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Closing In On The Keys – Fort Myers To Naples

With a successful first day being back underway under our belts and great weather on our side, we were feeling good about keeping the momentum going.  We enjoyed a restful night at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin and were up early to get on the move before a falling extreme tide trapped us at the dock.  We were looking at an easy five hours for our run to Naples so we expected to arrive smack in the middle of the day.

6:56 am: Engines running, nav lights lit and Jasper signals he’s ready for departure.

Before any departure, we always discuss our plan in terms of the order in which we want to release dock lines and the way we’re going to pull out of the slip.  There wasn’t a ton of room in front of or behind us where we were tied up on a face dock and we figured there was just enough room in the basin for us to come sideways off the dock and spin around so we could exit the basin in a forward direction.  As soon as we were off the dock it was clear that we needed to suddenly shift our plan as there was more of a current pushing us backward than it appeared while we were still tied.  And that’s one of the reasons we wear headsets when departing and arriving.  We are out of sight and easy earshot of each other but the change was conveyed quickly and calmly and we backed down the fairway with Tim being my eyes directly behind OLOH while I stood on the side-deck operating OLOH from the Yacht Controller.  Even though it was really no big deal, a quick change on the fly at the beginning of your day serves as a good reminder that you ALWAYS need to be on your toes and prepared when running the boat.

45 nautical miles averaging 9 knots (max 18) over 5 hours burning 54 gallons

With temps hovering around 55 degrees under partly cloudy skies we started our day from the lower helm but felt confident that we’d be able to have our triumphant return to the bridge at some point during this run.  It’s fairly straightforward cruising between Fort Myers and Naples although you cannot be lax about paying attention as there are a few channels that offshoot from the Caloosahatchee River which can easily cause confusion.

7:36 am: we were treated to a magical sunrise, the kind that is entirely different when you experience it from the water.


Once OLOH was pointed south for the first time since the beginning of 2020 we were on our way into the Gulf Of Mexico.  Seas and winds were calm and it was a perfect day for cruising.  Given the conditions and easy schedule, we decided that this would be a good day to try to calibrate our autopilot’s compass which had been acting up since last year.  All that is required is to do a full, 360-degree turn (which can take about a minute on OLOH) while in the calibration mode.  We found an area that seemed to be free of crab pots and other boats and gave it a whirl, unsure if the exercise would achieve the desired result.

Our track:  Perhaps only of interest to us, but we were pleased to see the near-perfect circle we made when calibrating our autopilot. It’s the small things.

Once we had completed our turn the display read “confirmed” which was certainly better than “failed.”  We resumed our southerly course and checked the autopilot’s heading against our GPS heading, making a few course adjustments to see what would happen… and it was working properly!  We don’t want to jinx it but sometimes, even on boats, fixes are as simple as we hope they will be (all boaters know the other side of that).

We’re asked all the time, and yes, the Admiral does take the helm.

With temps cracking 65 degrees and still rising we were now on the bridge as we closed in on Gordon Pass, the gateway to Naples from the Gulf.  For anyone planning to enter Gordon Pass and head into Naples, we find it to be one of those areas where the Aqua Map app comes in very handy.  As we have discussed before, the Master version of the app overlays the latest Army Corps Of Engineers survey on the chart, and as Gordon Pass and Naples Bay is prone to some shoaling, we find Aqua Map to be invaluable here.  Big boats come in and out all the time but we’d rather be armed with as much info as possible in places like this that we transit infrequently.

SO much easier to know where the deeper water is with Aqua Map Master, one of our favorite tools in the toolbox. Stay away from the red!

When we began to enter Gordon Pass we both felt our lungs tightening up a bit and quickly realized that we were experiencing the effects of the red tide that we had been warned about.  It definitely caught us off-guard and was much worse than we anticipated.  So we quickly retreated to the enclosed pilothouse to finish out the trip.

“A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plantlike organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis.”  The water was not visibly red but the respiratory irritation that it can cause was real.  We love stopping over in Naples but we were relieved to only be staying for one night given the red tide.

We were happy to be returning to the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club under such different circumstances than nine months prior when we were “fleeing” Key West with so much unknown about the Coronavirus and what it all meant.  It was a very stressful time.  And while it’s far from being under control as we write this, we at least have an understanding of what we should and shouldn’t do and what to expect when cruising.  We slid right back into the same slip inside their basin that we had occupied back in March and the only real bummer was that because of the red tide, we couldn’t sit outside on what had become a beautiful, warm day.

The air was a bit better away from the water as we took Jasper on walkabout – and yes, the Captain was shamefully wearing jeans with temps above 70 degrees.

We were particularly excited to be in Naples because this was the day that we were having our long-planned, long-awaited reunion with our friends on The Three B’s with whom we had experienced the very beginning of the pandemic down in Key West.  It was a powerful thing to enter into those times of uncertainty with them and the Red Head Crew.  Every day was spent disseminating information and making and changing plans as we all tried to make sense of it together.  This would be the first time we would see them in person (Zoom calls aside) since that eerie morning we all left Key West nine months earlier.  Late in the fall, we made a plan to form a double-Covid-bubble between our two boats and find a small marina to hide out at for the winter.  And now our plan was coming together!  Very exciting indeed.

The Three B’s looking majestic on her approach.  It is a spectacular Ocean Alexander 70e Motoryacht just acquired by our friends. You may remember the sea trial we took with them on another vessel ten months earlier. A few months later, OLOH’s Captain spotted the 70e and said, “this is your next boat.” And so it was.

As everyone has experienced, one of the toughest things about the pandemic has been the inability to easily get together with friends and family, of which we have both in Naples.  As he did when we passed through back in March, our friend Peter was able to bring his Whaler over from his home for a distanced drive-by.  But we can’t wait until the other side of all of this when we can more appropriately visit with him and his lovely wife as well as our Aunt Mimi and family.

Bluenose’s Captain Peter on his Naples runabout paying a quick visit. Drinks on OLOH next time Peter and Pamela!

With another day of excellent cruising weather forecast before it starts to fall apart, we are looking forward to our two-boat flotilla down to the Keys.  The only thing stressing us out right now is the extreme low tide we will experience in the morning right around the time we need to depart.  How will that impact the master plan?  Stay tuned… and see you out there…


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And that concludes your OLOH instructions. M/Y OLOH back to 1-6


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I've never experienced the red tide, and it sounds like I don't want to. By the way, I really loved that perfect circle track of you doing the calibration. Very cool Peace and love Nutz
    1. Hey Edward - we do both. We do update Active Captain on our Garmin networked plotters before any run and if we're using Bob423's routes or tracks we typically have them loaded on the plotters. We're always running an iPad at the helm and sometimes it makes more sense for whoever is not driving at the moment to look ahead at Active Captain/Waterway Guide markers on the iPad.

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