Thursday, June 22, 2017

Secure in Fishermen's Village Marina

Mike, Brenda, Don and Gail

Wrinkles and Island Tyme arrived safely in Punta Gorda after a fantastic and rewarding journey together. The exclusive "My Little Pig Yacht Club" members posed for the above photo to commemorate the end of the trip. Island Tyme is now tied up in her slip behind her owner's condo while Wrinkles is tucked away in a slip at Fishermen's Village Marina.

Wrinkles

Don and Gail will be checking on Wrinkles as Mike and Brenda travel to Wisconsin for their youngest son's wedding. It makes it much easier to leave Wrinkles knowing she will be lovingly looked after.

We will be posting our thoughts on the cruise including; highlights, favorite stops, provisioning, boat equipment, budgeting, phone service and more in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Coming Full Circle

Wrinkles in her slip

On our last night in Pelican Bay we were greeted with the sight of "Scout" motoring in and dropping their anchor next door to us. We met Beth and Stan in Boot Key Harbor last winter. We truly enjoyed their company and were excited to have run into them again. After securing their catamaran they dinghied over for sundowners and getting caught up on each other's travels. You meet the nicest people out there cruising.

"Scout"

 

Leaving Pelican Bay

Mike blew the conch and Don played Amazing Grace as the sun set on our last night of this trip. It was touching as always, but a bit (no, a lot) sad. We have been sailing side by side with Don and Gail now for 3 months and it has made our trip so much more pleasurable. They have become some of our dearest friends since we met them in February of 2016. We can't picture our Bahamas trip without them and their great senses of humor. Thank you two for helping us create so many fantastic memories.

As we awoke, a nice 7 knot breeze was blowing in our rigging. Oh boy, we get to sail today. The weather had finally cleared with blue skies and puffy white clouds. Sweet! Mike popped his head outside and the companionway to see the real live sunshine. But wait he thought, the wind is from the northeast. Guess what direction we needed to sail today. That's right, directly into the w

ind again. Mike and Don found this new wind direction funny enough that they started working on some new lyrics for a sailing song. They are going to call it "Yanmar Winds". Stay tuned, we'll post the silly ditty when we finish it up.

We saw this a lot on this trip

We motored across Charlotte Harbor toward our slip in Fishermen's Village. Eventually Island Tyme veered east toward their slip behind their condo. It was difficult to see that boat going in a different direction than Wrinkles. Every trip has to come to a close sooner or later. Even if we never sail with Don and Gail again we will always be keeping in contact with them. Yes Tina, mom was crying.

We approached Fishermen's Village knowing the boat traffic was going to be a zoo. Saturday is National Marina Day which means free slips for about 30 boats for the weekend. We saw a line of 5 boats heading into the channel leading to the marina. The captain's were all hailing the dockmaster for their slip numbers and asking for help catching their lines. The dockmaster tried his best to keep the boats organized, but two more boats came flying in and butted into the line and really messed things up. All of the captains were trying to talk on their radios at the same time which just added to the confusion.We waited for a break in the conversations and hailed the dockmaster to tell him that were would just hang out away from the madness and that he could call us when he was ready for us.

Eventually everyone got into their slips and then we were told to motor in. We slowly made our way in and executed a perfect docking without any drama. Hard to believe it went so smoothly with so many people watching from their boats and on the docks. Wrinkles had come full circle on her trip. We left Fishermen's Village nearly nine months ago sailing the Florida Keys, Bahamas and then back through the Keys before returning up the west coast of Florida to Punta Gorda. Well done Wrinkles. You performed amazingly well and kept us safe and comfortable throughout our travels.

 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sanibel to Charlotte Harbor

Near Captiva Pass

When we awoke at our Ding Darling anchorage the weather looked ominous. Dark ugly skies just as forecasted. The wind was relatively light and the radar images showed most of the ugly stuff north and south of our course, so we decided to move to Pelican Bay in Charlotte Harbor. As Mike was raising the anchor the Coast Guard issued a small craft warning for nearly the entire western coast of Florida. Brenda wanted to immediately cancel our move today, but after checking the radar one more time she hesitantly agreed to go.

Oh boy!

We watched the radar closely and kept tabs on where we could safely anchor along the way should a storm cell come directly toward us. We motorsailed the 18 miles in 3.5 hours never getting more than some light rain. Those big ugly black clouds tracked almost parallel to our course the entire way. We entered Pelican Bay (one of our favorite anchorages) and set the anchor in 7 feet of water. Half an hour later the skies opened up and dumped water on us. Good timing!

Pelican Bay

Brenda was relieved to be safely anchored and a bit proud of herself for "putting on her big girl panties" today. Mike was pretty proud of her as well. We used our judgement and felt the sail would be safe and result in a more secure anchorage to wait out what looked to be a three day thunderstorm roaring across the Gulf Of Mexico.

As soon as the weather breaks we will finish the last leg of this trip. We have four hours of sailing to get Wrinkles into her slip at Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda. It was time to get a good book out and listen to the storm's pass over us.

 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Naples to J. N. "Ding" Darling (Sanibel)

Sanibel Causeway Bridge

After spending the night anchored among all the multi-million dollar homes in Naples we headed out the channel for our final day in the Gulf of Mexico. We had 30 miles to cover to our anticipated anchorage near Sanibel. The national wildlife refuge in Pine Island Sound is named after the cartoonist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. He won two Pulitzer Prizes and signed his work "D'ing" which is where the nickname "Ding" apparently came from. He also started the federal duck stamp program and was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation.

Last leg of the Gulf of Mexico

Once we left the Gulf of Mexico and headed inland on the GIWW we ran headlong into a strong current. Wrinkles was giving everything she had and we were only doing 3.1 knots. We motored under the Sanibel Causeway Bridge which was our last bridge of this trip. Once boaters turn west they encounter what is referred to as "The Miserable Mile" section of the inland waterway. This stretch is quite narrow and the water is very thin which gives us very little wiggle room as we pass boats headed the other direction. Every weekend warrior who can rent, buy, borrow or steal a watercraft does so and brings them to this stretch of water to wreak havoc. Untrained drivers with absolutely no knowledge of Colregs or sense of responsibility go crazy cutting in front of each other while the megaboats merrily throw the biggest wake they can to show how impressive they are. Near collisions are just part of the experience. We unfortunately ended up doing this stretch of water in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. Good planning Captain!

Island Tyme headed under the bridge

After some close calls and some frayed nerves we made it past "The Miserable Mile" and resumed merrily sailing along. As we neared our anchorage at "Ding" Darling Mike was frustrated to find that his Garmin BlueChart chip had a dead spot which went right through the approach and anchorage area. Nothing but a gray background color to sail by. This is not what you want when you are navigating shallow waters and picking out a suitable spot to drop your anchor. Fortunately Brenda loves her paper charts and as usual was keeping track of our progress on the chart. She used the chart and the compass to guide Wrinkles in and drop the anchor. A good lesson for beginner sailors out there.

 

The weather forecast didn't look good for the next several days. A larger thunderstorm system was catching up to us as it traveled northeast out over the Gulf. We would have to wait until the next morning to see if we could move again.

 

Indian Key To Naples

Heading into Naples anchorage

After waiting at anchor for an extra day while a large weather system went across the Gulf of Mexico, we were anxious to get sailing again. Mike was disappointed with the lack of wind forecasted for the sail, but it was time to move along. At 9 a.m. We set sail heading south of west to clear the Cape Romano Shoals before heading north to Naples.

We started out moving pretty slowly due to some tidal current, but eventually enough wind came to help Wrinkles pick up a little speed. Once we cleared the Shoals the Gulf current added some more speed which made the sail much more enjoyable. We took advantage of some westerly winds to get Wrinkles sailing along at 5.7 to 6.4 knots. Traveling by sailboat is so much more enjoyable when you actually get to sail.

The winds came and went which meant putting sails up and down a few times, but overall we had a really nice trip. Once we were within 8 miles of Naples we slowed Wrinkles down on purpose to time our entry into Naples at the beginning of a rising tide. There isn't a lot of water in these anchorages, so a rising tide gives us some insurance if we should "temporarily park on some sand".

Naples

Don and Gail had anchored here, so they led us in. We dropped anchor in a tight little canal that could maybe fit three sailboats in it. Nice neighborhood! Don dropped his dinghy and rowed over to collect two empty water jugs from us which he rowed back to his boat and filled with fresh water for us. He even brought Mike a cold beer both times he arrived at Wrinkles. We have been sailing side by side with Don and Gail since March 12th and have been together nearly every day since. It is amazing how much fun we have had with them and how compatible we we have been. There are very few couples in this world who can spend this much time together and still enjoy each other's company every day. We feel so very fortunate to have pulled into that slip next to theirs over a year ago in Clearwater.

Tomorrow we sail to the J.N. "Ding" Darling (Brenda calls it Ding Dong Darling) anchorage near Sanibel Island. After that we sail just 18 miles to Pelican Bay in Charlotte Harbor and finally 20 miles to Punta Gorda which will complete this season's trip.

 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Grassy Key to Shark River to Indian Key

Grassy Key was to be our last anchorage in the Florida Keys. We sailed north to the Florida mainland as we headed home. "Home" is now a strange thought to us. What is home? For two years it has been wherever Wrinkles was at the time. Since we really don't have a firm plan for our future, home is in limbo. We believe we will continue to live aboard Wrinkles for another winter, but after that who knows. Let's just continue having fun aboard Wrinkles while we can and let our future create itself.

The sail across the Florida Bay was uneventful and very relaxing. At one point we were in eight feet of water, but couldn't see any land in any direction. We also commented on the color of the water. Its emerald green. That's pretty, but we miss the Bahamian blues and turquoises and teals and being able to see bottom. We hadn't stopped at Shark River on our way down, but Don and Gail had anchored there previously. We followed them into the anchorage and dropped our anchor. The spot is very tidal which caused Wrinkles to sit at odd angles to the wind and waves. A thunderstorm was brewing across the Gulf of Mexico causing the waves to grow a bit. Mike became concerned about our dinghy hanging on the davits in these conditions, so we put it up on the deck. Later the waves settled down and we had a decent night's sleep.

The next morning the weather looked better, so we pulled our anchors and headed to Indian Key. We enjoyed good winds, but we spent most of the day killing all the mosquitos that hitchhiked a ride from the Everglades. Our cockpit looked like a slaughterhouse. The Indian Key anchorage was a good spot for an overnight rest. There is nothing else there but nature and more mosquitos.

We awoke to a lousy weather forecast which called for thunderstorms out on the Gulf of Mexico. We decided to stay put and see if Saturday's weather would be better. We read books, played cards and just had a lazy day. It was kind of nice for a change.

Off to Naples we go.

 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Key Largo to Islamorada

We left Key Largo late in the morning to take advantage of high tide through Dusenbury Creek and Grouper Creek. These two creeks are kind of scary as they don't show much water depth on our charts. It turned out that we should have been more concerned with all the Memorial Day power boat idiots. No matter how little room there is these captains revel in showing off how fast they can pass a sailboat and then turn their heads as they pass to see how big of wake they managed to throw our way. There are some courteous ones, but there are far more jerks. One power boat passed us in the tiny creek so fast and close they managed to push their wake up and over Island Tyme's deck.

Stormwatch band was awesome!
Recycled scuba tank
Lorelei's dock
Sunset at Loreleis
Funky boat in small marina behind Lorelei's Restaurant

Once we dropped our anchors in the bay by Islamorada we agreed not to sail again until the Memorial Day throng had left. We spent Saturday through Monday in Islamorada checking out the Lorelei Bar and Restaurant, live music, two local breweries and a bus trip to West Marine in Key Largo. What a fun and relaxing stay it was. We spent far too much money at Lorelei, but those Bushwackers, Key Lime Coladas and Mango Dacquaris were to hard to resist!

Islamorada is probably the last place in the Keys that we will step ashore. One stop for an overnight anchorage outside Grassy Key will be the end of the Keys for this season. After Grassy Key we sail north to Shark River in the Florida Everglades. Cross your fingers for some favorable winds.

 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Key Biscayne to Key Largo

Gilbert's Resort

After a good night's sleep we needed to move our boats based on the weather forecast. Strong southerly winds with ugly thunderstorms is not the kind of forecast any sailor wants to see. We picked an anchorage at Jew Point near Key Largo as it offered good protection from south and southwest winds. Of course that meant we wAnd ould be sailing directly into the south winds which meant motoring for 25 miles.

As we left our anchorage by No Name Harbor we passed Stiltsville. It sure looks strange to see homes built on pilings out in the middle of a bay. This portion of our route allowed us to put up our sails and fly along in the 15 knot winds. As soon as we turned south, directly into the wind, the fun came to an end. Putt, putt, putt. Mike is really tired of that sound.

Stiltsville
Stiltsville
Mangroves near Jew Point

We arrived at Jew Point and let out 100' of chain in anticipation of the strong winds to come the next two days. Between rain storms we went for a dinghy ride in the mangrove lined creeks. There wasn't much animal life, but the scenery was beautiful. Brenda loved seeing the mangrove roots grabbing anything solid in the water as they did their job of building bases and filtering water.

Mangrove roots working away

Once the thunderstorms passed through after a couple of days we were finally able to pick up our anchors and get moving south again. Wrinkles was down to 1-2 days of diesel, so we headed toward an anchorage just 11 miles away off Gilbert's Resort where there was a fuel dock. We had tried to top off in Bimini, but the island was out of diesel. Putt, putt, putt right into the wind.

Don and Mike took all their diesel jugs in the dinghies to the fuel dock. Upon returning to the boats they found both Brenda and Gail sweltering in the heat. The breeze had stopped and the temperature was at 88 degrees, Real Feel of 111 degrees. We quickly cleaned up and headed to Gilbert's Resort for some well deserved cold beverages.

Cool derelict sailboat
Gilbert's Resort

Gilbert's Resort had live entertainment, cold drinks and some tasty food. We truly enjoyed ourselves listening to the music in the shade by a big fan. Mike bought a bag of ice to take back to the boat which is a true treat. Unfortunately when we got back to Wrinkles we realized the bag of ice was still on the dock melting away. Then we remembered that we had also forgotten our leftovers on the table. Geez, what happened to our short term memory?

Don realizing he forgot the kill switch key

The next day we planned to pass along the shallowest stretch of the ICW. None of us was looking forward to that.

 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Crossing Back To Florida From Bimini

Brenda getting one last shelling walk in.

The time had finally come for us to let go of the docklines and cross the Gulf Stream from Bimini back to Florida. We celebrated one last time at the Thirsty Turtle with pizza and drinks. We were joined by Don and Gail (Island Tyme), Rick and Candice (Wings) and Billy and Kathleen (Efandee). We made plans for a 6 a.m. departure anticipating low winds and 2-3' seas. The early departure gave us 14 hours of daylight to cross over to either Key Biscayne or Miami. We (Wrinkles and Island Tyme) hoped to be able to reach No Name Harbor (Key Biscayne area), but it all depended upon the speed of the Gulf Stream current.

Island Tyme under full sail crossing the Gulf Stream

The winds were a gentle 7 knots from the south and the waves flowing north in the current were just what we expected. We motorsailed all day averaging just 4.8 knots. That current can really slow a boat down as our compass was usually 25 degrees different than our GPS heading. There were lots of monster commercial ships going north and south which we kept close tabs on. We only had to maneuver a couple of times to make sure we weren't going to get run over. The sun was shining and the boats were both happily sailing along.

We eventually spotted the high rise buildings of Miami off to the west which truly signaled the end of the Bahamas portion of this trip. The winds picking up to 10-12 knots helped improve our progress. We motored into Key Biscayne and found spots to drop our anchors just outside No Name Harbor. That was as pleasant a crossing as we could have hoped for. We were pleased to have arrived by 4:45 p.m. allowing us time to report to the U.S. coast Guard that we had arrived. We had signed up for the Local Boater Option which allowed us to call in rather than report in person. Well, at least that is the way it is supposed to work. Brenda called in and listened to the automated phone message telling her to select "Local Boater Option participant without a float plan". She selected that option and then was rudely treated by the officer who answered. He claimed she hadn't announced we were Local Boater Option participants even though she did give him Mike's LBO number. The officer refused to take the information and told us we had 24 hours to report in person and then he hung up. Welcome back to the USA.

Anchorage near No Name Harbor

 

We called in again and got a different officer who very politely reopened our file and simply typed in our LBO numbers and said "You are all set. Have a nice day." We wonder what kind of a bad day that first officer was having. OK, a cold drink, a little food and off to bed.

 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Enjoying Bimini

Wrinkles behind Island Tyme

We arrived at Bimini Sands Marina in South Bimini on Thursday after an 8 hour sail. We like this marina better than the ones on North Bimini because it offers more protection from the current and it has floating docks. In addition it has bathrooms with showers (good but not great), laundry room (currently out of order), restaurant (not open til summer), Ship's Store (not open but being stocked), fuel dock (it works), swimming pool by office (very nice), infinity pool with bar/food service (awesome) and a beach. We keep saying this place has all the pieces and the location to be one hopping place. As it is, not so much. They have just received new management so maybe they will start taking steps to perk it back up.

For our needs, the place is fine. Our boats are safe and we enjoy the pools. We can walk about 1/3 mile to the ferry dock and get a ride to North Bimini for $2 each. The ride is only a few minutes long and then you have all of the shops, bars and beaches within walking distance. Oh, can't forget that Charlie's Bread is within walking distance as well. That is VERY important. The one negative is the blasted no-see-ums or sand flies as the locals call them. Each dawn and dusk they come out and attack. Regular screens do not stop them as they simply crawl right through the openings. We have added some tulle fabric to some of our screens which is a fine enough mesh to stop the little monsters. People use bug spray, Skin-So -Soft, etc. to ward them off, but nothing works for more than a very short time. The best defense is loose fitting clothes, strong wind or a fan.

We have enjoyed the infinity pool and the regular pool already as well as one trip to North Bimini. Yes, we bought two loaves of Charlie's bread on board. One Bimini bread and one coconut bread. Mike made Brenda Bimini bread French toast for her Mother's Day breakfast. Mike also cooked up some Blue Runner using a Long John Silver's type recipe to make fish bites as an appetizer for sundowners with Island Tyme. Yummm. We spend our time reading, doing boat projects, walking the docks looking at all the fish (Mike is constantly telling Brenda to be careful as this is where she broke her arm) and just enjoying our lives.

Fish Bites

We have been watching the weather for a window to cross back over the Gulf Stream. We aren't sure if we want a window to open or not. We enjoy it here.