As promised, on Saturday morning Riggs and I cast Spray's lines from mooring R9 in Boot Key Harbor (city of Marathon FL), headed 2 miles west, then turned north, passing under here (the humped part), and continuing another 25 miles north across Florida Bay (in water typically 7-8 ft deep) to the bottom left corner of the Florida mainland, aka Cape Sable. I had hoped to anchor overnight off the beach but the south winds had kicked up 2 ft surf. Not conducive to a good sleep.
To console Riggs we did drop anchor for an hour and dinghied ashore for some ball play (see above) and to purge Riggs' tanks. Then we continued another 10 miles up Florida's west coast to the entrance of the Little Shark River. We turned east and traveled in about 2 miles. Really beautiful! A maze of clear waters and mangrove islands, full of fish, dolphins, manatees, and birds birds birds. Someday I'll spend a week or so exploring it but the downside is that you really can't get off the boat as there's no place to land. For Riggs this meant we broke out the square yard of Astroturf (tm) on the cockpit deck (aka the poopdeck). Bless his heart he went over 24 hours before giving in and using the facilities.
So Saturday night we had a beautiful, isolated anchorage. On Sunday morning we headed back out into the Gulf (of Mexico) and headed Northwest, with following winds and 3-4 ft waves that made steering a challenge (Spray yaws some in these conditions). In he afternoon the wind and waves got stronger and shifted more abeam (roll, roll, roll) so we ducked into Indian Key Pass, which leads towards Everglades City. We turned left into Russel Pass and hid behind a mangrove island for the night, with 3 other cruising boats. A front came through overnight, with thunderstorms, so it was good to be in protected waters.
By the way, since losing cell phone coverage north of Marathon, we did get a couple of bars at this anchorage (from Everglades City no doubt), so we were sort of reconnected with the world. Another thing we dealt with was mosquitos at night. Spray has some screens but somehow a couple of the little devils seem to get in, and that's all it takes.
Monday we headed back out to the Gulf and continued NW, along the 10,000 islands area, under threatening skies. After a few miles we turned into West Pass and dropped anchor off of Camp Lulu Key, where we went ashore in the rain and played some ball on the beach (see photos below). As previously mentioned, I had camped on Camp Lulu on new years 2000, along with Sheila and my sister and her hubby.
After lunch we pulled anchor and continued NW into Gullivan Bay and through the old local ICW around the back side of Marco Island. We continued another few miles, dropping anchor between Little Marco Island and Keywaydin Island. There was some boat traffic there but at least there was a small beach for Riggs.
The plan for today was to continue up this ICW towards Naples, and to head out into the open Gulf via Gordon Pass, making for Ft Myers. The weather report said we'd see 5-7 ft seas out in the Gulf so we poked Spray's nose out of Gordon Pass for a look and didn't like what we saw, so we turned around and continued up into Naples Bay. We pulled into the City Dock, got a pumpout, bought some fuel, filled the water tank, and paid $10 to hang on a mooring ball for tonight. And here we are. We had a great walk exploring ritzy downtown Naples, and I got a shower, and all is good. Tomorrow we are promised calmer conditions 'outside' (2-3 ft seas) so we'll head for Ft Myers to pick up brother-in-law Dennis. Then comes Okeechobee, so stay tuned!