Don’t Forget the FUN in the Shadedown Cruise!

I love our old Nanni Kubota diesel, it just purrrrrs.  But one thing I love MORE than our Nanni is the moment when the sails are up and pulling and we turn the rumble off.  Every commuter cruiser season the instant silence is magically relaxing and makes all the hassle of changing from dirt based to water based worthwhile.

It is SO quiet … the gurgle of the water sluices past the hull.  The sun sparkles on the water and we sit silently for a few minutes, each of us appreciating how lucky we are to be setting out on another season of commuter cruising.   “Bo” the Monitor windvane is sailing the boat and we appreciate the fact that she is absolutely silent too, just like the sails.  David wanders about the deck looking at everything, tweaking a line here or there and just enjoying the moment.

Dolphins on the First Sail Fall 2011, Charlotte Harbor, FL

Dolphins on the First Sail Fall 2011, Charlotte Harbor, FL

A few minutes later I hear splashing and David’s voice from the bow   “dolphins”.   We never tire of the grace of the dolphins playing in the bow wake.   Then the crazy kamikaze pelicans put on a show diving full-out into the sparkling water.  I’m always amazed they don’t break their necks.  They turn into comedians outwitting the greedy seagulls perching precariously on their heads, hoping the ungainly pelican will drop some of the fish just scooped up in their sizeable beaks.  No luck, the smarter pelican gives a good shake, the seagull loses his footing, flapping his wings and the pelican throws back his head gulping the fish and robbing the seagull of any opportunity to steal some food! It never fails to make me smile, even as many times as we’ve witnessed the same scenario.

Too soon, the 10 mile sail across Charlotte Harbor is over and we’re turning into the wind, lowering the sails and preparing to motor into the harbor where we’ll spend the next several days at anchor. Mixing business with pleasure, enjoying most every minute as the boat reveals all the challenges Mr Murphy can throw at us.  This week we were lucky, as reported in yesterday’s post for “What Works & What Doesn’t”.  We like to think last year’s wasted cruising season, spent on a mini-refit is paying off this year!

Our favorite anchor spot was open with no boats close, this was definitely shaping up to be an outstanding shakedown cruise!  Staying aboard long enough to insure the boat’s not going anywhere, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the cockpit watching the soaring ospreys otherwise known as fish-hawks.

What a Flirt!

What a Flirt!

Hoisting the dinghy off the deck, we both noticed the same old “early in the season, muscles not accustomed to the cruising routine” aches and pains – I pulled a muscle in my back and I’m still suffering from it.   Dolphins splashed around the boat, tossing fish into the air and then catching them with a flip of their heads.   We took a leisurely dinghy ride into the manatee lagoon to see if any of our friends from last year are still in residence.  Sure enough, before we get into the lagoon, we spot a young alligator sunning itself in the mangrove roots.  Inside, the manatees are playing actively.  We shut off our outboard and drift from one side to the other, then paddle back upwind and do it all over again.  At least 10 manatees, small and large, young and old are in the lagoon today.  The water is shallow and they swim under the dinghy concerning us just a bit that they might upset the dinghy, but as ungainly as they appear, they are amazingly graceful.  One manatee has barnacles all over his back and follows our dinghy all over the lagoon.  Friends tell us of a young manatee last year that thought their dinghy was it’s mama and spent 30 minutes rubbing against the inflatable pontoon.  Good thing this one didn’t decide to do the same – not sure how our hypalon inflatable tubes would have felt about all these barnacles!

The Manatee Lagoon

The Manatee Lagoon

Back to the boat for a nice warm cockpit shower, then cleaned up we sat on the bow and watched the sun sink below the island in front of us.  Time for the traditional call of the conch!  David made me a conch horn a few years ago and it’s always a challenge every year to re-remember how to blow it for sunset.

Sunset:  Time for Call of the Conch!

Sunset: Time for Call of the Conch!

The next morning before coffee, glancing out the porthole over the stove showed the dolphin show was back.  Around and around. The view from our cockpit is amazing, better than most 5 star resorts.

With coffee, I hooked up the USB to serial cable to the laptop, fired up Windows on the Bootcamps side of my MacBook Pro apple laptop and turned on the Icom M802 SSB and pactor III modem, hoping to find that Airmail would connect with Sailmail and Winlink for SSB radio e-mail when we’re out of range of cell and internet coverage.  Sailmail connected right away, but Winlink wouldn’t connect for anything.  I tried again mid-day and then late in the day before I got a connection.  But it works!  One more critical function checked off before we can consider leaving the dock.

Later in the morning, we dinghy into the state park dock and walk a mile across the barrier island to the beach.  Then up and down the beach for miles.  This beach has so many shells, but this year we’re far more selective in our shell choices than we were last year.    Very few people, even here on the main beach – I love a beautiful miles long beach with our footprints mingling with the white heron’s.

We spent half a day on the beach just enjoying, then went dinghy riding, visiting the manatees again and watching the dolphins feed around the shoreline.  Sunset brought another opportunity for the call of the conch.

Miles Long Barrier Island Beach ... No Other Footprints

Miles Long Barrier Island Beach ... No Other Footprints

As the days lazed by, we read, wrote, played, mornings featured chores on the boat, afternoons were spent exploring different beaches and favorite places from years past.  One morning we visited with the American Eagle family at the far end of the island – they were out fishing when we first walked by, but returned late in the day.

We tested all the systems except the watermaker.  We don’t want to unpickle the watermaker until we’re ready to leave so we don’t have to pickle it again for the holidays.

I was getting much better on the sunset conch horn call when a coming cold front drove us out of the anchorage and back to the dock …. for now.

Our American Eagle Friend's Home/Nest

Our American Eagle Friend's Home/Nest



But again, we had the perfect sail back across Charlotte Harbor … once again the magic of the moment that the diesel purr shuts off and the water rushing by the hull is the only sound …. dolphins, pelicans splashing, sun sparkling … does life get any better than this?




  1. Myles Lohr says:

    Myles Lohr…

    Appreciate you sharing, great blog.Thanks Again. Great….

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