We enjoyed our time in Fort Myers Beach. While the choice of anchorages is limited, there are mooring balls available. We were anchored just outside the channel in Matanzas Pass. This is a very busy pass that provided lots of entertainment without causing the boat to rock too much to be comfortable.
There is a dinghy dock nearby and we only had to walk a few blocks to catch the free trolley that basically circles the island. We were able to catch the trolley to a Publix for grocery shopping and to the laundry. There are several restaurants nearby with dinghy docks as well as marinas with fuel and boat stores. The beach is gorgeous and was very busy as it was spring break time. There are lots of little shops, restaurants and bars where you can sit with a drink and people watch.
We tried fishing in our anchorage without any luck but were able to stag some coconuts as they floated by.
After a week, it was time to head out. We left for Key West on Friday, (I know, I know, leaving on Friday is supposed to be bad luck) March 29th, since according to Predict Wind the wind conditions would be perfect.
We had a good downwind sail for about 2 hours, complete with a dolphin visit, before the winds started to die. After bobbing along at 3 knots for awhile we started the motor. We ended up having to motor the rest of the way as the winds completely died. On the plus side, seas were flat, so we were very comfortable. We put out a lure but had no luck catching a fish.
It was getting dark as we approached Key West and since we never want to go into an unfamiliar area after dark, we decided to stay out over night and go in the next day. There were numerous fishing and shrimp boats around, so we actually went back out quite a way to avoid them. We ended up heaving to (which means using your sails and rudder to basically stop the boat) and waiting until morning. As we were approaching Key West the next day, we had to dodge a lot of crab pots, so we were really glad we hadn’t attempted it in the dark.
Key West is one busy place!! There are all kinds of boats taking tourists out sightseeing or fishing, pleasure craft and sea-doos zipping around everywhere. There are even floating tiki hut bars.
There are two main anchorages, one off Wisteria Island and one off of Fleming Key. We had heard Fleming Key was the safer of the two, so we headed there and dropped our anchor. I’m not sure why but both of us sort of felt that getting to Key West is a major milestone and in some strange way marks the real beginning of our cruising life.
The Blue Angels were in town putting on an air show, so we enjoyed the show as well as a beautiful sunset view from the boat. The next morning, we put the dinghy in the water and motored around the anchorage taking in the sights. My first time seeing a boat with a portable storage building alongside! Seeing this did make me feel better about hanging our laundry in the cockpit to dry.
We made our way to shore and purchased a temporary tag that allows us to use the dinghy dock (along with dropping off garbage and getting fresh water if needed) and started to explore. We decided to get a one-day trolley ticket and ride it around the island to get a general idea where everything was located. The trolley driver provides a narrative as you go along so we learned a lot about the island.
Key West is a very interesting place! The island seems to be divided in half with Old Town being the tourist area and New Key West being the “normal” side of the island – meaning that is where you will find the Home Depot, Publix, etc. We go ashore at least every other day and explore the Old Town shops and bars. If you don’t mind walking, you can get to everything in Old Town by foot. Don’t worry, if you get hungry or thirsty there are restaurants and bars everywhere you turn! Evenings on the boat are normally spent with a glass of wine enjoying the breeze in the cockpit, watching the sunset, listening to music and reading.
We’ve also tried fishing from the boat, but we must be anchored in a fish nursery since we can only catch baby fish. One day we took the dinghy to fish near some mangroves and Russell caught a shark! We threw it back but later realized it was one we could have kept and eaten. Oh well, next time.
So far since leaving Kemah, we’ve gone 1374 nautical miles but as always, we’re starting to think about where we’re going next so we’re beginning to look at routes and watch weather conditions.
Next stop? Probably the Bahamas!