Cayo Costa paradise…

We spent a bliss-filled weekend in Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa Island. What a way to “end” our winter cruising season! The air was warm, the breezes mild, the nights dead calm (and no noseeums at anchor), the dolphins playful, and a first for us this season: three manatees came for a visit.

There were many, many boats at anchor. We counted 60 on Saturday night! We had to laugh at ourselves. If we had been in the North Channel, we would pass by this anchorage in a heartbeat: too many boats! In these parts, the boater doesn’t have much of a selection for protected anchorages, not the type of protection we are accustomed. Despite the high number of boats, there was still plenty of room (and only one boat anchored too close to us). We learned this past weekend at Pelican Bay was the start of Punta Gorda Sailing Club’s 3-week cruise, which explained all the local boats.

I kayaked, we took daily trips to shore ($2/person fee) for long walks along Cayo Costa’s many trails, and we visted the beautiful beach where I found my first “kittenpaw” shell.

This guy’s “mate” ran across the trail in front of us (while this one stayed behind, guarding its “den”):

The cacti were blooming…

…as was the coral bean:

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Several times a day we were checking the weather forecast for early in the week, trying to figure out how long we could plan to remain in this harbor. A year ago (nearly to the day) we had attempted to ride out a strong northerly, thinking we’d be protected from NW wind, but we discovered one cannot count on a forecast NW being more W than N or even NE. The large waves curled around the tip of the island and came straight down into the anchorage, making for a very uncomfortable couple of days. We took a chance during what we hoped was a lull in the wind and bumped our way out of the anchorage. Not fun.

Monday was looking okay, but winds were forecast to be N overnight, then veering SW or W and increasing to 20 knots by late morning before they veered NW, gusting over 30 knots. We needed to be in safe harbor by late morning on Tuesday. Oh, and did I mention the rain and thunderstorms forecast for 2 days? By this time we knew our scheduled haul-out was set for Tuesday, April 1. We needed to get to a marina for a pumpout before heading up to the lock and into the freshwater canal. As Ron checked marina rates, he discovered Burnt Store Marina had a weekly rate (cheaper for us than 4 days slip rental). Bingo! I called and yes, they had room for us. Didn’t take me much to convince Ron how much less stressful it would be to head into the marina yet that afternoon, while winds were light and Charlotte Harbor was calm. So what if we stayed 5 days or even 7? And so we raised anchor just as the rain began falling and motored to Burnt Store Marina. It was a good decision. We had hard rain and storms into the night, and yes, by 10 AM Tuesday morning, the west winds were howling. 

We’re still sitting out heavy winds but have North Channel sailing friends in the slip next to us and who have made this their home for the winter. Their vehicle is here and it’s been fun getting out of the community here and seeing what’s “outside.” It’s very nice being able to step off the boat and go walking. I finally am getting a chance of meeting my Fitbit’s daily 10,000 step goal. We are comfortable and safe, being entertained by the dolphins and manatee in the harbor (lots of manatee!). Once we get a good weather (wind) window–maybe Saturday? Sunday? Monday? (the forecast is really loopy right now!)–we’ll head north for the true end of our saltie season.

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