Sat – Dec 2nd
After our long 20 hour Gulf Crossing & only 2 hours sleep in over 30 hours, we crashed early Friday night.
Friday night was also the annual Euchre Girls & 1st Mates Christmas Party, sponsored every year by my sister Brenda in Madison Heights Michigan. It was a bitter-sweet night because we love that party but were too exhausted to even call in to the very lively crowd back home.
We also were resting up for the early Saturday morning arrival of Jonell’s cousin Anita Cook & 1st Mate Rich Cook.
Anita & Rich arrived about 10am Saturday morning (the morning after we arrived in Clearwater from the Gulf Crossing), so we welcomed them with the normal Gettin’ Looped welcome toast.
Shortly after their arrival, we used their rental car to do some quick grocery shopping, then returned the car to Hertz. They drove from Fort Myers to Clearwater to meet us. The original plan was to meet in Fort Myers, but we had to revise the plan due to our 5 day delayed Gulf Crossing, waiting for a good weather window.
All worked out well because now Rich & Anita could experience 3 travel legs of the Loop with us; Clearwater to Sarasota, Sarasota to Pelican Bay, and Pelican Bay to Fort Myers Beach.
After returning the car, we did what we do with all northern visitors on their 1st day of vacation – we spent some time on the Clearwater Beach & ate lunch at Frenchy’s Beach Cafe.
After spending the day at Clearwater Beach, we got cleaned up & spent the night in downtown Clearwater where they were having a Christmas street festival (seems like a familiar story in several cities). We walked the streets for a while and ate dinner at a place called the Clear Sky restaurant, recommended to us by locals in the boat next door.
Sun – Dec 3rd
On Sunday, we had an early 7am start due to the 65 mile day from Clearwater to Sarasota Florida. The day would be long because on the ICW (Inter Coastal Waterway) there are many no-wake sections within cities where you can only do idle speed. We traveled from Clearwater to Tampa, St Pete, Bradenton, & finally Sarasota.
This was Rich & Anita’s first experience on the ICW.
During the ride we saw many nice homes and lots of DOLPHINS right next to the boat (more on this later).
We arrived at Sarasota about 4pm, at Marina Jacks Harbor. As shown in the photos below, Marina Jacks is a VERY NICE marina with lots of nice big boats, party boats, bars, restaurants, and complete with Christmas decorations. I’m not sure how , but we were assigned a slip in the front row next to the restaurant & all the big boys. (100 ft+)
Shortly after arriving, we were greeted by Looper pals Steel Away (Shaun & Cindy). We had not seen them since Clifton Tennessee. We found out shortly after, that Shaun & Cindy live in Clarkston Michigan, the same city as Rich & Anita. So our guests Rich/Anita hit it off very well with Shaun/Cindy.
After getting settled and having some drinks on the boat with Shaun & Cindy, we all went to dinner at a very cool outdoor Tiki-Bar restaurant named O’Leary’s – Cocktails in Paradise. The restaurant was located on the Marina Jacks harbor water, with all tables being picnic tables in the sand surrounded by Tiki Torches, accompanied with live music. It was a spectacular setting. We all ate dinner with our “toes in the sand”.
Mon – Dec 4th
On Monday, we traveled from the beautiful 5-star Marina Jacks in Sarasota (we would have liked to stay longer) to a 5-star anchorage called Pelican Bay @ Cayo Costa Island State Park.
The trip would take us from Sarasota thru Venice, Englewood, & Boca Grande to the island of Cayo Costa.
The island is a remote state park that you can only get to by ferry-boat. There is only camping – no hotels, bars, etc.
The island provides coverage of the ICW from the Gulf and is just south of Boca Grande.
We decided to have 1 night at anchor, to give Anita/Rich another different taste of the Great Loop life.
The day was a very normal low-key travel day, with more pretty homes and a lot more DOLPHINS right next to the boat (more on this later).
The entrance to Pelican Bay had a short 500ft section which had only 4.5 feet of water as we entered at medium tide. After entering the bay we had 8.0 feet of water where we anchored. There were about 10 other boats anchored in the bay with us.
The setting at Pelican Bay was quiet/serene and we had another very nice sunset & sunrise. We cooked NY Strip steaks on the grill for dinner, it was a very good night.
Tue – Dec 5th
Tuesday was a big day for us, it was the day that we would travel from Pelican Bay to Fort Myers Beach, our upcoming home for the month of December.
We were very excited to depart, but we had to wait until about 11am for the tide to come back up. When we awoke, we had only 6 feet under the boat, in the same place we had 8 feet the night before. Recall that the entrance/exit to Pelican bay had only 4.5 feet when we came in, we draft 3’/9″ .
It would be 11 am before the tide came back up enough to depart.
Our ride from Pelican Bay to the Pink Shell Marina in Fort Myers Beach was a short 30 mile ride. The ride was again filled with lot of DOLPHINS right next to the boat.
We had lots of suggestions that our arrival at the Pink Shell Marina should be at Slack Tide (the neutral unstressed water period between high tide & low tide, where the current flow is minimal). Pink Shell is located at a very narrow section of the ICW at the north tip of Estero Island. The narrow section combined with tide changes can produce high currents and make docking difficult. Due to our delayed departure, we ended up arriving about 3pm, almost at high tide. In spite of the rumors, docking stern-in was relatively easy and went off without excitement. The next morning as the low tide ebbed out, the current was ripping.
More on the Pink Shell Resort & Marina in the next post.
Ok, did I mention that we had seen a lot of DOLPHINS right next to the boat.
We saw ;
Baby dolphins jumping, doing little jumps.
Dolphins looking up at us in the boat.
Dolphins doing barrel rolls next to the boat.
Dolphins swimming upside down next to the boat.
It was as if the dolphins thought that Gettin’ Looped was one of their playmates.
Check out these awesome video clips, it is somewhat difficult to capture all the cool stuff at the right time (thanks Rich Cook) !
Rich, Anita, & Jonell tell me that the videos don’t really do justice to how cool it was.
Note – Captain Mike kept his eye on the narrow ICW markers.
After the dolphin fun during the day, Anita did some dolphin research.
Did you know ;
1. There are 40 species of dolphins in the waters of the world. Most live in shallow areas of tropical and temperate oceans, and five species live in rivers.
2. Dolphins are carnivores. Fish, squid and crustaceans are included in their list of prey. A 260-pound dolphin eats about 33 pounds of fish a day.
3. Known for their playful behavior, dolphins are highly intelligent. They are as smart as apes, and the evolution of their larger brains is surprisingly similar to humans.
4. Dolphins are part of the family of whales that includes orcas and pilot whales. Killer whales are actually dolphins.
5. Dolphins are very social, living in groups that hunt and even play together. Large pods of dolphins can have 1,000 members or more.
6. Depending on the species, gestation takes nine to 17 months. After birth, dolphins are surprisingly maternal. They have been observed nestling and cuddling their young.
7. A dolphin calf nurses for up to two years. Calves stay with the mothers anywhere from three to eight years.
8. Dolphins have acute eyesight both in and out of the water. They hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans. Their sense of touch is well-developed, but they have no sense of smell.
9. Dolphins have few natural enemies. Humans are their main threat. Pollution, fishing and hunting mean some dolphin species have an uncertain future. In 2006, the Yangtze River dolphin was named functionally extinct.
10. Because dolphins are mammals, they need to come to the surface of the water to breathe. Unlike land mammals that breathe and eat through their mouths, dolphins have separate holes for each task. Dolphins eat through their mouths and breathe through their blowholes. This prevents the dolphin from sucking up water into the lungs when hunting, reducing the risk of drowning.
Next Post = Our Home for December, Pink Shell Resort & Marina in Fort Myers Beach.