Bumming around Southern Florida! Naples, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island & Fort Myers
299 Days Looping
4,495.4 Nautical Miles Total (5,173.2 Statute Miles)
36.4 Nautical Miles This Week
4.8 Hours Underway This Week
6.8 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks
Monday – Feb 3rd – 0 NM – In: Naples, FL
On Monday we went to the Naples Zoo. The Zoo used to be called the “Caribbean Gardens” and was a plant collection of a leading early 20th-century botanist Dr. Henry Nehrling. It was opened to the public in the 1950s and animals were added in 1967. It’s about 15 minutes outside Naples and we took an Uber there.
The zoo is small, and has a small collection of animals in “natural habitat type areas”. When we arrived they were having a wild animal show which was interesting. They had birds, a couple of small wild cats, an armadillo, and a skunk. It was more geared toward kids, but there were some neat animals and the presenter was pretty funny.
We walked around the zoo looking for the animals. Even though we were early in the day, most of the animals were hiding in cool shady areas at the back of their “natural environments” (cages). Most of what we saw were the tails and behinds of sleeping animals. We did get to see a Florida Panther (because it was being fed), zebras, and some giraffes with parents traumatizing their young children by having them feed them lettuce, your normal zoo animals.
They have a small lake in the zoo and keep their monkeys on islands in the lake. You take a pontoon boat ride around the islands to see them. We did see a few monkeys, but mostly it was tails hanging down from trees or furry spots in the doors of their little huts.
There were some very nice trees and flowers along the paths as we walked around. In general, we were disappointed, it was okay as zoos go, but there were still a lot of fences and bars, and there were not a lot of animals to actually see. The good news is that the animals there were either rescued because they could not survive in the wild, pets that were abandoned or turned in and animals that have been captive-bred. We spent a couple of hours there, then took an Uber back to the Bayfront/Tin City area and stopped for lunch at Tavern on the Bay.
After lunch, we went back to the boat, and I worked on more varnish removal on the rails. In the evening we had dinner on the boat and got ready to head out in the morning.
Tuesday – Feb 4th – 29.7 NM – To: Fort Myers Beach, FL
We headed out of Naples back toward the Gulf around 9:00. This involved re-tracing the 4 miles back down Naples Bay past the million-dollar homes. When we reached open water, we turned north and headed up along the coast. We went past Naples and got a picture of the Naples Pier from the water, then past Bonita Springs, and up to the turn into Fort Myers Beach.
The channel into Fort Myers beach is narrow and passes a couple of shoals so you have to watch it. There was a lot of traffic going in, but fortunately, it’s a no-wake zone so once we got into the channel, we didn’t have to worry about the fishing boats rocking us too badly.
We went under the causeway bridge and past several boatyards, restaurants, and the fishing fleet, Fort Myers Beach is still a very active fishing port. We arrived at “Salty Sam’s Marina”. We wanted to get pumped out and while we were there we figured we’d top up our fuel tanks even though we were still over 3/4 full as they have a good price on diesel. We called in and were directed to the fuel dock which is way in the back corner of the marina with lots of tight turns. And, you have to back out when you are done!
The boat took about 90 gallons of fuel and we found out that the pump out at the fuel dock was broken. They said that there were pump-outs available at the slip (so we didn’t). We carefully backed out and went around the Pirate Ship and into our slip, tying up at just before 1:00.
We settled in and went to check-in, and then went next door to The Parrot Key Grill for some lunch. The last time we used our dinghy, the engine ran really rough. Salty Sams has a big outboard repair service so after lunch, I walked over and asked about having the engine tuned up. They said that they could do it, and to bring the engine over. We walked back to the boat and I took the engine off the dinghy and pulled the gas tank out of the dinghy bow. The engine weighs about 80 lbs and is awkward to handle as it’s very top-heavy. I struggled down the steps from the flybridge with it, then over the rail into a dock cart and I wheeled them over to the repair shop. They said they’d get to it before we left on Saturday.
We stayed around the boat waiting for the pump-out and keeping cool as the temps were up into the ’80s! That evening, we went back to the Parrot Key Grill for dinner.
Wednesday – Feb 5th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers Beach, FL
Our plan for Wednesday was to go across the bridge to Fort Myers Beach, Beach. Our marina is on an island and the actual beach and Gulf waterfront are on a barrier island that’s accessed by a bridge from our island!
We slept in a bit and at 10:00 we were just getting ready to leave for the beach when the phone rang. It was the repair shop! Our dinghy motor was all fixed and ready to go. We walked up to the repair yard and they took us back to the work area and started up the motor for us to show how easy it started and how smooth it ran. Because we don’t use it enough and I forget to run the gas out of the carburetor, it was all gummed up. They had removed the carburetor last night and let it soak overnight, cleaned it up, re-installed, and tested the motor. All good! We dragged it back to the boat and used the dinghy winch to lift it back up to the flybridge. MUCH easier!
After getting the motor back on the boat, we went across the bridge to the beachside. Traffic was horrible, stop and go all the way. Our driver dropped us off next to the Fishing Pier at the end of the bridge. It was almost noon and we’d missed breakfast so we went to a restaurant near the pier and had some brunch. While we were eating the Pirate Ship came past and fired cannons at the Fishing Pier!
After Breakfast, we walked down the main drag past hundreds of beach shops, restaurants, and hotels. It was hot, and there really wasn’t much to see. The beach itself was mobbed! This is the busy season in Southern Florida and it was a steady stream of cars, bicycles, and people!
The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce runs a free tram service up and down the north part of the island. It’s a hop-on-hop-off service. We waited for the next tram to come by, and got on. It turns out we were almost at one end of the tram route. The tram was pretty full and we ended up sitting in the back near the “conductor” and had a nice chat with her as we went around the Library and back up toward the north end of the island. We asked what was worth seeing, and she recommended the Bowditch Point Park right at the north end of the island. That is the tram’s northern turnaround point. Bowditch Point is where we came into the channel and it got very narrow and close to shore so we thought it would be fun to see it from the land side.
When we got to the park, we got off the tram and walked along the boardwalk to the beach. It was much less crowded here and we walked up the surf line to the end of the island. The path then ducked into the mangroves and sea grape bushes and looped to the inside of the channel.
We’d been seeing signs all up and down the beaches in Boca Grande and Marco Island about “Gopher Tortoise” crossings. Even though they are not amphibious, they like the dry sandy dunes along the beach and dig burrows in the sand. We saw one at the Naples Zoo, but we’d been hoping to see one in the wild. As we came up the side of a dune to a grassy area, we got our wish! There was a Gopher Tortoise munching on the grass. We went back to the park visitor center to wash the sand off our feet and then caught the tram back to the end of the bridge. We caught the same tram driver and conductor on the way back (there were at least two running), and had another nice chat.
When we got back to the shopping district, we walked around looking for our traditional Hat Pin and Thimble souvenirs. We didn’t have much luck but picked up a few postcards. Then we went to the Trolley stop to catch a Trolley across the bridge to the end of the marina road. The Trolley is only 75 cents, and its main route is from the beach to a remote parking area. Being a very built-up and popular island, parking is very limited, so they incent people to park on the mainland and take the trolley across. We crossed the bridge, then walked the half-mile to the marina.
That evening we decided to try the other restaurant at the marina “The Original Shrimp Dock Bar & Grill”. It was good, but we prefer the Parrot Grill.
Thursday – Feb 6th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers Beach, FL
Thursday was cold, windy, and overcast. It was forecast to rain later in the day. After breakfast, I worked on the blog for a bit, and Brenda got laundry ready. Then she went up and did 3 loads of laundry and I took a nap. For most of the trip, I’ve been going to bed between 8 and 9 and then waking up between 4 and 5 in the morning. It’s sort of back to my old working with England schedule! I’ve cut back on my coffee consumption a bit, and have started to be able to sleep until 7:00 a couple of times a week! On Thursday, I woke up at 3:00 am and was not able to get back to sleep, so the nap was welcomed.
I finally woke up around 5:00, I’m not sure, but I think Brenda started slamming doors to wake me up. Once I was fully awake we went back to the Parrot Grill for dinner. Even though it was cold, it was very busy and we sat at the bar watching the bartender “Susan” run out of one thing after another! We checked to see if the Ice Cream shop was open, but it wasn’t so walked over to the other restaurant (which was on our way back to the boat) and checked on dessert there. They didn’t have anything except Key Lime Pie, so we just went back to the boat for the night.
Friday – Feb 7th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers Beach, FL
We had a 9:00 am appointment on Friday to have the boat pulled out of the water for some maintenance. Olson Marine is just down the bay from the marina, about 1/2 mile away. They had told us to call at 8:30 to make sure that they were ready for us. We called and they said to come on down. When we got there, we tied up in the lift basin and had to wait for a few minutes. One of their customers was supposed to be there at 8:30 to pick up their boat and they said they were on their way so that boat was in the lift. We waited until about 9:15, and then Dom the owner had us back up and he put that boat in the water so we could get pulled. We were out of the water by 9:30.
There are rubber seals that go around the propeller shafts to keep the water out of the boat. They refer to them as “dripless seals”, well, ours were dripping! They were only dripping on the port side, and the wear was caused by running the boat down the rivers with a vibrating propeller. As we’ve come across the gulf, it leaked about a quart of water. The faster we run, the more it leaks. So, we decided to get the issue taken care of before it got any worse. Even though the starboard side was not leaking, we decided to do that side as well so that the seals were all the same age.
To change the seals, they have to remove the propellers, disconnect the propeller shafts from the transmissions, slide the shafts back, remove the coupling that holds the shaft to the transmission, remove the dripless seals, replace the rubber seals (two per side), and put it all back together. We had learned that we could place an extra seal on the shaft so that in a pinch, it could be changed without taking the boat out of the water. We had ordered extra seals and we were having them put a spare on each propeller shaft. Also, at some point we had one of our underwater lights fail so we had ordered a replacement and while the boat was out of the water, they installed that as well.
Once they got the boat settled out of the water, they told us to come back at 2:30 to check on the boat. We walked down to the waterfront under the bridge where there were a couple of restaurants. There was a geocache there, and we found that then went to Bonita Bill’s Cafe for breakfast. We hung around there for about an hour and a half, and when they started getting busy decided to give up our table. We walked around checking out the other two restaurants in the area. It was cool and windy, so we didn’t want to walk across the bridge to the beachside, so we walked in the other direction down the road to the mainland. We walked about a mile and a half and there was nothing really interesting, just lots of dive bars and strip malls with tattoo parlors and bingo arcades.
We turned around and walked back to the waterfront where we had seen then “Ostego Bay Marine Science Center”. It was open so we went in. It seemed to be a collection of small fish tanks, some displays of shells, and marine artifacts. There was a family of homeschooled kids there for an outing who were very loud. We watched them feed a Moray Eel, and then snuck out when no one was looking. It was about 1:30 so we went to Doc Ford’s restaurant for a long lunch. We were just finishing up when the marina called looking for more seals. We thought all we needed was 4 but to put on spares they needed 6. I had some on the boat, and since we were only a 2-minute walk away, we walked back to the boatyard and got them for them. We still had about an hour to wait so we went back down to Bonita Bill’s Cafe for an hour and watched the boats come in and out of the bay. At 3:00 we went back to Olsens Boat Yard to check on the boat. They were just finishing up. We waited about another half hour, while we were waiting we saw two huge rabbits hopping around in the trailer park next door.
When the boat was done, we paid our bill which was a pleasant surprise. The owner said that because the boat was so clean it made the job easier and he discounted it considerably! The pricing was already pretty good so it was a nice surprise! In the end, the bill was about $700 less than I was expecting! The work was excellent, the mechanics worked very clean and the shop itself was clean and well organized, another rarity in our experience!
If any of our boater friends are in the Fort Myers area and need work, especially paintwork which is their specialty, we highly recommend Olsen Marine Service in Fort Myers Beach!
Once the boat was back in the water, we idled back over to Salty Sam’s and into our slip. That evening was our last at Salty Sam’s so we went back to the Parrot Grill for dinner.
Saturday – Feb 8th – 6.7 NM – To: Sanibel Island, FL
Saturday we were moving to Sanibel Island, it was just a short 7 mile run across the bay from Fort Myers Beach. We planned on leaving around 9:00 so that we would have the day in Sanibel. Normally checkout time at marinas is 11:00 am and check-in time is 1:00 pm. We called the Sanibel Marina to make sure that our slip was available. They said that the boat that was in our slip, couldn’t leave until high tide. The entrance channel to the marina had silted in, and there was less than 2 feet of water at low tide. High tide was at 1:00, so we stayed in the marina until noon. While we were waiting, I took the opportunity to change out the zinc’s on the engines. Zincs are soft metal inserts that the seawater flows across. Because the zinc is softer than the engine components (cast iron, copper, brass, etc) the electrolysis that can eat away metal parts, eats at the zinc’s first so they need to be changed periodically. We had put fresh zincs in just before we left for our trip, and I’d checked them when we were in Canada and they were still in good shape. Now that we are back in saltwater, they are dissolving faster and I needed to put a fresh set in.
At noon, we left Salty Sam’s Marina and headed across the bay at a nice slow pace.
As we exited Fort Myers Beach and headed into San Carlos Bay, we cruised by Bowditch Point Park where we had walked along the shore. After a quick crossing of the Bay, we passed the Sanibel Island lighthouse and then approached the entrance channel, we could see the sand bar cutting off half of the channel. We lined up to hug the sea wall on the deep side, took a deep breath, turned on our forward-looking sonar, and took it as slow as we could. The tide was still coming in and there was a pretty good current pushing us so we just kept the engines at idle in the worst section. We were fine. At the shallowest part, we still had 2 feet of water under our keel (5.5 feet total depth). As soon as we passed the shoal, we had over 8 feet of water and were in good shape. Our slip was right in front of the marina office and was nice and wide so even with a bit of current, it was an easy in.
Once we had settled in, we went to the restaurant at the marina Grandma Dot’s for some lunch. There was a 30-minute wait, this is one of the most popular restaurants on the island, so we went back to the boat and I rinsed off the salt while we waited. We had a nice lunch and then went for a walk around the marina to see who was there and to check out another Beneteau Trawler that we saw.
There were two other loopers there, “Callin In Gone” and “Carolinn”. In the evening Carolinn reached out to us and invited us and Callin In Gone to their boat for docktails at 6:00. We chatted until 8:00 and then went back to Grandma Dot’s for dinner.
Sunday – Feb 9th – 0 NM – In: Sanibel Island,FL
On Sunday when we woke up, we saw the moon just getting ready to set. The full moon is one of the reasons that the harbor entrance was so shallow as the tides with a full moon and new moon are higher than normal. At the marina, they normally see about a foot, but with the full moon, it was over 2 feet! At 7:00 we heard a knock on the side of the boat. The marina delivers a newspaper and freshly baked muffins every morning! After breakfast, we walked to the Sanibel Island State Park and what is called “Shell Beach”. It’s reportedly one of the best shell collecting beaches in Florida. The State Park is about a mile from the marina.
We walked along the beach picking up shells. There was all sorts of marine life along the beach as well, jellyfish, crabs, sea urchins. We stopped to take a look at the lighthouse and to do a Geocache. There was a park worker painting the historic marker so we had to be stealthy because the cache was in a bush right beside where he was working.
After the cache, we continued walking down the beach back toward the marina, we grabbed another cache at the end of the state park and then walked down the beach that was more shell than sand. We met Carol and Eric from Carolinn who had taken their dinghy around to the beach and were also shelling. As we walked down the shore, the beach got narrower and narrower as the tide was coming in. We stopped to chat with a German lady from Vermont who was out walking her dogs and was vacationing in one of the waterfront homes. We finally reached a point where we couldn’t go any farther as the waves were coming up to the sea wall. We found a home under construction where we could cut through the yard to the street.
On our walk back to the marina, we passed a driveway that was paved with bricks in the shape of fish, very cool! There was also someone who used their collected shells to decorate their mailbox.
When we got back to the boat, we relaxed and cooled down. I worked on the blog, for a while and in the evening we had dinner on the boat. In the evening we had another great moonrise and a very low tide that had boats next to us sitting on the bottom. We were in deeper water near the fuel dock but still only had 12 inches at low tide. It did bring out the little fish and we had fun watching them swirl around our underwater lights on the back of the boat. I went to be early, but Brenda stayed up to see if she could see a rocket launch. She was watching it on TV and when it went up, she went outside and could see the orange glow of the rocket as it went across the sky.
NEXT WEEK: Leaving the boat in Fort Myers and driving to Miami for the boat show!
Tom & Brenda