We left Cape Coral on February 17 (Monday) and headed to Salty Sam's Marina in Ft. Myers. It was a beautiful morning for the cruise south. This would be our home for the next 11 days. We arrived at our slip and questioned if we had the correct one. Our assigned slip shared the dock with the Ft. Myers Pirate Ship excursion. For the next 11 days we witnessed hundreds of families get on and off the Pirate Ship to the tune of "Yo Ho Ho" as the pirate crew actors welcomed their "victims" aboard. We heard the monologue so many times we believe we could have been stand-in pirates! All in all it was a fun experience to see all the kiddos get so excited about their pirate adventure.
Our first guests arrived Monday afternoon, about 4 hours after we docked. One thing we learned is that our guests could never set an exact time of arrival to the boat. The traffic around Ft. Myers Beach runs at a snail's pace. We had a rental vehicle for a few days, but it was faster to walk. Bill and Betty, Four Lakes Yacht Club friends from many years ago contacted us and wanted to visit. We had a nice time catching up and reminiscing about the trips we took with them. Tuesday, February 18, was a boat maintenance day for WaterMarks. We didn't have much planned even though it was Conrad's birthday. We thought we would have a quiet dinner on the boat. And then we realized that our Looper friends, Carol and Eric, were once again crossing our paths for one evening. They were actually within five minutes of us. We met them and two other couples at Mantanzas on the Bay for a great birthday dinner for Conrad. Once again, we said our "can't wait to see you next time," (never good-bye) to Eric and Carol and called it a night. Sometimes the impromptu plans are the best.
Wednesday, February 19, brought an SVA era friend(s) of Linda's to the boat for a couple of hours. Joanna, Wyatt, Fred and Ann happened to be somewhat close to us as they were vacationing for the week and we were able to make arrangements for a great visit. Wyatt especially enjoyed seeing the Pirate Ship next to us. We found out that Ann, from Stoughton, had a sister who graduated from high school with Conrad. We definitely had a fun time catching up as it has been almost four years since Linda retired at SVA. Wednesday late afternoon brought Don and Anita to the boat. This couple kept their boat in Sturgeon Bay and we met them there. They completed the Loop a number of years ago and were a source of a lot of great information for us when we were in the planning stages. They had to travel the farthest to see WaterMarks. Actually, they were right across the street from Salty Sam's in a motor home park.
As it turns out, the time we spent at Salty Sam's was just an extension of seeing so many great people which started back at Boca Grande and Cape Coral. The next day, Thursday, February 20, Tom and Rose came to visit. We had lunch after enjoying a little bubbly and snacks on the patio of WaterMarks. Tom and Rose were members of the Four Lakes Yacht Club and we did a lot of boating excursions with them, but haven't seen them in quite some time. We learned that they no longer come to Florida in the winter with their motor home, as they bought a home in Port Charlotte. We're hoping we will be able to connect with them again so we can see their home.
Bob and Deb joined us on Friday morning, February 21, after trying to connect with them since Cape Coral. We actually traded boat tours, as they have just moved onto their new 72' Gypsy Soul just recently. We first met Bob and Deb back during our Oshkosh Lake Winnebago boating days. They moved up to a marina in Sturgeon Bay, as we did. We shared a congratulatory bubbly bottle on WaterMarks and then took a very cold, rainy dinghy ride across the bay to their boat. First thing we did was put all of our outer clothes in the dryer. We were soaked! After a tour of their new home on the water we drove to a place on Estero Island called Junkaroos...open air dining right on the beach. What a great day we had catching up with these friends. We hope our paths will cross again, possibly in the Keys.
We didn't think we could surpass this past week with guests on WaterMarks every day, but we did! Saturday, February 22, brought Tony and Julie for a visit. They are down in these parts with their Motor Coach. We are beginning to surmise that most of our retired friends from Four Lakes Yacht Club enjoy their time in the winter in southern Florida. After a bubbly toast on WaterMarks we walked up to Parrot Key, which is on the grounds of Salty Sam's, and had a wonderful lunch with Margaritaville tunes playing in the background.
Can we really be almost out of our champagne supply? The case we left Sturgeon Bay with lasted over 5 months. This last case lasted four weeks! Thank goodness they have a Total Wine here.
Sunday, February 23, dawned a beautiful day...actually every day is beautiful down in these parts (except for the noted dinghy ride above). A couple that Kent (from 4LYC) works with asked if he would arrange for them to visit WaterMarks. Ray and Lisa came by late in the morning for Mimosas and also brought another work couple with them. The guys spent way to much time in the helm looking at electronics and in the "basement" looking at mechanicals. We went up to Parrot Key for lunch and enjoyed getting to know these two wonderful couples. Thank you Ray & Lisa for a great lunch!
Monday, February 24, brought a catch-up day...no one visited...we were feeling a bit lonely. This was an errand day. Linda rented a vehicle and left first thing to run all the normal errands...Walgreens, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dillards, Publix, Christopher Banks...you get the picture...all in six hours. She does very well driving and reading Google Maps when Conrad isn't present. This day is also Conrad's sister and brother-in-laws 48th anniversary. They celebrated in Mexico and we toasted them in Ft. Myers (remember, no visitors-no bubbly, we needed an excuse).
Bruce and Cammie visited on Tuesday, February 25. They were on D Dock in Sturgeon Bay for many years. They retired from boating, got another boat, and retired again and share their time between Michigan and Southern Florida. They arrived late in the afternoon for appetizers and docktails and then asked us to join them for dinner. Cammie enjoys Junkaroos on Estero Beach, as does Linda. We saw the sunset, Linda walked in the sand on the beach, and we had great seafood. We hope to visit Bruce and Cammie's winter home in the future.
And, finally, the infamous WISCONSIN DAY arrives on Wednesday, February 26. Our entire stay at Salty Sam's centered around a conversation we had with Dave and Sherry when we were at home for Christmas that basically said we had to be at Salty Sam's Marina for Wisconsin Day. How right they were. Dave asked Conrad to get up to Parrot Key early to save a couple of tables. 9:30 was good for an 11 am opening. When you check into the restaurant you are given a name tag with your name and home location on it. The first person Conrad ran into was from McFarland! Linda even ran into a person from Lyndon Station. And then the day just took off. We'll try to mention everyone we ran into, but sorry if we've forgotten a few...there were only a few hundred! Dave & Sherry, Tom & Diane, Tony & Julie, John & Marianne, Deb & Bob, Randy & Jill B., Randy & Jill T., Phil & Janet, and Grant & Lori, and several other Madison area folks. We ate brats, cheese curds, chicken wings, and all things Wisconsin and danced polkas and sang On Wisconsin and Varsity. This was truly a highlight for us as it brought so many of our friends into one location. Needless to say, later in the afternoon, WaterMarks was a very busy place. On another note...we wished our special friends at home, Chuck & Jacque, a very happy 43rd wedding anniversary.
Thursday, February 27, was a recovery day and preparation for leaving. Although we didn't get a lot of beach time at Ft. Myers, we certainly got a lot of renewal of friendships. Friday, February 28, we pulled lines and headed to Marco Island for the weekend. Happy 43rd Birthday to our nephew, Joey. You finally caught up with Nathan and Greg!
Marco Island was our staging point to then head south to Marathon Key. The Marco Island Marina is a beautiful marina situated inland a bit from the ICW. The Marco Island Yacht Club is on the property and also is quite a nice place to have dinner. We only stayed two nights on Marco Island...just long enough to walk with our wagon to the Publix about a mile away and restock. We did pass a few homes for sale that appeared to be tear down type properties starting at around a half million.
We pulled lines on Sunday, March 1. How can it possibly be March already? We are now seven months into this phenomenal adventure and still feel like we're on vacation. The people we have met and the places we have visited add up to a Bucket List of items off the checklist.
On March 1 we headed from Marco Island to Marathon Key. It's a long trip...about 10 hours...and about 100 miles. It really didn't feel great from the beginning and about 4 hours into the journey, right around Everglades City, we decided to turn in and give up. The seas and winds were not favorable and we both decided to not get beat up any longer. Linda called a marina north of Everglades City on the Barron River and they had room. We should have realized when we were asked on the phone how long our coach was that something was amiss. We continued to follow the "purple" line on the GPS through the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge for the 10-mile trek to the marina. Unfortunately, it was low tide. We actually saw 4.1 ft. depth trying to get to the marina.
When we arrived there were fisherman on the shore yelling at us not to go any further because there was only one foot of depth...we draw four. We began to turn around but we were swarmed with a half dozen tour air boats trying to get around us. We finally made the about face only to find that where they wanted to put us on the wall wouldn't work. These are the times that don't make boating very much fun. Once we did get tied up with the help of some very great people from Everglades Isle RV and Marina we realized this was a very exclusive RV location with a small marina attached. The staff here is very service oriented and it is a beautiful location. We found out that we are the largest boat they have seen in a long time.
When we arrived at Everglades Isle yesterday it was with the thought that we may be here for better than a week, based on the wind and seas forecast. However, we plan to pull lines tomorrow (Tuesday, March 3), in hopes that the small window of calmer seas tomorrow afternoon will be enough to permit us to run the 78 miles to Marathon. We know that we have our Looper friends, Tom and Angie, waiting there to help us in. Since we decided to leave tomorrow we went on an hour airboat ride through the mangroves of the Everglades this afternoon. It was great fun and we really got to experience the eco system of the Everglades.
Next blog entry will be all about Marathon Key, if we make it!