Martaritas and Oysterfellers

April 18, 2014:

Did I say a margarita?  Okay, it was probably more than one … maybe more than two.  After we got the “car” (aka our dinghy) cranked and running, we scooted on up to the dinghy dock at Ft. Myers Beach to see what all the fuss was about.  We checked in at the Matanzas Inn and, like many of the other mooring fields we had stopped at along the way, Ft. Myers did not disappoint.  For a sum total of $15/night, we were secure on the ball with welcomed access to the dinghy dock, restrooms and showers, and (in our opinion), a pimped out laundry room:

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I mean, more than one washer and dryer … and a book swap?!?  This place was four star!  We were thrilled with the amenities.  We signed up for two nights and hit the town, puffing out our chests and cheering ourselves along with a mighty “They can’t handle us!” mantra.

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We headed first to the beach to see the shore and what kind of salty, sandy folks we were dealing with in Ft. Myers.  We stumbled upon a place called “Top O’ the Mast” and thought how fitting?  

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I’d been there a time or two already on this trip.  Why not?  Let’s give it a try.  We ordered up a couple of their signature rum runners and headed out to the beach.

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There we found a diverse bunch of beach bar bums and laz-abouts that felt just our speed.  We kicked back with our drinks and watched several gals who looked like they were about three years out of middle school and three sheets to the wind crash their kayak repeatedly in some heavy surf, an older couple on wobbly legs attempt to dance to Eagles tunes and a steroid-infused jet ski rental dude hit on anything remotely resembling a tweenager.  It was an easy, entertaining scene.

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We then ventured out to find some late lunch beach grub and we came upon an open bar restaurant spilling over with folks called SOB – Smokin’ Oyster Brewery.

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Whether it was the name or the atmosphere, I’m not sure, but that place fit us like a worn glove.

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We’re not!

When we walked in, there was a band playing in the corner, an old Commodores song I believe, and the lead singer/saxist (or is it saxophonist?) was sauntering around barefoot, playing his heart out, making all the old biddies croon.

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He was a big beast of a guy, with what appeared to be several drinks spilled down the front of his shirt, but he was an incredible musician with an obvious passion for his … work.  We kicked right back and ordered up a cocktail, a margarita and some delicious sweet, crunchy coconut shrimp.

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That was followed by another round of margaritas (I told you it was more than one!)

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and another appetizer – the oysters Rockefeller – which I couldn’t manage to call anything but “Martaritas and Oysterfellers” by then.

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Luckily the gal who was waiting on us spoke ‘Annie’ and she was able to pick up what I was putting down.  For the most part …  But, put it down we did.  We followed the appetizers up with a slow braised pork shank.  Put your fingers to your lips and spritz them out with a smack.  Mphua!  Whatever that is – that’s what our pork shank was.  DE-lish.  (And don’t ask me where the picture of it is … I took one I know, but lost it I’m sure!)

After filling our spirits and savoring our big, filling late-lunch, we sauntered back to the dinghy and cruised on back to the boat.

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There she is!  What a beaut!

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We kicked back in the cockpit and took in, what I can now safely say, was the best sunset of the trip.

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By cockpit that is …

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After the horrendous storm we had encountered in the mooring field the night before, it was nice to see the view we had just seen the day before brewing with ominous clouds now serene and stained with shocking pinks and a burning yellow.

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It was so beautiful it silenced us.  We both sat in awe, enjoying the slow movement of our chests rising and falling in gratitude,

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as the realization started to sink in.  We had made it all the way down to Ft. Myers — by boat!  Our next stop was Key West.  We would be making the jump across the Gulf in just a couple of days.  This was it!  We were on it.  The trip we had been planning for months, preparing and provisioning for for weeks, dreaming about for years.  And, here we were.  Truly living it.  But, we both knew we were enjoying every stop, every step and every breathtaking sunset along the way.

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It was the destination that had motivated us, initially, to set our sights on the sea, but it was now the journey that was capturing us, calling us onward, always, for more – to anywhere and nowhere – by boat.

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The Car Won’t Start

April 17-18, 2014 (Keys Log – Day 16):

I’m happy to say we survived the epic flooding in Ft. Myers.  I’ve never seen rain come so fast and so hard.  But, as fast as it came, it went.

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The sun came back out and we found ourselves high and dry, safe and secure.  Which meant it was time to do what we normally do right when drop anchor (or snag a mooring ball).  That’s right … make a cocktail!  Or three.

Now, typically I would have snapped a few shots of us mixing our drinks, toasting the sunset, smiling like happy sailors, but if you recall, after our horrendous night in the Gulf, the harrowing entry into Charlotte Harbor under nightfall and the approximate one hour nap we had that morning, we … were … beat.  That silly little selfie above is all the photo-taking I could muster for the evening.  It was the last shot of the day.

And, I believe it was somewhere in the middle of his second rum drink that the Captain started to nod off and dip his head into his glass.  I can’t blame him.  The man had held the helm of our beloved boat for about 12 hours straight.  And, then motored us all the way over to Ft. Myers in the same day.  It was around 6:00 p.m. and we were both fading fast.  Phillip kicked back on the settee to “close his eyes for just a minute” while I threw some dinner together – one of our go-to’s on the boat – chicken tiki masala with naan.  The funny thing was, though, I was banging around, clanging pots, opening cabinets, shutting doors, doing a great number of things any one of which would usually have the Captain sitting upright, looking around, but none of it phased him.  He was OUT.  Gone, done for.  Knee deep in REMs.  I roused him for supper and watched with a wicked grin as his head bobbed and wobbled above his plate and he shoved clumsy mouthfuls in, barely taking the time to chew before swallowing.  His entire plate was gone in under six minutes, and he was back in a deep sleep within the seventh.  I have to admit it was pretty entertaining.  I have never seen him that tired.  We both fell asleep around 6:45 p.m. and slept till about 8 the next morning.  It was glorious.  Now, did we wake to a sticky, caked-up tiki masala mess?  Sure!  But it was totally worth it.

We woke slowly, took our time sipping coffee and reading and just absorbing the morning.  One thing we had noticed intermittently during the night – although it didn’t really phase us, was that our mooring ball kept going underneath the boat and scraping loudly from one side of the hull to the other.

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The balls at the Ft. Myers mooring field were rather large and ours made a raucous sound every time it trudged its way from one side of the boat to the other.  Now, usually the boat pulls away from the mooring ball because of the wind, so the ball going under the boat is normally not an issue, but the current in the mooring field was strong and it kept pushing our boat up over the ball.  The Plaintiff’s Rest was literally on the ball.  But, as we started to look around at the other boats in the field, we noticed that unlike us, they had connected the line on the ball directly to their bow cleat.  We had used our dock line to make a bridal which we connected to the ball, but that certainly gave the mooring ball a lot more room to play with.  So, we decided to take a cue from our fellow moorers, nix the dock line and just tie the ball directly up to our boat.

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Then the ball was too close to the the bow to make its way up under the hull.  Problem solved.  On to the next!

While we didn’t anticipate one, as it seems is always the case in boating, we certainly got one.  We had big plans that morning to dinghy to shore, go exploring, get some lunch, check out the facilities.  You know – get the lay of our new “land.”  But, unfortunately, when we decided to leave the “house” that morning, the “car” wouldn’t start.

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I mean, that’s pretty much what your dinghy is when you’re living on a boat.  It’s your car.  Your means to shore.  While we probably could have rowed to the dinghy dock, it was about 200 yards away, against the current.  And, we were planning to stay there in the mooring field for a few days.  Sure would be nice to have a car … 

So, Phillip set to it.  He cranked and pulled and yanked and cursed that thing – for half an hour at least.  I laughed and took pictures.

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He hee hee.  

Then we decided to really troubleshoot it.  When Phillip looked in the oil window, he could see the oil in the outboard was murky, which meant it had probably taken on water, somehow, during our horrendous night.  To this day we are still not sure exactly how that happened.  But, c’est la vie.  So, he changed the oil in it.

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And, boy was he right.  It was murky.  The oil almost looked like chocolate milk.

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He ended up changing it three times before it began to look like oil again.

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Then he tried to crank her again.  She would sputter and fire and run for a bit and then die.  So, he would crank her again.  She would sputter and fire and run for a bit and then die.  So, he would crank her again, and so on.  What was I doing, you ask?  Laughing and taking video of course!

I mean, it wasn’t really comical, but what else are you going to do?  The great thing was, all of our boat neighbors started to get in on the action.  They had been watching Phillip jack around with that engine for about two hours now, listening to her crank and die, crank and die, crank and die.  Several of them would throw their arms up and cheer when she cranked and heckle her when she died.  “Booo!!”  It was better than football.  And, when the outboard would crank and Phillip would get going a bit, other boaters would circle the wagons and check on him to make sure he didn’t get stranded.

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Boater:  “You got her running there, partner?”

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Phillip:  “I believe so, but don’t go too far.  Thanks.”

We even had some folks swing by and drop off what they called their “magic juice” – some special lube they always spray on their outboard when she gives them fits.  Because everyone’s outboard gives them fits.  It should just say in the manual: SOMETIMES SHE WILL CRANK, SOMETIMES SHE WILL NOT, AND THERE’S NO REASON WHY.  That would at least squander the hope that she’s going to run like she’s supposed to.

But, the Captain was persistent.  He stuck with it and finally got her purring.  Then he started zipping around all over the field, lavishing in the cheers and hollers building around him – the roar of the crowd!  Haaahhhahaaa.  It was hilarious.

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We packed that puppy up while she was running and made our way to shore!  We stuck a little thank-you note to the “magic juice” can and dropped it off on our neighbors’ boat.

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Finally the car had cranked and we were on our way.  To Ft. Myers Beach baby!  It’s time for a margarita!