8 February, 2015
February 5th at Pelican Bay, Costa Cayo State Park. We had a comfortable evening, although there was a pretty stiff breeze and lots of thunderstorms rolling through. The anchor held well, and we made some electricity with the pair of wind generators. Even though it was windy with showers blowing through in the morning, the radar looked like we were done with the worst of it, so we dropped the dink and headed to shore. Most of Cayo Costa (LaCosta Island) is State Park, and we looked forward to some hiking there. When we got to shore there were about 20 campers huddled under the shelter waiting for the ferry to bring them back to the mainland and dry clothes. I like boat camping. As we started across the island, several mini squalls blew through on a 20 knot breeze. The beach on the Gulf side of the island was deserted, and the wind was blowing the mist sideways. We took the trail paralleling the beach and walked North past 8 or 10 little one room shacks with screened porches that could be rented by the day or week. Raised off the ground, they looked preferable to spending a rainy night in a tent. By the end of the day, we had pretty much hiked every trail that the park had to offer, the sun had come out and the wind died down. We explored our bay in the tender while having a few sips, looking for manatees in a small cove that was supposedly infested with them-no joy.
The following day, we took the tender over to Cabbage Key, 2 miles distant, to have lunch at the bar. It was purportedly the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s tune, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. The cheeseburgers weren’t that great, but it was a colorful joint, being wallpapered with dollar bills-thousands of them. The story goes that when fishermen headed out in the morning, they would tape a dollar bill to the wall to guarantee a cold beer waiting upon their return. Don’t know if it’s true, but over the years, everyone and their brother have contributed to the décor (estimates are in the tens of thousands of $$). This place has the “Soggy Dollar” on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands beat, hands down. Sunny and 65 degrees, we took a short walk on the trails there, and a slow boat ride back to the Girl. The past few days of exploration of our bay in the tender begged the question, “How did we get in here without bumping the bottom?” We resolved to leave at high tide when departing the following day.
Saturday morning, and the sun was out in full force, although it was still pretty windy. High tide wasn’t until around 1500, so we took the tender, “White Star” across the Boca Grande pass the 4 or 5 miles north to Boca on Gasparilla Island to see how the other half lived. We had a fun time eating lunch at “The Pink Elephant” restaurant, cruising the shops and walking the beach doing the tourist thing. Back to the boat by 1430, we were anchor up and tippy-toeing out of the anchorage by 1451. No bumps, plenty of water going out. Heading through the channel, you literally have “one foot on the beach”-hundreds of yards of SHALLOW water on one side, ten yards away from the beach on the other. We didn’t have far to go, as our plan had us anchoring just off the Intracoastal in the lee of Useppa Island, a scant 2 miles away, putting us in position for our run to Fort Myer’s Beach the following day. We dropped the hook a hundred yards or so from an anchored sailboat, and were joined by 2 others before sundown.
By 0715 on Sunday, we were anchor up and on our way to Fort Myer’s Beach. Wow, what a difference the day of the week makes. As we neared F.M.B., the boat traffic increased exponentially, and the lack of boating etiquette with it. The Admiral called ahead to the Matanzas Inn folks who run the mooring balls, and found that we were right on the edge as far the capacity of the balls regarding size went. They were also quite far from town so we opted to stay at their dock. Luckily, they had one space that could accommodate the Girl. Communicating with the young lady (sounded Eastern European) was difficult, but with the help of Google Earth, we were able to spot the wall “Right next to the orange umbrellas”. She assured us that it was 8’ deep next to the wall, but motoring in with a 2 knot current, and the fathometer heading south of 6’, we had our doubts. Just as we started to block out the sun for all the folks eating their lunch under the aforementioned orange umbrellas, a guy runs out and yells to us (he could have spoken in a normal voice-we were that close) that he’s pretty sure that we’re supposed to be at the end of the face dock next to the channel. We back out, sending whorls of mud up from the bottom, and head to the face, where Myriam is standing between 2 blue boats in her blue jeans and blue polo shirt, ready to catch our lines. On our way up to her office at the Matanzas Inn, where she doubles as the receptionist, we discuss the finer points of giving directions to the dock. Anyway, no harm no foul. The rent’s paid by noon, so we have the rest of the day to explore.
-A plus tard