As we promised ourselves, this winter we are traveling rather than staying in one place. We launched Prairie Dog just after the first of the year, as soon as the boatyard was back in operation from their holiday break, and left the dock within the hour, spending that evening anchored in the canals, waiting for a rising tide to make our way out of the lock and into Charlotte Harbor.
Our first stop was Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa Island. I spent the morning exploring the eastern shore in my new-to-me kayak, Prairie Pup. (Yes, she has a name!) It was a lovely paddle. We hoped to spend more time in Pelican Bay, but the next day’s forecast promised light SW winds and near calm winds overnight with nary a trace of north in them: perfect for an overnight anchorage at Ding Darling (Sanibel Island). And so we departed Pelican Bay late morning and I was paddling along the mangroves and into Tarpan Bay by mid-afternoon.
With a cold front approaching, promising strong winds and possible thunderstorms, we made our way to Fort Myers Beach and the mooring field in Matanzas Bay. It’s a place we’re used to riding out bad weather. This year, thankfully, appears to be more like the Florida winters we know from the past. Last winter over a month-long period, we rode out one severe storm after another. We saw lots of boaters giving up on travel and staying in one place. This season we’ve seen a couple of storms, one windstorm in the month we’ve been cruising, but most days have been lovely.
We stuck around Fort Myers Beach for just over 2 weeks. We had planned to stay about a week longer, but we had a good weather window to begin heading north and frankly, it felt good to move again. We had another perfect overnight for anchoring at Ding Darling (this time I paddled the other end of the anchorage), made the run back up to Pelican Bay for another night, and with heavier north winds forecast, left Cayo Costa and headed north across Charlotte Harbor to enter the ICW at Boca Grande. And then we slowed down.
One of my favorite spots is an anchorage off Don Pedro State Park. We stayed 3 nights. We dinghied across the ICW to the State Parks land base dock and I walked the half mile to the grocery store. (No sidewalks, no shoulder along this stretch of road so the walking isn’t ideal.) Ron had our empty propane tank (we have a propane stove and refrigerator) filled at the Ace Hardware across the street from the State Park entrance. I spent an afternoon kayaking one of the better kayak trails I’ve found, then kayaked to the beach side of the Park and walked the beach. I had the beach to myself. It was a great place to sit a few days.
When we left Don Pedro, we motored about an hour (accompanied by many dolphins!), then dropped our hook at the Englewood anchorage. This is another great stop as long as there are no heavy westerlies and boaters have land access via Indian Mound Park. The grocery store is a pleasant half mile walk through a lovely area of Englewood. We probably should have stayed another day or two.
Yesterday we raised anchor and headed north for Sarasota. We’ve made this trip twice with Thyme Hyssop & Wry, and it’s always been beautiful and protected. But it’s a motorboat ride–no thought of sailing–and depending on tide and resulting currents, can be hard timing bridge openings.
We really enjoy coastal cruising. This was the big deciding factor for moving to a trawler here in Florida. And yesterday we realized the advantage of not requiring a bridge opening, being able to drive (albeit very slowly) under most of the bridges we had to have opened for us aboard our sailboat.
We are in Sarasota for at least the next couple of weeks (Ron will stay here with the boat while I fly home next week for family business). We were last here in 2014, and at that time the mooring field was relatively empty. It’s changed a lot in 3 years. The mooring field is very full and the mooring we’ve been assigned is very exposed. We are hoping to be able to move a space or two in the next few days. We have the mooring space for up to a month, had planned to stay here 3 weeks, but may rethink that once I return from Michigan.–jes