Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ft. Myers, Florida

February 13-22, 2013

We had such a wonderful time over the past few weeks in the islands of southwest Florida that we were kind of skeptical about spending a week or more in a city again.  But it seems like all Loopers spend some time at Legacy Harbour in Ft. Myers, so we thought we would too. It would give us an opportunity to see several Looper friends and get some boat projects done, too.

When we left Sanibel, we crossed the San Carlos Bay and passed green marker 101, which is the start (or the end) of the Okeechobee Waterway, a shortcut across south Florida from Ft. Myers, through Lake Okeechobee, to Stuart on the Atlantic coast. We weren’t planning to go that way, as we wanted to go all the way south to the Keys, but to reach downtown Ft. Myers, we traveled the first 12 miles or so of the Okeechobee Waterway, on the Caloosahatchee River.


By the time we pulled into Legacy Harbour, the wind was howling. It was good to be docked. We were happy to find Ross and Laura on The Zone and Tom and Patsy on True North just a few slips down from us.  Jackets would be arriving the next day, and we’d have a good group of Loopers for our time in Ft. Myers.

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The old town section of Ft. Myers is attractively restored, with lots of restaurants and shops. It was just a short walk from the marina, so we visited there several times during our stay.


We quickly learned that one of the city’s greatest claims to fame is that it was the winter home of Thomas Edison and his friend Henry Ford. Harvey Firestone spent time there, too, and the three friends left their marks on the city. In fact, we learned that the reason we had some difficulty getting a reservation at Legacy Harbour was that this weekend was the culmination of the annual three-week Edison Festival of Light, and the 75th annual Edison Light Parade would be held on Saturday. We were told this was something not to be missed!

But that was a couple of days away. Good thing, because the weather was horrible for a few days. On Thursday – Valentine’s Day – it poured all afternoon and evening. We were able to make a quick trip to the near-by weekly famers’ market in the morning, and got some things for a “cook on board” Valentine’s dinner – including a bouquet of Valentine’s flowers for the boat. It was pretty apparent that the weather was going to be too nasty to go out.

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The next day, Stephen and Craig rented a car and drove to Miami to visit the Miami Boat Show, one of the largest in the world. The rain we’d had in Ft. Myers the day before followed them to Miami, so they had a pretty soggy day. They enjoyed the show, though.  Craig bought mostly clothes and shoes – I should have gone along!


Our boat was the only one of the Looper boats that was positioned well for sunset views, so docktails took place on Blue Heron every night. Some nights were very pleasant, and some were pretty chilly.  Some nights we watched the sun set, then hurried inside to stay warm. But we saw some spectacular sunsets! Are you getting tired of seeing these? We never do!

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These pictures of Stephen and Charlotte and us look like we posed in front of a cheesy Sears photo backdrop, but this was real!

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One night we had a sort of progressive dinner, with wine time on Blue Heron, followed by dinner on True North, and dessert provided by Jackets. A fun evening with good friends!


On the day of the parade the rain cleared out, but it was still windy, so much so that the organizers cancelled the big fireworks display that was supposed to follow the evening parade. Craig and Stephen, on advice from the locals, set up our chairs on the parade route at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The parade didn’t start until 7:00 p.m., but the local practice seems to be that you place your chairs early, write your name on a piece of duck tape that you stick on the curb in front of your chairs, go away for several hours, and surprise, your chairs are still there when you return! I don’t think this would work everywhere.


The parade was a funny mixture of big time out-of-town parade attractions like the Budweiser Clydesdales and the Indianapolis police motorcycle squadron, combined with amateur homemade floats. And every high school marching band between Tampa and Naples! It was fun to see, and we’re glad we were there for this once-a-year event, but it lasted over 3 hours and we were freezing by the time it was over.

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We got a lot of projects done while we were in Ft. Myers, in part because there are so many good service providers there.  We had a new zipper installed in our bimini top canvas, we had our brightwork touched up (the exterior wood trim), we got our icemaker fixed, and Craig changed the oil on both engines. And I got my hair cut on a barge! This hair salon is a converted but still floating houseboat. No big waves came along during the process, so no hair disasters.


One day we were entertained by the sight of thousands of mullet fish swarming in the harbor. There were so many it almost looked like you could walk across the water on their backs. The locals speculated that either the storms or dolphins had driven them in. Joey and I both found it fascinating.

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A highlight of Ft. Myers was getting together with two sets of friends from home. Joe and Marty Sanfillipo and Bill and Carol Faulkner were both at their respective winter residences in Naples, and both drove up to join us for a meal. It’s always a treat for us to welcome Cincinnati friends aboard Blue Heron, and we really appreciated their making the effort to come see us.

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You can’t visit Ft. Myers without touring the Edison and Ford winter homes, which are conveniently right next to each other. So one day we rode our bikes with Jackets and The Zone, took a picnic and had a great time. Very interesting.  I’m not sure I had ever realized what a very busy and inventive man Edison was. He wasn’t just about light bulbs! He still holds the record for the most patents with the U.S. Patents office – 1,093. He was even responsible for planting the beautiful Royal Palm trees along McGregor Blvd that give Ft. Myers the nickname “The City of Palms.”

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Edison and his wife Mina were gardeners, too, and the grounds are lovely. This single banyan tree (plus its offshoots) covers almost an acre!


On our last night in Ft. Myers, Tom and Patsy borrowed a car and we drove to Ft. Myers Beach to hear singer and one-man band Denny Pezzin. We ate and danced, watched the sunset over the beach and just had a wonderful time. By the end of the night, Patsy was singing and I was hugging alligators.

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The next morning, having finally secured reservations for Key West in a few days, and after more good-byes with Jackets, True North and The Zone, we cast off our lines and headed south for Marco Island. We thought back about how concerned we had been about whether we would enjoy so many days in Ft. Myers. No worries – it turned out to be a really wonderful stop, mostly due to time spent with good friends, boaters and landlubbers alike!

Next: Marco Island and Everglades City, two very different towns.

(Real-time update: on April 3 we are in Jekyll Island, Georgia, having crossed the border after spending nearly 5 months in Florida!)

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