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The travels of the "Leah Gent"

Florida (part 2)

 I figure I had better start a second page for the Florida trip to keep things loading fast.
 

12/9/04  Sorry for not updating but we have been out of touch for a week or so and having a great time as well. We left our nice dock in Indiatlantic to take a trip south for a week or so while we wait for the 14th of December to get here. You see, we have the best of both worlds. We are flying home for the holidays and leaving the boat in Indiatlantic for 3 weeks while we are gone. Ruth and Bob will keep an eye on it while we are away but their dock is so protected it will be fine. About the past week.... we decided to head down to Sabastian Inlet to do some anchoring out around some islands I saw last week when Greg took Mike and I up in his plane. We anchored behind one of the island just a 100 yards or so off the waterway. See the picture for an idea were that 11" draft lets you park. After a few nights out we decided to head to a small bay near Sabastian Inlet Marina for more protection from a cold front that came thru. We anchored in 2 feet of water while the folks on the dock watched and figured out that we must not draw very much water. Phillip, the dockmaster, agreed to let me use the dingy dock for free to do some scouting for groceries by bike. After 2 days on the hook Phillip said we could tie up for $20 a day. Cheap!! The catch is that they don't have much water in the channel to the dock so they don't get many cruisers. Jeremiah stopped by to see the boat and invited us to dinner. Debbie didn't want to brave the dingy ride in the dark so Jerry, Zack (Jerry's son) and I had the best smoked fish fettucine ever. Jerry is the manager of the Sabastian Inlet snack bar at the inlet park and really knows how to cook. Tell him I sent you if you get that way. There are several commercial fishing boats that berth here and I was invited to go with Bobby and Joe to hunt for king mackeral off shore. Now everyone knows I love to fish so I had to go. Interesting how things are done when you are trying to make money and not just drinking beer and having a good time fishing. We caught 28 kings. They use handlines on commercial boats because they are here for the money, remember, and rods and reels take too much time and effort. After pulling in a dozen kings by hand I got to know about how big the fish was going to be by the way the line felt. This is where it gets interesting. The down planner popped and I grabbed the line and started pulling it in by hand or so I thought. It felt like a big fish but I figured the boat was just surging on a wave and that it might not be that big. When I got the planer to the boat I grabbed it and held on. This fish was huge!! Little did I know that I had a good size sailfish on the other end. This was my first billfish!  I got it to the boat and while we were trying to figure out the best way to release it the hooks broke and the fish was gone. Interestinly there was already a hook in his mouth from a previous encounter with man. The hooks rust away in a few days so he must have been hooked not long ago. I'm always thankful when someone takes the time to show me things like this and I appreciate the work it takes to put fish on the menu at our resturants. We anchored out in Ballard Creek (I think that's the name) near Eau Gallie waiting for the cold front to come thru (again) and will head to the dock on Saturday if all goes well. A note here: we called a marina to get a pump out and a boat that we met in NC called us back on the radio. It was the sailboat, Dance, and we had hoped to meet up. It seems they were about 800 yards from us when we were tied up last week. We called them today and they passed us by when we stopped to eat lunch and get fuel. Maybe we'll get to see them in the Keys after New Years.

12/14/04  We are sitting in the airport in Orlando heading home for the holidays and it will be strange to be off the boat for 3 weeks. We have been onboard for 160 days now and will look forward to getting back here in January and heading south again. We had originally planned to be in the Keys by now but we had so much fun with my Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike Gent we delayed our southward progress. Mike was one of the ones who got me interested in boats at an early age. We always looked forward to summer visits with them and the chance to do some water skiing, fishing and generally having a good time. I still look forward to visiting them and having been in their area for the last few weeks we have had a terrific time again. We will spend a night or two with them on the way back but for now it's home to the mountains and then a trip to Pittsburgh and Wilmington, NC to see the kids. Leaving the warm weather here for the cold, and I do mean cold, of Pittsburgh doesn't sound like a fair trade but getting to see our kids makes it all worth while. I'll update the web site when we return and find something to write about again. Until then have a Happy Holiday and good New Year.
 
1/4/05  We are sitting in the airport waiting for our flight back to Orlando and then it's over to the coast and the boat. Air travel is always interesting even when it goes smoothly which was not the case this time. I had mistakenly booked our return flight to Orlando for a 10:20 pm departure instead of the expected 10:20 am departure. The idea of spending 12 hours in the airport not to mention the mess it would create on the other end with our pickup in Orlando was not one I looked forward to so the good people at US Air told us about a $25 standby fee and we could leave on the 10:50 AM flight which had seats available. I always consider money paid for education well spent and in this case the tuition for learning about online booking is $50 or equivelent to one night in a marina. Debbie keeps our budget so I hope I find a good anchorage to make up for the unexpected "learning" expense.
 
1/5/05  We are back at the boat after spending our first night back in Florida with Mike and Carol and eating like pampered quests. When things go really great at a particular stop it makes leaving really tough and this will be the toughest departure yet. Thanks to them for all they have done for us!! We'll be back!!

1/8/05 We spent the last 2 nights back at the Sabastian Inlet Marina and had a good time. I went fishing with Bobby and Joe on the Thrillseeker, Bobby's commercial fishing boat and the idea was to fish for more king mackeral. We didn't get any king's this time but Bobby is also a diver and if the boat doesn't make money then he puts on his dive gear and goes spearfishing. Joe and I stayed on top and watched his bubbles to keep tabs on his location and we got to do some bottom fishing while Bobby was down. We caught a lot of sea bass and Bobby was busy on the bottom. The catch bag that Bobby handed us when he came up had 4 huge grouper and one 45 pound cobia. Bobby looked exhausted from fighting these fish by hand while underwater and took a break for a few hours. We fished some more and Bobby took another dive  and got more grouper. We headed in as the sun went down and got to see a wonderful sunset from out on the ocean. When you see that grouper in the case at the supermarket be assured that someone worked hard to bring it from the sea to your market.
 
1/9/05  We left the marina and headed to Stuart. We stayed the night in Manatee Pocket, a local anchorage, and left the next morning westward on the St. Lucie canal.
1/10/05  Spent the night tied to the town dock at Belle Glade next to Slim's Fish Camp. The hurricanes destroyed Slim's and there doesn't appear to be much effort to rebuild any time soon. The town docks were as high as our roof so we stayed on the boat and left early the next morning. Lake Ockeechobee is one big lake. The second largest freshwater lake in the US. We decided the rim route would give good protection and more to see than heading straight across the lake. The guides failed to mention that the first 8 miles or open to the lake and can be quite rough if the weather is not good. We had fair weather and some bumps but made it to the protected part after and hour or so and enjoyed the scenery. Debbie got to see her first alligator on the shore. We saw a big marina that had very large cruising boats that got blown ashore during the hurricanes and I don't have a clue how they intend to get them back in the water.
 
1/11/05 Left Belle Glade for the trip past Clewiston, Moore Haven and then into the Okeechobee Waterway to LaBelle for the night. Free dock here but they required a Med style mooring which means you put the anchor out in front of the boat and back up to the dock and tie at the stern. Not much fun getting off the boat that way but it's free and they let you stay for 3 days with electic and water. Nice big yacht next to us. I hope the anchors hold!! We will do laundry tomorrow and ride the bikes to the supermarket for supplies. Had a good dinner at Don's Steakhouse about a mile walk away from the boat. I sure hope the traffic on the bridge next to the boat dies down tonight. It's noisy now. I need to mention that we stopped at Roland Martin's resort in Clewiston to get gas and it looked like a very nice place. Roland Martin is famous for his fishing TV series and if we come this way again we will make sure to stop there for the night. Nice docks, nice dockhands and good resturant.
 
1/15/05 We are staying in Centenial Harbour Marina in Ft. Myers for a week. We like the marina and there is a boat here we have cruised with before when we were up at St. Simons Island. We are figuring out the city bus schedule and I think the bus drivers here are the nicest yet. We have seen two movies since we arrived and are starting to get the "lay of the land".  The fishing here is great. I was casting off the outer sea wall of the marina last night and managed to hook dinner and then some. 2 huge Jack Cravels, one legal trout and one lady fish. They also have top sail catfish here that tasted better than the freshwater cats I'm use to getting. I was hoping they would have wireless here but it's a pay service and I'll wait to post more as we get a good connection. I'm in the Captain's lounge here at the marina using their connection and it's a lot better that the one I get with my cell phone. I still have a terrible time getting my mail when messages  have big attachments.
 
1/22/05  We are parked in Ft. Myers Beach Marina after being on a mooring in the harbor for the last 3 days. Finally found a high speed connection so I'll put up some photos for a change. We are having a problem with the birds here. I'll explain. Debbie and I were walking out on the pier at the beach yesterday and Debbie had stopped to get an ice cream cone before we walked out to the end of the pier. I don't usually worry about the sea gulls, they are annoying everywhere, but these guys are smart here. As we walked shoulder to shoulder Debbie had her ice cream cone in her hand between us when all of a sudden we felt the wings of a gull between the two of us and the gull had swooped down over our shoulders and taken a slice of ice cream right out of the center of her cone without even slowing down. Alfred Hitchcock(the Birds) could not have done it better. Debbie was stunned by the birds boldness and protected her cone with her other hand from then on.  Our second bird problem was this morning while we were still in bed. We heard birds on the roof which is not that uncommon except today they were dropping small blue crabs on the cabin top to kill them and then they were jumping around trying to eat their stunned prey. I'm not sure were they got the crabs from but I used them for bait later after chasing the gulls away. Other than the birds we really like it here at Ft. Myers Beach. Lots of things going on and all within walking distance from the boat. Mark (our designer) really liked the way our boat turned out. This is the first time he has seen it and I think he has told every one in the harbor about us. We met his mom, Ruth, a wonderful lady who is very much of the boating tradition. She and her Husband built several boats and cruised with 5 kids aboard. She is living here on the boat that Mark designed and was built by her late husband.
 
 

 

1/30/05 We are having such a good time here in Ft. Myers Beach that we decided to stay another week. We rented a car from Enterprise for the weekend and went to Orlando to visit family. My cousin Greg is busy painting the inside of his house after the hurricanes caused the ceilings to sag after the shingles left the roof. It is still suprising to hear the stories from people who are just now getting back the use of their homes. They are the lucky ones. Greg's brother, Chris, is still in a rental home and is hopeful that his home will be liveable by the end of next month. I can't imagine being forced out of my home (or boat) for nearly 6 months. I don't think Chris, Laura and their 4 kids could have imagined either. We got to see Deb's uncle David and his wife Dixie for the first time in years. We had a good visit. David is retired out of the Navy so he understands the boat life well.
I need to say a good word here about the folks that run the Ft. Myers Beach Marina. If you get this way and need a place to tie up I highly recommend this marina. They don't have the nicest docks or the best facilities (they are good enough though) but they are some of most accomdataing we have met. Their prices are some of the lowest we have found for a weeks stay and they really have a laid back attitude about things. Most marinas will charge almost a full months rate for a weeks stay. Most cruisers move on after a week so the rate we pay is much higher per night than the monthly people. Here they divide the monthly rate by 4 and that's the weekly rate! I really like this place!

2/06/2005  Debbie wanted more pictures on the site so blame her if your computer takes a while to load this page. We will leave our dock (and internet connection) tomorrow and take a mooring so we can get the holding tank pumped out and head for Naples on Tuesday if weather permits. We have had a great time here in Ft. Myers Beach and wish we could stay longer but we must move on. It's been a treat to visit with Mark Van Abbema and his mother Ruth as well as meeting some interesting people on our dock. Kip, on the beautiful sailboat "Aanoosh",two slips away is starting the great loop soon. Bob and Carol on the houseboat behind us are here till Spring. Ruth is living on her boat until March. I always enjoy the people we meet along the way. Some of them have stories much better than the ones I tell and the others will have good stories when they get done as well.  We are heading across the bridge to Dockside Pub and Sports Bar for the Superbowl game. Debbie and Ruth will get a table early and Mark and I will join them after we finish at Bonita Bill's. It should be a good time because I don't have a favorite team but Debbie tells me I must cheer on the Eagles. I'm gonna miss this place!!

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Shallow draft does have it's advantages
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Dead trees with a bird in each one around the Lake
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Notice the man in the center of bridge
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Hand cranked bridge in Belle Glade

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An odd looking blowfish I landed

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Hurricane damage along the waterway

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The first two Mark V-39 Sharpies

Mark Van Abbema and I discussing boats
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A shot of the two sharpies from the bridge

Bonita Bill's Bar (and dingy dock), Great Beer!!
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Gulf of Mexico and Ft. Myers Beach from the bridge
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Capt' Brad thinning the sheephead population
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