Our last hoorah…heading north, back up the Gulf to St. Petersburg March 16 – June 10, 2020

We left Marlin Bay at 8 am bound for an anchorage nestled in Little Shark River in the Everglades.  We had tried to stay there on our way down to Marlin Bay back in February, but had a hiccup with our anchor.  We were happy to get there, as it’s a beautiful spot.  We deployed the dinghy and went out to explore.  It’s a beautiful spot, loaded with birds, dolphins and tarpon.  As we returned to the boat, a dolphin swam under our dinghy and bumped us…so cool!  We spent the afternoon relaxing aboard Misty and saw two huge (about 5′ long!) tarpon jump out of the water.  It happens so fast, it’s impossible to document, but it will live in our memories.

A beautiful afternoon at Little Shark River

The beautiful light before, during and after sunset

When we went out after dark to look at the incredible stars, we could hear the dolphins breathing around the boat.  This was a lovely anchorage with room for plenty of boats. While there were other boats there, they were far from us and we had a really quiet stay.

We raised our anchor at 7:30 am to continue north. There were numerous fields of lobster pots to negotiate, but once we were clear of them, it was a beautiful ride with extremely calm seas.

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Lobster traps everywhere!

Approaching Marco Island

We got to Rose Marina in Marco Island just after 1 pm.  We spent two very quiet nights there, as the Corona Virus pandemic shutdown was beginning., quite literally as we arrived.  The most excitement we had was being across the dock from the Key West Ferry.  There was always a good crowd on the ferry, as Key West was evacuating non-residents due to the pandemic. We had plenty of food on board from our preparation for our Bahamas trip, so we just relaxed, took walks and enjoyed the scenery.

Scenes at Rose Marina, Marco Island

We left Marco Island for the 47 mile ride up to Tarpon Point Marina in Cape Coral. We had a spectacular ride up the Gulf with a couple of very playful dolphins in our bow wake!

Leaving Marco Island

Playful dolphins under our bow in the Gulf

We wanted to get over to our soon-to-be home to meet with a couple of home improvement vendors, but the continued closures due to the pandemic was going to change our plans.  We decided that we would sit tight once there and put our trip up to St. Petersburg, where Misty would be put on the sales dock at Harborage Marina, on hold.  Unfortunately, when we got to Tarpon Point, despite having a reservation for a week, they didn’t have a slip for us.  And, they also wouldn’t accommodate us for a month.  UGH!  So after a night on the fuel dock, we continued up the Caloosahatchee River to Legacy Harbor Marina, where we would end up staying for 2 1/2 months!

Tarpon Point Marina, Cape Coral

We got to Legacy Harbor Marina on March 20th, and soon after our arrival, it was clear that we would need to stay put for longer than the expected month.  The pandemic worsened and closures continued as the state shut down.  We decided to not only continue our stay, but also push back the closing on our new home until early June.  We made the best of it by taking walks, bike rides, cooking, reading and lots of needlepoint and swimming for Nancy.

A beautiful evening aboard Misty at Legacy Harbor

We kept our rental car for our first week, and took several picnic lunch car rides, which we called “Old people in cars eating lunch”!  We explored Pine Island, Venice, Sanibel, Captiva, Ft. Myers beach and more.

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St. James City, Pine Island

The fun and colorful town of Matlacha on Pine Island, can’t wait to come back when it’s safe for things to open up!

Venice, and the closed beach along the inlet

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island

Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in blocking the sale of this environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island.  President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order in 1945 creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge at Darling’s urging.  In 1967 the refuge was renamed in honor of the environmentalist.  The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. The refuge was created to safeguard the wildlife and provide feeding, nesting and roosting areas for migratory birds.  Today, the refuge is a habitat for over 245 species of birds.  We saw so many incredible birds, and even a mama and baby osprey in their nest!

We enjoyed a solitary stroll through a spectacular nursery that looks more like a botanical garden than a retail outlet!  We’re dreaming of our new garden and thrilled to see both the beautiful varieties of plants, but how reasonably priced they were.

In the Garden nursery, Sanibel

Beautiful Captiva

Ft. Myers Beach…note the turtle nests blocked off

We spent a lot of time walking and riding a bike around Ft. Myers, enjoying the beautiful homes and the beautifully restored downtown.  During quarantine, it was quite eerie!

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The “full moon of April”, called the Pink Moon, occurred on the 7th.  It is said have been the biggest “supermoon” of the year!

Our walk along McGregor Avenue and the Edison Ford neighborhood

And the neighborhood flowers and trees

Edison Ford Winter Estates

Red Button Ginger in the Edison Ford Garden, and also in ours!

Edison Elementary School, and their inspirational painted rocks

In January 2016, an outdoor sculpture exhibit was installed in downtown Ft. Myers, as a promotion for a planned luxury condominium on the river,  You will find a total of 23 giant, rusted iron sculptures scattered throughout town, and down by the water.  Each figure weighs between 200 and 1,000 pounds, and represent common figures not ordinarily featured in sculptures: men playing chess, a fruit seller, a man walking his dog, men playing chess, and more.  They are the work of Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona, and this is his first time his work has been exhibited in North America.

Carmona’s “Giants” around Ft. Myers

Beautiful, and very empty, downtown Ft. Myers

We had a great spot to isolate ourselves in the marina…pretty much the last slip, with no neighbors.  With Rob’s stride, 550 steps!  We were visited by several manatees (two who were being frisky off our stern for quite a while one afternoon!), dolphins and lots of  ducks and jumping fish!  We were also perfectly situated to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset!

Our long walk to the boat

After being “stuck” on board for weeks, we decided to take Misty for a short run down to Sanibel and spend the night “on the hook”, just off Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.  It was a beautiful, relaxing afternoon.  We were amazed when David Tribula and his wife Suzy, pulled up next to us in the river when we were on our way down to Sanibel.  They later came by our anchorage for a chat.  David built Misty (then named the “Suzy T”), and sold her to us in 2017!

A beautiful anchorage in San Carlos Bay, and running into the Tribula’s

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Views around Legacy Harbor

Sunrise

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Sunset

Happily, there is a Publix one block away from Legacy Harbor for provisioning.  Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven people to panic shop, and the shelves at Publix showed it.  Meats, dairy, water, disinfectants and paper products disappeared quickly.  Things did settle down, but there was a constant shortage of disinfectants, and paper products, some meats, over the counter drugs and various other products were sold with limitations of one per customer.

West First Street Publix at the beginning of the pandemic

Our isolation increased in May, when Florida is infested with “Love Bugs” for a couple of weeks.  Love Bugs are a species of march fly found in Central America and, of course, the southeastern U.S, especially along the Gulf.  During mating and after mating, the pairs remain together.  But, the male dies and is literally carried by the female until she lays her eggs. And, then she dies.  Truly a barbaric kind of mating! They swarm (quite literally) twice a year.  Yippee….can’t wait until their second flight in September!

Love bugs swarming Misty

Let the rainy season begin….daily storms are fun to watch from a boat!

We began to pack up Misty, getting ready to close on our new home in Cape Coral on June 1.  Donning our masks, we purchased a car (a 2015 Toyota Highlander), shopped for mattresses and furniture, taking advantage of Memorial Day sales.  We officially began to move in on the 2nd, and spent our first night sleeping on a mattress on the floor! It began to feel more like home once the furniture came on the 3rd!

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Home Sweet Home

We spent a few days unpacking, hiring a painter, ordering plantation shutters and organizing our final trip aboard Misty to St. Petersburg, where Misty would settle in on the sales dock at Harborage Marina.  We made our final of seven trips filling the Highlander to the gills, and packed up for our two day trip north.  We tearfully departed at 6:15 am on June 8th.

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Departing Legacy Harbor Marina, Ft. Myers

It was terribly hot and humid the entire day, with little breeze, and we were sweating!  However, we had numerous dolphin sightings, calm seas and a lovely dinner with our fellow Looper friends Cindy and Andy/Aquaman.

Views along the Gulf ICW

Venice Beach Inlet

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Dinner with Cindy and Andy 

 

Sunset

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Beautiful sunrise, Venice, June 9th

From Venice to St. Petersburg

And so it goes…after 3 years, we are saying good-bye to our beloved Misty.  So many memories, all happy, with only a few hiccups and scary moments.  But, far more amazing places, people and forever friends.  While our last day was another hot and completely sweaty day, it was wonderful.  A beautiful sunrise, dolphins jumping in our wake, good timing with bridge openings, calm winds and seas.  This was the journey of a lifetime.  We are forever grateful for all of the wonderful people we met on this journey and what we have learned about ourselves, and life overall.

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Who says that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.  Nonsense!  On to the next adventure…Misty out.

Misty

Misty at anchor in Three Rivers Lake, Alabama.  Photo by Jayne Gorham/Bella Gatto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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