After five days of traveling the mostly unpopulated SW coast of Florida, we arrived at bustling Ft. Myers Beach, where we hoped to unwind for a week or so. We had spotted the high rise condos a while before, and as we approached the long pier came into view. Then we could see hundreds of sun bathers lounging on the beach.
Leaving Sanibel Island to port we rounded the NW tip of Edisto Island. The entrance channel takes you close by Bowditch Park. So close you could chat with folks on the beach. No chance of that for us. As we rounded the point our chart plotter showed us plowing through land. So, ignoring it, we kept a close eye on the markers and the heavy boat traffic until we were near the Matanzas Pass bridge.
This nice tall bridge has a lot of current running under it at mid tide. Just past the bridge the Matanzas Inn Marina has a mooring field big enough to hold over 70 boats. The moorings were our destination.
We had read that there was plenty of space, and no need to try and make reservations ahead of time. Wrong. We called in and were told that one mooring ball, #63, might be available if no one had taken it already. We headed for #63.
The morning field is about the length of 12 city blocks. The higher numbers are farther away from the dinghy dock. Duwan spoke up around 2/3 of the way there. â€œDo we really want to stay this far out from the dingy dock?â€ Relieved, I was thinking the same thing. But I said â€œLetâ€™s at least check it out.â€ The mooring ball would be significantly cheaper than a slip at the marina.
We arrived to find that a boat had already taken #63. Sighs of relief all around. We turned back toward the marina and I called to ask if they had a slip. They had one left. I told them weâ€™d like to stay a few days.
Mike from the marina said we could stay for $35 per night. Thatâ€™s less than $1 per foot, a good rate for us. Then he said he could do $30, then finally settled at $25. I told him weâ€™d stay for a week.
We had a bit of trouble docking. Apparently I donâ€™t ask enough questions. All the slips were normally aligned (perpendicular to the pier), except ours. We finally figured this out and made our parallel approach.
The slip is almost under the Matanzas Bridge, where the current is dicey. We eased in close enough to get a bow line tied, and a passer-by in a dinghy tried to help push our stern in. We eventually got secured. Yay.
We walked to the office. Mike was busy checking in hotel guests. After seeing our travel-worn appearance, he gave us a couple of free beer passes for Peteyâ€™s Upper Deck Bar, and asked us to come back in a two hours. When we came back he said he couldnâ€™t find the necessary paperwork. (We didnâ€™t get officially checked in for three days, after a few more free beer passes and the offer of a free day in the slip).
So began our week of carousing in Ft. Myers Beach. Peteyâ€™s was right at the end of our dock. They featured guitar pickers every happy hour. The beach and Bowditch park were fairly close. A one mile walk would get us to Toppâ€™s Grocery. And there were lots of other bars and restaurants nearby,
We got to know some of our boating neighbors, and do a little happy hour picking. One night Cheryl and Bob came by and talked with us. They used to have a Catalina, but they were campers now. They invited us to a cookout at their campground (just across the Matanzas Bridge). We saw them a few more times. For us it was the relaxing week we needed.
We didnâ€™t stay for our free day. We left about 9am Sunday when the tide was slack. Just before leaving we met some new neighbors, and Cheryl and Bob came to see us off. So we had an audience for our undocking. We planned well, though, and Duwan nailed our exit (even after we were advised that it might be OK to go under a lower, alternate span of the bridge).
We already taken you through the Okeechobee Waterway, so we wonâ€™t go into much detail about the return trip. Oh, but our tipping experience under the Port Mayaca railroad bridge was different. That will have to wait for another post.