Cayo Cost - October 17th-19th 2008

Twenty three boats participated in this month's Cayo Costa Cruise outing, although I don't believe we ever all in one place at the same time! But that's ok and certainly in the tradition of the Squadron. Different boats and different strokes for different folks - all welcome to participate as they see fit.

Bill Fite and I set out from Eldred's Marina on Friday morning in our SeaPearl 21s and headed north along the waterway to seek out Don Pedro State Park and check it out for future reference. Bill Dolan had said he would be there on Friday morning, so we kept an eye out for him as well. If you blink as you go by you might miss the little east/west canal that heads off the waterway back through some mangroves and opens up to a bay that's shallow in the middle, but deep enough along the edges. On the west side of this bay are some docks that took some imagination for us to use with our 21 foot boats. Since we only intended to stop for a few minutes we tied up alongside and walked a hundred feet or so to the shelter house and looked out at a very nice beach! There are restrooms, and tables in the shelter for eating. If the Squadron was to use this as a stopover, we'd probably need to anchor in the bay and use one or two boats to ferry over to the docks.

After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we went back out of the canal to the ICW and headed back a mile or so to the Boca Grande Bridge at Placida. About halfway there I spotted the white sails of Paul Myers' SeaPearl, Brogan. After milling around waiting for the bridge to open we headed south towards Pelican Bay at the north end of Cayo Costa Island State Park. We had a decent northeast wind for the trip north to Don Pedro, but now that we were out in Charlotte Harbor, the winds decided to go very light from the southeast. We sailed on with full sails set, trying to make the most of what we had, and making about 1 to 2 knots at most. Occasionally we'd spot a zephyr of wind squirreling it's way across the water and we'd try to be at the right spot to catch some of it. Finally the surface of the water became glassy and as far as we could see there was no wind coming. We started the iron gennys.

I heard from Billy VanDeusen and Terry Poling on the VHF that there was a pretty good number of boats already anchored or beached at the sandbar by the north end of Pelican Bay. The weather was supposed to be fine the first two days, but turn nasty on Sunday, the third day, with the passage of a cold front, and strong winds from the North. Sounded about like the last two or three Cayo Costa gatherings that the Squadron has scheduled! As we motored on together, listening to the drone of three Honda 2 HP 4 stoke engines, we enjoyed the smooth rolling swells and the frolicking white Pelicans that make their home in Charlotte Harbor this time of year.

Bill and Paul and I entered Pelican Bay together like a precision drill team swooping into the anchorage, three abreast. Looking around, I saw about seven boats behind the sand bar at the north end and about four of our boats anchored off the beach at Punta Blanca Island. I wondered if we could all get together for social hour? So after greeting Billy, Paul Waggoner, Terry Poling, and meeting Jose Rodriguez, I motored Whisper over to Punta Blanca to see if they were willing to up anchor and move over to the sand bar. Dave and Theresa Barnicoat, Ken Williams , Brian and Robin Whidden and Bill Whalen all had their boats anchored stern to the shore, and a big pile of driftwood had already been collected for a campfire. Since there were more boats anchored or beached at the other spot, they graciously agreed to move their boats to the other beach to keep everyone together. Of course we weren't allowed by State Park Rules to build a campfire on the sandbar beach, so we left the pile of firewood in case we all decided to move over there later in the evening.

After getting anchors set we looked around to see who was there! Ted Jean was setting up his elaboarate tent on his diminuative catboat, CatNip. Billy and Joyce VanDeusen had their SeaPearl 28 back behind the sand spit. Jose Rodriguez had trailered "Witty", his WW Potter 15, over from the Winterhaven area, and had her nosed right up to the beach. Terry Poling arrived with his son, aboard his TelStar 28, and anchored on the east side of the sand spit. Paul and Dodie set up their condo cabin on Wing-It. Valkrie, an AS-29, designed by Phil Bolger, and built by it's owner Mike Waggoner joined us. Mike and his wife have been traveling in her for a few years now, and just sort of stumbled on our gathering of like minded shallow draft fanatics! They were welcomed by all our members and we enjoyed getting to meet them. Richard Anderson came sailing in aboard his SeaPearl, SeaNile, shortly followed by John and Colette Johns in their new SeaPearl 21! John and Colette were tickeled by the sparkling performance of their SeaPearl, and were still speaking to one another after spending a night aboard together. From the south came Ed and Becky Combs in Blue Bayou, their SeaPearl Tri. With them came Mike and Gilda with their Com-Pac 23, and Ted and Sher sailing Sundowner, their Precision 21. Mike Krippen came sailing in aboard Fashsa's Dream (Dave's Potter 19), followed later that night by Brian Bishop in his Monroe Egret and his son and girlfriend sailing a Com-Pac 16 that they were refirbishing, and Terry and Ruth Nagel aboard Whisper, their Siren 17.

Taking longer routes to reach the gathering were Rich Janelle, Com-Pac 16, and Bill Dolan aboard his Marshall 18 catboat. Also Art Gregory and Brenda Bell were sailing the intercoastal aboard Art's Peep Hen, Kiva. If I have everyone counted correctly and haven't overlooked anyone, that's 24 squadron boats and one visitor! A new record for turnout!

In any case, with the wine and beer flowing, the tide high, and the grills burning on the beach, we popped open the beach umbrellas, and folding chairs (I even had one this time!), and started swapping stories and making plans for future gatherings. The gnats, also known as no-see-ums, or flying teeth came out right at dusk, and the party broke up, for awhile. Several boats thought the bugs might be less out in the middle of Pelican Bay, so they anchored out. But for those of us who were willing to wait it out, as soon as the sun was down, there were suddenly no more bugs! There was a certain box (and a bottle) of wine that found it's way into a circle of chairs sitting around an electronic campfire (lantern) on the beach Friday night. I think it was Ted Jean's wine, and he brought plenty of plastic cups so that everyone could sample the vintage. Is there a vintage for boxed wine?

The evening became cool and the tide was rising beneath our feet!, so we eventually mosied back to our respective craft and settled in for a cool night aboard.

In the morning, we got to meet Brian Bishops' son Aaron and his girlfriend. They had sailed out in the gulf and had a rollicking good sail into Boca Grande Pass!

After a long gam with so many people on the beach, Ted and Sher, Mike and Gilda and Ed and Becky headed to the outside to sail down the coast to 'Tween Water's Marina for the night. That seemed to be the clue for the rest of us. Mike Krippen took off in his Potter 19, Fasha's Dream, and Bill Fite, Paul Myers, Richard Anderson, and I took off in our SeaPearls to see if we could catch the end of a dying breeze to make it back across Charlotte Harbor. the forecast for Sunday was very unpleasant and we didn't want to make that crossing with choppy seas and gusty winds. Bill Fite had an interest in looking at Bull Bay, so we make that our destination on the other side. After two long hours, half of which were motoring at 4 knots, we made it to the entrance of Bull Bay. Bull Bay is a fisherman's paradise, with three or four wooden fish houses on stilts around it's perimeter.


Once inside, we took a few photos and motored back out, discovering that the sea breeze had finally arrived from the west. A full sail beat back around Cayo Palau, and behind Devilfish and Sandfly Keys began. Paul and Bill were behind me, and I was watching my GPS for additional clues to the location of the "one foot line" before tacking each time. I also use a 6 foot bamboo pole for depth sounder occasionally poking it into the bottom as we skim over the shoals. That also gives me an indication of the type of bottom that we're traversing, mud, sand, shell etc. This day we skirted behind a commercial boat with a diving flag up. I wondered what they were harvesting in that shallow water, and later found out from them,at the boat ramp, that they were clamming! They were most appreciative that we stayed away from their diving flag as we tacked behind the spoil islands. Finally we spotted the island of the white pelicans. It's been their home base for years when they're visiting, and never fails to amaze me how they return there year after year, and pick the same spot, clustering close together and making a racket. We did our best not to intrude on whatever important doings they were involved in. Although a small private helicopter flew over very close to take pictures, and spooked them off of their roosts! We stopped for a break in very shallow water near the brown pelican side of the island and dropped our anchors for a few minutes. We were getting ready to leave when we spotted Richard Anderson sailing up behind us, following the same course that we had. Richard wasn't sure that he wanted to go home quite so soon, and after we left for Placida I think I saw him heading over to Boca Grande.

We continued to beat toward Placida, and got pretty close to the small island just to the SW of the swing bridge, when we were assaulted by very loud annoying music. Apparently there was a live band on the island playing for all the boats in the area. I didn't want any part of that scene, and apparently neither did Bill or Paul, so we sailed over to the shallow water on the east side of the ICW, and lowered our masts to go under the Boca Grande Bridge and back to Placida.

We worked together to haul out our boats, which makes it a lot more fun, and easier! Before long I was heading back over the Skyway Bidge hoping to watch the Rays beat the Red Sox!

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