Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ft. Myers Beach

Bob & Linda Eckels arrived in Ft. Myers Beach Saturday evening, March 13th. The next day we dinghied across Estero Bay where we tied the dinghy up and walked to the beach to check out the final day of the annual shrimp festival. As you can see, lots of people were on the beach enjoying one of the few warm, sunny days Florida has seen this winter.









When we returned to “Life’s2Short,” we were invited to join a group of boaters who were having a get-together on the patio next to Bonita Bill’s.

Mojito Sunday on the patio.


That evening we decided to try out a new restaurant called the Big Game Bar & Grill which was just down the street. They had several big fish hanging on the wall decorated in the colors of college and professional football teams.

We had to get a picture of this one for all of our friends who are Alabama fans.


Monday we took off for Everglades City where Bob had lined up an airboat ride for us. After an interesting lunch at the local Backcountry Cafe, we embarked on an hour-long tour through the mangroves. It was a beautiful day for a boat ride and we even ran across a few alligators.


Yes, this little guy is real. Made me nervous holding him!







We never did find out about the famed “Skunk Ape.” We think it’s Florida’s answer to “Bigfoot.”


After departing Everglades City, we stopped at the newly opened Big Cypress Welcome Center where they recommended a couple of other tourist stops, one being the Oasis Visitor Center to see the many alligators sunning themselves in the drainage canal alongside the highway.


On the return trip we stopped briefly at Joanie’s Blue Crab for a cold beverage and a snack before proceeding on to the Ochopee Post Office which has the distinction of being the smallest post office in the United States.



Tuesday was another nice day but none of us had seen the movie Avatar so that’s what we decided to do. We timed it so that we would arrive at the theater about 15 minutes ahead of showtime, but when we got there we learned that Avatar was only showing in the non-3D version. After consulting his iPhone, Bob located another theater about 20 minutes away that was showing Avatar in 3D. But it was only 20 minutes to showtime! So we hurried back to the vehicle and booked it across town, arriving just in the nick of time even though the start of the movie was delayed and we ended up having to wait.


Tuesday evening was American Idol and since Bob & Linda personally know one of the Top 12 contestants, Didi Benami, we ate homemade pizza and watched the show on the boat.


Wednesday we woke up to cool, cloudy, rainy conditions. Todd was up at 5:30 a.m. to help in the kitchen at Bonita Bill’s as they prepared corned beef and cabbage for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Bob & Linda took off for downtown Fort Myers about 10:30 with plans to just explore the area and possibly visit some museums and/or art galleries.

Shelly and Todd serving up corned beef and cabbage.


Todd, Tony and owner Bill Semmer.


As you can tell from these next two photos the crew and guests of “Life’s2Short” could almost step from the bow into the bar at Bonita Bill’s, a very handy spot to be!



Todd turned in his apron about 4:30 p.m. and spent a little time relaxing before Bob & Linda returned to take us to dinner at the Parrot Key Caribbean Grill. After a very nice meal, we hurried back to the boat to watch the Idol results show that we thought started at 8:00 only to find out that it didn’t start until 9:00 p.m. Nonetheless, we waited and watched and were happy to learn that Didi is safe for another week!

Doesn’t the Captain look festive in his St. Patty’s Day glasses?


Dinner at the Parrot Key on the Eckels’ final night with us.


After a mid-morning breakfast Thursday, Linda took me for a quick grocery run while Bob got their suitcases packed and ready to load. Bob & Linda headed north shortly after noon while Todd worked on reinstalling one of the portholes he had taken off to reseat.

Later that afternoon we dinghied across the bay and walked down the street to the Shamrock Irish Pub where Kerby, who also works at Bonita Bill’s, was supposed to be tending bar. However, the owner told us that Kerby had gone home sick. So we crossed over to the beach side and walked to Nemo’s for a couple of half-price happy hour appetizers before returning to “Life’s2Short” for the evening.

Todd got up early Friday morning and dinghied across the bay to do our laundry at the Matanzas Inn facilities while I defrosted the refrigerator. We then tackled a number of other boat projects that consumed the remainder of the day. Late that afternoon we joined some other boaters on the dock for cocktails and conversation. After the sun went down it was too cold to stay outside so we moved to a table inside Bonita Bill’s and listened to karaoke.

Could this be the legendary “Skunk Ape?”


As karaoke was winding down, several of us decided to go to Big Game for a bite to eat. Bill & Anna took their dinghy and we took ours while Mark & Therese drove. I think we finally made it back to the boat around midnight and poured ourselves to bed!

After spending a mellow Saturday morning on the boat, Todd was asked to help with the outside tiki bar for the afternoon. Peppermint Patty performs at Bonita Bill’s every Saturday afternoon and she has quite a following among the “older” population. And with it being a beautiful, sunny mid-70-degree day, they were out in force!

Sunday, from 7:00 a.m. to noon, was the Marine Yard Sale in the parking lot at Bonita Bill’s. Todd was up and about early to check out the bargains.


This is “Red Boat Bill” and his wife Annette who was selling jewelry.


By mid-afternoon the rain moved in and it turned stormy. We wandered next door to join Kendra and Avner and whoever else showed up for Mojito Sunday and then spent a quiet evening on the boat.

It was still rainy Monday morning but it cleared off nicely by noon so we decided to dinghy down the bay a few miles to the Publix behind Snook Bight Marina to do a little re-provisioning. Later that afternoon we dinghied across to Matanzas where Greg & Sandy aboard “Latitude Dancer” had organized a happy hour get-together for a friend’s birthday.


Greg & Sandy.


When we returned, we went to Bonita Bill’s where we ran in to Larry & Sheryl who we met at Bonita Bill’s on St. Patrick’s Day two years ago. Todd got a little frisky with Larry’s mother that day and they remembered us quite well!

Getting reacquainted with Larry & Sheryl.


The following photos are from 2008, courtesy of Sheryl.

Theresa (Larry’s mother) has a cramp in her leg and needs help, or so the story goes!



Dick (Miriam's hubby), Theresa, Sheryl, Brenda, Marge, Miriam


Miriam and Brenda


Todd with his 2008 St. Patty’s Day harem.


After Larry & Sheryl left, several of our other dockmates wandered into the bar.

Red Boat Bill & Annette.


Bill & Anna and Deogee from the boat “Knot Tide Down.”



Todd with his pal Kerby.


Tuesday was spent cleaning the boat and getting ready to leave the dock for points south. That afternoon we got together with some of our other dockmates to enjoy the afternoon sunshine.

Jim, Mark and Bob, each of whom currently lives on his boat at Bonita Bill’s.


Therese, Shelly, Bill and Mark .


That evening Larry & Sheryl returned with Larry’s mother Theresa. They didn’t tell Theresa we were there, so it was a surprise reunion. Thanks for coming back to see us!


Today is Wednesday, March 24th, and we are on our way to the 10,000 Islands for a few days of solitude before going on to the Keys early next week, weather permitting, to catch up with some boating friends. In the meantime, we are looking forward to being out of touch in the isolation of the 10,000 Islands!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March Starts with a Bang!

Nila & Everett Hayes arrived from Springfield, Missouri, late Tuesday evening, March 2nd. Todd & Everett retired relatively early, but the girls carried the party torch into the wee hours of the morning, making Cathy’s work day very long on Wednesday!

Todd was a bit under the weather the following day so he stayed on the boat while I went with Nila & Everett to Crabby Bill’s on St. Pete Beach for lunch. It was a chilly, windy day so we settled for an ocean view from the restaurant and did not venture on to the beach. The rest of the day was spent resting and relaxing in the comfort of Cathy’s house. That evening Everett treated us to takeout ribs/barbecue at a local joint called Big Tim’s that was reportedly very good, even though I’m sorry to say it wasn’t.

The Captain still wasn’t feeling well on Thursday, so Nila, Everett and I made a road trip north to Tarpon Springs where we had a wonderful Greek lunch at Hella’s. On the return trip we stopped at a well-stocked local produce market and picked up some fresh Florida strawberries and oranges, among other things. We then crossed over the Intracoastal to Clearwater and did some sightseeing along the peninsula on the way back to Cathy’s house.

By Friday Todd was feeling much better so we drove south to explore Longboat Key and Sarasota and to check out the anchorage for “Life’s2Short” and the dingy dock situation for the weekend. Nila enjoyed her first taste of stone crab at Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant on Longboat Key where we had a late lunch and then we made our way to Sarasota for a few late afternoon drinks on the patio at Marina Jack’s.


Have you told the folks in Springfield yet about the new boat you purchased?


Friday evening Cathy went to the airport to pick up Julie, a high school friend who flew in from St. Louis to celebrate Cathy’s 50th with her. We tried to convince her and Cathy to cruise aboard “Life’s2Short” to Longboat Key but they had already made plans to stop by Apollo Beach to pick up another friend, Mary Ann, on the way down so it didn’t work out.

We were up early Saturday, March 6th, getting ready to pull away from Cathy’s dock. With Everett’s encouragement, Nila decided ride with us for the four-hour trip to Longboat Key. The wind was to our back most of the way, so Nila rode on the bow where she caught some rays and even had a brief nap or two! Unfortunately, we were remiss in not taking any photos of Nila while she was on board. Sorry about that!

Once we got anchored in Buttonwood Harbor, Todd took Nila to shore where Everett was waiting with the car and they took off to find a place to have a late lunch. We dinghied over to the Sea Horse Resort about 4:00 p.m. where Cathy had rented a two-bedroom condo for the celebration weekend and found the girls hanging by pool.


Left to right: Julie, Patty, Cathy, Mary Ann, Linda


Nila & Everett joined us at the pool a short time later but it wasn’t long before the late afternoon chill drove the sunbathers indoors.


That evening we all hung out in the condo, watched sunset, ate Ferg’s famous chicken wings and Kahlua birthday cake and just had a good time celebrating Cathy’s big day, as the following pictures depict.

Do you think there’s a party going on here?









The “Fab 50” birthday girl… hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!


Happy Birthday, my friend!


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Chuck & Linda




Long-time friend Julie from St. Louis.


Good times, good friends!


Todd and I left about 10:00 p.m. to dinghy back to “Life’s2Short” and promptly ran aground in about six inches of water just outside the little marina where we tied the dinghy up! Fortunately, we were going very slow and had no problem getting off the shallow bar and back into deeper water, but it was a cold ride back to the boat!

Sunday morning Todd dinghied over to say goodbye to Nila & Everett as they headed to the Tampa airport to catch an early afternoon flight. The rest of the girls were already up and about enjoying coffee on the balcony.


About 11:30 a.m. a local boat cop came by and told us we were infringing on the navigation channel and would have to move. When we anchored the previous day, that was not the case but the wind had since switched, pushing us into the channel enough to catch his attention. Rather than re-anchoring, the Captain pulled up about about 25 feet of chain and we were good to go.

We dinghied over to the resort about noon and the girls returned from their shopping trip down the street a short time later. Lisa (who we went to Vegas with a few weeks ago) and Weaver & Robert arrived early afternoon and we all moved out by the pool.



Weaver & Robert

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Julie, Chuck & Linda, Weaver & Robert and Lisa all left by mid- to late afternoon. As the remaining four girls (and Todd) were sitting by the pool, someone decided it would be a good idea to play (or attempt to play) beach volleyball. What a comedy of errors that turned out to be!



View Volleyball Gals


But we are all winners!


Let the celebration continue!


After watching another sunset off the balcony, we spent our final evening hanging out with Patty, Mary Ann and Cathy.



Patty had to leave for work early the next morning, so she and Mary Ann made an early night of it while Cathy and I stayed up a little while longer.


After we helped get things organized Monday morning, Cathy and Mary Ann escorted us across the street to our dinghy where we sadly said our goodbyes.

Heading back to “Life’s2Short.”


Our anchorage in Buttonwood Harbor.


We had a five-hour cruise to Englewood Beach where we were anchored by 5:00 p.m. It was a nice day on the water so we decided to avoid several low bridges and miles of “no wake” zones by running outside (in the Gulf) from Sarasota Pass to Venice. After all the fun and excitement of the past several days, we were both worn out and ready for some down time.

The Englewood Beach anchorage on a very calm evening.


We woke up Tuesday to a nice, mild morning with a few sprinkles. After a short, but pleasant day of cruising we anchored at Punta Blanca in a well-protected cove and tied our stern to the mangroves. Todd did a little dinghy exploring and fishing before settling in for another quiet evening.

The anchorage and wildlife at Punta Blanca.



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Wednesday afternoon we did a little dinghy exploring over by Cayo Costa and then proceeded to Cabbage Key for a late lunch. Cabbage Key thrives on tourists and was quite busy, but we were less than impressed. Nonetheless, it was a new experience for us and one that most boaters recommend you try at least once, just to say you’ve done it.

Cabbage Key as we approached in the dinghy.


Yes, those are all dollar bills posted on the wall and hanging from the ceiling!

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This resident turtle probably wishes he had a dollar for every time a tourist has taken a picture of him!



On the return trip we dinghied across the Intracoastal to the upscale and private Useppa Island, then through the Pelican Bay anchorage and back to “Life’s2Short” for the evening. The south wind had picked up over the course of the afternoon so we had a rather bumpy ride.

By Thursday the wind had picked up even more as storms moved across northern and central Florida; however, we were still nicely protected in our little cove. We walked across to the southern end of Punta Blanca mid-afternoon and were able to see how rough the water had become. It was not a pretty sight – we may have to rethink our plan to go on to Ft. Myers Beach Friday!

Storms had us both up Friday morning shortly after 6:00 a.m. The wind had switched and was coming out of the west, which was not a good direction for the anchorage. The worst of it blew through within the hour, so Todd pumped the accumulated water out of the dinghy and we got it loaded as we braced for the next round to hit.

About 10:30 a.m. we decided to untie from the mangroves and go bow in to the wind rather than taking the wind on our side as we did during the early morning round. When the line of storms hit a few hours later, we had a good amount of rain and some wind, but the brunt of it stayed to our south and we felt fortunate to have dodged that bullet! It was drizzly and rainy the rest of the day but no more storms or strong winds to contend with.

Trying to stay dry in the Punta Blanca anchorage, it didn’t work!


Today is Saturday, March 13th, and we just got tied up at Bonita Bill’s in Ft. Myers Beach where we will spend the next week or so. Our friends, Bob & Linda Eckels, from Springfield, Missouri, flew in to the Clearwater/St. Pete airport last night and will make their way down here later today. And so will begin the next adventure for the occupants of “Life’s2Short.”