When we first started this adventure, we were told that the best part of cruising wasn’t the sailing, or the places you visit, but the people that you meet who become lifelong friends. We met the crew of MV Dubhe (pronounced “doobie,” it’s the name of the pointing star in the Big Dipper) when we were stranded in St. Augustine by a burned out engine starter. We traveled with them for a day to Daytona, then parted ways… but we kept in touch. The Dubhes crossed the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart to Ft. Myers and explored the Florida Gulf coast while we slogged our way to the Keys. We met up again in Pelican Bay at Caya Costa State Park at the north end of Pine Island Sound, which lies between Ft. Myers and Charlotte Harbor.
We motored from Ding Darling to Pelican Bay on Sunday, arriving in the early afternoon, and found a suitable spot to anchor. A couple hours later, Dubhe arrived and anchored right next to us. We had a great reunion that evening over sundowners on Madge. Perry and Nancy planned to stay at Caya Costa for at least a week. Suzy and I figured we could do that, too. We all hit the beach the next day, relaxing under perfect weather, shelling, or just laying out. That evening we had sundowners on Dubhe and dinner on Madge. We made plans to take our dinghy over to Cabbage Key (about two miles) on Tuesday for lunch at the renowned restaurant there. We woke to fog Tuesday morning. Before long, Perry motored over in his dinghy to show us the huge sea trout he had just caught while trolling along the mangroves near our boats. The fish was too big for Dubhe’s cooler, so we stashed in in Madge’s fridge and made plans for a big dinner that night. The fog lifted enough for us to keep our lunch plans at Cabbage Key, and we explored the small island while we were there. The only problem with the trip was that I couldn’t get the dinghy to plane, and the passage was a bit slower than expected. The trout dinner that evening was excellent. Perry fried up the fish using Nancy’s special Parmesan breading, while Suzy and I provided black beans, yellow rice and the wine. Perry promised to take me fishing the next day. Suzy and Nancy planned to hit the beach again.
I am no fisherman. In fact, I had never really been fishing before. Sure, I’d held a cane pole with a hooked worm at the end of a line with a bobber in it, off the end of a lake dock in some campground as a kid with my dad and brothers, but I’d never fished as a serious sport or for food. Perry, on the other hand, had tons of experience. The fishing gear I had on Madge was all wrong. Perry loaned me some gear. I couldn’t cast. He taught me how. He knew where the fish would be. He knew what lures to use. He caught two more good sized trout. I hooked one that seemed fairly large, but it got off. I, on the other hand, was hooked solidly. I see new gear in my future.
When Suzy got back from the beach, we headed off in the dinghy to a little pocket in the mangroves where a large group of manatees had been sighted. I turned off the outboard and rowed into the small basin. Kayakers from the state park were there also, but everyone was very quiet and the manatees were surfacing all around us. Some were within a few feet of our dinghy. Even so, it was hard to get a good picture.
Later that afternoon, I pulled the dinghy up on the beach and flipped it over to scrape four months of growth off the bottom. The photo shows before and after scraping. It was obvious why the boat wouldn’t plane when we went to Cabbage Key earlier in the week. With four adults in a dink and a filthy bottom, the poor outboard didn’t have a chance. After I got the bottom clean and the dink put back together, the little boat could fly. I became the terror of the anchorage. On the way back to Madge, we spotted MV Santorini in the anchorage. We had met Santorini when we anchored in Daytona in January. We chatted a while and got caught up, and promised to look them up when we got to the Chesapeake this summer.
Perry and I went fishing again the next morning. He caught two more trout. I caught one, too – my first ever in 62 years! – but it was an inch shy of being keeper-sized, so I had to let it go. But I caught it. In my opinion, that counts. Since Perry had already packed in as much as Dubhe’s cooler could hold, he let me have the two fish he caught. We filleted them – I do know how to fillet a whole fish – and grilled one of them for dinner that night. The other one went into the freezer.
By the end of the week, time was catching up with us. We needed to move Madge to Ft. Myers to get ready to cross the Okeechobee Waterway, and Dubhe had some commitments that would keep her in Ft. Myers Beach for a couple of weeks. And some weather was moving in for the weekend. The Dubhes wanted to stop over in Captiva, and since we had never been there, we planned to go to Ft. Myers and Ft. Myers Beach, respectively, in two short hops. We made it to Captiva on Saturday just before some thunderstorms caught up with us, but the afternoon cleared off and we toured the small island, having happy hour and dinner shore. On Sunday we parted ways with Dubhe once more, and made our ways to our appointed destinations in stiff 20-kt winds.
It’s hard to explain how such a short relationship has become so strong. We spent a lot of time together in Caya Costa and got along great. Things just clicked. The Dubhes live only a few hours from St. Marys by car, so we know we will be seeing them again, either on the water or on land. They are kindred spirits, and such nice decent people. We keep running into otheir boaters that have met them and also like them. I can only say, we sure know how to pick ’em.