A Change in Plans…

For those who know we are cruising the west coast of Florida, you’ll notice that the land in this photo is on our starboard side. That’s right, we’re sailing north rather than south.

We anchored for 4 days in Smokehouse Bay at Marco Island. I spent that time nursing my cold (I’m feeling much better though I have a cough that doesn’t want to seem to leave me) and Ron diagnosed another dead solar panel controller (this is the third controller that has failed in four seasons with this boat).

With another cold front approaching with strong northerly winds forecast, we decided to do a bit of exploring ahead of the front’s arrival. Claiborne Young’s cruising guide for the west coast of Florida calls the Little Marco Island anchorage (the southern two thirds of a creek leading to Hurricane Pass) “a near ideal heavy weather anchorage.” 

The marked channel reminded us a lot of the ICW that winds through the Everglades, on one’s way to the Florida Keys: narrow channels of “deep” (sometimes 8 feet!) water with lots of mangrove islands and “flats” just off the channels. 

We found a pretty spot for anchoring and proceeded to settle in for a nice day of sun and relaxation. However, we discovered very quickly that there are many (MANY!) boat rentals from the many resorts in this area, and the channel we were anchored along (for the best protection) was out of the “No Wake” zone. This meant probably 100 powerboats sped by our anchored boat, sending us rocking uncomfortably most of the day. 

However, by 1700, most of those runabouts had headed back to port and we were left alone to enjoy the quiet, the birds, the dolphins, and a clear starry night. It was a beautiful evening.

Overnight, the marine forecast upped the wind strength as well as the chances of severe thunderstorms for later in the day. Once the wind shifted to the north, they were forecasting northerly winds again for the next week or more. Hmmmm. We began wondering if north winds blow water out of the Little Marco River like they do Charlotte Harbor (some local knowledge that we learned this year that may explain issues we had at the end of last season). Maybe sitting back in this little anchorage with about 2 miles of winding narrow channels with “skinny” (shallow) areas wasn’t the wisest of choices. We decided not to chance it. The morning was so calm, sunny, warm–a gorgeous day.

As we made our way out of the River, we discussed whether we wanted to head back to Smokehouse Bay (our original plan and a good anchorage where we have ridden out a nasty storm in a previous year), or did we want to go in a direction we could sail? Yes, let’s sail! We had a light south breeze and so we motored out of the inlet, turned north, and unfurled our sail. It was a slow sail, but Naples wasn’t far. By 1500, as the wind began increasing, we had visited Naples City Dock where we had pumped out, topped off our water tanks, and then settled in on a mooring. And by evening, as we watched and listened to the approaching storms, we were feeling very relieved with our decision to move back up to Naples for a few days. As you can see by all the “special marine warning” boxes on radar, it was a very active weather night!

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