We left Fort Myers Beach and motored south to Naples on a Gulf that couldn’t have been more calm, most of the wind was wind we were making. And then we got into the channel to Naples and I remembered what I hate about Naples. Some of the channel is signed as a “no wake” zone and boaters know that means NO WAKE (the Sheriff’s boat might be lurking right around the corner, watching). However, there are the other areas marked 30 mph (minimum wake outside the channel due to the manatees–tell me, how do manatees know to stay out of the channel???). Why is it that every boat that can go 30 mph chooses to open their throttle and fly through, throwing HUGE wakes to those of us who are putting along??? We deal with this on our sailboat; we deal with it on our trawler, in spades. Trawlers–this trawler–rolls something scary in large wake! But then we got to the Naples City Dock and I remember why I love Naples. The area may be a very wealthy and upscale, but the harbormaster and staff at the Naples City Dock could not be more welcoming, more accommodating, more inclusive. They have their rules: boaters MUST stop and pump out their holding tank, then secure their y-valve with the plastic tie they provide, before being assigned a mooring ball. You can take that time at the dock to fill your water tanks (no cost) or put on fuel if you wish. For an expensive area, mooring balls are just $10/night–a real bargain. However, again, there are rules: boaters are restricted to 4 consecutive nights, 8 nights in a month. That may be the reason we have never had a problem getting a mooring ball in Naples!
We spent our full 4 nights at Naples. We discovered a couple of weeks ago that Debra, one of our Duncan Bay Boat Club friends, spends winters at Naples and she insisted we contact her if we got in, that she’d give us a ride to the grocery store. And so we gave her a call and I spent a fun morning tooling around Naples in her convertible, checking out the farmer’s market, stocking up on groceries, and avoiding the St. Patrick’s Day parade route!
We were well entertained by a dolphin that seemed to take up residence around Prairie Dog. It may have had something to do with the fuzzy growth on our bottom attracting the fish food they love!
This winter’s weather has been more like the Florida winters we’re accustomed: pleasant light wind days, lots of sun with pleasant temperatures, then every week or so a couple days of high, gusty winds that keep us in port, on the boat. We stayed our 4-day-limit at Naples, planning to head south “on the inside” to Marco Island, stopping for a day or two at Rookery Bay. But the forecast was predicting a windshift to the NW and then winds “blowing stink” for a couple of days. We had never anchored at Rookery Bay, but we rode out a severe storm and then days of strong winds at Smokehouse Bay, at Marco Island, a few years ago. We know the area, we know it’s a secure anchorage with access to stores, and so we decided to put off anchoring at Rookery Bay for another season, heading straight to Marco Island.
We discovered after our last visit to Marco Island that we have friends from the Great Lakes Cruising Club who own a house not far from Smokehouse Bay where they spend their winters. Their younger daughters and our two kids spent memorable times together (creating mischief?) as young children when we were invited as families to the Chicago Club for the GLCC Board’s annual holiday weekend. It was a big treat to us as parents, perhaps more so for the kids. Once anchored in Smokehouse Bay, I contacted Terri who replied almost immediately. She and John picked us up at Winn Dixie’s dinghy dock and drove us to their house for an afternoon visit. It was great to catch up! Unfortunately, plans to get together the following day did not pan out as we were stuck aboard with the strong winds, but a day later they came by to visit us by boat.
And then we had a reprieve–a break in the winds for a couple of days–and so we got out of Smokehouse Bay and motored back up to Naples to finish out the remainder of the 8 days we were permitted. There had been a sailboat anchored at Marco Island when we arrived who had left the anchorage ahead of us that morning. They ended up at Naples with us and we joked about following one another. We thought they were Canadian, as the boat’s home port was Goderich. But in talking with them, we discovered the boat was brand new to them and they are actually from Bozeman, Montana. Ron’s sister and brother-in-law are from Bozeman. Talk about a small world: our new friends had longed to buy Marion and Toby’s boat, Darby McGraw, but missed out when it went up for sale. Talk about a small world!
We were well protected in Naples’ small mooring field for the next NW blow, enough that we felt very comfortable leaving the boat and walking the 1.5 miles for lunch at El Ricon de Mexico, a small restaurant we discovered on our visit to Naples a couple of years ago. We were the only caucasians, a good sign for its authenticity we think. Great tacos, though they were out of lamb. Ron enjoyed the beef tongue.
A word about Naples’ City Dock: The marina is closing May 1, 2017 to replace their old docks with floating docks. Their plan is to replace the main and fuel/pump out docks first, to enable their commercial clientele continue with their businesses (fishing and sailing charters). They hope to have their mooring field open again by next season, though they can’t guarantee mooring balls will remain at the current $10/day fee.
From Naples, it’s back to Fort Myers Beach for a week. Then it’s time to make our way back towards Charlotte Harbor, to the boatyard.