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Warm weather chasing with s/v Joyce Ann

11/16/16 Fort Myers, FL
By Brandon Patrick
Posted on 11/16/2016 7:49 AM
Home sweet southern home....
It was a three day trip from Clearwater to my slip for the winter at the Marina at Edison Ford in Fort Myers, FL.  The first day was certainly the best, as I was quickly able to leave my anchorage, get through a nearby cut, and exit into the Gulf.  Beyond having to keep an active watch for the crab pots that are everywhere down here, it was fair winds that allowed me to get to an anchorage behind Longboat Key.  The anchorage that I wanted for the evening was packed on a Saturday night of a holiday weekend, so I had to settle for a slightly more open anchorage.  It was a very calm night, so it worked out very well.
The second day was one of the most difficult of the trip.  The original plan had been to quickly exit via a cut just north of Sarasota and again use fair winds to make some serious miles in the open Gulf.  Sadly, those plans were quickly changed for the worse.  The New Pass cut has a draw bridge across it that was undergoing maintenance, so I was unable to exit there.  The Big Sarasota Pass that was a few miles further south is shoaled in so severely in places that a local tow boat captain told me over the VHF that only a local with absolute knowledge should attempt to go out there with my 4.5' draft.  With those two options shot, I was forced to take the inside intercoastal water system all the way south.  The intercoastal system is awesome for folks in pleasure boats of all kinds.  Fishing boats, runabouts, small draft trawlers all have a great time on this protected water that winds its way south.  Sailboats with large draft struggle with the constant fear of running aground in water that while supposed to be constantly at least 9' deep varies wildly.  When I say varies wildly, it errors more times than not on the shallow side.  This captain dodged a heart attack about 100 times as the depth finder constantly dipped down below 5'.  It was one of those miserable days that was the result of a constant fear that I was going to hit/get stuck on the bottom.  On the plus side, the view of that day was one of the most amazing of the trip.  It took me through the cities of Sarasota and Venice which are unbelievably beautiful all the times, but it was exceptional unreal from the intercoastal.  At the end of the long day of hoping not to hit the bottom, I dropped the anchor in a wonderfully protected cove lined with fancy houses in Cape Haze.
The last day was a great ride all the way into Fort Myers.  I was fortunate to ride an incoming tide all the way from my anchorage to my slip.  I was constantly getting 1 mph help with a max push of 2.5 mph where I traversed through smaller channels where the tides really roared.  At just just after 2pm, I was met by dockmaster Carly at my slip for the winter.  The last test of this portion of the trip was doing a stern in docking which is a little on the tough side for sailboats.  It was truly a great feeling to throw the dock lines around some pilings and know that it was a break from the journey.  I celebrated by having some oysters and cold beer at the Pincher's seafood restaurant that is located on site at the marina.  I'm looking forward to sitting still for a while.  I'll update when it's time for the North bound portion of the trip.
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