Friday, March 29, 2013

Captiva and Sanibel

February 8-13, 2013

As much as we regretted saying good-bye to the little piece of paradise that is Cabbage Key, we were looking forward to the next five days in Captiva and Sanibel. We had fond memories of vacations in both places in years past and were excited to return on Blue Heron. We were especially looking forward to the friends we would see in both spots! First up would be Marc and Michele McCoy from Marc’s Ark, who finished their Loop in September, but had driven to Florida to reconnect with some of the friends they had met while looping last year. They were coming to Captiva to see us, and we were really excited about that!

The route to Tween Waters Resort Marina in Captiva was short, pleasant and very shallow.  This was one of several places in Florida where we have had to be careful to enter and exit on a rising tide.

As the name implies, Tween Waters is located on a narrow stretch of land between the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Pine Island Sound on the other. We were placed at the south dock with just a few other boats, including a friendly couple who keep their boat in Punta Gorda, just a bit north, and every winter rent a slip at Tween Waters for three months. Nice! For the ease of getting the dogs on and off the boat, we were on the outside t-dock, which gave us a pretty view across the bay.

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We went to the pool bar for lunch, then crossed the road and took a long walk on the beach. Lots of birds and shells, but not as many of either as we saw at Caladesi Island. Memories of that place continue to amaze!

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When we returned from the beach, Craig lubed our bike chains and we got ready to take a ride. But before we left we stopped at the resort office to find out if Marc and Michele had arrived yet.  Sure enough, they had just checked in, and within minutes we found each other.  So, so happy to see them again!

This is Marc’s license plate – no wonder we clicked right away!  Heron was (I think) Marc’s grandfather's last name and was the name of their family business in Galena, Illinois. I think Craig should get the same plate when we return to Ohio. I could be “Heron 2.” Or vice versa.


We started wine time on Blue Heron, and then moved to the McCoys’ room which had a balcony overlooking the Gulf. Perfect view! We had dinner at the Crow’s Nest restaurant at Tween Waters and continued our reunion.

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After another long walk on the beach the next morning, we met Marc and Michele and drove to “downtown Captiva” to have lunch at the Mucky Duck. The Mucky Duck is a very casual pub on the beach that is always packed at sunset. We decided we would have more luck getting a table at lunch. It was still crowded but we were able to get a table outside and watch the water and the people.

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Glendale friends Renee and Steve Locker were visiting in Sanibel at the time, and we knew we would see them in the next day or two.  But Craig invited them for Saturday wine time on Blue Heron in Captiva, and to our delight, they came! (If you have never been there, the two islands are connected by a short causeway, so it’s easy to drive from one to the other.) Renee and Steve had met Marc and Michele when we were all together on that infamous stormy night in Frankfort, Michigan last summer, so this was another reunion of sorts.

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After the Lockers left to return to Sanibel, we walked across the road to the beach to watch the sunset with Marc, Michele, Joey and Bailey. Another perfect evening, finished off with a good meal at the Key Lime Bistro.

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The next morning we said good-bye to Marc and Michele at 8:30 and then returned to the boat to wait for the tide to rise a bit before pulling out ourselves. While we waited we watched this pair of ospreys circling over the marina. We also had a namesake visitor to the boat.

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Shortly before we left, I noticed a group of people gathered just past our dock and found they were watching 9 or 10 manatees that were floating very close to shore.  Someone said they like to come in to the shallow water to rub their bellies on the sand.  I don’t know if that is true, but they sure were close.  It was fun to watch them. The fun was soon spoiled by the arrival of a seaplane that chose that very spot to dock on shore. I think all the manatees got safely out of the way, though.

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When we left Tween Waters, we had an easy one hour trip to Sanibel Marina, on the far end of Sanibel Island. As we were nearing the entry to the harbor, we were hailed on the radio by Next To Me, whom we were looking forward to being with in Sanibel for a few days. We were docked within minutes of each other, and just a few slips away. It was wonderful to reconnect – although we communicate regularly, we hadn’t seen Cathryn and Bob since Fairhope, Alabama.

This is such a pretty marina.  Lots of flowers, and Gramma Dot’s restaurant just steps from our boat!

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Later in the afternoon, Steve Locker came to pick us up and took us to the lovely home of their Cincinnati friends Roy and Jackie Sweeney, where the six of us enjoyed a glass or two of wine and good company together.


The next day, we joined Cathryn and Bob for a 15 mile round-trip bike ride to the famous Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We had a good time and saw lots of birds, but frankly not as many as we had hoped. I was especially disappointed not to see any roseate spoonbills, which had been sighted recently, but not by us. Too bad.

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On the way back, we stopped for lunch at Doc Ford’s, a popular restaurant named for the hero in a series of mystery novels based in this area.  Of course they sell the books in the restaurant, so I bought the first one, Sanibel Flats. Seemed the appropriate thing to do!

The one drawback to the Sanibel Marina (the only drawback – it’s a wonderful marina) is that it is not very close to most of the island’s shops and restaurants, so it’s kind of hard to get around without a car. Since our bikes don’t have lights, and having eaten at Gramma Dot’s the night before, we decided to walk the mile or so to the Lazy Flamingo for dinner.  Heaven forbid we should cook and eat on board! The walk home was very dark, as streetlights don’t seem to be a high priority on Sanibel. We were very glad we hadn’t ridden out bikes. Much safer to walk than ride in the pitch dark!

The next morning the four of us got on the bikes again and rode to another section of Ding Darling called the Bailey Tract. Again, not as many birds as we’d hoped, but we did see an alligator, which made Cathryn happy.

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On our way back, we heard from Stephen and Charlotte (Jackets II), who had arrived at the marina and were out on their bikes looking for us. When we finally found each other, and after a short stop back at the boats, we rode to the Sanibel lighthouse and took a walk on the beach. Cathryn made the amazing observation that as much time as Jackets, Next To Me and Blue Heron have spent together over the past year, this was the first time (except for the Rendezvous) that all six of us have actually been together at the same time! That seems impossible, but as we think back it seems to be true.  Clearly a case of better late than never!

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Now here’s an example of how special is the service at Sanibel Marina. We had dinner reservations for the six of us at Gramma Dot’s but planned to have docktails on Next To Me first. When our table was ready, our waitress came out and knocked on the boat, told us she was ready for us and that we should just bring our unfinished drinks and our open bottles of wine with us. We gave her an especially good tip!


The next morning we were planning to leave for Ft. Myers, but we were greeted by a heavy morning fog. We had just about decided to change plans and stay another day when the fog lifted. We quickly got the boat ready to go, because it was getting windy and was forecasted to be even worse the next day.

Everyone came to see us off, and Cathryn came on board for one more cuddle with the dogs. As usual, Bailey hated to say good-bye..


Even though we will see Jackets again for several days in Ft. Myers, and are confident we will catch up with Next To Me in the Keys or when they finish their Loop in Ft. Pierce, it was sad saying good-bye. After all this time, this probably will turn out to be the first and last time we will have all six friends together.  At least on this trip!

We had a windy hour and a half ride across San Carlos Bay and up the Caloosahatchee River to Legacy Harbor in downtown Ft. Myers. The wind was howling at 25 knots as we pulled into the marina.  Craig did a great job backing into the slip against that wind. The river was churning like the North Sea! We were glad to be in port and not have to worry about traveling in even worse winds the next day.


We observed a milestone on the short trip from Sanibel – according to our “odometer,” we passed the 5,000 nautical mile mark on our Loop!

Next, an enjoyable week with friends in Ft. Myers.

(Real-time update: On March 29, we are in St. Augustine, Florida, where we are spending Easter weekend.)

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