Ft. Myers Beach to Dry Tortugas & Key West & Back – May 2012

Sailing Fort Myers Beach
They just come by to say Hello… “It’s Been a Lovely Cruise.”


May 3, 2012 – 1500 hours (3:00 p.m.)

It’s Friday. The dock is buzzing and everyone that is going to the Dry Tortugas, for our personal vacation, is cleaning, waxing, pulling stuff, loading stuff, packing things away so  they don’t break, sipping beer and enjoying an amazing day here in Fort Myers Beach.

I decided that this year I was going to log or journal our vacation and publish it somewhere.

I’m on Panacea with Maggie. Pat is running the freeways hitting the stores to get the stores. 1st mate Alex is doing laundry. John with “All In” is waxing his hull. Kim and Narlyn are getting fuel. Capt. Dan just backed “Star of Orion” into his slip. I’ll have to ask him about that.

Mike the diver is making a fortune today. Clearing through hulls and cleaning everyones bottoms. He’s a great diver and we want to keep him around.

So marina life is good. I’ll get a list of everyone that’s going and I’ll get all the boat names. It’s going to be a nice trip.

We are heading down to the Dry Tortugas first for a few days and then to Key West for 3  nights.  At that point some of the boats are heading back to Fort Myers Beach, some will  head off to the Atlantic side of the Keys and make some stops. We’re one of them.

We’ll head out with Panacea and Star of Orion and stop at Bahia Honda for a night or two at anchor and then over to Marathon for a night and then we’ll take it from there. Plans change and the wind blows, so we always head out with a destination and then change plans along the way.  We never take expectations along with us.  It’s just a smart thing to leave at home.

So, I’ve got this started.  I’ll do my best to keep it up.  I’ve got to stow some stuff and clean the engine room.

Capt. Paul – Sailing in Fort Myers BeachSailing on the Gulf of Mexico

May 3, 2012 – 2203 hours (10:03 p.m.)

Just had a great Skype session with Bro. Dan Palmer. Caught him up on our plans and showed him a couple magic tricks. He’s a great guy and learning a ton of stuff about video production. You need to keep track of him at http://www.BrotherDanPalmer.com.

He is my best friend that is on a liver list. Since we’re talking, be a hero, get up to http://www.DonateLife.org and learn how to save 8 lives and impact hundreds of lives when you die. Don’t take those parts with you.

Time to get some sleep. Pat spent 6 hours on the road, at stores, buying all the stuff for the trip. She’s the best. We’ll move everything on in the morning, make the beds, organize and clean. I’ll also put in a new Racor fuel filter and a Bimini Ring Game. It’s play time after that.

We also need to do one more sunset sail charter tomorrow night before we can pull the plug. We are ready for this vacation. Lots of work this year and well deserved. We love sailing in Fort Myers Beach.

May 6th 2012 1412 9 (2:12 p.m.)

Well we’re under way.  Today we all took off for the Dry Tortugas.  We headed out of the harbor and headed to 211 degrees west and we’re off.

Fort Myers Beach Sailing
John C. & Pat “Headin’ South”

Everyone is settling in and finding their spots.  Pat is on the aft deck reading a book.  Alex is setting up a fishing line.  John is catching up on last minute communication to the real word and engaged in conversation with Alex’s friend Glenn.  Glenn is kicking back enjoying the sea and telling sailing story.  It’s all really good.

As for me, I was trying to connect with John & Judi in Canada, but at this point it will have to wait until we hit a cell signal in Key West on Friday night.  So I thought I’d take the time to catch up on this log.

The wind is on our nose at 6 to 8. So the engine is purring away and we are moving at 6.5 k heading to Fort Jefferson.

Fort Myers Sailing
Capt. Dan & Dianne – Good Friends

I did connect with my daughter and I’m…  Well it’s my log, so I’m in hopes we can heal the family rift that is going on with them.  I’m still pretty confused about how it all happened, except I put up a post on FB and pissed them off.  I apologized, but it may take a while to get the dust to settle.  It hasn’t settled for years. I can’t go on about this and just need to wish them the best that life has to offer them and let them live the life they want to and God Bless ’em.

Hey, it’s 1420 and John and Judi just called my cell phone on it’s last dot.  They were wishing us well and their love…  Thanks you guys and we’ll call you on Sunday when we reach Key West or catch you on Skype at: FantaSeaSailing. You can see if and when we are online by going to http://www.FantaSeaSailing.com and on the front page there is a Skype link that shows if we are on or offline. If we’re on, don’t hesitate to connect and say hi.

So I’m looking forward for this time to be a Spiritual Healing time for me and help me to understand the other parts of me.  I may get weird on you, but, it’s my thoughts and I’m going to ramble along, sharing myself and my ideas, thought and rants. Sailing on the Gulf of Mexico is a special place.

Fort Myers Beach Sailing
“Party at the End of the World”

Now it’s time for a nap in the sun.

May 7, 2012 – 0017 (12:17 a.m.)

Well we had a great afternoon.  The wind wasn’t on our side, but we enjoyed the day and Alex caught the first fish of the trip.  We listened to music and just enjoyed the day… Until…

The engine stopped.  Just listened to it slow down and then stop. Dang.  I hate it when that happens.

Alex and I were off to the engine room and knowing it had to be fuel.  You see we just did a fuel filter change the day before we left and all was well.  Went out on a sunset sail and all was well.  Took off on this trip and all was well.  Well five hours into the trip, she just stopped.

The Southernmost On The Beach Hotel – Listening to Toko Irie. Enjoying every precious moment

After two or three hours, and 3 engine bleeds and a lot more acquired knowledge she was purring again.  So the rest of the boats will meet us at Garden Key tomorrow.  We fell back a couple of hours because we had to sail off the wind to keep us going.  Glenn held a course and Alex and I were in the bilge.

So John and I just took the 2100 hour to 0000 watch and i’m off to bed until the 0300 to 0600 watch with John again.

Seas: Glass – Wind: 0k – But the Full Moon is AMAZING!

May 8, 2012 – 0845 (8:45 a.m.)

Let me regress… On the 6th as we were crossing the Gulf, we witnessed some ver strange lights in the sky in the south west horizon.  About 6 or 7 lights in a row appeared and then they were there for few seconds and then they went off, in sequence, one at a time from right to left.  Pop, pop, pop and they were gone.  No noise, no planes, just lights.

Sailing the Gulf of Mexico
Fred & Erika – Friends from Ohio, via Key West Express

Glenn on the boat, said it may be a meteor that skipped off the atmosphere.  I thought about it and thought maybe…  but 15 minuets later, it happened again.  So there you have it.  We will never forget the feeling of being amazed by magic.

So to continue on the early morning of the 7th.  We had trouble with the engine all night long into the morning.

On our last bleed, and we knew it was an “air in the fuel” issue, I started looking in places tucked away and following every inch of hose, triple checking connections and touching everything.  I was making sure of the routing because we put in a new fuel filter a couple days before we left and then it smacked me up the side of the head…

Sailing Florida
John C. meeting a new friend in Key West

We have a fuel polishing system.  It’s a home made job that came with Panacea.  Very functional.  Basically there’s a “T” on the output side of our first fuel filter.  It has a valve that shuts off the “return” hose to the tank and a valve that can shut off the flow to the engine when polishing.  We made sure that the fuel was going to the engine when we put the new filter in.  BUT the valve, which is right in front of my face, all night long, the valve that closes the “return” line…  It was open.

Result… We would bleed the engine.  It would run for a few hours and then, because the “return” valve was open, we were introducing air into  the filter a little at a time until she couldn’t take it any more and she would let us know by shutting down.

The fix:  Shut the valve, bleed again and enjoy the ride.  Talk about blinders…

So anyway, we moved into the anchorage on the 7th and took a quick dip in the sea.  Got our snorkels wet and cooled down.  Alex got the dinghy set up with the engine and we said hi to the other 8 boats that straggled into this anchorage here at Fort Jefferson From Salty Sam’s Marina in Fort Myers Beach.

Fort Myers Beach Sailing
Marty with his 2 biggest fans, Dianne & Jammie

Then it happened. The now famous “Happy Hour at the Sand Bar” broke loose.  The word got out and everyone headed around to the back side of the Fort to the sandbar and we tied all the dinghies together and had an hour or so of telling stories of everyones individual passages since we were the last ones to get in and sailed alone all night, out of radio range, it was nice to catch up with everyone.  We even had another 2 couples from St. Petersburg join us from another sailboat and they have now become new friends.  They’re younger and from Romania, but live in St. Pete.

Then back to Panacea for grilled burgers for dinner, drinks, story and music.  Marty came over for a time and we caught up on his passage since we ALL lost him at sea for 12 hours or so.  He is the only single hander with the group and basically he just pulled away from sailing with Peter, put on the auto pilot and went to sleep…  He pulled in an hour before we did.  He’s a kick.

So as for this morning, all is well.  John and I took “Puff” over to the island to finish checking in and then we used the “facilities”, picked up some brochures for our stay here.  I think it’s Tuesday and we are leaving Friday morning about 0200 for Key West.

Sailing Fort Myers
Sharing all the Leftovers Party at Galleon Marina KW

So we sit planning our day and so far Alex came up the the decision of what to do…  “Nothing” is all we can think of right now…

May 9, 2012 – 1240 (12:40 p.m.)

Well let’s talk about yesterday.  It’s time to catch up.  In fact, I was just telling my shipmates that I have nothing to write about today because nothing happened yesterday…  Then the stories started to fly.  How soon I forget.

Things are settling in as we spend time hanging on the hook here at Fort Jefferson so it seems like everything is slipping from one moment to another.  But in reality we have moments that are gems.

Sailing in Florida
A home cooked feast. You can’t buy it.

Kind of like when Craig anchored, he knocked his American flag overboard.  Yesterday a few of the guys got together and put together a grid search and Capt. Dan of Star of Orion finally spotted it.  It was retrieved and today is proudly is back on his stern rail.

Yesterday there was no wind in the anchorage.  Dead calm.  Temps were hot and we spent a lot of time in the water.

Pat, John C. and I headed over to the island and walked over to the beach put on our gear and had a nice snorkel.  I met 3 little fish that were about the size of a silver dollar, at least one of the old ones.  They were pretty curious guys and we spent some time together checking each other out.  I swam away and found a couple of cannons from the fort and a few large conchs.  Sure wish we could have kept ’em, but their in protected waters.  The coral on the wall was amazing and plenty of different fish.

Sailing to Key West
“All In” heading out for Ft. Myers Beach

On my way back down the wall I felt a swimmer touching my calf, so I swam closer to the wall.  They rubbed my leg again, so I turned around and my 3 little fish were the ones that were trying to get my attention.  So I turned around and we got face to face and I put out my hand and one of ’em broke from the pack and rubbed himself/herself along the back of my hand.  We played for another 5 minutes or so as I was giving thanks for such a pleasant connection, then I had to move on.

As I was snorkeling back to the beach in about 4 feet of water and feeling like I will miss my 3 little fish and settling into a very peaceful place, a 4 foot black ray swam under me, going the same direction and scared the crap out of me.  He was beautiful and we swam together until the water got a little shallow and he cut off to the right and I continued my journey.  What a nice experience.

John M. and his crew and some others took off for the lighthouse to do some swimming and snorkeling and when they came back to the anchorage, it was time to head out to the Happy Hour on the Sandbar.  We packed a couple of coldies and headed out to portage Puff over the shoal and cruise out to join everyone.

Fort Myers Sailing
Marty with “Permanent Wave” at the gas dock

It was quite a party and Karen from the Journey brought a bag of chips and a great dip to go with it.  All the dinghies were tied up to Capt. Dan’s boat since he brought an anchor for it.  Everyone was coming from the anchorage and the best entrance was Peter.  He was in his dinghy with his mates and he stood up on the bow as they were coming in and posed like that Titanic shot everyone does.  As you can guess it lasted long enough to surprise everyone and then he tumbled off.  His mates continued on and he swam in.

Marty was another great entrance.  Since he is our single hander, he brought his dinghy over to the portage spot and left it there and walked out in the water and just raised his hands.  Since he was a couple of hundred yards, Alex jumped into Puff and went and picked him up.

After “The Party at the End of the World”, we came home and had dinner aboard.  The night came upon us and the Conch Blowers from all the boats brought the day to an end.

I’m getting used to this, but as of the weather report this morning, we have a south to southwest wind this evening and tonight, so we think we are going to pull up the anchor at around 1900 to 1930 and leave our little piece of Paradise to head to Key West.

Sunset Sailing in Fort Myers Beach
“All In” settling in for the trip north

Key West is about 70 miles down the sea and we’ll get there in 12 to 14 hours.  We’ll see if they have room for us a day early.  If so all is well.  If not, we’ll anchor by Christmas Island and all will be well too.

I have a feeling this will continue…

May 12, 2012 – 1725 (5:25 p.m.)

We pulled into Key West on the morning of the 10th at around 0700.  The trip from the Dry Tortugas was uneventful and that’s the way we like ’em to be.  Craig on the Journey had some electrical issues and was popping breakers and loosing battery power because for some reason, he wasn’t charging.  We all stayed close and made sure he was safe.  We were a group of 3 boats. Panacea, Star of Orion and the Journey.

When we got to Key West, we didn’t have reservations for the night, so we called the Galleon Marina.  They couldn’t get us in, so we went to Conch Harbor.  It was a nice stay and we had a nice night.  We backed in which is not what Panacea likes to do, or I for that matter, but she responded to the commands given and with me at the helm and Alex on deck shooting orders, we looked like we had been backing her in for years.  We really are a good crew together.

On the 11th we moved into the Galleon Marina and got hooked up.  We all got off and started to go our own ways.  Some downtown, some to pools, some to bars, it all worked out perfectly.

Half Day Sailing Adventures in Fort Myers Beach
John C. kickin’ back enjoying life at sea

Pat, John C., Marty and myself went to the Southernmost at the Beach Hotel to enjoy the Bloody Mary’s, pool and the music of Toko Irie.  What a great day we had.  We’ll do it again next time too.

In the afternoon, we cabbed it back to the Galleon and cleaned up for dinner.  We went to the Rum Barrel.  It has a nice top deck with live entertainment and good food.  A single guitar player played through the evening and we ended up at Irish Kevin’s for a little while.  It was way too packed and so Pat and I went to pick up a slice of pizza and play some pinball.  That was a GREAT idea.

Today was pretty laid back…  We had a late breakfast here on Panacea and then went to A&B for a late lunch.  Fred & Erika came down on the Key West Express and we have been enjoying their company.  We have been friends for a few years and I married them a couple of years ago and everything is still working out for them.  Whew!  So glad, yep, so glad.

At this point of the day, Pat is taking a little nap and I’m catching things up.  We are heading down to Mallory Square to join the “Sunset Celebration” around 1900.  It’s a great place to watch the sunset, catch some street performers and mingle with EVERYONE ELSE here in Key West.

So I’ll catch ya’ll later and thanks for putting up with my ramblings…

May 15, 2012 – 1639 (4:39 p.m.)

What a trip his has been.  Let’s get back to the 12th.  We did head down to Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration.  We walked into the mass of people and once we got to the sea wall we turned right.  We fell into a mellow crowd that were listening to a local artist by the name of Mustafa.  Great music.  One gut.  One guitar.  He took us to those magical places that only a true musician can do.  Thanks Mustafa.

Ft. Myers Sailing
Pat & Erika joining the back up singers of Mustafa

On the 13th we all took to the streets.  Everyone was everywhere…  But since it’s Key West, it’s great!  We did go to Schooner Wharf Bar and listened to Michael McCloud.  We went to Dante’s and swam with the Mermaids.  We watched the 4:00 feeding of the tarpon at A&B.

Dan, Dianne, Pat and I had a great dinner at Alfonzos.  We talked and laughed and made a ton of plans…  It’s all good.

So we then moved “C” dock to the Galleon Marina.  We put together a dock party and stayed on the docks for the night.  A few beers and 20+ people laughing, telling story and playing.  Sometime during the evening, I did a magic show.  Broke out some stuff I had aboard and popped off 20 to 30 minutes.

Sailing the Gulf of Mexico
Mallory Square Sunset Celebration

The funny part is at the end of the show I did an introduction for Craig to do his comedy.  It was a gag.  Craig wasn’t there, but as soon as I did the gag intro, he walked around the corner of the dock and walked right into it.  Go figure.  I knew he didn’t want to do a show.  He told me so at the Dry Tortugas, but it was just a good way to end my show.  Sorry Craig.  Been there…

On the 14th it was another day.  We were going to leave on the 14th, but ended up staying one more day.  So it was a pool day.  Soaking up sun and water.  Enjoying life and what it has to offer.

We all discussed dinner plans and we all had stuff that needed to be grilled.  So dinner was at the marinas grills and we had a great potluck.  Dogs, burgers, fish, salads, dips, chips and beer.  Not a bad evening.

After that we went back to the boat.  Everyone went to bed and I watched a little David Letterman and hit the sack.

Sailing Florida
Glenn & John C.

This morning on the 15th, we headed out to sail the 22 hour sail back to Fort Myers Beach.  The only problem we had is that Marty on Permanent Wave needed fuel.  Seemed like a good idea.  He started up, John M. positioned him to pull out and he ran out of fuel at the dock.

Try as we could, we could only get his engine running for a short time.  He ended up calling Towboat US and got towed back in.  We all sailed on because John K. was still in Key West.  We are in hopes that we see Marty again.  When we are in cell range, we’ll be checking in on him.

At this time, we are under sail and have been since Green #1 of the north channel.  Our little fleet consists of 5 of us on Panacea, 7 onboard All In, 2 on Star of Orion and 2 on the Journey.

Three of us are flying spinnakers and the Journey is with main and jib.  Wind has clocked to the west south west and we are pulling along at 5.5 knots.  All is well.  It’s a bit cloudy, muggy and hot, but we will survive.  We should be pulling into port at around 3pm tomorrow.  We have some scattered storms around, but nothing big… yet.

I’ll catch you up later…

May 16, 2012 – 1607 – (4:07 p.m.)

We arrived at Salty Sam’s at around 11:30 a.m.  The sail turned into a motorboat ride yesterday evening as the wind clocked around to the south and was light.  then it went to the west and there wasn’t much of it, so we motored through the night.

Sailing with the Dolphins
Sailing with the dolphins. Ahhhhh…

We were surrounded by thunderstorms, but they were a ways from us, so we watched the light shows and enjoyed the stars coming and going.  John C. and my watch was from 0300 to 0600 and just as I was getting ready to wake up Alex for his next watch, the rain began.  It was light to moderate and Panacea enjoyed the fresh water wash. As for us we just suited up and Alex took his watch and I laid down in the cockpit and snoozed the through the storm.

When I awoke Alex had already dumped his fowlies and I dumped mine.  It was coffee time and we were off the coast of Naples.  It was cloudy, but dry.  The USS Mohawk was towed up from Key West that night and was on it’s way to the docks right by the shrimp fleet.  Matanzas Pass was closed down while she was brought in and we pulled in just after she was docked.

The plan is that Kelly Brothers is getting her cleaned and ready to be sunk about 40 miles off the coast of Sanibel Island.  Seems a shame.  I heard that the insides are in great condition and for $400,000.00 she could have been put into service as a museum but there was not a dock space for her.  She now they are spending 1.5 million to have her sunk.  This is why we don’t have nice things…

So we are home.  Safe and sound.  We only lost 1 boat and 1 captain.  Marty is out there somewhere and we are hoping that he shows up tomorrow.  He was our only single hander and Permanent Wave needed a little more work to be sea worthy.  I’m sure he’s fine.  I’ll let ya’ll know when he’s in and accounted for.  Shoot we only lost one out of eight boats…  Not bad.

Sailing Panacea Fort Myers Beach
Panacea – She’s a great ship. It’s a great Love affair…

So now we clean, unload, tell story and be grateful and thankful for all the wonderful times we had with some amazing sailors, families, and friends.  We reconnected with Kim in Key West and Toko Irie our favorite steel drum player down there.  We ate fish and drank rum things.  We laughed, cried, connected with nature gave thanks and appreciated what we have in life and released what we have lost.

Life on the water is a special time.  Every time we get out there, we change our lives and re-write our movies.  Our futures change and so our pasts change too.  I love creating a new past.  They all get better.

John C. engaged in prayer with me in the middle of the night on our passage.  I felt that Spirit was flowing through us and as Jammy Lula wrote in one of his songs, “Mother Father God, there’s a healing going on…”  Thanks John C.  I owe you one.

The sailing season here in Fort Myers Beach is slowing down.  I have a project list and am going to start banging out the chores.  The projects will make Panacea stronger, more functional, prettier (not sure how that is possible) and safer.  I have a “have” to do list and a “want” to do list.  Guess which one is first.  I’ll be keeping you updated on her progress as it happens.

I’m still taking reservations.  Our summer schedule will be reflected on the “Availability Calendar” on the front page of the website.  Basically the half Half Day Adventures will be 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. in June and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in July.  I’m also setting up a 2.5 hour “Short Sail” that will get us out when the weather let’s us.  We are going into our rainy season so the “Sunset Celebration Sails” usually get canceled, so I’m thinking of taking them off the schedule for the summer.  I hate to cancel sailing trips.  Weather happens and it disappoints us all sometime.

So continue to give me a call if you are going to be in the area.  I’d love to plan a sailing trip with you, and thank you all for your continued patronage.  Because of you, I’ve been able to sail these waters for the past 7 years. We love sailing in Fort Myers Beach.

Remember:  “You call as a Client, board as a Friend and leave as Family.”  It’s my moto and I’m sticking to it.

I’ll be seeing you down the sea.

See you on the Dock…

Capt. Paul

s/v Panacea


Sailing in Fort Myers BeachFort Myers Beach SailingSailing on the Gulf of Mexico


Capt. Paul Sailing Fort Myers Beach
Pat, Maggie & Capt. Paul, in the office, changing the World