Fall Cruise 2020 – Fort Myers Beach To Home

The day after Thanksgiving we untied from Fish Tales and slowly worked our way through the small marina. The bridge tender at Big Carlos Pass was pleasantly chatty as he opened the draw for us, and we exited onto a very calm Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf of Mexico looking towards Naples

We went straight outside the three mile limit and ran north towards Matanzas Pass and the marina at Pink Shell Resort.

Pink Shell Resort from off shore

The marina at Pick Shell Resort has been voted Top 25 places To Tie Up In North America. The marina has a row of slips facing open water, so are easy to turn and back into. Once checked in each person is given a rubber wrist band that allows access to all parts of the resort. This includes three restaurants and three heated swimming pools. Marina guests also have complementary beach chairs and umbrellas as well as stand up paddle boards. Overall the resort if a family location, with lots of young children. There is a constant stream of boats passing the marina!

Prerequisite tourist pirate ship!
Checking out the sunken sailboat – no idea why!
And yes, they have a floating Tiki bar here as well!

There was a city park right beside the resort so we decided to take Bella for a walk. When we got there we found that no dogs were allowed! We suspect it was because there were a lot of birds and it could have been a bird sanctuary. So we took a sharp left and walked along the beach. From then on we walked Bella one way along Estero Blvd and then walked back along the beach.

During our stay we used the adult pool for lunch and drinks, chatting with other guest from the frozen north! We ate at both of the restaurants and at a good seafood restaurant in town.

Enjoying the heated pool
Pink Shell Resort Pools
Sian writing the Christmas cards, and wondering why she brought cards with glitter on the boat!

Our original plan was to leave Fort Myers Beach and go south to Naples and Marco island before retracing our steps. However the weather was forecast to turn cold (for Florida) with a decent blow from the north. Since you have to run outside in the Gulf to and from Naples, we decided it was time to just turn and head for home, and Christmas.

Leaving sunrise at Pink Shell Resort

We left Pink Shell Resort at first light on Monday, November 3oth. We had decided to stop at the Glades Marina at Okeechobee Water Way (OWW) mile marker 89. Once underway however we found that we were not as impacted by the westward flow of the river as we thought so decided to go on to Moore Haven at MM 78and again tie up at the city dock. This would shorten our run tomorrow by an hour.

Waiting to go through Ortona Lock
Interesting, who has a airplane wing out back of the house!
This boat hasn’t moved in a while!

There was a Fleming 65 tied up nearby and Paul chatted with the owners. They were on their way to Stuart to leave the boat for a month for some work. Paul mentioned that on the way west bound we has seen a dock on the St Lucie River with a dozen or more Flemings. They told him that that was the site of the South East Fleming brokerage, where boats were commissioned and worked on.

Next day, Tuesday December 1st arrived very chilly (for Florida!). We were again off early and transited through the Moore Haven Lock and southeast to Clewiston.

Chilly Florida morning
Steaming morning coffee!
Moore Haven Lock

As we made the turn at Clewiston Paul noticed white caps out on the lake. We had been in the well protected calm waterway so had not expected a blow in the lake. Sian went below and stowed for sea and we headed across a pretty rough lake with winds gusting to 28 from the north. We even had waves follow us in to Port Mayaca lock, but were ready for that as the lock tender had warned us after we called him.

An hour after leaving the Port Mayaca lock we pulled into Indiantown Marina at MM 29 and tied up at their bulkhead.

Tied up at Indiantown Marina

We had bought Bella a Doggie Advent Calendar, with treats behind every door. She got to open her first door this evening!

On Wednesday we had an uneventful run from Indiantown to Vero Beach, beginning to retrace our west bound route from three weeks previously. On the way we passed a large number of Fleming yachts tied up at the Burr Yacht facility, the southeast distributor for the model.

Flemings galore

As soon as we turned onto the Atlantic Intra coastal Waterway (AICW) we soon realized that by going north, we were going the wrong way for this time of year. Dozens, if not a couple of hundred boats would pass us going south over the next four days with very few going our way!

Boats southbound

More boats southbound

We also saw an interesting way to inspect and work on bridges over the AICW. We have learned that these vehicles are called Snoopers!

Not for me, thank you!

Arriving at Vero Beach Bella got to enjoy a couple of visits to the dog park right by the marina.

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On Thursday we headed north to Cocoa. The AICW immediately exiting Vero Beach takes you at exactly 000 degrees (north) on the AICW.

Early morning rowers at Vero Beach

We had planned on staying at the Cocoa Village Marina again but on our last visit we had walked by the new free dock in Lee Wenner Park, right downtown. There is no water or power but it was cool enough in the evening that we did not need AC or heat so didn’t require the generator. We walked across to Murdock’s for dinner on their back patio.

Sunset at the Cocoa free dock

Next stop Daytona and the Halifax Harbor Marina. Again another uneventful day’s boating north through Titusville and New Smyrna. We were tied up mid afternoon in plenty of time for showers and putting on our glad rags for dinner booked at The Cellar – a restaurant we had used before on a trip back from the Bahamas. We were not disappointed, and had a wonderful meal with a bottle of red from their award winning cellar. A young lady was waiting for us by the front door, took our temperature and asked us to use hand sanitizer before entering!

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
(Small) pelican island!
Sian on the helm running north on the AICW

On Saturday we headed off to St Augustine. We could have made it all the way to home dock but the tides were not right for our entry through the channel and lock at home. So we tied up early in St Augustine and took Bella for a long walk through the south part of town to avoid the crowds. After dark, rather than go into town to see the Nights of Lights which we do every year, we opted to stay on board for dinner and drinks.

Palm Coast airboat
Restored yacht Freedom, once owned by the daughter of Woolworth.
Looks like a flying club southbound
Interesting re-use of a car seat as a fishing spot!
St Augustine sunrise.

The last day of our trip Sunday, December 6th, we gave a couple who were interested in Grand Alaskans a tour of Sonas before heading out. The weather was perfect for a run outside so we exited St Augustine inlet. It was a bit confusing at first as a number of the inlet markers were no longer there then we realized that they had been dredging the inlet for the past month or two so we could head straight for the sea buoy then turn north for Mayport. We had hoped to see a SpaceX launch while offshore as it was a clear day. The planned launch went off on time but we didn’t see anything. We ran well outside the three mile line so give the holding tank a final cleanse. It was a very calm day offshore.

Calm run offshore from St Augustine to Mayport

Ahead of us a tug towing a barge came out through Mayport and asked boats to stay clear as it dumped spoil from the dredging that is going on in the river to accommodate the larger boats from the new Panama Canal. Went went in through Mayport, and as we prepared to turn down the AICW for home a car carrier came through with a dolphin playing off its bow.

Tug and barge dumping spoil.
Military supply ship out of Mayport.

We went through our lock and were all tied up at home by 3:30. Just before it started to rain!

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