My wife Delly, her sister Cathy Peckett and I were driven to the boat in Tarpon Springs early, to make the 140-mile transit down the Florida west coast to Ft. Myers before the end of day and hopefully before any afternoon storms. We ducked into the office of Stamas Yachts and met John Stamas, who had provided a docking place for Little Sadie. We had a nice visit and saw some of John's beautiful boats, then got underway early. We had been watching the weather report, and as predicted we motored out of Anclote River into a wonderfully calm Gulf of Mexico.
After lunch we went back out to the Gulf and ran down past Sarasota and Venice, then moved inside through another pass, and turned south on the Intracoastal Waterway. Cathy said this strategy allowed us to avoid many No Wake zones by staying outside to this point. From here we stayed in the GIWW all the way to Ft. Myers. The passage alternated between canals and bays, and we made good time. Some of the bays, such as Charlotte Harbor, were quite large, but the day marks and the route on the GPS made the channel easy to follow.
By late afternoon Delly drove in from Tampa, with my buddy Phil Berg, who had brought my car and boat trailer to Florida from Denver (so I could trailer the boat home after completing my voyage). We gathered up Ray and walked about 17 blocks down the "main drag", historic Duval Street. Delly and I had been here about 40 years ago, and it was now much changed. Apparently largely spurred by the arrival of cruise ships, this area had become a carnival scene -- bars, restaurants, galleries, souvenir shops, consumer offerings of every description without end. I didn't care for it, particularly because there was this evening a cruise ship in port, and Duval Street was like a swarming anthill.
Day 65-66. These days were just tourist days in Key West. Ray flew back to Tampa and Phil nosed around town pretty much pursuing his own interests. Delly and I did a satisfying trolley tour around the historic old town area. I was interested to learn that after a fire burned much of early Key West, the city fathers made it a law that all the buildings had to have metal roofs, and they do. Here is the view from our balcony at Pearl's.
Delly enjoyed the butterfly pavilion one afternoon while I worked on the next leg of the trip. She also drove up to the next key and went through the botanic gardens. One day we had lunch at Sloppy Joe's, and on another occasion I enjoyed some excellent key lime pie (one of my reasons for coming here, after all).
Here came another random guardian angel. One morning while I was puttering around on the boat, a young fellow named Tony Conner came up and remarked "That's an Alaska boat." "Oh, you know about that? Yes, it's that type." We got to talking and I asked if he did boating, and he does. I explained my dilemma, and he said "If you try and go up through the Outback (the Gulf side), you really better know what you're doing. It's a mess." After some discussion we agreed that, even though it might be rough, the best bet would be to follow my charted route along Hawk Channel in the Atlantic back to Marathon, then shift inside and go on up in the Intracoastal sheltered by the Keys. Now all we would need the next morning was not too much wind and waves.
The final leg of the trip, now that I had reached my original end-point at Key West, involved looping around south Florida and returning to Tampa to disembark there. This would mean going a third of the way up the Florida east coast to Stuart, following the Intracoastal canal across the state through Lake Okeechobee to the west coast at Ft. Myers, and backtracking up the coast to Tampa.
Months ago, when I had described my planned trip and blog to Clint Kirry, the marketing manager at Hewes Marine (the boat manufacturers), he said that he and/or the president Dave Hewes might be interested in coming along on the trip for a couple of days, to see me and the boat in action on this very unusual application. Discussion evolved to the plan that Dave Hewes would fly in to Key West from their headquarters in Colville, Washington, and accompany Phil and me on the final five-day leg of the trip.
At the end of the day Tuesday Delly and I met Dave at the airport, properly outfitted for boating, with all his gear in a large backpack (complete with fishing pole). We got Dave set up at the hotel, met Phil, and over dinner started getting acquainted with our new arrival. I outlined my in-process agenda for the next five days, requiring reaching certain objectives each day in order to put Dave and Phil on airplanes in Tampa early the morning of the sixth day. Because the first day would be a push to get out of the Keys and some distance up the coast to a marina in Miami, we planned getting underway early the next morning.