Monday, April 25, 2016

Neapolitan Cruise

I am again typing underway, just a half mile off the west coast of Florida. We are just passing Naples; we've visited there more than once in the bus, so it is not worth making a very challenging shoal-water entrance to access the extremely limited anchorages there. We'll continue north to the protected waters behind Sanibel Island instead.

Naples from offshore. No sign of Sorrento or Capri...

Friday afternoon we dropped the hook inside Everglades National Park, at the mouth of Ponce De Leon Bay and the Little Shark River, nearly a mile offshore (map). We had planned to travel another mile and a half to a protected anchorage in the river, marked on our charts. We certainly could have done that; depths are 8' MLLW all the way in, and 11' or so in the anchorage, and we arrived at nearly high tide with another three and a half feet under us.

Leaving the keys for Shark River. That's Moser Channel and the Seven Mile Bridge behind us.

What stopped us in our tracks offshore was bugs. Had we arrived here even a month or so earlier, we probably could have spent a lovely night among the mangroves. But the bug season has started, and numerous reviewers related that they are plentiful and vicious. We have screens, but many of the worst bugs here can pass right through them. I would probably fare OK, but Louise, who is considered a delicacy in the bug world, would be eaten alive, or possibly carried back to the nest.

As we approached we could see boats in the anchorage upriver, but we resisted the temptation. Reviewers had said that the bugs started a full mile offshore and recommended remaining at least that far for the most bug-free experience. With steady winds out of the east, we figured they'd have trouble detecting us (although a free ride to catch us), so we took a chance on coming in another quarter mile. With only three quarters of a mile of fetch, we had relative calm at anchor, and it was nearly flat overnight. I'm sorry we did not get to see more of the Shark River; perhaps we'll pass this way again outside of bug season.

Marco Island from sea.

We awoke to a bit of pitching as the seas picked up in the morning, and so we prepared to get under way without delay. Our next planned stop was an anchorage in Russell Pass, just off the Indian Key Pass channel leading to Everglades City. As we looked at the charts and read anchorage reviews, we realized we would face the exact same bug problem there as well. We had no plans to go ashore at Everglades City -- we've been there before and there's not a lot to see, plus it's a loooong tender ride. Realizing our anchorage offshore at Ponce De Leon cut at least a half hour off our route, and with an early start, we opted to press on ahead to Marco Island instead.

That made for a long day Saturday, with a 54-nm cruise. Bypassing the Russell Pass stop did cut twenty miles off the total, as the enormous Cape Romano Shoals make for a circuitous departure to the north. We made Capri Pass, the inlet to Marco Island, by 5pm, and dropped the hook off-channel at the entrance to the Big Marco River (map), across from the Snook Inn and Pelican Pier, by 5:30. Before arriving I had forgotten that it was Saturday, and it was boats akimbo from the sea buoy all the way to the anchorage. Seas in the gulf had picked up to three feet with a short period by the time we made the inlet, and we were happy to be in protected water.

Vector anchored at Marco Island, as seen from the Snook Inn. The heavy current makes her appear under way.

We splashed the tender and rode over to the Snook Inn for dinner. In the time it took us to anchor and get the dinghy ready, the sheriff's patrol pulled over two boats for speeding just a couple hundred yards from us -- dinner and a show.  The restaurant has customer dockage, busy at lunch but nearly empty at dinner time. We enjoyed a nice meal in the dining room, opting to skip the hour-long wait for the patio. We had a window table and could see dolphins coming right up to the docks and hamming it up for the tourists gathered there; we might as well have been at Sea World except these were wild animals that had figured out how to fleece the tourists all on their own. Dolphins are incredibly smart.

The courtesy docks at Snook Inn. These people are watching the dolphins frolic while waiting for their tables.

The forecast for Sunday was more of the same, short steep waves, and we decided to just sit it out right where we were. We both enjoyed a day of downtime after our full-day cruise. In the evening we made the half-hour tender ride through the canals and bays of Marco Island to tie up at Winn-Dixie's very own dock. From there we walked to Gino's restaurant for a nice Italian dinner before stocking up on a few necessities at Winn-Dixie. Grocery stores are seldom this close to a dock.

This morning's escort.

We returned to Vector to find a couple of other boats in the anchorage, which we had all to ourselves Saturday night. This morning we weighed anchor in time to catch the last of the ebb, clearing the Coconut Island bar by just under two feet at low tide. Seas in the gulf today are calm, and we've already had a two-dolphin escort for part of the trip.

I would be remiss if I did not mention here that Louise has started her own blog to cover her quilting activities. I think she did not want to expose her quilt followers to my endless droning about boat repairs. She's already copied over the relevant posts from here (they're still here, too) so interested readers can find all her quilt-related posts in one place, at Quilt Odyssey (natch).

I spent a half hour Sunday driving around Vector taking pictures for Louise's new blog about pretzels quilts.

This afternoon we should be anchored in the protected waters behind Sanibel Island. From there we have the option of traveling a protected inside route along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. (There's an inside route from Marco Island to Naples, too, but it's too shallow for Vector.)

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