the cast
made for Bj's Memorial Reef). It all went very well.
Done with that... get back to the Marina and Bill's parents come by the next day as planned.
So good to see them two days in a row.
Next day we return the rental car and sail over to Punta Rassa (five miles before Ft. Myers
Beach) to anchor in a little spot Bill had gotten from -- YUP -- that same dayam Cruising Guide.
The spot is called "Johnson's Bay." Remember on "The Gong Show," the character they
called "Dancing Johnson;" I did... and I should have LISTENED!!
"You can call me Ray, you can call me Jay, but yaz bettahz nevahz ever calls me Johnson."
I knew we shouldn't have tried to get in there.
Bill: "Honey, just as you pass all the markers in the channel... about 400 yards up toward the
(Sanibel Island) Bridge you turn a hard right and then we follow the GPS in. I've got the course marked."
"Beep. Beep. Beep."
Charmaine says, "Bill, I think we were supposed to turn right back there a bit."
"Beep. Beep. Beep."
Bill says, "No, this is fine."
"Beep. Beep. Beep."
Charmaine says, "Why is the GPS beeping?"
Bill says, "Oh shit. Yeah. You're right. We needed to turn back there."
I turn the boat just a bit and say, "Bill, why don't we just anchor right here? We're not in the
channel, I got 5 feet of water under us."
Bill says, "No. Just stay where you are and continue toward this Key... then go right in between the two Keys. Don't go too close to that Key," he says pointing.
Charmaine says, "What about the land for THIS key?"
We hit bottom.
Bill, who knows I can work wonders getting out of such situations as we once again were
proceeding very slowly so it was a very soft grounding... he looks at me.
"No," I say.
"F--- no. Call Tow Boat U.S."
"But you haven't even tried to get off."
"Bill, look at the chart."
Bill looks... and says "UH HUH."
We have NO where to go... we've grounded on the OTHER side of what we were trying to avoid. It was a finger of land coming out of the Key I was concerned about.
Call Tow Boat U.S.
Bill calls em up and a fine chap named Dusty comes to our rescue and he does some soundings
as we tell him the way to get us to deeper water. Dusty wholeheartly agrees.
Dusty pulls us off without a hitch... he then yells for me to continue steering while tethered to him until he takes us around ANOTHER shoal (one we didn't know about!) before we can get back to deep water.
I just look at Bill.
So we anchor right off Punta Rassa in 17 ft. of water right off the main channel that goes
to the Sanibel Island Bridge.
We set two anchors and are snug as bugs for the night. Bill says, "I'm nervous about being this
close to the channel. I think I'll just stay up and keep watch."
Five minutes into watching "Ghostbusters," Bill is out like a light. There will be no
watch tonight... but, I set both those anchors and I know we're dug in deeper than an Alabama tick. (Love that line Jessie Ventura says in "Predator... did you know that there were three gubernatorial candidates in that movie? Yup, sure was... Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jessie Ventura, and Sonny Landham [Kentucky (R) 2002] (you know, he played the Indian guy) and of course you know that two of 'em actually won and were elected governors!).
Next morning we're just fine. Anchors held beautifully. So now we're off to Ft. Myers Beach,
just five miles away. We have to contact the Bridge Tender to open the Sanibel Island
Bridge so we can cross through.
We're hauling up the anchors and put the VHS on Channel 9 so we can hear what is said to the Bridge Tender and see if he actually opens every half-hour as the Cruising Guide says.
At least the Guide got that right. The Bridge will open at 1:00 and it's 20 min. til. Plenty of time to get there.
The wind was blowing 20 knots and the strength of the current was not evident at that time. But soon as I realized I was going 1.5 knots with the motor flat out at 2500 RPM's...
"We ain't gonna make it in time." Bill announces.
It's gonna be close. So I just continue at that speed and make it to the Bridge by 1:30... and still had a hell of a time getting September Sea clear of that Bridge. We couldn't have been
going more than a half knot... the current under the Bridge was wicked, to say the least. Then the seas on the other side of the Bridge were a Sphincter Factor of about TEN.
Finally cleared the Bridge and we're on our way to the marina on Ft. Myers Beach. Suddenly the waves kicked up, the seas were contrary and angry, the wind speed read 32 knots.
Oh hell no.
I run down the companionway and get to my computer. I turn it on and get Weather Bug up
and running just in time to see:
"Severe Weather Warning" for ALL of Central Florida" (dat's us, folks). Including Charlotte
Harbor and Ft. Myers Beach/Ft. Myers. It said conditions likely for tornados which could bring with them... 3 inch hail and high seas... with winds at 70 knots. Yup. SEVENTY.
I run back up to the cockpit and am telling Bill this and he says, "The NOAA forecast said nothing about this. It's suppose to be 10-15 knots today. That's all."
I told him what he could do with his SUPPOSE.
We beat our heads in all the way to the channel entrance to the marina. Bill was at the helm as I saw the boat go up in the air like a flying dinghy and come crashing down... BOOM! Big Time.
Everything stayed in place... most thankfully... but we were taking a beating, a ridiculous beating. As we got closer to the marina we could turn our stern more to the waves and
ride without such trauma (or do I mean drama?).
As we enter the channel, we see a 26-footer coming out, a sloop.. full of people in heavy
jackets shivering in the cockpit... and they're going OUT... they look scared and stupid.
On the side of the boat in big letters it read, "Offshore Sailing School." HUH??
They should have gotten a refund. Dayam. What were those people NOT thinking?? Bet they don't have Weather Bug!
We made it to the hard right turn to get back to the Ft. Myers Beach Marina. But it's
not marked well back here. You look like you're going under a Bridge and you're not.
The marina runs parallel to the Bridge and you have to go to the right of a fuel dock. There's a guy by one of the many docks and he hollers for us to turn the corner and take the first open slip. We turn the corner and then I turn into the slip... gliding away, been in neutral.
I'm easing into the slip and something hits me from behind... a 25 knot wind blows me into the slip... I put her into reverse and the engine dies.
I'm flying into this slip and two guys are yelling at the top of their lungs "Slow down, Captain!"
Captain Charmaine yells, "I got no engine!"
Bill runs to get on a spring line fast to hold us back but it's too late... one guy heaves his shoulder and arms into the bows pulpit and succeeds in stopping our forward motion just as Bill is finishing a spring line to ensure the same.
Later I find out there is a very strong current that comes up from beneath the bridge, which is just behind the slip. Dayam. I shudda known that.
I was not going fast at all, but with the wind behind me and that strong current, with September Sea being a lightweight boat at just over 5 tons... SLOW was too fast!
I think we were so happy to get out of the weather and the lightning had just started cracking LOUDLY... dayam! Running from the frying pan into the fire is not a good thing. I should have kept better wits about me.
We were very, very fortunate. Whew! We got our lines on and were snugly in our slip. Dayam! I made sure to knock on fiberglass after it was all over.
"Bill, why did the engine die and not start?"
Bill says, "The idle needs to be adjusted. It's letting you idle farther down than you should. When you go to put her back in gear from neutral, she died."
Prolly cause of that rope in the prop... just a mess, anyway ya look at it. (sigh)
These events could have been horribly disastrous, but then again, we're sailors! Somehow we make it through.
Bill is fixing the idle as I type this. He can't watch the Super Bowl unless it's FIXED!! How's that for good timing? LOL And what's up with The Rolling Stones doing the half-time show? It's in the MOTOR CITY!! MOTOWN!! Unreal. Should have been a Motown Revue to die for..
I seen 'em all "Do-Whoppin'" on those Infomercials all night long, they ain't doing nothing... TEMPT ME with The Temptations why doncha ya!
"Papa was a rolling stone, wherever he laid his hat was his home. And when he died... all he left us was alone." That's all the Rolling Stone I wanna hear at the Superbowl in DETROIT!!
What were they thinking??
Dayam. Janet messed it up for all the brothers and sisters out there. Hahaha. Guess they figure they'd get heavyweights Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville... uh huh. See,
with heavyweights, you don't have to worry about "wardrobe malfunctions," 'cause they make dayam sure their clothes stay on... EVEN if they gotta add a safety pin or two! LOL
Believe me, I know what I'm talking about (Charmaine just remembers to add GET SAFETY PINS to her Honey-Do List).
ANYway... since we have to be sure to be in cell phone/internet work zone range by Monday, and we have a be offshore for a long, long time past Little Shark River and therefore no commicado... we're going to stay here at the Ft. Myers Marina until Thursday or Friday, then we'll have plenty of time to get back to Marathon without worrying about not being able to work while we're making the passage.
We do have our satellite phone for emergencies, so no worries.
It's been a great trip with lots of learning, to say the least. The thing about sailing is that the wind, the water, the boat all have to be in harmony. And it's never the same twice. Each time is a new experience. We're fortunate to have stayed out of harm's way and learned
valuable lessons without injury to us or to September Sea.
Hope all is well with everyone. We miss you all so much!
Talk with yaz soon!
And... ENJOY SUPERBOWL XL !!
Charmaine (& Bill) Aboard s/v September Sea
"Life's a Gift... Unwrap It!" - C~
Ft. Meyers Beach & Marina
Search September Sea's Website