Today is going to be a lazy day. We are anchored in a cove on the north side of the J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Management Area on Sanibel Island. There are a few other boats in this well-protected spot, though they will probably leave at some point today. We’re staying. We plan to rendezvous with our friends on MV Dubhe tomorrow afternoon just a little north of here, so there’s no need to travel today. Suzy and I are in the cockpit watching the sun climb over the mangroves. She’s sipping her coffee. I’m sipping my tea.
Yesterday we made a fast run up from Naples. We made the 35 nm trip to Ding Darling in about six hours. Madge was flying. I’d had some concerns about the trip before we left. The forecast wind and sea state was a little rougher than I would have liked, but we had used up our allotted four days in the Naples mooring field and I didn’t want to go to the trouble of jockeying the boat around to get more time. Winds were expected to be ESE switching to southerly in the afternoon, between 10 and 15 kts, according to the National Weather Service. Seas were expected to be about one foot nearshore and 2-3 ft offshore. Our route would keep us about a mile off shore the whole way, so I figured we’d be fine. However, another weather service I use was predicting stronger winds and rougher seas, building through the day. That’s what concerned me – who to believe. I decided we should leave at first light, so if the conditions worsened in the afternoon, we’d be closer to our destination when they did. It turned out to be a good choice.
The City mooring field is about five miles from the Naples inlet at Gordon Pass, so I figured it would take us about an hour to get back out into the Gulf. We dropped off the ball at seven o’clock. The tide was running with us, and we made good time, clearing Gordon Pass just after seven thirty. The wind was just north of east, and our route was northwest, putting he wind on Madge’s starboard beam. We pulled out the jib to steady the boat, and suddenly we were doing about 7 kts, motor-sailing. Seas were about 1-2 ft, and we weren’t much farther off shore than the end of the Naples pier. I backed off on the engine and our speed dropped considerably. I decided that instead of proceeding under sail alone, I’d keep motor-sailing to make the best speed. The wind was about 13-15 kts, occasionally higher. Looked like my secondary weather service had the better prediction. Even so, we had a comfortable ride. Madge had no trouble with the conditions. By mid-morning, the winds were consistently above 15 kts. There were some gusts to 20. Madge didn’t care. I was beginning to rediscover my boat, and it felt good. The wind shifted south sooner than expected, aligning more with the direction of the waves. We stayed about a mile and a half off shore, but were in 2-3 ft seas. We were running almost dead downwind with rollers on our stern, which started Madge rolling from side to side a bit. What made matters worse, we were still having to dodge crab traps, and with whitecaps on the waves, they were harder to pick out. Regardless, we passed the San Carlos Bay marker just before noon, and crossed under the Ft. Myers-Sanibel Bridge into Pine Island Sound soon after, dropping the hook at Ding Darling around one o’clock.
So here we sit. The mangroves in our cove give us good protection from the 10-15 kt winds shifting between east and south. The sun is shining. The temperature is mild. I’m reconnecting with my boat.
Looks like I’ve successfully made it back on the horse.