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Florida’s Everglades and West Coast

Posted by on May 7, 2015

How time flies – it’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since our last post.

During April we visited the Everglades, the west coast towns of Naples, Ft. Myers Beach, Venice and Sarasota, and returned to the east coast via the Okeechobee Waterway. Interspersed with our ‘urban’ stops were anchorages along the intra-coastal waterway, at Captiva and Cayo Costa Islands.

The weather and sea conditions were excellent for our offshore passage from Marathon to Ft. Myers Beach, a distance of about 130 miles. We made three diverse stops along this section, at Little Shark River (very remote), Everglades City (very ‘old Florida’) and Naples (very upscale).

A highlight was our stop at Little Shark River, in the heart of the Everglades, which Wikipedia describes as follows: The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades experience a wide range of weather patterns, from frequent flooding in the wet season to drought in the dry season. The popular term “River of Grass” is used to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.

The other communities we visited were varied as well.  For example, Fort Myers Beach has a busy harbour with a large fishing fleet, many inexpensive vacation rentals along its beach strip, and a very active outdoor party scene. In contrast, Sarasota has a much more refined atmosphere centred on the arts, including an Opera House and many art galleries. It’s also known as the winter location for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. We spent an enjoyable day touring the excellent circus museum there, as well as the grand mansion and extensive estate bequeathed to Florida by John and Mable Ringling.

Upon our arrival in Stuart we enjoyed a visit from our son and daughter-in-law.  Although brief, there was enough time to make a trip up to Vero Beach for a few days, where we enjoyed the Atlantic shore and learned how to paddle board among the protected waters near the marina. Because Vero Beach had been the very first stop on our four-year cruising adventure, this return also represented a fitting place to end our travels.

We are currently awaiting word on our specific shipping date from Sevenstar Yacht Transport, the company we have engaged to transport His Idea home to B.C. This should occur within the next four weeks, and now that we have reached this stage of our journey we hope it will be sooner rather than later. If soon enough we hope to travel with His Idea aboard the freighter through the Panama Canal as far as Costa Rica, and then fly home. We think this will be a fun cruising adventure of another sort, as we have never visited Central America or the Panama Canal.  It would also mean experiencing life aboard a large cargo freighter.

A final word about the weather – indeed, we had unseasonably warm temperatures during the month of April, with temperatures in the upper 80’s and 90’s, often combined with high humidity.  We’re not complaining, but for us northerners Vancouver’s temperate summer climate will be a welcome change!

Here are the latest pictures and commentary. We will also have one more post, likely sometime in June, when His Idea has arrived at her new home at Point Roberts Marina.

Florida's southwest coast - we traveled s far north as Sarasota.

Florida’s southwest coast – we traveled as far north as Sarasota.

.....which was just a short dinghy ride away from our mooring in the harbour.

While in Marathon we spent a perfect day at Sombrero Beach, which was just a short dinghy ride away from our mooring in the harbour.

With Seven Mile Bridge receding behind us, it was now  about 50 miles of open water to reach the Everglades' Little Shark River.

With the Seven Mile Bridge receding behind us, we now had about 50 miles of open water to reach the Everglades’ Little Shark River.

The Everglades coastline is relatively remote, flat and nondescript; the entrance to the Little Shark River is in the distance.....

The Everglades coastline is relatively remote, flat and nondescript; the entrance to the Little Shark River is in the distance…..

.....where we tucked ourselves into the small bay just behind the green marker; although it doesn't look like it, this was a fairly well protected anchorage with exposure only to south winds.

…..where we tucked ourselves into the small bay just behind the green marker; although it doesn’t look like it, this was a fairly well protected anchorage with exposure only to south winds; we were joined by a couple of other boats later in the day.

As expected, the fish, birds and other wildlife was abundant (saw no sharks though).

As expected, the fish, birds and other wildlife were abundant (despite the name, we saw no sharks).

Exploring the channels and tributaries of the river.....

By dinghy we explored the channels and tributaries of the river, of which there are many; we took our handheld GPS with us so we wouldn’t get lost.

.....and tributaries of the river by dinghy.

The mangrove swamps are very dense and home to turtles, alligators and many other creatures.

Much to our surprise, while travelling about three miles offshore, we came across this entangled pair of very large turtles; we they were mating.

Much to our surprise, while travelling about three miles offshore, we came across this entangled pair of very large turtles; we believe they were mating.

We traveled quite a few miles up the Barron River to reach Everglades City, a slice of 'old Florida'....

We traveled quite a few miles up the Barron River to reach Everglades City, a slice of ‘old Florida’….

.....famous for its Rod & Gun Club, where we stayed for the night.

…..that is famous for its Rod & Gun Club, where we tied up for the night.

The Club is huge, with a large salon decorated with stuffed fish.....

The Club is huge, with a large salon decorated with stuffed fish…..

,,,,.and other native wildlife.....

,,,,.and other native wildlife.

.....plus rooms for other relaxing pursuits.

Atmosphere and history was very evident here, especially in the bar.

While in Naples we visited the public pier; both the surrounding beach and the pier was packed with swimmers and people fishing or just there to catch the sunset.

While in Naples we visited the public pier that is the centre of the old town; both the surrounding beach and the pier were packed with swimmers and people fishing, or just there to catch the sunset.

In Ft. Myers Beach we shared the harbour with the shrimp fleet.

In Ft. Myers Beach we shared the harbour with the shrimp fleet.

Near our Captiva Island anchorage we tied up our dinghy for the day at Jensens , an old time fishing resort that has seen may of the rich and famous.

Near our Captiva Island anchorage we tied up our dinghy for the day at Jensen’s, an old time fishing resort that has seen many of the rich and famous.

Sunset at Cayo Costa Cay, which is a nature preserve and  state park.

Sunset at Cayo Costa Cay, which is a nature preserve and state park.

This is one of the intricate hand built displays from the huge (3800 sq. ft.) circus model at the Circus Museum in Sarasota.

This is one of the intricate hand built displays from the huge (3800 sq. ft.) circus model at the Circus Museum in Sarasota.

Another of the displays, which were numerous and interesting.

Another of the displays, which were numerous and interesting; we spent all morning here with fellow boaters Bill and Carole Lowther.

The grounds of the John and Mabel Ringling estate, constructed during the 1920's , are large, lush and beautiful; lovers of both Italy and art, their former home is filled with Italian statues and paintings.

The grounds of the John and Mable Ringling estate, constructed during the 1920’s, are large, lush and beautiful; lovers of both Italy and art, their former home is filled with Italian statues and paintings.

The ornate ceiling of the mansion's dining room, allegedly Mabel's favourite....

The ornate ceiling of the mansion’s dining room, allegedly Mable’s favourite.

.....and the tiled veranda leading to the dock, in keeping with the style of John's many opulent yachts.

The tiled veranda leading to the dock, in keeping with the style of John’s many opulent yachts.

A fun day playing in the surf at Vero Beach....

A fun day playing in the surf at Vero Beach….

.....and a work out on the paddle boards the following day; The Captain and the Admiral tried it too, and liked it, so we may buy one to keep on His idea.

…..and a work out on the paddle boards the following day; the Captain and the Admiral tried it too, and liked it, so we may buy one to keep on His idea.

Despite the very hot weather, this sign - plus some brushes with unknown underwater creatures - caused us to rethink our swimming plans in Stuart.

Despite the very hot weather, this sign – plus some brushes with unknown underwater creatures – caused us to rethink our swimming plans in Stuart.

The bridge over the St. Lucie River in Stuart, where His Idea was purchased and our adventure began.

The bridge over the St. Lucie River in Stuart, where His Idea was purchased and our adventure began.

6 Responses to Florida’s Everglades and West Coast

  1. Anne

    So you’ve gone full circle? Just caught up on the last couple posts… keep on keeping on!
    Anne

    • john-and-ria

      Hi Anne,

      Glad to hear from you after awhile, and that you’re still following our adventures! Although our travels on the east coast and in the Caribbean are coming to an end, we’re looking forward to exploring the west coast again. Somewhere out there on the horizon, the Inside Passage and Alaska beckon…..

      All the best,

      John & Ria

  2. Elizabeth Kabush

    Hi to you both….love the last shot of the bridge where it all began…looking forward to seeing you when you return.

    What an adventure you both have been on and hard to believe that it has been four years! Elizabeth

    • john-and-ria

      Hard for us to believe too!

      Look forward to seeing you soon…..

  3. Leona

    Hi John & Ria,

    Looks like you are having a wonderful time. Love the photos!

    Anyhow, it’s someone’s special day today – Happy Birthday John. Hope your day is fabulous!

    Leona

    • john-and-ria

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, Leona – it’s so nice of you to remember!

      Hope you’re planning to come to the reunion in June, and look forward to seeing you there….

      John

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