Fort Myers, Florida
Saturday February 5th, 2000
0100 Arrive in Fort Myers Florida - Mike picks me up and we drive to R's
0200 smoke on the dock at R's house - talk of many things - sleep on air mattress like a baby
0700 Awake and head for Punta Gorda in Mike's rented convertible
0900 Arrive and get checked out on boat "Inshallah" by the Mike's uncle Ron,
her owner.Other than about a foot of frayed main halyard things look good.
We get provisions, have lunch and load up
0100 Begin trying to get boat out of the mud
0300 High tide - finally succeed in casting off - I jump aboard just before boat is out of reach
Ron's last words: "So, what did you forget?" We laugh. Little did we know.
Motor South down the Peace river following channel to avoid shallows
Pass under I-75 and 2 railroad bridges. 38 foot mast - 44 foot clearance.
It looks close but we make it.
0430 Hoist main and begin tacking maneuvers at mouth of river.
I have an uneasy feeling. I want to proceed to Fisherman's Wharf
to secure a slip for the night. Mike insists we press on.
Mike notices the anchor is hanging somewhat precariously from the bow and suggests I bungee it.
Not 3 minutes later it falls, bouncing from the bungee. We laugh hysterically and I secure it more tightly.
Had we inadvertently dropped anchor at 5 knots things might have turned out differently.
0530 I realize there is no chance of making Cabbage Key by nightfall and am unwilling to sail at night on an uninsured vessel not belonging to me. I insist we turn back to Fisherman's wharf.
Mike agrees. He suggests a turn to port but I know it is too shallow. We turn to starboard.
Here I made a critical error in judgement. Instead of heading North to deep water I decide to make a bee line for the nearest mark. We draw 4 feet. Exact location unknown; depth sounder malfunctioning.
Mike is down below when I feel the first ground. I shout for him and before he gains the deck I have the sails down and tied off. We are now firmly aground, fortunately in sand. I know we can't motor off, but I let Mike try anyway. It becomes apparent right away that this is not possible. Then sun is going down and the tide is going out. I begin to panic. Mike suggests calling a mayday and I freak out. A brief discussion of marine radio etiquette ensues. I direct Mike to call "Attention all ships in North Charlotte's Bay, this is the Inshallah. We have run aground and require a tow, over?" We immediately receive a reply from SeaTow. We describe our type, size and location. Evidently they do a lot of business in that very spot. They arrive 5 minutes later in a small tow boat with a 350 hp engine. They snap the tow line twice
and drag us through 3 more sand bars, but finally we are free. Then things start to go wrong.
The running lights aren't working right. The alternator belt begins to squeal, then abruptly stops and the electric warning light goes on. We wonder if it powers the water pump. Fortunately not.
So, with no lights we follow SeaTow into Fisherman's wharf. Had they not had a spotlight on us we would've been creamed by a powerboat leaving the wharf.
Lesson learned: Don't take anyone's word that systems are working. Check EVERYTHING before casting off or don't depart. Depend upon yourself.
0900 Fisherman's Wharf. No dockmaster in sight and no open slips. At the recommendation of the SeaTow crew we tie up to the fuel dock in front of the "No Overnight Docking" sign and get a picture. I'm feeling bad about the whole incident when Barney (of SeaTow) says "Don't worry about it man. It happens to everyone. If you ain't been aground, you ain't been around. You could've ended up sleeping on the walls. Ask me how I know that." I feel much better until he says "$400 please." It is then that Mike discovers HIS WALLET is what we forgot. Fortunately I have my credit card and he doesn't have a machine. I expected it to clear, but it didn't. More on that later. We go to the bar for a bite and a beer. There are LOTS of hot girls and a HORRIBLE cover band called "Decibels" playing. We eat and leave. Mike immediately crashes out, but I can't sleep.
All night I repeatedly readjust the dock lines and fenders trying to make sure we don't beat the boat to death, or slip a line and drift into the 13 million dollar yacht next to us.
0700 the dockmaster shows up and is very nice. He understands all about breakdowns and emergency docking procedures. He guides us to the free dock at the south side of the marina.
We tie up, I try to get some sleep while he contacts Ron, gets his wallet and a new alternator belt.
He does a quick and excellent job at the repairs, and we get breakfast.
1100 We cast off for Cabbage Key again. We follow the marks to the head of North Charlotte Bay and raise only the main to Mike's dismay, but I am uncomfortable with gybing a jib sail.
We run smoothly down the bay at 3 knots with 2 well controlled gybes. On the 3d gybe I unwittingly give her too much rudder and we make a nice 360 degree penalty turn to my embarrassment.
We finish the run South and turn West at the far mark. as we pass the end of Gasparilla Island
(which is a natural windbreak) we are hit by heavy weather. The weather broadcast calls for 20-25 knot winds from the Northwest and 4-5 foot seas. It is every bit of that. I pull on a life vest and Mike laughs at me. Five minutes later he asks for one. I don my foul weather gear and am extremely glad I brought it because it is COLD. We are getting pounded. I want to drop sail and start motoring. Mike protests until I point out that if the frayed main halyard snaps we'll be sorry. He concedes the point.
I cling to the mast and get the main down and flaked (OK tied to the boom). I steer while Mike tries to stay out of the spray. He looks a little green. The sails start coming out of the ties and he takes the wheel while I secure the sails again. Later he described the view of me clinging to the bow tying down the jib as we pound through the whitecaps. Apparently it looked dangerous. I was too busy at the time, but he claims it was a Kodak moment, if only he could've let go the wheel to take a picture.
I retake the helm, see a dorsal fin and yell "Shark!". Then we realize it's a pair of dolphins following us. I instantly feel much better and we laugh. They seem to be saying" What's your problem? The water's fine."
Meanwhile I'm trying to keep us off the lee shore of Pine Island. After two hours of this we finally turn South at the intercoastal waterway at the mouth of Boca Grande pass. We look out at the Gulf of Mexico and are glad our path doesn't lead that way. We wallow severely in following seas, and the power boats coming up the channel seem to have no concept of road rules. They pass us on both sides and their wakes serve to make it even harder to steer, but we follow the marks (atop one of which we see a huge osprey feeding its young) and make it to the entrance to Cabbage Key. We get some great pictures along the way.
0500 We motor in and Mike makes a PERFECT landing at the slip. We tie up in good form and the harbor master Terri (a fine gent who's been harbor master there for 20 years) lends us a good fender (something else we were sorely lacking) and we stumble off the boat happily and head for the bar.
WE are cold and tired and I order a shot of tequila, a beer, and a black coffee.
Rumor has it our friends Lyle and Roberta are on the island and they show up shortly.
0700 We talk and laugh and drink, have a fabulous dinner, rent a cabin for the night and go to crash. It is cold and no one notices that the air conditioners also have a "Heat" setting, so we freeze the night away (again) but we're so beat we don't care. We drink, smoke, talk and play guitar until the wee hours and I finally fall asleep after some 50 hours or more.
0900 I awake and head down to the bar for breakfast and coffee. It is a beautiful day and we decide that rather than sail today we will bum around the island and recuperate. This we do and have a lovely time checking out the sites on this beautiful remote island. Mangroves, coconuts, flora and fauna of all types, and of course the locals and the other tourists.
1300 We're having a cheeseburger (there in paradise) when SeaTow calls on Mike's cell phone to tell us my credit card didn't fly. Fortunately Lyle whips out his VISA and saves the day. We see Lyle and Roberta off. Predictably Mike and I end up in the bar with our guitars after a dinner of cold cut sandwiches aboard the Inshallah (which loosely translates to "IF God Will" in Arabic).
1900 After much drink and talk the bartender shuts off the jukebox and we begin to entertain the bar in earnest.
0030 After midnight amongst the cheers and groans of the patrons the bar closes. We retire to the Inshallah with two couples to finish our supply of rum and coke. Butch (the other captain of the group) tells me how to fix the frayed halyard, and after much rejoicing they return to their boat and we sleep the sleep of the dead despite the cold.
0900 We awake much refreshed, shower, change and have breakfast and make ready to cast off.
I repair the main halyard and we say our goodbyes to our new friends on the staff, saddle up and move out.
Mike makes a perfect 180 degree turn at the helm and we motor back up the intercoastal prepared for the worst on the South bay. To our great surprise and satisfaction conditions are perfect and we have a great sail across the South bay. There is some sail traffic headed our way and we wave with big smiles on our faces.
1200 We turn North at the far mark and begin a leisurely reach all the way up the North bay.
About 2/3ds of the way up we encounter another dolphin and it is all I can do to keep Mike from jumping in to swim with it. Truth be known it was hard to stay aboard myself. They're beautiful and we got some great pictures of him.
0230 The wind picks up from the Northwest and we get some great sailing in. We are making better than hull speed over the ground according to the GPS (about 7.5 knots) and we're having a great time.
When traffic starts getting heavy I get nervous in drop the jib to Mike's great irritation, but we start the engine and motorsail up the mouth of the Peace River.
0400 conditions are perfect. Light breeze, bright sun and the tide is coming in. We motor in the channel and up to the dock. The landing is once again perfect. We tie up, clean up the boat, load out and say goodbye to Ron and the Inshallah. We meet Lyle and Roberta again for dinner, get a hotel room and again sleep the sleep of the dead.
0600 Mike drives Lyle and Roberta to the airport. We check out and go to Ft. Myers beach for the day. We shop, sightsee, and have a good old time. We meet R for lunch, have and even better time at the local
bars and I get on a plane for home. All in all a great sail and a great vacation.
Captain's log; out.