After a rocky night at anchor near the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico we made our crossing on Monday and it couldn’t have been better! It was sunny with very little wind and almost no waves at all. We were as far out as 30 miles offshore and couldn’t see land for most of the 60 mile run from Alligator Point to Steinhatchee, FL. We traveled with 5 other boats and celebrated with a docktail when we got to the marina – that’s a surprise, right?!?
Day 2 of the “rim route brought a little bounce at the start of the day, but smoothed our nicely for the 50 mile run out in the Gulf again to a pristine anchorage in Cedar Key. I don’t love to anchor, but this was spectacular and my favorite anchorage of the Loop. We watched the dolphins swimming around our boat, took the dinghys to the quaint little town for a little walk and got back in time for an amazing sunset!
After an equally beautiful sunrise the next morning we headed back out in the Gulf to travel to Crystal River. It was a short run out in the Gulf and a long inlet to the marina where we were greeted by a mother and baby manatee! Maybe it was a father, I didn’t verify 😳 Even though we spent the winter in Florida I’ve never seen a manatee up close before and I was stunned at how big they are; I understand why they’re referred to as sea cows. They were captivating to watch and after getting settled we loaded Peter & Susan from The Answer on our dinghy and joined Laurie & Kevin from the Laurie Jean for a dinghy ride a few miles away to see the manatees up close and personal. It was phenomenal, they are really beautiful creatures. We headed back to the marina with a pit stop downtown for a drink and an appetizer before heading back to our boats. Our dinghy is always slower than Kevin & Laurie’s and with 4 people aboard it was even slower……but when it slowed and then stalled at dusk we knew something was up! We’d run out of fuel! Danny kept saying he should fill it – he was right – he should have. We called Laurie on the cell and they came back and towed us to safety. Loopers helping Loopers. It’s a thing.
The next day we went back out on the Gulf to cruise to Tarpon Springs. I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been so far this week, another beautiful day. We got in at about 3:00 and had just enough time to walk around “Sponge Town” and have dinner at a Greek restaurant. Apparently when diving for sponges was a thriving (or semi-thriving) industry, divers from Greece emigrated to the area and there’s a strong Greek presence to this day. It was a cool little fishing village reminiscent of Rocky Neck in Gloucester.
We said so long to our buddy boats after dinner and traveled alone the next day. We have more or less been with Laurie & Kevin since the middle of June and now that we’re both getting close to crossing our wakes, our routes and schedules have changed. It was bittersweet, really; so many of our Loop memories will always involve Laurie & Kevin. We also said farewell to new Looper friends Kurt and Deborah on Honey Badger; we’ve only known them for a few weeks but have really enjoyed traveling with them. We will see them all again in the Fort Myers area soon before going our separate ways for the winter, but for now we’re on our own.
We traveled about 60 miles to Bradenton Beach on Friday. What a great area! We walked the beach, Danny took a quick swim and we had drinks and appetizers at a fun little beach bar before returning to the boat for an early bedtime…..as usual! We’ve been getting up really early every day this week to make some time and we’re exhausted at night. Plus we’re old!
Today we traveled 60 miles mostly in the intracoastal waterway. All week long we’ve been out in the Gulf – that’s five days a row in the ocean. We have NEVER done that before. We’ve traveled several days in a row and traveled out in the ocean, but never both. The weather this week has been phenomenal and has given us the push we need to get to Fort Myers – to cross our wake – to capture the GOLD!!!!
Tonight we are in Boca Grande, FL. This is a very upscale marina in an upscale community. The dock hands (there were 3 – for the last week we’ve pretty much docked ourselves) literally put out a WELCOME mat outside our boat after they helped us dock. We walked to town, explored a little, picked up some groceries and then came back to the marina for an early dinner. We’ll have an early night – as usual – and head to Fort Myers early tomorrow morning. We will go to a marina on the beach tomorrow and then on Monday travel about 20 miles to the downtown area where we started last February. We are just “THIS CLOSE’ to crossing our wake!
It’s an unbelievable feeling and as much as I don’t want to jinx us, I’m pretty excited. This has been an incredible 9 months. The last couple of days I can’t help but think that as cool as it is for me, it must be incredible for Danny. He’d learned about this trip and decided he’d do it long before he and I got together. I remember him telling me that he was going to get rid of everything, buy a boat and do this trip called The Great Loop. I had no idea what that meant really, and said it sounded cool. When we started getting more serious he told me again that he was serious about it and I said “sure”, not thinking it was something I’d ever really have to do. But he wasn’t kidding. Aside from the getting rid of everything part of the plan (We really like our house and aren’t ready to get rid of it yet), he was true to his word. He worked hard all his life. He saved. He beat a serious illness. He found this boat which we decided to commit to and he puts blood (literally), sweat (literally) and tears (no wait that’s me!!) into it every day. He has done all of the heavy lifting – the daily preventive maintenance, the charting, the weather tracking and almost all of the driving while I do what I can to support him. I’ve gotten better at taking over at the helm when he needs me to and I do look at weather – I’ve learned to chart a little, but honestly the stuff that matters has all been on him. He’s even honored our “it takes one NO and two YES’s when it comes to travel/non-travel days because of weather. He leaves it to me if there’s a question – mostly because the less freaked out I am, the happier we both are. This has been his trip, and I’m blessed and better for having been here with him. He’s the best. ♥️
So……..tomorrow Fort Myers Beach if all goes well. Looks rainy and windy, but we’re gonna get up early and go for it. Then on Monday we’ll get back up on the helm and go cross our wake. We’re “THIS CLOSE” to the Gold……when we get there I will share and can’t wait!!
Thanks as always for following along with us,
Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi