St Petersburg to Fort Meyers, FL


 We had a great time in St Pete again this year. As we had done a lot of the museums and touristy things last year, this year's stop was a bit more relaxed. 

We had hoped to have a Northern Lights mechanic out to look at our generator but he kept pushing us off and after the third time that happened Kent told him to not bother showing up. 

Always being on the move can pose some challenges when you need boat work done. You can call in advance to get on someone's schedule but then it always seems like a miracle when they  show up on that scheduled day. Ok, there are some great contractors/mechanics out there but in general it is frustrating to pay for a marina spot and not have someone show up. 

We have contacted another mechanic for when we are in Ft Lauderdale, fingers are again crossed. 

But enough on that topic. St Pete was enjoyable. The marina we stayed at (Harborage Marina) was wonderful – quiet, kind staff, awesome live aboard community and a short walk into the heart of downtown St Pete. 

We found a lunch place for a build your own poke bowl a short walk from the marina. It was so good we went here twice. 

Kent and Penny are grateful for dog friendly breweries. 

 Beer flights are the best. 

Loved the name of this beer, too bad they did not have t shirts otherwise I would be sporting a tie dye shirt like back in high school. 

While in St Pete we checked out the super relaxed town of Pass-a-Grille. 

Walking Pass-a-Grille Beach to St Pete beach. 

Huge resort at St Pete beach. Reminds me of Pepto Bismol pink. 

Taking the Trolley back to downtown St Pete. Love a town with easy public transportation. 

We hit the Ybor neighborhood in Tampa one night with Forever Friday (Mike & Mary) for dinner, drinks and live music. 

St Pete has a fantastic Farmers Market each Saturday. We were happy to find the same olive spread guy from last year and bought more spread because it is simple and amazing (go order some and try for yourself!). We also stocked up on fresh fish, wild mushrooms, homemade pasta and other various local fruits/veggies. It still stands for us as the best FM we have been to on The Loop. 
Sunrise Thanksgiving morning along St Pete waterfront. 

Thanksgiving on Heartbeat. Big turkey breast in the Instantpot and then finished it off in the oven. 

Yummy. Not shown is Mike’s delicious pumpkin pie. 

Celebrated Thanksgiving last year with Mike & Mary and we were fortunate to all be together again this year. 

We do not usually travel in Florida on weekends because there are usually too many go fast boats and not everyone knows boating rules and etiquette. But it was a good weather day to cross Tampa Bay for Otter Key so we left against our better judgement. It was a constant barrage of go fast boats flying past us leaving big wakes behind them. 

There were a lot of boats out as we made our way to Otter Key. Most throwing off big wakes and having no clue how it rocks the slower or smaller boats. We knew better to be out on a weekend in Florida and we did it anyway so in a way we should not complain. 

Otter Key is a well protected anchorage near St Armands Circle. St Armands Circle is a shopping and restaurant/bar area that is on Lido Key and across from Sarasota. We stopped here last year for a few nights in a blow and set up for the same situation this year (cold front with a lot of wind was on it's way). 

Otter Key anchorage is also where we met our friends on INNTW (If Not Now Then When – Mike & Kelly and their 3 kids). Hard to believe it has been a year since we met them and that they are back to life (work, school etc.) in Michigan. They are truly a great cruising family and we had a blast whenever we crossed paths with them. 

Otter Key anchorage is surrounded by mangroves on one side and very large homes (ok, mansions) on the other. 

Watching the Civil War game. Will always root for the orange and black.  

We spent 3 nights at Otter Key and dingyed into St Armands each morning (me for a run, Kent and Penny for a walk). One afternoon we took a Lyft over to Sarasota for a few errands. West Marine (because we need to keep replacing things we lose or break), Great Clips for a haircut and Trader Joe's for some favorite items. It may sound silly but we keep shared lists on on our phones by store so we can quickly stock up and avoid forgetting something. Consulting our West Marine list and our Trader Joe's list we were in and out with ease. 

West Marine where it seems impossible to leave without spending at least $100, even if you only have 1-2 items to buy. 

When the winds died down we left Otter Key for Cayo Costa/Pelican Bay. We however changed our plans mid day when Kelly on INNTW texted us and recommended a stop at Don Pedro State Park. It was a good recommendation as we ended up having the anchorage to ourselves (which just about never happens). 

Dingy ride through the mangroves to Don Pedro State Park for a walk on the trails there.

The next morning we got up early to do a short 2 hr trip to Pelican Bay so we could enter at high tide. We have been trying to stop at our favorites places from last year and this was one we had really enjoyed. 

Pelican Bay is a large anchorage and you have easy access Cayo Costa State Park.  The park claims to have 9 miles of sandy beaches and 2,500 acres of pine forests and mangroves. There are a few miles of sandy trails that cut through the park for walking/exploring. Only access is via boat. There are also a few campsites, a very small park store but not much else which (for us) makes it a great quiet place to explore. 

Exploring at Cayo Costa State Park. 

We easily got in a nice 5 mile walk this day. 

Last year we connected with Ceci Kay (Jan & Stacey) and The Blessing (Jay & Barb) at Pelican Bay. We traveled with both couples throughout different parts of our loop and as it was mentioned with INNTW above it is hard to believe it has already been a year and that also these friends are back to their home towns (Ceci Kay in Seattle and The Blessing in Canada). 

This visit we saw Beyond Karen (Joe & Karen). Our first meeting was in Pensacola when they docked next to us for a night so it was fun to cross paths again so quickly. While at Pelican Bay the 4 of us ventured in our dinghies over to Cabbage Key for lunch and then later enjoyed a great sunset on the shores of Pelican Bay. 

Cabbage Key is a 2 mile dingy ride from Pelican Bay anchorage. In fact the restaurant is only accessible via boat. As the story goes Jimmy Buffet was inspired to write Cheeseburger in Paradise after a stop here. True or not it was a reason enough to order a cheeseburger.

Cabbage Key uses a water tower to provide water to residents, guests and the restaurant. 

View from the top of the water tower. 

Deserted beach + happy hour = awesome. 

Enjoying a fantastic sunset with Joe & Karen.

 Took a dozen or so pictures of the sunset. It was spectacular, kept changing but this one was my favorite (and like all of our sunrise/sunset pictures – untouched). 

After 2 wonderful nights at Pelican Bay we traveled 40 miles to Fort Meyers.  We arrived by early afternoon on a Friday which allowed us to get off water for the busy weekend boat traffic/chaos. 

Fort Meyers was a new stop for us. The year before we stayed at Fort Meyers Beach (in their municipal motoring ball field) and opted this time around to try something different so we stayed at Legacy Harbor marina in the city of Fort Meyers. The marina is ~10 miles up the Calloosahatchee River from Fort Meyers Beach and we were now off the GICW. 

Being from the Pacific NW you just don’t see palm trees lit up for the holidays. Here in Florida you can’t go more than a block without seeing one. 

To our pleasant surprise we arrived just in time for Fort Meyers First Friday Art Walk. The downtown streets are shut down, vendors set up and live music is around every corner. 

While in Fort Meyers we spent one afternoon touring the Edison Ford Winter Estate. Both of these gentleman wintered in Fort Meyers on side by side property for years. Edison’s home was built in 1886 and Ford’s in 1915. Both estates have remarkable gardens and 2,000 palms line the main road by both Edison and Ford’s winter homes. 

Edison’s 1928 Botanical Research Laboratory. 

Edison’s main home, Seminole Lodge. 

 Each of the homes (and guest houses) are beautifully restored and decorated for the holidays. 

Apparently Santa drives a model T truck? 

One nice surprise is when we have boats hail us that we have met previously. On our way to Fort Meyers we heard from Exhale who we had briefly met on our very first night at anchor back in September last year while on Kentucky Lake. It was wonderful to hear they check this blog. Sometimes it is the brief small world moments that can make your day. 

The next few days will be spent taking a short cut across Florida to the Atlantic side. Yes, you can boat across the state of Florida. We both had no idea before this trip that you could do this but turns out there is a major waterway – more to come!