The forecast wasn't particularly good, so I wasn't too surprised when I started to get e-mails and calls from Squadron members who were bailing out on this cruise to one of our favorite islands. I decided to go ahead, and head on down to Bokeelia on Pine Island anyway, and see how it would turn out.
Paul Wagonner and Billy VanDeusen were at the ramp to help our members get launched and on their way. Steve Wood was rigging his Bay Hen, Ed and Becky were already launched and were motoring toward Charlotte Harbor, and Jack O'Brian, along with Rick and Linda Eggers were getting their Mac 26 X, Gostosa III ready to go. I promised Jack that I'd wait around for him to get ready so I could help him find his way out of the canals to Shell Cut. We were just about ready to go when another Potter 19 pulled up, It was Brian Allcott, a new member who then began to set up his boat. The winds were calling us, and we wished Brian the best and set off as soon as Jack had Gostosa ready to go.
Out in Shell Cut we saw friend Dennis Bradley setting sail on his Commodore Munroe Egret replica, Ibis. At 28 feet with a cat ketch rig and long bowsprit she was quite fetching. I put three reefs in the Main and three in the mizzen, but was still overpowered in the gusts. On top of that, the wind was not out of the south, which would have made it a beam reach, but rather out of the southwest which made for a close reach to Pelican Bay. The chop over the shoals was very steep. In fact, Whisper took a number of knockdowns in the gusts putting water over her rail, and getting things wet up forward. Not the way I wanted to start a weekend camp out. Later Paul told me that he just headed Wing-It, his SeaPearl Tri, out into Charlotte harbor on a close reach and made a few long tacks back to Pelican Bay. I was stubborn though, and drove her right on through the shoals and into Pelican Bay.
What I saw when I got there warmed my old WCTSS heart. Paul, and Steve's Bay Hen were back in behind the sands of the cove at the north end of the bay. There is only one narrow way in and out and it sometimes involves walking your boat like a dog to get her back in there, but it makes for a calm night and safe anchorage regardless of the wind shifts. I brought Whisper back in there, and talked Ed and Becky, and Stin Linkert to walk their Potter 19's back in there as well.
When Dennis Bradley's Egret and the Mac 26 X arrived they decided not to try to get these larger boats into the safety of the snug cove, but they were fine snugged down on the outside of the sand spit.
After enjoying a beer with Paul and Ed, we started watching for other members to show up. It wasn't long before a black (blue?) Potter 19 was sighted coming from the south.
It was Red Tag, Dave and Teresa's Potter 19. They tucked her back into the cove as well. Before long we spotted a dinghy powering in toward the beach. It was Larry Whited who had anchored his SeaPearl 28, Belle, near the south end of Punta Blanca at the other end of Pelican Bay. Another afternoon arrival was Luke and Carmen's dream Chaser another Mac 26 x who had sailed with the Squadron down in Biscayne Bay and really enjoyed the group.
I think it was about that time that the sky turned very dark and a squall line approached from the west. It foretold of the passage of a cold front with winds out of the NW in the night. But it blew through in less than an hour while I huddled below, taking a nap in my tiny cabin. The skies cleared, the grills and a table appeared and the generosity of our members became apparent. I cooked a steak for Larry, who hadn't made it back to his boat before being overtaken by the squall. He came back with a new (dry) outfit.
One more boat came in about that time. A beautiful hand made Egret replica built and sailed by Wayne Holbert, AKA Red Wolf, a survival expert and instructor. Dennis Bradley knew Wayne and told about how he built his boat in 18 months and how well built and unique it was. Egret was also cat ketch rigged and she was a beauty.
The only boat that we didn't hear from out on Cayo Costa was the Potter 19 sailed by Brian Allcott. I don't have Brian's phone number, so I hope he made out OK.
The next morning the wind was howling out of the NW, and we wisely elected to stay ashore. Wayne took us all out along the seemingly deserted beach to show us four or five things that we could eat if we REALLY got hungry.
I wasn't feeling well, having had leg cramps in the night, and decided to head home on Saturday. The forecast was calling for a very cold night, and I didn't see much point in suffering. Ed and Becky, Paul Wagonner, and Steve Wood also headed back on Saturday.
On the way back a very interesting Crab Claw rigged catamaran was sighted heading in to Pelican Bay. There was a young couple aboard, and we sailed along side by side for a while. I had heard that they were coming, but they didn't identify themselves to me on-line, so I didn't know their names. Later I learned by e-mail that it was Butch Erny and Sharon Cavanaugh aboard Sparky's Arc. If you get "Messing-About-In-Boats" magazine, their boat was featured in a design discussion. It was professionally built by the designer, Fred Shell.