We were up before dawn our last morning in Marathon to check the weather and then make one last run to shore to return our shower cards, take in the trash and get our last jug of water. It would likely be several days before we could land again for services. As Cathy made her way back to the dinghy, she looked in confusion because it was gone. She walked the length of the dock looking for it. Nowhere. She waits and looks toward the mooring field for moving lights that might be Dave. Finally, she sees an odd procession of boats approaching – an inflatable, a portabote and a hard dinghy. It was obvious as they came closer that Dave was in the middle of this procession. Dave later explained that he had gone to rescue a woman in a dinghy that had run out of gas. In the dark, Dave had inadvertently pulled the kill switch out of the engine and therefore couldn’t restart the engine, requiring yet another boat to come to the rescue. A little excitement to start our day. We went back to the boat and headed out as the sun rose behind us.
Behind us the Keys were enjoying clear skies and puffy clouds. As we approached Cape Sable and the southwest corner of the Florida peninsula, we were looking at a little different weather picture. Ahead of us the line of dark clouds spilling off the mainland kept growing and, it became apparent, was not going to pass out to sea before we reached them. We were going to have to make our way through the storm before we could reach our refuge in the Little Shark River. We had enjoyed hours of motorsailing across the Florida Bay, but as the clouds got closer, we decided to furl in the sail and began to prepare ourselves for the deluge. About an hour out, it hit. We found ourselves in our first thunderstorm. We struggled to keep the bow into the waves as the wind slowed our progress to little over a knot. The rains poured down and lightning and thunder sounded around us. After about a half hour, it was over and the river entrance was off our port bow. We made our way in and set anchor, relieved to be in for the day.
The next day we headed out again, thinking we were going to Russell Pass for the night, retracing our stops from our trip south. However, we found we could use the wind if we aimed for Coon Key Pass just south of Goodland. We set the headsail and motorsailed for our new destination. If all went well, we should arrive by 6. However, we were making 5 knots, good speed for the little boat, and our arrival time came in to 5pm. As we made our way up the pass, we approached the no wake zone and throttled back on the engine, making our way to the anchorage a short distance away.
And then the engine promptly died.
Just as we were trying to decide if we could swap the dinghy motor for the big motor, the phone rang. It was Blake, and he didn’t hesitate to step Dave through a number of diagnostic steps to zero in on the problem. First he checked the spark plug to ensure it was sparking. He had to remove it from the engine, but leave it in the boot and touch it to metal while Cathy started the engine, looking for the spark. In the late afternoon sun, it took a couple of tries, but he managed to see the spark. No problem there.
That meant the problem was likely in the carburetor. Dave had to remove the cover which has 2 long bolts that hold not just the cover, but the carburetor itself. As Dave fitted the sockets on the handle, they slipped off and fell into the cockpit floor, behind the gas can and down the small thru-hull. (Isn’t that always the way on boats?) We switched to another socket and Dave managed to get the cover off without losing the bolts or the carburetor. Whew! At that point, Blake had us spray WD 40 into the butterfly valve as we attempted to start the engine on a higher throttle setting. After some effort, it starts with a roar and stays running. Alright! After shutting it down and restarting, it runs fine. We thank Blake profusely and would highly recommend him to anyone needing outboard repairs in the Daytona area. His phone number is 863-860-0145.
Now, we begin getting the engine back together to move on. Dave is still mulling over the lost tool, so he gets in the dinghy to position himself behind the thru hull, while Cathy pokes a wire down the hole to poke it out. Sure enough, it’s still in there and he manages to grab it. Things are definitely looking up.
When we realized we were in Goodland for a Sunday, we decided to stay put for the day. There was supposed to be a quaint establishment called Stan’s that came to life on Sunday, when the owner performed in the afternoon. In our minds, we pictured a small place with a couple dozen patrons and an octogenarian singing some old songs and telling a few jokes on stage. Before we could go ashore, Ron from his nearby bright yellow trimaran, Chiquita, rowed over and gave us some tips on where to dock a dinghy and encouraged us to see the little town.
It was definitely good to see Goodland on a Sunday. But once was probably enough.
As we moved north on Monday, we skipped Marco Island in favor of Naples, arriving mid-afternoon to pick up one of the city’s mooring balls. Although we took the inside route north, the closer we got to Naples, the thicker the power boats got and the more intense the boat wakes. Passing the Gordon Pass inlet the intensity of wakes hit a new threshold. Boat after boat passed on either side, sending Jr careening side to side. With relief, we passed the no wake zone sign as the mooring field came into sight. Naples policy requires us to tie up to the fuel dock to “get a pump out” (which we explained wasn’t necessary) and to register for a mooring ball. The policy also says that we can stay at most 4 consecutive nights on the ball and 8 in a month. This is a state-imposed “punishment” that this city is required to follow due to some violations in the past, where boats were allowed to stay too long. At any rate, we had only one other neighbor in the mooring field and were on the closest ball to the dinghy dock.
After a brief stay in Fort Myers Beach, we headed north for Pelican Bay off Cayo Costa, a beautiful state park just south of Boca Grande. We had heard several cruisers talk about this lovely spot, so we were anxious to see it for ourselves. After another tedious run with boat wakes everywhere, we pulled into the protected bay and set the anchor. We made a quick run to shore to get the lay of the land, but decided to save our more serious exploring for the next day.
This has become our hub for travel on the Florida’s west coast. We managed to arrive just in time for a Cruiser’s Appreciation lunch with food and raffled off prizes and started making a walk and swim on the beach our daily routine. With college Spring Break in one last burst of energy on our first stop here, we watched in amazement as the crowds thronged the beach and dozens of boats anchored in the surf just off shore, creating a horribly fascinating show as some struggled to keep their boats under control and out of the surf and other boats. The trolley gave us easy access to groceries and the facilities here are comfortable and convenient. But the season is winding down, as is evidenced by the increasing number of mooring balls available, and so we will be leaving here soon ourselves, making our way up to LaBelle.