Cayo Costa Cruise Report

March 17 - 19, 2006

by Bill Fite

Participants included: (We hope everyone is included! If not let me know!)

Ed & Becky Combs on Minnow (WWP 19)

Ted Jean (Hunter 19)

Bill Fite on Moon Shadow (Sea Pearl 21)

Art Gregory & Brenda Bell on Panacea (Nimble 20)

Stephen Luna on Gimli (AC 24)

Bill & Joyce Van Dusen (Sea Pearl 28)

Paul Waggoner (O'Day 19)

Terry Poling on LunaSea (ComPac Eclipse)

Stin Lenkerd on Lily P (WWP 19)

Frank Florin on ZunZun (WWP 15)

Bill Dolan (Suncat)

Glen Maxwell aboard Emerald (Peep Hen)

Gary and Susan Maxwell on Bullfrog (PeepHen)

Alan and Maxwell on Hedwig ( Peep Hen)

Steve Wood on Nemo (Siren 17)

Bud Tritschler on Nutshell (Sea Pearl 21)

John and Colette Johns (Hunter 215)

Terry Poling and son Tony launched on Wed 15th from Pine Island. Tony could only stay two days. Others launched Friday from various places. It was a beautiful sunny day, with west winds of about 10 kts or better favoring those launching from Placida. I launched at 1 pm, explored the Placida area for about an hour, and then had a pleasant reach all the way sustaining, 5 kts or better to arrive at the beach on the west shore of Pelican Bay by 4 pm. Paul Waggoner, Terry Poling, Ted Jean, Stin Lenkerd, Steve Luta, Bill and Joyce Van Dusen, and John and Colette Johns were among those already there on the beach when he arrived. Others all arrived within an hour, most after dodging shoals and beating from Bokeelia and other places east. Art Gregory and Brenda Bell had planned to sail outside from Englewood, but ended up having to motor after nearly getting caught by the business end of a giant dredge hose [I don't know the particulars of this, but Art said they had a scare when two giant floats and other maneuver restrictions put them in a tight spot] The beauty of Pelican Bay is no secret, of course. There were dozens of other boats anchored in all parts of the bay on this warm and sunny weekend.

Grills were fired up and a ranger stopped by to remind us of many rules. He said that the Sheriff would enforce the no-alcohol rule [I saw the ranger but was not in on the conversation]. The afternoon was a most pleasant one of welcoming familiar and new faces, admiring boats, describing journeys, and eating and drinking. All who knew them thought and spoke of Ron and Joyce Hoddinott, who had been forced to leave unexpectedly for Ohio a few days before by the rapidly failing health of Joyce's brother. Bud Tritschler was the first that afternoon to leave of those who had decided to anchor on the east side of the bay for the night. Most stayed on Cayo Costa. The night was quite pleasant, and the wind never shifted to the north as had been predicted.

Saturday morning began another beautiful day, winds w to nw about 5-10 kts. Some took beach walks and saw dolphins feeding in very shallow water just south of Pelican Bay. Those who had anchored across Pelican Bay came back over to the beach to talk about sailing options. All those heads together looked like a rugby scrum to those returning from a beach walk!

The group considered a return to Foster Bay, but the large number of boats in our group, the shoaling of Foster Bay from recent storms, and the forecast north and east winds led to a consensus to stay closer to the Pelican Bay area. By about 10:00 am most of the group headed out of the bay to the northeast. Some then turned north. As planned, however, Paul Waggoner, one of the most experienced of our group in these waters, turned south after a few miles and led those following around the northwest end of Pine Island past Jug Creek toward Useppa Island. After pausing to watch some National Catboat Association races near Useppa, the group tacked west to the beach at the south end of Punta Blanca Island near the pilings of an old fish house, now destroyed. Billy and Joyce Van Dusen were the first to arrive at the beach, followed by Paul Waggoner and Stin Lenkerd who did some nice sailing to edge ahead of the others following close behind. For this group it had been a delightful sail despite tricky winds which sometimes nearly stopped before picking back up to 7 kts or more.

To our surprise we were greeted on the beach by a pig! I (claiming to be a pig whisperer), gave her an apple as a gesture of goodwill from the group. Paul Waggoner, Ed Combs, and Terry Poling, on the other hand, discussed the possibilities of a good old Carolina pig picking barbeque, which may explain why the pig left the area.

Out came the grills, coolers, folding chairs, and tables, and before long the beach social scene so typical of WCTSS outings was in full bloom. Others arrived who had taken a different route, while the Maxwell Brothers, Ted Jean, and Bud Tritschler returned from their days sailing to the north part of Pelican Bay [I don't know for sure where they spent the night]. Punta Blanca Island sheltered our beach from the NW wind quite effectively that evening, but because the forecast was for east winds after midnight, some, such as Steve Luta and Art and Brenda, decided to pull out and go to nearby anchorages. Those that stayed on the beach enjoyed a good fireside chat, which featured entertaining tales by Steve Wood, the unofficial winner of the Interesting Occupation award&emdash;Steve is a blimp pilot, and he has some very good stories about that job and his days flying tourists around while more or less barnstorming in central Florida.

By about 9 pm most everyone had turned in. After a few hours of undisturbed sleep, however, the wind did shift to come from the east, which left us exposed. Nobody was particularly worried about it. The wind speed could not have been much more than 10 kts, but after a few hours it became somewhat of a nuisance. What cruising sailors sometimes call "the midnight anchor drill" occurred a little after 2:00 am, after dragging anchors and a little bumping caused some to have to arise and sort themselves out a bit. [I believe Steve Wood and maybe someone else motored around the corner into Pelican Bay during this little goat roping] After these adjustments there were no further problems.

I was the first to leave in the morning, just after sunrise. I was able to sail on a beam reach all the way to Placida, recording a 7 kt maximum speed on my GPS while grinning ear to ear and eating banana nut bagels. At Placida I checked water depths around some spoil islands near the railroad bridge in order to be able to find sheltered areas for mast raising and lowering in varying future conditions. Despite heavy road traffic in the area for the annual Placida Seafood Festival and a full parking lot at Eldred's marina where I launched, I was the only one at the ramp when I pulled Moon Shadow out. Fortunate is the sailor who can time his ramp use between the launching and recovery of the power boaters.