Good Bye Key West, Hello Shut Down

4-4-20     As of this writing Karen and I are residing at her parents house down here in Florida. The past several weeks has been a stressful adventure for us and I’m sure everyone else. Karen and I were not sure what shoe would drop next as Florida began to take the Coronavirus more seriously. We were very happy spending time at Stock Island Marina and Resort in Key West as we started to sense trouble was heading our way. Each day I would wake up reach over and turn NPR on the radio, each morning broadcast would reveal more spread of the virus around the world and across our country. Karen was very nervous as each day brought more bad news. In the whole scheme of things we’re very lucky, we were not concerned for our health (maybe living in a false reality) but we were concerned about Florida being shutdown and not being able to pull and store Mango. We had plenty of food, water, fuel and could sail anywhere we wanted (winds permitting).
Sailing down Hawks Channel towards Key West on a
beautiful day winds north easterly at 15 to 18 knots.

Moonrise over Stock Island Marina
After a bit over a month in Key West we decided with the help of favorable winds it was time to sail north. We left the Safe Harbor channel entrance around 9 AM, attached the whisker pole, unfurled the jib and sailed along beautifully in the clear cool morning air of Hawks Channel, we forgot how stagnant the air gets in a marina. Winds were forecast to be east at 10 to 15 knots clocking to the ESE. During our transition sailing from Hawks Channel to the Northwest Passage when I took down the whisker pole and raised the main that I realized the wind was not blowing as predicted and we may need to change our plans for the day. Our original plan was for a short day sailing and spend the night at Snipes Point and the next morning wake up early and sail up to the Shark or Indian Rivers. Within 5 minutes of our turn I informed Karen that anchoring at Snipes Point was not going to happen, I think she knew this anyway. I give Karen a ton of credit, she said to point Mango the best direction to sail and let's see where it takes us. I asked her if she was serious and she smiled and remarked that those are some of our best sailing trips, I agreed and placed Mango on a close reach in the 18 knot breeze and soon we were quickly sailing along heading towards Tampa.
St. Patty's Day at Rick's Place Key West

Karen and Greg placed bets on Vibrator #2, the loser.
I believe it needed new batteries.

The day moved along quickly while listening to music and news on the Sirius radio, playing “Name that Tune and Composer”. We were visited by loads of dolphins along the way as we passed numerous shrimp boats waiting for night to come to begin their work. We ate well and I  did half ass fish a bit without any luck (when fishing I need all the luck I can muster). The day grew towards evening and the winds did begin to veer more easterly with a touch from the south. I adjusted coarse for Fort Myers Beach and the charting software informed us that we’d arrive at the beach around 4 in the morning at our current rate of speed. I didn’t think Mango would maintain her current speed all night but we could slow her if needed.  Click link for Dolphin video.

The night was dark only illuminated by the stars as moonrise was sometime around 4 in the morning. Karen and I took turns snoozing as Mango held coarse slowing and speeding as the winds allowed. The night went by without incident but even Sirius radio gets boring after 20 hours as you begin to hear the repeating tracks and news. The Coast Guard kept us on our toes as it seems that every ten minutes they’d repeat the same message about possible flares being seen down in the Keys, we’d get the broadcast notice out of CG station Key West and station Fort Myers. We both watched as the moon started its glow off to the east and rose over a few clouds on the horizon. To me it seemed like it took forever for sunrise but it did rise and revealed all the crab pots we’ve been sailing through all night.

Karen watching the views to the south sailing down
the Northwest Passage

Currently heading towards Tampa on a great
sailing day.
We arrived at Fort Myers beach about 8:30 and were surprised to find the mooring field somewhat empty. We grabbed ball #19, contacted the office to inform them of our arrival and location also letting them know that we had sailed all night and would not be coming ashore until the afternoon as we were very tired. They had no issues and Karen and I cracked open to beers and wearily began the process of straightening up the boat, covering the mainsail and applying the new sunshades Karen made while in Key West, I now call the covered cockpit “my lair”. The sunshades are made out of Phiphertex and block the sun and prying eyes but also let in the breeze. It also allows me to shower in the cockpit if I’d like without people watching. Showers were had and shortly thereafter breakfast was eaten, we informed our emergency contacts that we were safe in port and ready for much needed naps.

It surprised me that our naps didn’t last too long, I thought I would’ve slept for a couple of hours. We remained aboard Mango watching the world go by, seemed not too many people were abiding by the suggestion to stay at home or even social distance. I would have thought that it was the young spring breakers but many were what appeared to be people in their 60’s or 70’s that were crammed aboard boats or in groups piled on one another at the beach.

Each morning brought more bad about the Coronavirus so we decided that it was time to put Mango away since we were social distancing and all manner of business was shutting down around us. Karen was very concerned that the boatyard would shutdown and we’d have to wet store Mango until things got back to normal. We spent a week at Fort Myers Beach setting up Mango’s haul out, rental cars, delivery of materials to the boatyard for covering her up for the summer. Social distancing went well as getting off Mango and going for a walk was like entering a ghost town at times, very deserted. Our week came to an end and we took off for an anchorage just east of Fort Myers only stopping to fill Mango with fuel. We were able to catch the tide which pushed us up the Caloosahatchee faster than I thought so we decided to motor past our original destination and pass through the Franklin Lock and anchor off the now closed Franklin campground. We are now in fresh water and can start trying to remove all the salt off of Mango’s exterior.

Power Boats visited Stock Island. Great boats!
Great Smoked Jackfruit at the Barrel Room, Stock Island
 The evening was setting in and as the last breeze died away we had one boat come a lay anchor about 100 yards away from us. The campground was shutdown and there was no tide to move to move Mango so the night was silent except for the occasional sounds of the birds squawking during the night. Karen and I awoke to sunlight filtering in through a heavy fog that settled over the river. I listened to the morning news on NPR as Karen made tea and we both moved up to the cockpit with was very wet from the dew that settled. The fog swirled over the flat water now quickly disappearing with the ever strengthening sun. Karen dried the cockpit and I started the motor and weighed anchor. Mango eased out of the anchorage as a seaplane buzzed over us landing a half mile ahead only to take off again. 

A great guess on my part during "Name that Tune and Artist"

Fort Myers Beach giving free
breakfast. Spoke to the owner,
stated he was doing well.

Our trip today would be a short one to the little town of Labelle. It’s a cute little town full of migrant farm workers and retirees that for some reason chose to live here rather than the more lively areas of Florida. Over the years we’ve met many passers-by from Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. We arrived in Labelle a few hours later and were fortunate that there was one open slip which Mango took perfectly. We were at the dock only a short time when a local person kept trying to start a conversation with us. I have a hard time ignoring people, it’s one of the traits my kids wish I didn’t have. There have been many times when the kids were younger that I’ve gotten into long conversations with all sorts of people while my kids were rolling their eyes waiting for the conversation to end. This man happened to be from Minnesota and time after time I informed him that I needed to get work done on the boat and I would have time to talk later. He continually pressed on while asking to come aboard and not maintaining a decent amount of space between him and anyone else. Karen pointed out to me that other boaters at the dock were specically staying way clear of him whenever he walked near their boats, I guess I was not smart enough to notice. Since I was the only person to respond to him he kept after me even though I told him I had a lot of work and very little time. After continual attempts to leave him down without yelling at him he brought up how happy he was with President Trump’s plan to give him money. I replied that I was not a fan of Mr. Trump and thought he’s too divisive and has been bad for our country. The gentleman immediately thanked me for my time and left the dock. Everyone stated that if they knew it was that easy they would’ve said that to him hours ago. Click link for video catching the gator.

Fisherman catches alligator on #10 test and small pole

Mango being pulled. Sad day but relief also.

Mango put away and wrapped with Coolaroo.

Time in Labelle went by quickly the first couple of days because we were busy prepping Mango for storage. Boats left the dock and more came to replace them, meeting several new boaters. We ended up over staying our allotted time with the permission of the dock master and time began to drag by slowly. Florida was regularly breaking heat records and below decks Mango was in the mid 90’s by early afternoon on, luckily the nights cooled down and sleeping was easy. 

Monday morning came and Karen shoved Mango and me off the dock while she hoped on the bicycle to pickup the rental car and meet me at the boatyard. About an hour and half later Karen grabbed Mango’s bowline as she approached the Glades dock. We ate a quick lunch and Karen started unloading Mango into the rental car as I changed oil and removed the house and starter batteries. The rental car we reserved was an SUV but what we ended up with was a Ford Fiesta, drastically different. Needless to say that the Fiesta was filled to the rim with all our possessions heading back to Illinois plus an outboard motor that needs works. We were happy that we still fit into the car after loading it, now our only snafu was the fact that Home Depot guaranteed a delivery of Coolaroo fabric to cover Mango that did not arrive and wouldn’t arrive for several days. The Glades assured us that they would contact us when the fabric arrived and we’d be able to come back and cover Mango when it did arrive. The fabric did arrive 6 days later and we got her all covered after another 300 mile trip. She looks good all wrapped up and if the fabric works as advertised will minimize sun damage and summer heat.

Sailing 25 miles north of Key West

Sandhill Crane enjoying bird feeder near
the in-laws house.
Now deserted Fort Myers Beach

Normally packed streets of Fort Myers Beach now

We returned to Karen’s parents house to visit for a couple weeks and do a little work around the place for them. I spent time with Al watching every cowboy show/movie ever produced on TV. Not a lot to do when everything is shutdown, no clubhouse, no pool and no going anywhere. Workouts were an early morning activity only due to high humidities and temps in the 90’s, later day activities included a lot of walking. We enjoyed our time with Carol and Al but I do look forward to heading home.

4-14-20     This morning we traveled to the airport to pickup the rental car. I dropped off Karen for the rental pickup and we agreed to meet back Karen’s parents. Shortly after I arrived Karen pulled up and we started going over the Dodge Caravan, I pulled up the stow and go seat compartment only to watch as roaches quickly scattered, I was only able to squish one. Karen was on the phone with Enterprise as we both traveled back to the airport for a replacement. They upgraded us and gave us a few perks for the issues, we examined the van closely before we left. We got back and loaded the van up everything except what we’d need for our trip tomorrow. Illinois here we come, hopefully you’ll warm up a bit.


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