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Saturday, February 26, 2005  ART Fest of Fort Myers
Last weekend was the Edison Festival of Lights, and this weekend is ART Fest.  Fort Myers is a very festive town, and once again we are ideally situated to enjoy the action--the show is in Centennial Park, next to Centennial Harbour Marina.
Although the weather forecast for the weekend was soggy, and we had to batten down our hatches against the rain in the middle of the night, the skies cleared up and the weather was perfect for enjoying art about mid-morning Saturday.
ART Fest was a juried show with 200 exhibitors from 37 states, chosen from 600 applicants.  The quality of the work was outstanding, and many pieces merited close scrutiny.  When eventually we checked the time as we left, we were amazed to find we had spent over three hours browsing and ogling and talking to artists. 
We also experienced our all-time greatest ice cream on a stick, purchased from a vendor who sold these made-to-order treats for $4 apiece.  I got raspberry sorbet dipped in dark chocolate and Oreo crumbs, and Dick got vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate and Oreo crumbs.  While $4 sounds steep for an ice cream bar, the minute we tasted them, we figured we had just found the best deal going on the culinary front. .
It is possible, however, that our judgment is a little bit clouded by a recent scarcity of ice cream in our diet.  While it is a staple of our home diet, we can't keep ice cream on our boat.  To keep ice cream hard, a freezer has to maintain a temperature of around -15 degrees.  Our cold plate freezer keeps food at about +15 degrees.  It is very efficient and can keep food frozen for long periods without power, unlike a home freezer, but, sadly, ice cream is out of its range of competence.


After the art show we decided to return to Cape Coral and find a few more caches,  Interfacing our GPS with our street mapping software, we were able to plot a very efficient course to pick up 9 caches in a few hours. 
Since we had picked off the most scenic locations for yesterday's caching, today's caches were a pretty unmemorable lot, with one exception.  The cache was a multiple stop hunt, with clues to the next stop to be found on road signs.  Imagine our delight when we found that the first road signs we  were directed to were warnings to keep our distance from a bald eagle nest.  And, the eagle was right there!  And, we had our binoculars and our camera to fully savor the moment!
Gayl was so excited  by the eagle that she made a math error when calculating the coordinates of our next waypoint by adding and subtracting ordinance numbers and fines from  the eagle signs.  Was it some sort of cosmic good fortune?  The wrong spot for the next clue ended up to be the right spot to see a colony of about 20 noisy monk parakeets busy building nests. Since this was only our second monk parakeet sighting, we lingered a while to admire them.  then we corrected our math, and continued on our way to find the cache.
This brings our trip total up to 27 caches. 
Sunday, February 27, 2005 
"Water, even boiling, will not burn down your hut."
These are the words to an African proverb we were asked to think about as part of story time at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers.  Later that afternoon, when we returned to our boat to find the waters boiling and the docks dancing, while the wind whistled the tune, we had a very different perspective on this land lubber proverb.
We decided to go to church, and, thanks to the Internet, we found a most promising web page for a Unitarian Universalist Church right here in Fort Myers. 
Since the service didn't start until 10:30, and we are now on boaters' early rising hours, we had plenty of time to pick up the Sunday New York Times and peruse it over a big breakfast at the Oasis before church.  Evidently, the Oasis is a Sunday morning ritual for half of Fort Myers.  The place was packed, and most tables had reservation signs for later hours on them.  We enjoyed watching the staff greet regulars with hugs and kisses, church chatter and their unflappable good cheer.
When we got to church, the greeter table was staffed by Lucy Westreich, a woman who has been in Tai Chi classes with Gayl at Lake Geneva Summer Assembly for about ten years.  Add this to the ever growing list of connections we are finding with people we meet along the way on our cruise.   
The familiar rituals, words and music reminded us of our own church home, which we have missed during our travels.  The sermon was shared by the minister and Anna Rodriguez, President of the Immigrant Rights Advocacy Center in Naples.  They talked about human trafficking and modern day slavery.  Florida and Texas lead the nation in human trafficking, with an estimated 17,500 victims crossing our borders every year.
After the service, Lucy's husband Hugo took us on a tour of the beautiful church campus. Their sanctuary, social hall, classroom and meeting room buildings are arranged around a meditation garden courtyard, and they have a screened outdoor social hall overlooking a small lake and fountain. They also own adjacent wildlife sanctuary acreage.  Hugo told us the church bought the property 15 years ago for $11,000/acre, and it is now worth $300,000/acre.
When we returned to our boat later that afternoon, the weather had taken a wild turn. The wind was raging and the white-capped waves were tossing the floating concrete breakwater like just so much flotsam.  We were glad our berth was close to shore, and protected by the landfill jetty built for the condos under construction next door.   The boats at the end of the dock were doing a jig, and we are pretty certain that we would be seasick aboard one of them.  The water was breaking and washing over the floating breakwater and docks with such ferocity that anyone trying to walk out there got soaked, and risked falling if they couldn't dance to the same rhythm as the erratically bouncing dock.
Listening to the weather radio we learned there was a tornado watch in effect, and tides were two feet above normal, due to the recent full moon and rain.  We put out extra lines, snugged in for the duration, and tried not to think too much about the effects that water, really roiling and boiling, could have on our little hut afloat.
Monday, February 28-Thursday, March 3, 2005
We know we are becoming Floridian--as the temperatures dip to the low 60s, even going as low as 58, we are layering on all the warm clothes we have and complaining about how cold it is.  We draw the line at wearing our winter jackets or gloves, but we frequently have our hands in our pockets or tucked up in our armpits.  At night when it gets even cooler, we turn on the heat and grouse.
We are getting a lot of boat work done.  After five coats of varnish (maybe more), with careful sanding between each coat, our starboard brightwork is gleaming.  The port side is in process. Inside, Dick has scraped, sanded, stained, and varnished the cabin doors and frames.  With a final coat of varnish, they will be done enough for now. 
Teak is never done, just done for now, or good enough for now. All owners of boats with teak are constantly comparing their teak with the teak of others, lusting after brilliant brightwork and decks evenly weathered to a warm silver russet hue. One sure way to get to meet people is to work on your teak in view of others passing on the docks.  Skippers will invariably stop to learn your secrets or share theirs.  If a man passes without stopping, you can pretty much conclude that he hires someone to do his teak.  (Yes, I referred to a man purposely--teak obsession tends to be a guy thing.)


We have settled into a wonderful routine with daily work, walks and relaxation.  We shopped the local farmer's markets on Tuesday and Thursday, and enjoyed lots of fresh local seafood and produce in our meals.  We attended our second marina potluck on Wednesday, and met more Great Loopers.  We have become frequent diners at the Oasis, indulging in their $2.67 breakfast specials while devouring the New York Times.
We greet Hershey, our friendly and affectionate next door neighbor dog, daily, as does everyone else walking the docks. At this marina, everyone may not remember the names of all the other residents, but they know all the boats and the pets. 
Just as Dick was pretty much recovered from the bruised ribs and sore shoulder he suffered when he fell off the boat while carrying his bike, he had another bruising fall from the boat this week. This time he was carrying a very full laundry bag in one hand and detergent in another, leaving no hands to catch himself when he lost his balance hopping off. Dick landed sitting on a foot-long cleat on the dock, then rolled off in excruciating pain.  He now bears a massive purple bruise on his posterior region, and swears he won't try disembarking no-handed again.
Friday, March 4, 2005 A Little Murder With Dinner

One of the murder suspects

We had a car again this weekend, thanks to the Enterprise $9.99 a day deal, opening new entertainment possibilities beyond walking distance.  After checking out our options, we decided the most intriguing one was a murder mystery enacted aboard a moving train while the passengers consumed a five course dinner and tryed to figure out who committed the murder. We called the Seminole Gulf Railway Friday morning, and they had a spot for us aboard the dinner train that night. 
The performance was "Silent Vengeance," set on a train in Hollywood in the 1920s, with back-stabbing (literally) actors clawing their way to the top as we watched. We hesitate to call what we saw a play.  The actors had to yell to be heard above the sound of the train whistle at every crossing, and they delivered their dialogue to each other from opposite ends of the dining car, so that everyone would feel they had a good seat. 
But, if you don't judge the event as a play, but instead as a fun way to spend an evening, the experience gets high marks.  The food was actually very good, elegantly served on tables with white tablecloths in an authentic dining car.  The coordination of courses with acts of the play was impeccable. The four hours aboard went quickly--the time was filled with eating, concentrating on the performance to catch clues, and discussing the action.
We didn't win the prize for solving the mystery, but we were close.   
Saturday, March 5, 2005  Sanibel and Captiva
We got up early so that we could be at the "Ding" Darling Preserve in time for the 8 a.m. guided bird walk.  The guide failed to show up, but we were glad to be there early, because the light was perfect, and the tide was low, so we were able to get lots of good pictures of birds feeding in the shallow waters.
After  watching and photographing the birds at the preserve for several hours, we  drove off in search of geocaches.  Our search took us to several interesting spots we had not seen on our past visits to Sanibel and Captiva.  We saw the serene little Chapel By the Sea and its tiny historic cemetery, and we visited the Sanibel lighthouse, located on a beautiful wide beach with lots of shells.
You can see some of our favorite pictures from our day on Sanibel and Captiva by clicking the photo of the Tricolored heron taking off below.

Click on this photo to see more birds and such.

We had lunch at Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille, a restaurant named for one of our favorite characters of Florida fiction.  Doc Ford is a marine biologist with a shadowy past working in government intelligence, who lives at Dinkin's Bay Marina on Sanibel Island, and seems to keep getting himself in the middle of dangerous situations and suspenseful mysteries.


Having read so many Doc Ford novels, we couldn't resist eating lunch at his restaurant.  After reading the menu, we learned that Randy Wayne White, the prolific author of the Doc Ford mysteries, is a part owner in the restaurant.  He used to be a local fishing guide, and sold his excess catch at the back door of the restaurant, and now has what we can only imagine is a much bigger piece of the action there.  Not surprisingly, the restaurant has all of White's books for sale. We found one paperback we hadn't read yet, so we bought a book along with our grouper sandwiches. The food was off-the- boat fresh, prepared creatively, and well-served.
The restaurant was the kind of place where you could imagine Doc Ford and his friends hanging out, if only the place didn't have so much merchandise for sale and that fictional character gimmick in the name.
Sunday, March 6, 2005   Cape Coral


Cape Coral has two characteristics that distinguish it from other Florida communities -- 400 miles of canals and thousands of burrowing owls. So, of course on our last day with a car, we were determined to find an owl.
Since learning about the owls about five days ago, we had been asking people from Cape Coral where we could go to see owls.  Everyone said the same thing--just go into any neighborhood and look for vacant lots with stakes and yellow caution tape.  When you see the tape, you'll find an owl.
Since we drove all around Cape Coral finding 19 geocaches last weekend and never noticed any owl burrows, we were skeptical.  But, we turned off a main street into a promising neighborhood (one that looked like it had vacant lots), and within five minutes we spotted the stakes with yellow tape wrapped around them, creating a 10 foot square around a little mound of dirt.  A closer look revealed an owl just popping out of its burrow.
Isn't it cute?  We were able to get such a good picture, because burrowing owls are diurnal, rather than nocturnal.  They are only about nine inches tall and weigh just four ounces.  This owl let us get within about 12 feet, and never showed signs of being disturbed, although he did keep a close eye on our movements, swiveling his head over 200 degrees as we circled to get the light and angle right for this picture. 
When they were developing Cape Coral, the visionaries and planners overestimated demand.  Developers clear cut huge swaths of land, but people didn't swarm like bees to buy up their big flat sandy lots.  What wasn't attractive to people was very attractive to burrowing owls, it seems.
Now, the owls are kind of like Cape Coral mascots. People protect them from being run over by bulldozers or lawn mowers by putting stakes and tape around their burrows.  If a piece of land you want to build on has an owl burrow on it, you can't disturb it during nesting season, which runs from February to June or so.  We have heard that residents actually drive carefully in the early summer, because the little fledgling owls sometimes get confused and stand in the middle of the street swiveling their heads around trying to figure out how to get back home.
That pretty much summarizes all we know about the burrowing owls of Florida, except for one more thing.  They are the stars of a book for young readers by our favorite irreverent Florida author, Carl Hiaasen.  The title of the book is Hoot.  Being young at heart and into birds, we both read it and enjoyed it.
March 7-10  Our Last Few Days in Fort Myers
Our goal was to leave Fort Myers on Wednesday, March 7, but the weather that day was the worst we have seen our whole time here--solid rain and fairly high winds.  The weather for Thursday was predicted to clear up, but stay windy, so we opted to leave two days behind schedule on Friday.
Our last few days included more of our seemingly endless sanding and varnishing, some bike riding and geocaching when the weather was good, and our weekly Wednesday marina potluck and Thursday Farmer's Market.
Our one new experience was entertaining our first dinner guests aboard Starsong.  Truth be told, until this moment, the internal state of our boat -- tools and toolboxes, parts and projects spread about -- didn't project an image we would like to be judged by.  (Accurate as that image might be.)
We were inspired to put Dick's toys away after a most pleasant time drinking wine, noshing and chatting into the evening with Bev and Liz Lapham aboard their trawler, Change-O-Pace III.  We had so much fun, we wanted to spend more time with them.  We decided that inviting them to dinner aboard Starsong would provide a potent incentive to clean up the boat and reward us with a guaranteed good time.  And, so it did.

Did you click on the heron to see more pictures from our day on Sanibel and Captiva? 
(If you missed it, just scan back up and look for the picture of the heron taking flight.)