This is a haunting statement for an old sailor to have to make but it is true and why not face it head on?
By now, most of you know that Sammy Bigbie and I plan to spend a little time at sea over the next few weeks. Ruthie has dubbed the trip as a “bucket list” adventure but this is not exactly the situation. The route we have decided on (around south Florida) will, indeed, be new to Sammy but it is one I have enjoyed many times, going back to the early 80s.
Each time I covered the distance I met new people and renewed old friendships. When I could not persuade anyone to crew for me I would just set sail and go by myself!
You notice I said: “set sail”. Most of my ventures were on a little 24 foot cutter rigged sailboat I bought new in 1980. Over the years I sailed north to the Chesapeake twice, four or five times to the Abacos, three time up the St. Johns River, a few times up the west coast of Florida as far as Cedar Key, and twice to Cuba.
Many of these trips were taken during the years when I could only be gone from the family business for a maximum of five days, so I always ended up leaving the boat at some randomly selected little stop along the way. Most of you have never heard of White Water Sound, Thunderbolt, Crow’s Bluff, Good Hands Creek, Barron River, Marina Hemmingway or New Found Harbor but, over the years, I’ve been forced to leave a trawler or sailboat at all of these places and fly, take a Greyhound or rental car, or even hitch-hike to get back to work.
Early on, my wonderful wife, Dianne, would sometimes reluctantly go along but I guess she burned out over the years and it was (to borrow from Jimmy Buffett) “probably my own damn fault”. I never considered it an inconveience to run with the rail in the water for hours on end only to find out that she had been continually mopping seawater from the cabin sole. The final blow, no pun intended, came when I had to put her on an airplane out of Treasure Cay in 1997 when I decided to ride out a Hurricane on the trawler at New Plymouth. Just let it suffice to say: in recent years “I can sail anywhere, anytime with the emphasis on the “I””.
As many sailing trips as I have been blessed to be able to take, none have been more gratifying than those over the route that Sammy and I plan to cover. On most of these voyages I was by myself. My memories include hours spent in highly intellectual (sic) conversations with friends I had never met in assorted tiki bars, marina pavilions, and other various nondescript dives in Key West, Fort Myers Beach, Key Largo, and, a particular favorite establishment – Dockside on Boot Key Harbor.
So as to dispel with what most of you, especially Sammy’s wife Barbara, are thinking about this time: I am not a total waste. The most memorable moment I may have ever had was years ago on Florida Bay. I was alone in my sailboat halfway between Cape Sable and Marathon. The sun was setting over the Gulf and it was Good Friday. The wind was fair and there was no storm on the horizon. It was a quiet and peaceful time but my concern was the pending darkness and the approach to an unfamiliar coastline. If a sinner could ever be closer to God, I don’t know where it could be. The journey through life is a lot like a search for a safe anchorage in the darkness. The words in the little prayer I said are not important but it was a moment I can never forget.
I’m sad to say it but I donated my sailboat to the Chapman School of Seamanship last year. Now I’m left with what most old sailors revert to: a floating condo called a trawler………….so Sammy and I will just pretend like we are “sailing”.
Okay. You all have the picture. What Ruthie has billed as the “Bucket List Cruise” for two upstanding and respected classmates of “58” is really Sammy Bigbie and an acknowledged deviate floating away to some 70+ year old lost weekend! In order for any of you that are crazy enough to want to meet up along the way; I have put together a little Google tracking schedule that will give you a clue as to where we might end up on any given day.
Just print out this page and Google exactly what is in BOLD. It will show a place we could meet. Some of the locations are on the water and others are ashore – but I’ve been to all of them before and I may never get to go this way again.
Starting point in Palm City
3352 nw perimeter rd, 34990
Rowan Martin’s Marina in Clewiston
920 e del monte ave, 33440
Library Dock at LaBelle
461 n main st, 33935
Marina in downtown Ft. Myers
1300 lee st, 33901
Restaurants & anchorage at Goodland
401 papaya st, 34140
Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City (DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE)
riverside dr, 34139
Little Shark River (water only)
little shark river florida
Billy Wilkinson Home on Marathon (fine dining, romance, and live bait)
1111 calle ensenada, 33050
Indian Key (water only – a must see for history buffs)
indian key florida
Caribbean Club on Key Largo (or what ever other dive may have taken its place)
104100 overseas hyw, 33037
Pumpkin Key (water only)
w snapper point dr, 33037
Rickenbacker Causeway anchorage
3201 rickenbacker causeway, 33149
Lake Sylvia in Ft. Lauderdale (water only)
1310 w lake dr, 33316
Peanut Island (if you don’t know where this is you are in the wrong class)
98 lake dr, 33404
Peck’s Lake (last chance – water only and bring your bathing suit)
7950 se dock st, 33455