CHAPTER 12 DEC 9, 2007
GULF INTRACOASTAL WATER WAY (GIWW) Boca Ciega Bay FL to Punta Gorda FL
The next portion of the GIWW in Florida is full of crab pots and has many low bridges. Rather than having to call each bridge and wait for it to be raised, we lowered our mast (bringing our height down to 17 feet), and could get under most of them without requesting an opening. We are enjoying sunny, hot and humid weather in the 80’s, and it’s winter!
Dec 9 – This night we anchored in Boca Ciega Bay (at GIWW mile 115.7) rafted to two other "looper" boats (aka other boats on the Great Circle/Loop). Enjoyed happy hour with friends, and a lovely evening.
Dec 10 – Anchored in Longboat Key (at GIWW mile 84.9) for a couple of days, rafted with two "looper" boats again (see picture) – it makes it so much easier to party! We took our dinghies ashore and explored the island (see pictures). We were surprised to find a colony of peacocks (see picture) that live and roam freely in the village. At the beach, everyone gathers shells and decorates the large pieces of driftwood, and we added our fair share! Later, we enjoyed a great meal of seafood chowder, grouper and Key Lime pie at Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant.
Dec 12 – We stopped for the night in Sarasota at Marina Jack’s (see picture). Our boat was brightly lit and decorated for Christmas, as were many others in the marina (see picture).
Dec 13 –During the day we had lots of dolphins swimming alongside us, rolling over and over, then going sideways to stare up at me with one eye! Cruised by Osprey (see picture), passed by two golden eagles sitting on a sandbar, and both brown and while pelicans on a sandbar (see picture). The homes on the GIWW are gorgeous in this area. As we thank each bridge tender for an opening, they come back on the VHF radio and wish us a "Merry Christmas and safe journey"! Stopped in Venice to buy some diesel – good price of $3.20 a gallon. This night we anchored in Cape Haze (at GIWW mile 36) – it’s lovely here. Talked to family back in CT and found out they got a foot of snow today!
Dec 14 – We pulled up to the dock (see picture) in Cabbage Key and had a "cheeseburger in paradise" (grin) for lunch (see picture)! There’s dollar bills lining every available surface in the restaurant. Walked the nature trail and climbed the water tower for great view of the island. Then, on to Fishermen’s Village Marina (see picture) in Punta Gorda (at GIWW mile 26), which was our home for the next three months.
We really enjoyed having our own van in Punta Gorda. The marina is wonderful, and there’s all the shopping you could want. We explored the area, looked at houses and condos, went to flea markets, bought new chairs for our cockpit, got corian counters installed in the galley and head (see picture), and had some canvas work done on the boat. We also visited both Babcock Swamp Buggy Wilderness Adventure & Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (see pictures), had visits from family and friends (see picture), and made fabulous friends during B dock’s nightly happy hour. Great way to spend the winter! (We did return to CT in February to attend to our dad’s, both of who ended up in the hospital, then in nursing homes.)
Something became apparent during our long stay in Punta Gorda - no "changes" for a while! What a huge relief! During most of the previous months our lives were filled with daily changes. At every new marina there were new security gate codes and restroom codes to remember. Also at each marina, there were changes in how the boat is docked, as well as how you get on and off the boat, because docks are various heights and types. Then, there’s the courtesy cars. They each had their own quirks, and every store you come out of, you not only have to remember where you parked, but what car you driving! Also, don’t forget, the courtesy car has to be back at the marina in two hours, so don’t get lost! It was so nice having our own van to look for in parking lots, and driving it for as long as we want! I don’t take little things for granted any more!
A highlight in March 2008 was an email from Baldwin Yacht Club informing us that we are awarded the 2007 Cruising Trophy for doing the Great Circle/Loop (see picture). What an honor!
So far we have traveled 3490 nautical miles on this trip, plus the previous 1000 miles when we brought SUMMERTIME up the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston SC to Old Saybrook CT in 2005. We look forward to hearing from friends and family – please keep the calls and emails coming!