Fort Myers Beach, and Naples

We have anchored many times, but never used a mooring ball before arriving at Fort Myers Beach.  We pulled up and Teresa grabbed the loop of the mooring ball first try. We then tied off and were secure for the night.   Lots easier than docking or anchoring.    Mark and Karen from Captains Choice were in the area and met us on shore.  We first met them in Chicago and have crossed paths off and on ever since.  Before we crossed the gulf, we last saw them in Panama City. We walked our Fort Myers Beach and visited the sea shore area that is called “Times Square” which has many shops and eateries.  As we walked the long fishing pier, we marveled at the sunset along with many other onlookers.

Before leaving the area, we motored over to Ballard Oil, a place where commercial vessels use due to their cheaper diesel prices. Going there proved to be quite the experience—a good one, but an experience just meeting their staff. Tommy has worked for Ballard for 23 years, before that he was a shrimper for 28 years. Teresa knew she’d enjoyed talking with him when his reply to her question of how he was doing was,

“Can’t complain. Beats looking up at the sunshine through the grass!”

In addition to pumping fuel, shrimping, Tommy has done welding, roofing, carpentry. He even owned a houseboat at one time.

From there, we traveled a short distance out in the gulf to Naples.  We are no longer traveling in the ICW.   Each trip now is out in the gulf to the next inlet or harbor.    We met up with Henk and Thressa from Lakeshore Yacht Harbour in Naples.   They are staying on Marco Island with another couple (Stan and Maija) also from Lakeshore Yacht Harbour. The six of us enjoyed a very nice dinner in Naples at the Boathouse. It was great to connect with familiar faces and catch up on life.

Having our tandem bicycle along has proven to be beneficial. We also use our single bikes depending on if we are docked or anchored out. Today we rode our tandem out to Naples beach which is not a long trip. Naples has quite a few public access places which is nice for those of us who do not own property right on the water. Even though this is not a weekend, the beach was full. Every day is Saturday around here, or so it seems.

After our bike ride, we received word that Bob and Nancy and Greg and Pam planned to visit us after their tour of Key West. The six of us enjoyed pizza at a nearby restaurant. Felt like old times back at Lakeshore Yacht Harbour! It’s great to mix in a few familiar faces with new ones we meet all along the journey.

The Naples City Dock is going to undergo complete reconstruction later this year.  I am sure the docks will be nicer but it will lose the quaint nostalgic look that it has today.

 

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Mooring ball hooked up at Ft Myers Beach.

 

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Mark and Karen from Captains Choice visit us in Ft Myers Beach

 

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Sunset at the pier at Ft Myers Beach

 

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Sunset at the pier at Ft Myers Beach

 

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Tall ship next to bridge at Ft Myers Beach

 

Shrimp Boats at Ft Myers Beach 

 

 

Ballard Oil Ft Myers Beach – lowest prices for fuel…..

 

 

Sanibel Lighthouse as we left Ft Myers Beach

 

 

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Dolphin visits again…….

 

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Osprey nest on marker

 

 

Scenes from Naples

 

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LYH crew at Dinner in Naples

 

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LYH crew in Naples

 

 

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LYH crew in Naples

 

 

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Naples Pier at the beach

 

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Naples Pier from below

 

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Naples Beach

 

 

 

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Sanctuary at Naples City Dock

 

 

Venice, Manasota Key and Cayo Costa State Park

From Sarasota, the ICW took us to Venice where we tried to anchor but found the anchorage was too shallow.  The reviews on Active Captain and local information predicted that might be the issue, so we had a plan B which was to go to Crow’s Nest Marina.   The Crow’s Nest Marina is right on the Venice Inlet from the gulf just east of the jetties, so we could look out into the gulf and see the sunset from our dock.  There are many boats going by, but it is a “no wake” zone, so most are not noticeable.  They have an onsite great restaurant.  The beach is nearby and there are many nice places to ride a bikes.

Bob and Nancy, who also keep their boat at our home marina, stay in Venice for the winter.   Soon after arriving at the dock they met us, and took us to town for supplies.   We had a nice dinner with them and Scott and Karen from Last Call at the Crow’s Nest.    It was like a Lakeshore Yacht Harbor Marina reunion–where we all were last summer.

 

After Venice, we stopped at an anchorage near Manasota Key called Englewood #2.   It was a nice anchorage with plenty for room for boats, but very restricted dinghy access.   It is a no wake zone, because of the Manatees, so it is a long slow dinghy ride.   The one place that looked good to tie up the dinghy was also a good restaurant with live music, called Flounders.   It is an open air beach type restaurant with a sand “floor,” the shrimp tacos were excellent.   After eating, we walked over to the beach–an area known to be good to collect sharks teeth, but didn’t take time for that.  It is a low key laid back area, not full of T-shirt shops like many beach communities, just a few restaurants, a small convenience store, and a Beach Togs Store.

 

The next stop was Cayo Costa State Park, which is one of the favorite places so far.  As we were entering the anchorage, I saw a boat named Glorious Dei on the AIS screen.  After getting anchored, and confirming by texting, it was the same Glorious Dei with Thad and Cindy that we met at Hoppies, on the rivers many miles ago.  We visited with them for a short time before they left to go back to their dock in the Gasparilla area.  They are now Gold Loopers, which means they completed the loop. Congratuations Thad & Cindy!

This is a large protected anchorage with room for many boats.   The park has a few docks for day visitors and a ferry brings over visitors and campers.  The setting reminded us of South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan, but much warmer.   There is a nice dock to tie up your dinghy.  The island only has a few buildings near the docks for the park service. One of the buildings is a snack shack and they sell Ice Cream!!   There was once a small community on the island that supplied fish to Cuba and a doctor’s office for visitors to be checked out to allow entry to the USA.  The roads/pathways here are just dirt, not brick and pavement like the ones that remain on Egmont Key.   There is a lot to explore on the Island, it is very overgrown and jungle like once off the main road.   There is a golf cart that will take you to the other side of the island to visit the beach which is near the camp ground.   We rode the cart in the morning for a nice beach day.   There are miles of beach to walk, shell, and explore.  We captured some pictures of an Osprey (bird of prey) and his catch of the day–a Sheepshead Fish.

The sunsets and sunrises in the bay made for a very picturesque setting. We wanted to stay longer but the waterway ahead beckons………..Next stops will be: Fort Myers and Naples, hopefully soon to be caught up on the blog posting.

 

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Last Call following Sanctuary through the open bridge

 

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Venice Jetty

 

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Market at Venice

Shacks along the ICW

 

 

 

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Sunset at Manasota Key – Englewood Anchorage

 

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Manasota Key

 

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Manasota Key

 

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Ferry crossing the ICW (Intercoastal Waterway)

 

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Looper friends: Thad and Cindy from Glorious Dei at Cayo Costa

 

 

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One of our favorite places so far……

Scenes from Cayo Costa State Park

 

Osprey and the catch of the day

 

They have Ice Cream on Cayo Costa

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Any place with Klondike Bars can’t be all bad

 

 

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Sanctuary at Cayo Costa

 

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We even attended our local church while anchored at Cayo Costa, via the Internet…..

 

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Sunset at Cayo Costa

 

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Another sunset at Cayo Costa

 

 

Sarasota

After a couple of remote anchorages, we landed in Sarasota at Marina Jacks which is right in the heart of the city.   From remote beaches to 4-lane highways and traffic jams, the contrast was quite dramatic.   There are so many restaurants and places to shop in Sarasota.  St. Armand’s Circle is well-known for their high-end historic district.   Just looking at the cars in the area, we knew we had switched from affordable to we’ll just look type of shopping…. Lexus, Jaguar, Alpha Romeo, Maserati, and many more that you do not normally see.

Another highlight of Sarasota is the Ringling Circus Museum and Art Museum. We learned just how much we did not know about the Ringling Brothers circus and circuses in general. What an education! Together with Last Call, we spent the better part of a day exploring the museums and grounds. John and Mabel Ringling owned an extensive and expensive art collection. He also built an amazing mansion (called CA’ D’ZAN or House of John) for his dear wife overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. She was only able to spend three winter seasons there since Mabel died at an early age of 54. Sad to say, but John never fully recovered from this loss. Having no children, their fortune could not be left for descendants. John died with $311 in cash to his name, but possessed tremendous real estate and art wealth. They were wise enough to have much of their Sarasota estate covered in their will. Everything would be gifted to the state of Florida. Hence, generation after generation can view and enjoy. It was more important to them to love others and gift to others from their wealth.

The museum has extensive art from around the world.   There are 66 acres of gardens and open areas with great views of Sarasota Bay.   The Tibals Learning center has a miniature scale full circus.   It has every detail of the circus taking years to create.

From Sarasota, we traveled to Venice and Cayo Costa State Park.   We will update the blog with those details soon.     Today we plan to travel to the Fort Meyers Beach area.

 

Train Car from the Ringling

This was John and Mabel’s personal car built in Wisconsin

 

 

Just a few samples of the many many art pieces available to view

 

 

Miniature Circus

 

Circus Collection

 

House of John       Ca’D’Zan

 

 

 

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Full size dolphin sculpture on water front

 

 

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Extra large sculpture on water front

 

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Entry to Marina Jacks

 

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Sanctuary in Sarasota at Marina Jacks

Anna Marie Island and Jewfish Key

From Egmont Key, we traveled a short distance to Bradenton Beach on Anna Marie Island—a feel of old Florida. Building height restrictions only allow less than 40 feet high. I believe that’s what we like about the place—no huge high-rise condos looming overhead. Years ago, we rented a motel-like condo right on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico on the Island. It was almost like coming home again. We wanted to step our feet ashore and re-visit Anna Marie Island. Anchoring in the bay near the Cortez Bridge to the island, we took the dinghy to shore and ate a great seafood lunch on the beach.  Teresa also found a couple shops to satisfy her retail therapy urge.

Jewfish Key was next and just a short trip for our next anchorage.   Arriving at low tide, this gave us plenty of time for exploration of the flats.   Since it was low tide, a large area above water allowed us to walk around on.  Many kayaks and boats pull up to the shore to walk around the flats.   Numerous hermit crabs scurry around in the shallow water and water birds abound.

 

 

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Bradenton Beach Pier

 

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Bradenton Beach Pier

 

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Bradenton Beach Pier

 

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The Beach goes on for miles……

 

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Beach Bar Scene

 

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Dinghy Dock

 

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Some of the boats need work….

 

Shells and hermit crabs from the flats on Egmont Key

 

 

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Sunset at Bradenton Beach Anchorage

Egmont Key

Heading south to Egmont Key, we crossed Tampa Bay going by the Sunshine Bridge.  Although the bridge is a very different construction, it reminded us of the Mackinaw Bridge back home with its twin towers.  The coast guard warned of fog in the area, which is exactly what we encountered the last mile of the trip to the island.  Using radar, GPS, horn signals, and keeping a close watch made for an uneventful trip even in the fog.

Egmont Key is a state park only accessible by boat with an area to anchor for visiting pleasure craft.   The anchorage is not well protected, but usable when the weather conditions are right. The first night was a little rolly, but worth it to be able to explore the island.  In times past, a thriving community operated on the island with over 70 buildings built from 1898 to 1916.   All the buildings, except for the concrete bunkers and gun batteries of Fort Dade from the Spanish American, war are gone.   The red brick and concrete streets and walkways, are still there.   You can see where all the houses, school, fire station, and stables were located.  The bunkers are on the Gulf side and look out over the ocean.  We explored the bunkers and learned about some of the construction.  One of the bunkers even had a canon that would drop down out of site for reloading.

The light house on the south end of the island is still active. Its light sweeps the anchorage every 15 seconds.

We saw many Gopher Tortoises on the National Wildlife Refuge Island.  They dig large tunnels in the ground for their homes. A ferry makes day trips to the island for “non-boaters” to explore the area.

While anchored at Egmont Key, Scott from Last Call dove and cleaned the bottom of our boat.  We were so thankful he could do that for us.

 

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Sunshine Bridge

 

 

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Note: Osprey guarding the wildlife sign

 

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Behind bars on Egmont Key

Gopher Turtles on Egmont Key

 

Flowers on Egmont Key

 

Fort Dade Bunkers 

 

Wild Life

 

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Anchored on Egmont Key

 

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Brick Roads still in good shape on Egmont Key

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Brick Roads still in good shape on Egmont Key

 

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Scott and Karen from Last Call Skipping down the yellow brick road on Egmont Key

 

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There was a fire on Egmont Key State Park caused by a lightning strike that burned through 79 acres. The fire was in July 2016.

 

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Working light house on Egmont Key, notice the strings of Christmas Lights

 

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Scott from Last Call dove and cleaned the bottom of our boat. We were so thankful he could do that for us.

 

 

 

Sun Rise, Sun Set,…… on Egmont Key

 

Moving Again, Headed South from Dunedin, Florida

After a great, and unique for us, Christmas in Dunedin we are moving again. This is a first for us. We’ve enjoyed Christmas in Michigan or Minnesota, but never Florida. It hardly seems possible the month of December flew by so fast.  We chartered Captain Jared’s fishing charter as a gift for a half day of fishing. He came highly recommended and we understand why—he’s young, energetic, and knew his craft and the local area. Steve, Andrew, and Amanda headed out in search of big fish. They were not disappointed returning with their quota of 11 speckled trout and 1 huge redfish. Our children and grandchildren are now safely back home. For some odd reason, the boat seems larger and quieter. We feel blessed to share Christmas with all of them in this warm climate.

Beginning January 1, 2017, we traveled to a protected anchorage right in front of the Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida.   The building is pink and looks like an old castle/palace and it is just a short distance from the boat and serves ice cream.  The motel was originally opened in 1928 and served the rich and famous for many years. When the owner died, the building eventually was purchased by the US army and served as a hospital in the 1940s.  In the 1970s, it was restored and returned to use as a hotel. It has been featured in many movies and is called the Pink Palace.

We took our bikes to shore via a dinghy and explored the area. We found a casual lunch place, Brass Monkey, overlooking St. Petersburg beach. Life is good.

We plan to head out to an Island called Egmont Key for our next destination.

 

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Captain Jared fishing tour while we were in Dunedin

 

 

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Fish caught while on Captain Jared fishing tour while we were in Dunedin

 

 

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Sanctuary at Marker 1

 

 

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Sanctuary at Marker 1

 

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View from Brass Monkey at St Pete Beach

 

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Brass Monkey in St Pete Beach, good place for food and drinks

 

 

Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida

 

 

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Christmas Day at the Beach on Honeymoon Island, Florida

You can enjoy Christmas on a boat complete with a Christmas tree, decorations, presents, and a nativity! After opening presents with the kids and grand kids on the boat, we rode out to Honeymoon Island finding waves to jump in, shells to collect, and sandcastles to build.

Teresa had special T-shirts made for a photo op on the beach.   Christmas in the white sand and sun is so much better than snow regardless of what “Currier and Ives” scenes advertise. #FeelingBlessed

 

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Christmas in Florida 2016

 

 

 

Sun, Sand, Shells, Swimming, Snorkeling, Shopping, Special Friends and family, getting ready for Christmas

There are many things to do in the Dunedin area.   Popular attractions include Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island—both state parks.  There are miles of beaches on Honeymoon Island.   We took our dinghy over to Caladesi Island which is also accessible by ferry. While there, I captured quite a few bird pictures and shells.

A few days later when Amanda arrived, we took the dinghy to Honeymoon Island.   We collected shells on both islands, but found the north end of Honeymoon Island scattered with hundreds and hundreds of Fighting Conch Shells.   Scott and Karen from Last Call also took their dinghy along for the trip.    We took lunches and enjoyed a long day on the beach.   After swimming, snorkeling, and shelling, we continued around Honeymoon Island in the dinghies completing a circle of the island.

We visited the stores in downtown Dunedin with Bob, Vicki and Angie Rehkopf who drove over from their place in Lakeland Florida.  There are many unique shops to investigate, and unlike many waterfront towns, they are not all T-shirt shops.

Sanctuary is looking very festive with a decorated tree and many Christmas presents.  Since our one and only tree is rather small, the presents are up on the dash area instead of under the small tree.   Stockings (shell collector bags) hung from the ship’s wheel with care. Current Christmas Day weather prediction: 81 degrees and sunny!

 

We are excited to share our lovely weather and venue with our son Andrew, wife Bethany, and the grandkids!  They’re currently making their way down to us by land, so we are getting ready for their visit.  This will be our first Christmas spent in Florida. Normally, we gather in either Michigan or Minnesota. Just think: opening gifts on a boat Christmas morning … space will be tight, but that is okay. All are eager to soak up sun and each other’s presence as we celebrate together the birth of Jesus, God’s only son.

Wishing you and yours a Very Merry and Blessed Merry Christmas!

 

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Birds on the Beach

 

 

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Teresa and Amanda enjoying the beach

 

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Dinghys on the beach

 

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Shell Collection

 

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Collecting Shells

 

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Loopers on the beach at Honeymoon Island

 

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Loopers on the beach at Honeymoon Island Steve and Teresa with Scot and Karen from Last Call

 

 

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Snowman “Olaf” on Sanctuary

Christmas in Florida

 

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Heron visiting boat next to us in marina

 

 

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Just another Sunset……….

 

 

What Were We Thinking………..trading white sand for snow……..

We left the sunshine and 80° temperatures of Florida for a trip home to Michigan.   Just where did I last see my coat, gloves, socks and boots? While it was great seeing friends and family we have not seen for a few months,  the weather was a significant change!    It was warm inside visiting with everyone, but somewhat chilly outside.

So this is our public service contribution for you loopers still south who thought you were experiencing cold weather and for those who might be missing snow.

 

 

 

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Local 8-day forecast

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This is what over a foot of fresh snow on the deck looks like

 

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Sidewalk cleared of snow

 

We plan to head back to Dunedin FL tomorrow.   Looking forward to our children and grandchildren joining us for Christmas in Florida!

 

 

Winter and Christmas Lights in Florida

 

At Clearwater, we visited the Marine Aquarium where Winter the dolphin lives and the movie Dolphin Tail was filmed.  We saw Winter and Hope both swimming in their pool area.   So we can say we saw Winter in Florida.  While we were there, the trainer worked with Winter and gave her massages to help keep her spine as straight as possible due to her missing tail.

From Clearwater Beach Marina, we moved the boat to Marker 1 Marina in Dunedin.  On the way, we stopped by No-name Island where we had anchored before.   The plan was to stop for a swim and have lunch before we headed into the marina a short distance away.  Once anchored, we saw a flock of Roseate Spoonbills fly over.  They were such an unusual pink color and sight, they seemed almost like imaginary. After a short swim, we noticed a cloud and fog bank in the distance that seemed to be getting closer.   In just a few minutes, the weather changed from “sunny, let’s go for a swim” to “fog, misty rain, and I hope we can find our way.”  We quickly pulled anchor and headed for the marina.  The fog and misty rain did not last long and we soon found our way into the marina, but it did add some excitement to the trip.

The City of Dunedin has many interesting shops, restaurants, and hosts a Christmas Boat parade.    Marker 1 Marina is the staging point for the start of the parade where many boats displayed full holiday dress for the parade.  We have never seen that many Christmas lights and decorations on a boat!   Some of the boat installations took many days to create. One of the boats even had a live band on the bow.  It was great fun to see all the boats lighted and decorated.  The best part was watching Christmas lights in shorts, a tee shirt, and sandals.

 

Clearwater Aquarium where Winter and Hope live

 

 

Roseate Spoonbills fly over where we anchored for a swim and lunch

 

A swim and then storm clouds…..

 

Boats decorated for the Christmas Light Parade 

 

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Sunset at Dunedin from Marker 1 Marina

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Sunset at Dunedin on the Bay