Southwest Florida Bareboat Charter
Recently returned from a bareboat charter in Southwest Florida. What a wonderful place to sail. The Shelling and beachcombing were the best I’ve ever seen. We sailed an Etap 32. They are the only boat certified to be unsinkable by some Euro board of standards. The Etap 32 had two staterooms and some very nice features but when we started to stow our gear it was obvious that what made the boat unsinkable was a lot of closed cell foam. Taking up a lot of stowage.
The first night we stuck our nose out the Marina and were hit with 25 knot winds and short choppy seas. Being an SF Bay sailor I didn’t think much of it. But when the kids said they were hungry and the boat really pounded (under motor) I remembered that we were on vacation and turned the boat back into the harbor. We ate dinner and watched a movie with the A/C on.
It is nice chartering. The knot log wasn’t working so rather than pulling out the impeller I had the service guys fix it. There was also a small problem with the dink that they fixed as well. The wind went from 25 knots to nil. We motor sailed across the harbor to Pelican Bay and then went snorkeling. Cayo Costa is an island nature preserve accessible only by boat. A mile walk across the island and we were on the Gulf of Mexico where we found some beautiful shells and had a nice beach mostly to ourselves.
Every morning and every evening we fished. At first I cast the poles and then the kid reeled in the lines. Then the kids cast and I untangled lines. The whole trip we only caught one fish but by the end of the trip every morning and evening the kids had learned to cast on there own and could untangle their lines most of the time. In the evening I sat with a drink and supervised. What is it they say “Give a child a fish and they won’t eat it. Teach a child to fish and you have a good excuse for drinking.”
The next afternoon we sailed down the ICW to Roosevelt Channel. On the way in we saw a family of Osprey’s nesting on Channel marker “2” I’ll try to post a picture. Four dolphins escorted us in to the harbor. We went to shore b/c we were out of ice and the kids wanted to rent Kayaks. The guy at the Kayak shop was very nice and explained to us that it would be better for us to go out in the morning. A lot of anchorages in FL are not that useful b/c there is no shore access. The rental shop owner explained to us that according to FL law the end of streets are public Right Of Way, showed us where the street ended, and told us we were entitled to pull our dink up there. We used this as our access to Captiva Island. Captiva Island is an expensive resort town (One resort wanted $3.50 a foot per night to tie to their docks). We happened to slip thru the cracks and enjoyed the island.
We finally got my son to snorkel comfortably in waves; in fact while he swam through the waves we could here him singing thru his snorkel. The kids also were in charge of driving the dink. In the beginning we were snake waking our way across the anchorages. By the end of the trip we would go in a straight line until Beth or I pointed out something on the shore or in the water and then the dink would go in a strange direction and get back on track afterwards.
The next day we rented kayaks. What a wonderful way to see nature. We saw manatees in the distance, lots of birds, many fish, and Beth(wife) and Marina(daughter) had a dolphin swim close enough that they could look each other in the eyes. After another swim at the beach Beth was thinking of the itinerary we had made up and decided that we had better get going. Better sense got the best of us and we decided to spend another night there.
On Day four we continued down the ICW about five miles to another wildlife preserve called Ding Darling where Beth took us on the bicycle Baton Death Ride. On the way in to the rental shack on the dink we saw rays, needle fish and returned to the boat for a nice dinner and a deep sleep.
Day five we started back North. We were going to try a new anchorage but by the time we got there it was getting late and the entrance was tricky so we decided to return to Roosevelt channel. Another swim the morning of day six and then we continued North went through Redfish Channel and motor sailed up the Gulf of Mexico and returned to Pelican Bay. The kids wanted us to anchor right at the swim beach. I wasn’t comfortable with the swing room there so we stayed off the beach a ¼ mile or so. The kids were upset.
I was vindicated when the next morning we got hit with a lightning filled squall. I had put the outboard away the night before even though I was tired and didn’t feel like doing it but when the squall came thru I would have patted myself on the back if I had longer arms. The squall pelted us with rain and steady winds of 30 knots with stronger gusts. We didn’t drag but the boat bounced around a lot. The boat was due back that afternoon so as soon as the winds got down to 25 we pulled anchor and I donned weather gear">foul weather gear and motored out of the anchorage. A little ways out I put up the jib. The boat sailed nicely with just the jib up; the wind kept backing, and getting lighter. I put the main up and tacked over to starboard. It would take a couple of tacks to get back to the marina. But the wind lifted us and we beam reached into the marina. The end to a perfect trip.
My “only” complaint about the trip was that the boat didn’t have a dodger or a bimmini. I would never again charter a boat in Florida without one. My second “only” complaint was that we didn’t get to stay longer.
Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness