Merry Christmas (2009) and a Happy New Year! (2010)
We had a wonderful Christmas here in Punta Gorda. It was a bit lonely at first, just the three of us, with family and friends so far away, but as the afternoon of Christmas Eve arrived, we soon were surrounded by some 3000 people! So lonely, we were no longer.
The Alliance Church of Punta Gorda put on their 3rd annual Christmas Eve concert in the park right next to the marina. We watched them setting up for the event the last two days. It included an elaborate stage and tons of boxes which looked to be large speakers and other acoustical equipment. It was worrisome at first thinking we were going to get blasted with loud rock music but as the performers arrived in the afternoon to run through a practice session we soon realized we were in for a treat.
ONE SKILLET MEAL
Everything in town was closed so it was going to be a one skillet meal on the boat tonight. We had steaks to BBQ but the wind was blowing a hoot and brought with it a bit of a chill. So we changed plans and decided the aroma of a pot of food stewing from the galley would be more comforting.
NO MORE TODDLER SIZES
We did a lot of last minute errands while the stores were still open including taking back a Santa Outfit for Ziggy that didn’t fit. I guess Ziggy has finally outgrown the 9 month old toddler sized clothes from Target. Rats! Those extra few pounds he put on pushed him beyond the toddler size limit. So the annual pictures of Ziggy dressed as a furry Santa for holiday pictures was not going to happen.
We settled instead for a very cute elf hat with wrinkly ears that we found at the dog boutique in nearby Fisherman’s Village. Ziggy was pretty disgusted at the whole idea of putting that hat on and finally just put his paw down after a couple humiliating photos. He’s getting pretty stubborn in his old age.
IN GOD’S HANDS
The concert that evening was beautiful and made for a perfect evening on the back of the boat. It could be said I guess that the weather was in God’s hands as the strong winds miraculously died down just as people began to congregate and the evening sky lit up with a most magnificent colorful sunset. Needless to say we enjoyed the evening listening to beautiful traditional and contemporary holiday music while scarfing down our aromatic one skillet Christmas Eve dinner. It was a pretty perfect evening after all.
NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING
We awoke early Christmas morning to an amazingly quiet marina. You could’ve dropped a lure in the water across the marina and still hear it clearly on the other side. Not a creature was stirring, not even one car driving across the normally busy bridge (Highway 41) that goes over Peace River. We were the only creatures stirring as there were no other cruisers here and the town was shut down. I guess that’s when the loneliness of the holiday away from home hit. So we decided a nice Christmas Day drive would be in order.
So after another one skillet meal, this time of eggs, ham and potatoes, for breakfast, we headed off to explore Pine Island.
CRUISING BY CAR
We’ve been enjoying doing some exploring with the car since we brought it across country with us this time. So through the holidays we’ve been using Punta Gorda as a home base and exploring from here by car. We will soon move the car to the East Coast of Florida, probably West Palm Beach at their new marina. Then we’ll take our time eventually heading over that way to link up with the car again in a few weeks.
The weather actually has been pretty crummy since we’ve been here so cruising by car has given us a more comfortable way to explore the surrounding areas and especially areas inland. In fact it’s been freezing here. The temps have been down 20 degrees from what it normally is and even the orange and citrus crops are under alert of freezing.
PUNT THE GORDA
Punta Gorda by the way, (we were corrected by a local), is pronounced like “punt” the ball, instead of the Spanish pronunciation. The rationalization being…he said was…
“No one pronounces Florida, ‘Flor-ee-da’ or the Gulf of Mexico, ‘the Gulf of Mi-hee-co’, so don’t pronounce Punta like ‘Poon-ta’, just say ‘Pun-ta Gorda’! Okay, okay, we got it as silly as it seems!
Pine Island is a bit off the beaten track so just the fact that it is usually intrigues us. The first time we saw it, it was a flat stretch of land off to our starboard side as we headed up the marked channeled of Pine Island Sound. When we were in Useppa, the locals said Pine Island was their take off point to get to and from the Island of Useppa and also where they got their supplies.
FUNK AND CHARM
It was well worth the drive as the minute we drove across the thin sliver of land that connects Pine Island with the mainland, a place called Matlacha, we were rewarded with lots Florida funk and charm. There’s no “planned” community here as it’s all a bit hap hazard and that made it charming.
CORRECT DEFINITION OF A TRAILER
Sadly I think, the Florida landscape we’ve come to see and know, has been mutilated beyond belief. The land has been carved and divided so much that areas near the water are only just shreds of land left, a mere jigsaw maze of concrete canals(see map). You could say there are hundreds of miles of man made concrete sided canals lined with almost identical stucco homes and screened in yards. If it’s not a stucco structure then you can surely count on a trailer instead, 1000’s of them.
Oh and another thing you can’t say is “trailer” to a trailer owner. You will be corrected and told that it is a “house”. I think there is a bit of a class war here in Florida between those that own a house and those that own a trailer. One local defined it very clearly and simply, “If you have to register your “house” every year at the Department of Motor Vehicles, it’s not a “house” but a “trailer”.
Anyway, this area was different from all the planned developments we’ve seen. It seemed like the last holdout of what was “old Florida”. That’s another term that is used a lot too, “old Florida”. There aren’t too many “old Florida” places around but this certainly qualified. I think you can safely say there is no planned community here. It is a cute little stretch of land filled with color and charm. Instead of the familiar stucco icons we found little early Floridian cottages and most were painted colors of the rainbow. If that wasn’t enough, they embellished it with flotsam. We passed lots of shops, most the size of shoe boxes and little shack restaurants seemingly built on stilts over-looking the water and nearby mangrove islands.
Old rusty commercial fishing boats with nets drying on their paravanes were tied to old uneven wooden docks and matched the funky mix and were squeezed in to the most unlikely places. Overall it was really a cute place, a bit like Cannery Row.
We wondered, could we bring the boat here for a stopover? After consulting the cruising guide, we were disappointed to find that the channel heading in may only draw 4 feet or less in certain areas and not recommended for boats like ours. Should you be crazy and try, you should do so only with local knowledge and then once there, there no facilities for cruisers like us. So I guess that idea is out the picture. Rats again!
Pine Island is definitely not a tourist destination. We drove the length of the island. There’s only one main road that cuts through the center and goes from one end to the other with very few offshoots. We were surprised to find that almost the whole of Pine Island is filled with commercial nurseries growing rows and rows of amazing old mature palm trees and tropical plants. It was like we entered a lush tropical paradise.
The southern end of the road looks out over Pine Island Sound and the Miserable Mile area that we covered by boat in 30 knot winds last year and flat calm the next. A small little hamlet resides here, mostly little cottages and a handful of stores with one little seafood restaurant with its deck perched on stilts over the manmade canal. Old fishing boats were tied in post slips nearby.
OLD TARPON LODGE
We then headed up to the other end of the island following signs for the “Ferry to Cabbage Key”. The area is beautiful and nestled amongst mangrove waterways are many exotic birds, a slew of pelicans and I bet a few alligators discreetly hiding amongst the shelter of the mangrove roots.
We meandered our way further up the island and happened on to this wonderful old fishing lodge, called Tarpon Lodge dating back to 1926. It was there just like it must have looked in its heyday, white and pristine. There were lots of screened in porches to enjoy the warm weather, staying bug free while one took in the view out to the sound. The lodge is nestled in a laid back residential area so it’s very quiet and peaceful. Nearby is an archaeological site, one of many shell middens mounds left by the Seminoles, thousands of years old.
Too bad we were dressed in our grubbies as the dining room was open and we could’ve joined the folks for a nice Christmas Day Supper. We heard later that the food is “really good” so we may come back. The lodge has docks but mostly for small boats so the surrounding waters must be shallow. We couldn’t find any mention of it in the cruising guide but sure would be a grand place to come to.
GLOBAL FREEZING! EXPLAIN THIS PHENOMENON AL GORE!
The weather has been surprisingly cold since we’ve arrived in Florida. Well, that is except for the day we were getting the boat out of storage and then it was hotter than hell making our work almost unbearable. We can’t complain much though as the whole of US and Europe seems to be freezing. There has been a real chill in the air with lots of wind making it feel even colder. We didn’t bring clothes for this type of weather so it was a real blessing that we have the car this time to drive around in. We’ve made good use of those new butt warmers in the car and we’ve been able to leave Ziggy in the car while we checked things out.
So, taking advantage of more cold weather, we took another drive, this time to Naples. Yep, you are right, we had been there before, last year, in the boat, but I was sick as a dog from eating some bad shrimp in the Everglades and therefore hated everything. Today was different. I wanted to give Naples another chance.
Wow, the further south we drove from Punta Gorda, the more crowded it was. It was unbelievable, as we passed identical mall after mall, and gated community after gated community. Nothing even resembled what Florida landscape used to look like. I was getting dizzy with all the chain stores and restaurants, and identical cookie cutter malls that you see everywhere. This area looked like every other place. We could’ve been in Southern California for all we knew. I guess if you have to be near your chain store no matter where you travel or vacation this is it. There seems to be no individuality anymore.
Our first stop before Naples was a look-see at Koreshan, now a State Historic site, and what used to be a religious cult settlement in the late 1800s to early 1900s. We drove in the park thinking we’d quickly check out some of old Florida’s buildings and ended up spending a couple hours here. It was at one time occupied by a couple hundred people that had this goofy idea that the world instead of being round was concave and that they lived within the world not on the world, or at least that was their belief until one woman said she realized it wasn’t so when man landed on the moon. She then realized there might be a flaw in this theory.
Photos of KORESHAN
We finally arrived at Naples after miles and miles of traffic and identical looking malls and were happy to discover that Naples proper is a really nice area. We could see now that when coming here before on the boat that we were literally within walking distance of their wonderful historic shopping street with outdoor restaurants. We also noticed that if we had skipped the public docks and gone down the waterway a little further to the next marina we would have been much closer to the shops and restaurants and it would’ve been more convenient. Too bad I was so sick when we came before. I had no desire to walk not even a block and missed so much. Oh well, live and learn.
Maybe we’ll give Naples another try on the boat before we head across to the East Coast. One thing we know for sure and that is this Naples area is a very crowded place and you can emphasize crowded. It actually reminded us a lot of southern California and though they had all the chain stores and restaurants, and protected gated communities with wide avenues with beautiful landscaping, do we really like or want that?? I think that’s why we moved to San Juan Island to escape all the hustle and bustle, and the madness.
We had a nice lunch and enjoyed walking the historic shopping area. The streets today were blocked off because of an arts festival. Instead of cars driving through the main street, it was set up with art displays. There must have been a hundred or so artists displaying their work in little tent booths.
LOOKING FOR FLORIDA
Naples was lots of fun with the festival going on but by the time we had lunch and walked around a bit we felt we needed to see if we could find something, anything, that resembled the real Florida before man’s invasion. We wondered if any old Florida was left. It was looking very doubtful. So we headed further south, towards Marco Island.
It was a little more laid back but still too many hotels and tourists for us and then I remembered reading something about a place called Goodlin, a little fishing village. We began searching the nav system on the car and there it was, right on the edge of the Everglades, not too very far away. It looked like it was the last bit of civilization right on the edge of the Everglades.
We took a back road heading away from all that concrete and high rises to a road lined by beautiful marshes. We wove our way through some beautiful scenery until we finally reached the sleepy little village of Goodlin. Oops, did I say sleepy?
Well, not today. It looked like it should be sleepy but today it was crowded with hundreds of people. People were parking their cars alone the mangrove edged road and walking in one direction towards Goodlin. We stopped and asked what was going on. To our surprise it was nothing more than an outdoor bar with a band that was drawing hundreds of people. It was amazing. Here in this funky miniature size old village were hundreds of people from who knows where that came just to go to this popular bar! They were congregated in nothing more than a dirt parking lot.
There were all sorts of characters there. It was really interesting. We drove the very short drive through this little funky hamlet, not bigger than a peanut and houses to match, and add to that old and funky. Hey, this is an interesting place and right on the edge of the Everglades. How in the world did this place survive the massive development that has been going on throughout this part of Florida? I imagine it won’t be able to survive for too long as surely some developer will come in with a price too good to turn down and wipe this bit of history off the face of the earth.
What a unique place and well worth the drive.
EDGE OF BIG CYPRESS PARK
It had been a long day and we were tired. We headed back to the long way around though, along the edge of Big Cypress park and though tired had to stop several times to take pictures of the landscape. It was paradise. A glimpse of a world long past with saw grassed meadows and palm hammocks in the distance with gatherings of wood storks, ibis, egrets, wood ducks and grey herons. I felt like we had gone back in time. It was so beautiful and to think all this concrete and asphalt is threatening to take this beauty away for future generations to see. Wow, look at what Florida used to be like. It’s amazing what man can destroy, reshape, all for concrete canals and rows of stucco houses and huge high rise hotels.
click on any photo to enlarge
It was a fairly warm morning, (Jan 12th) and unusual for the past few weeks, as I glanced at the temperature gauge and it only said 40 degrees out! By 9:00 AM it was working its way up to an even stranger temp of 57. We were heading out this morning after a nice but very cold stay in Punta Gorda. Can’t say we can add anything to the subject of cruising for the past few weeks as it’s been just too darn cold to cruise, let alone even think about walking, not even walking down the frost covered dock to get to the cold car with an ice covered windshield. What? In Florida you say? How could this be happening in Florida? Don’t know, but it has been freezing for three weeks (and all around the rest of the US) and all the cruisers are hunkered down waiting for it to warm up.
We noticed some dead fish floating around the docks. One cruiser said it was because the water is so cold, down to 48 degrees. I wonder. I also wonder how the manatees are doing. They must be having a tough time too. Surely they are hovering in droves around the many warm water springs found throughout Florida as there are many and the warm outflow from the power plants too. I guess Ponce de Leon found a few of these warm springs too. He must have been inspired as he kept searching for the one that would be the special source, the fountain of youth. I never knew that Florida had so many, but surprising they are located all over the state and lucky thing for the animals that need warmer temperatures to survive.
In fact there was a warm mineral springs a few miles north of Punta Gorda on Hwy 41. We were even planning to take a day to try them out but the thought of getting into a swim suit and running across frozen blades of grass to take few minute dip in a warm mineral springs did not appeal to us. It was still too darn cold yet and last time I looked we don’t belong to the Polar Bear Club. I always say, don’t regret not doing or seeing something as you leave a place. If you like a place you always have to leave something to come back to see and I guess that will be it, those mineral springs and well also to do some kayaking up the Peace River.
The only thing that tempted us out of the warmth of the boat was to ride around in the car with the toasty butt warmers on. Pitiful isn’t it? Hey, we aren’t the only ones complaining. The dock master and his workers were too! We’d see them go by along the frozen docks, checking lines, and trash cans, looking like frozen stiffs, the walking dead almost blue in color. Many of the locals said that they didn’t even have heaters in their houses and had to go to Wal-Mart like we did to get a space heater just to keep warm. Some didn’t really even own a warm coat and were layered up to the max like me.
So this morning there was a glimpse of light, a hint of warmth headed our way. I can’t complain too much though as we certainly kept busy seeing lots of things on the Westside of Florida, things we would have missed cruising without a car. It really has been wonderful seeing a side of Florida too beyond massive and I must say some destructive development that you see in the more frequented areas.
Okay so back to the dead fish. I won’t harp on this subject too much as its pretty creepy but I will say that I don’t think the cold water has been the only reason we’ve seen so many dead fish floating around the marina. We saw plenty of them when we came up the great expanse of Charlotte Harbor and that’s when the temperatures were warm. The local guy on the dock, the one who rents out small boats for fishing, was walking around the edge of the marina with his pals. They were looking with concern at all the dead fish. I asked what they were doing. He said, we’re looking to see if any of the dead fish were snook. I asked why, he said because that is our game fish and if the snook are dying then we are in trouble. I asked if he thought the fish died from the cold and he said “oh yes” with conviction.
But then a few weeks back when the temperatures were warm we asked a local shrimper about the dead fish floating in the water. He asked if the fish we saw were mullet. Of course we didn’t know but he said most likely they are mullet fish that drown in the nets of the big fishing boats.
Then we heard another local say “it’s from the pollution coming down the river, phosphorous and fertilizers and that causes the red tide which kills the fish”. Then I read an article in the local paper about the pollution that flows down from up river caused by phosphorous mining. Supposedly it was really bad years back, and they’ve cleaned much of it up, but there is a problem here and it’s worrisome. The article said they are trying to get a handle on the reasons for much of the pollution in the Peace River and are diligently working on it but as the article said it will be a slow process costing more money than they can even think of getting especially now with the state of the economy as it is. It will take a lifetime to get the Peace River back to what it was.
We all are aware that the Gulf Of Mexico is suffering from serious foul run off from the rivers that empty into it, filled with fertilizers and other manmade contaminants, too numerous to mention that are having a devastating effect on the quality of water. As the rivers run down and empty in to the Gulf they bring the pollutants and as the estuaries are destroyed there is no natural filtration process to clean the pollutants and prevent them from emptying into the Gulf. It has had its effect, even recorded as far as the Yucatan Peninsula. There was a recent incident in Veracruz, Mexico, where 100s of fish and some dolphin were reported washing up on shore dead. Scientists were studying to see what could have caused it. I think it’s pretty obvious. Once man eliminates the natural estuaries to filter out the water, and continues to pollute, the poison flows right to the oceans. In many cases as it said in the local article it seeps into the underground to the aquifers and the water we drink. We report, you decide.
We noticed a difference in the water there as the Caloosahatchee River was teeming with fish and when you threw some dinner scraps over board it was like the water was filled with hungry piranhas but here the food just floats, no one there to eat it. I don’t begin to know anything about this subject but it really is a concern to see dead fish floating in the water. Something is very wrong.
This last week a few other cruisers arrived and the few empty docks at the marina began to fill. We were the only ones here for awhile, well except for the guy in the big house boat with the little white dog named Barkley. Zig and Barkley became friends and that morning we walked by to say our last goodbyes but Barkley was visiting “grandma” we were told.
Even though, the docks were filling up with cruisers we still didn’t see them as everyone is hunkered down trying to keep warm. Larry bumps into them though as he braves the cold to take Ziggy out. He comes back to tell me the stories. He said there is a couple on the other dock that arrived in a 25 foot sailboat with only a space heater they were able to buy to keep warm. They spend most of their stay in the marina lounge where it is more comfortable.
The facilities here are excellent compared to many marinas we’ve been in. There are four new spacious private showers with toilets and sinks and a wonderful lounge with two big leather comfy sofas, a TV flat screen with cable, a table to do your computer work and a spacious laundry that has two washers and two dryers, except one annoyingly doesn’t work and the other is as slow as molasses. So my one big complaint is that it takes way longer than necessary waiting for that one dryer but who cares when it’s freezing out and you have a nice lounge with TV? I keep asking Larry when they will ever get the part to fix the second drier and he said he’s not sure if it’s even been ordered. Very maddening.
THE END OF THE “NICE” FACILITIES
Besides the dryer problem I was pretty happy with the facilities, that is, until the day I was sitting at the table working on the computer, waiting for the dumb dryer, and in walks the dock master bringing in a bum to use the facilities. He directed him right into the bathroom and shower that the cruisers use. I guess I must be heartless but isn’t that why they have a key to lock the door? I was not a happy camper after that and that was the end of my using the “nice” facilities.
Luckily we discovered a coin laundry, after that, not more than a short block away. It’s where Larry got the propane tank filled. So we hauled the laundry there one day. I thought at least they’d have more machines and for God’s sake at least 2 dryers that worked and didn’t take a hundred years to dry, and hopefully no bums in the place. I must say though I was surprised to see this bum. During our stay we didn’t see any shady characters other than this guy during our stay in Punta Gorda. It’s a very nice clean town. Once inside the coin laundry we met the nice lady that ran the place. She did laundry! So we handed it immediately over to her and Voila! At 4:00 that afternoon we had some mighty fine, clean and nicely folded laundry, bright and white and smelling good laundry to pick up! A huge bundle only cost us $22 and she uses her own soap and bleach! I don’t know how she makes any money with those prices. Anyway, thought we’d pass this info on to whoever is coming to this marina because I have my doubts that those dryers are ever going to get fixed in the near future.
PUNTA GORDA, A GREAT STOP
Over all we loved this stop. There are several really great restaurants all within walking distance which makes for a nice time not having to cook on the boat. Our favorites were River City Grill and Spazzi for some really good Italian food, especially their eggplant parmesan. Hmmm, yum! Jack’s on the corner was good and has live entertainment. The Crab House right at the marina was a neat place and huge with clever decorations but the food didn’t necessarily draw us back. They all allow dogs except for the Italian place but I noticed they have an outside patio so maybe in warmer weather they would. We also liked the little coffee and wine place on the little pedestrian alley by River City Grill. We frequented it on a daily basis to get coffee and bagels and other morning muffins. Lunch there one day was pretty good also.
Another place we found that was interesting and really only discovered it on the last night was the Ice House Pub. It’s in the historic brick Ice House building that was used in the early days when fishing in Charlotte Harbor was big. The food was pretty good and beer is the drink as the wine is undrinkable. The back room wall is lined up with more dart boards than I’ve seen in a lifetime so they must have some professional tournaments there. It’s a fun pub and they’ve done a nice job decorating it. The place was packed the night we happened on to it and filled with people from Boston.
Photos around Punta Gorda
Oh and one last mention of a place down by the hospital called the Smoke House. You’d never find it unless someone told you about it. There are no signs out front only a hand scrawled mark on the window saying “Smoke House”. The place is as ugly as a mud fence and you are weary of opening the door and going in but the parking lot is constantly full and the place is packed inside as well. You can get a decent breakfast there and BBQ smoked meat sandwiches for lunch. The food is OK but what was the draw for us was how interesting this place was, the locals and people that work there. If you want to mingle with old Florida this is it. The inside has absolutely no décor at all and you sit on picnic tables. If there isn’t an empty table you sit down and join whoever is there even if you don’t know them. It’s a unique experience.
Oh and did we mention how great the docks are here, yep, all new floating docks, and with cleats which is a hard thing to fine on the East Coast and the West Coast as well. Everything is clean as a whistle and well run except for those dryers. The harbor master and “Mouse” one of his helpers are really nice. I just wish they wouldn’t bring the bum into the facilities that the cruisers use. That’s my only complaint, well and the dryer.
Well, we’ve pulled off the canvas cover over the front windows and things are stowed away. We’re waiting until the boats warms up a little more. The sun is doing a nice job warming up the boat, but just a bit more will make it a more comfortable trip. There’s no big rush as we have a short hop today to Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island. It’s nice to see people out and about and some walking their dogs again at the park across the way. That’s another plus for this marina, the nearby park. There is a really nice fountain with a motion sensor, kind of a mini Bellagio water fountain, and it lights up with a rainbow of colors a night. Ziggy was intrigued with it but not as much as he normally would if it was warm out. The town makes good use of their new park too as we mentioned previously about the Christmas concert and last weekend there was a great classic car show filled with all sorts of fantastic old hot rods. The town is lucky to have such a nice waterfront.
Most cruisers go to Fisherman’s Village which also looks like a nice place but I think this area offers more things to do. Fisherman’s Village was booked and the dock master said they book months ahead, so that’s how we ended up here and I’m glad it turned out that way. Once we saw the local restaurants, park, and nice docks, it was a no brainer, this was a great place to stay. Also, on certain nights they have an artist’s walk downtown and all the stores stay open, offer wine and snacks and live music. The town comes alive with people just walking the streets enjoying the little town. This is a nice town, clean and recovering well from past hurricane damage. They have great pride in their city and there are beautiful murals everywhere to show off its colorful history. More important we liked the people. We didn’t meet a sour apple in the bunch.
ANIMAL RESCUE CENTER
The last thing I’d like to mention was our drive down the end of the road yesterday to check out the sea conditions on Charlotte Harbor as it has been pretty darn windy but yesterday the seas were calming down. We noticed again the little animal rescue center nearby and this time decided to go in and check it out. I guess we were put off last time we drove down here by all the No Dogs Allowed signs, but today it was warm and cool enough to leave Zig in the car to check out the rescue center.
I’ve got to tell you that I’m so glad we did. This is a wonderful place and you must visit it if you have a chance. It was like a fairy tale the moment you walked in the place. All these little damaged animals living together in harmony and many are free just flying and walking around unhindered, glad to be there, and some are curious and come right up to you while others give you a cautious careful look.
They even had a friendly snake that lived in the staghorn plant, and a little squirrel and cardinal that shared a cup of peanuts and cheerios together. A young grey heron curious at whoever visited shyly follows you around and wondered at my camera as I tried to get a picture. There was a frisky blue jay that had a good supply of peanuts that kept him busy as he hammered them on a hard spot in his spacious cage so he could crack it. A couple pairs of doves nearby in the same cage were kissing and making cuddly noises.
A beautiful large snowy egret would elegantly fly by at eye level, maybe only a foot away and a large grey heron was enjoying his lunch of minnows on the roof and occasionally would show me one before he slurped it down his long slender neck.
They had at least one of everything, even two eagles that both had one of their wings removed. It wasn’t sad though as they seemed very happy and it’s great to see all these creatures up close, looking into the eye an eagle is something to behold. Even the scary ugly vultures had nice accommodations and were treated as equals. We saw hawks, osprey, all sizes shapes and colors of pelicans and seagulls and it was so funny to see them all together, even two rare shy sand cranes mixed in with the rest, along with the cranky wood stork that doesn’t belong here but chooses to make it his home they said. In fact I think there are several characters that do that, one vulture was said to have been here for forty years. It’s a wonderful, wonderful, place. Go see it if you can!
Additional Photos of Rescue Center
Engines started right up and are warm. Lines are off, and here we go again. Wow, I almost forgot what it was like to be out on the water again! It feels great!
I was prepared to see lots of dead fish in Charlotte Harbor, and not looking forward to it, but not one dead fish did we see! The seas were flat calm and soon we were accompanied by three huge dolphins that seemed to really enjoy the big wake that we put out. They joined us for about 15 minutes and then veered off looking for some other adventure. It was a good day out on the water!
Florida is a funny place as there are no hills or mountains and on the water it’s just flat landscape that you see. The only landmarks that you can expect to see in the distance are high rises and lighthouse towers. Luckily this area has not gone nuts with high rises except for the ones that you see that seem so out of place here and that is Burnt Store area. One other thing that you might see is great billows of smoke from wild fires. Yep, fires. It’s not unusual to see big billowing clouds of brown smoke in the distance.
When we first came here to Punta Gorda area we saw great smoke filled clouds but soon found out it is a common thing to see and not to get alarmed, as “the landscape just burns” we were told, whether by a controlled burn or some start by lightening or other natural phenomena. No one thinks a thing about it and now nor do I now. So as we crossed that big expanse of Charlotte Harbor, with flat seas, blue skies, puffy white clouds and in the distance the tower of Gasparilla light we could see also two large brown clouds of smoke from distance fires. It was a typical day cruising on the west coast of this area.
BOCA GRANDE, GASPARILLA ISLAND
Soon we were searching for the ICW markers again and just as you reached the ICW you very quickly make your turn into the marked channel to Gasparilla Island. We called the dock master and she gave us very clear directions on how to come in, how to avoid the shoaled in area. “Come down the marked channel until you reach Green 7, with the osprey nest on top, then continue forward one full boat length, then make a quick turn to port and follow the concrete bulkhead close. I’ll watch as you come in and if I see you going a rye I’ll give you a holler to set you back on the right course”.
Looks like we were on the right course as we soon we were at dock and being helped with lines and power hook up. What a gorgeous place this is. This will be a fun stop! Can’t wait to explore it!