Looper-palooza in Fort Myers, FL

285 Days Looping
4,392.8 Nautical Miles Total (5,055.1 Statute Miles)
62.7 Nautical Miles This Week
7.1 Hours Underway This Week
8.6 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks

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Monday – Jan 20th – 25.7 NM – To: Boca Grande, FL
We left Venice at 7:55 passing under the two bridges we’d been using to go back and forth across the waterway to town. We cruised past the Venice Train Station, and down the waterway. We fit under the first two bridges, but had to have a few others opened. Most of the trip was at idle speed as we were either in Manatee zones or passing marinas. The last bridge of the day at the Boca Grande Causeway was a swing bridge. The chart and the reader board both said that there was only 20 feet of clearance, but when we called in, the bridge keeper said that they had 26 feet on the sides of the bridge, so we didn’t need to have it opened. We took his word for it, but went VERY SLOWLY and kept an eye on the mast as we went under. He was correct, we had plenty of room!

Once we were under the Causeway bridge, it was a short 5 mile run across Gasparilla Sound to the marina entrance. As you enter the marina, there is a narrow channel from the ICW into the cove where the marina is located, then just 100 feet from shore or so, you have to make 90 degree left turn to get to the slips. We made the turn easily, however there were two 100 foot plus yachts in the marina and it must have been interesting to see them make that corner! One of them is called “Now We Know”, and we were wondering what the name meant. While looking it up to see who owned it (we never found out), we did learn that the prior name was “Where’s Waldo?”. Cute!!!!

It was only 11:30 when we arrived, so once we got settled, we rented a golf cart to go into town and take a tour of the island. Town was okay, several restaurants, a few boutique shops, and a small overpriced grocery store, not much to see, so we headed out of town toward the lighthouses. We went along the beach road past some amazing houses. The “median” home value on the island is right around $2 million. Many of the homes are $10 million plus!

We arrived at the Gasparilla Island lighthouse and took a walk on the beach to pick-up some shells, then walked around the lighthouse. There was a Geocache nearby along a walking path that goes through the sea grape bushes, so while we were there, we found it!

From there we drove down to the southern end of the island to the Boca Grande Harbor Lighthouse. Because it was Martin Luther King day, the lighthouse museum was closed. We walked along the beach and watched the water rush into the Gasparilla Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, it was a ripping current! Glad we didn’t have to come in THAT pass!

We decided to come back on Tuesday for the tour and headed back to the boat. It was really fun driving around on the golf cart! We got back to the boat around 5:00, and then went up to the restaurant at the marina for dinner.

Tuesday – Jan 21st – 0 NM – In: Boca Grande, FL
Tuesday was cool! It was in the low 50’s when we got up. At 9:00 we bundled up and jumped on the golf cart and headed into town for breakfast. We had quiche at The Inn Bakery, then headed back down to the end of the island to the Boca Grande Lighthouse. The museum in the lighthouse was open, and we spent an hour or so looking at the exhibits and reading the history of the island.

From the lighthouse we stopped at the beach at the state park to do another Geocache and some more shelling along the beach. The wind was whipping, I’d say at least 40 with higher gusts. It was really kicking up some waves!

When we got back to town, we were cold, so we found a little restaurant “Sisters” and had lunch. When we finished, we decided to see what was at the north end of the island. There is a bike/cart path that follows the old railroad line 4 miles to the causeway. We drove about 2 miles of it, which turned out to be just lots of trees and the occasional gated home entrance. So, we turned around and headed back to the boat before the cart battery died.

We were planning to go into town for dinner, but after checking out the menus, decided to stay at the marina and eat at the marina restaurant again. While we were eating dinner, we got to watch two brand new Marlow Explorers one 60 ft and one 80 ft come in to the marina for the night. It was pretty tight for them to get in.

Boca Grande was an okay stop, there’s too much money there and people are pretty much snooty people. We enjoyed the scenery and walking along empty beaches, but didn’t really care for town. Not our kind of people.

Wednesday – Jan 22nd – 37 NM – To: Fort Myers, FL
Wednesday we left Boca Grande at 8:45 heading for Fort Myers. It was a great day, sunny, warm and calm water. As entered the Caloosahatchee River, a dolphin started to play in our wake. It looked like he was having a great time!

Fort Myers is the gateway to the Okeechobee Waterway. If you are taking the short route across the middle of Florida, then you come up the Caloosahatchee to get to the Okeechobee Waterway, if you are going the longer Key West route, then you turn just before the Caloosahatchee river turns north to go to Fort Myers. It’s about 15 miles from the intersection, to Fort Myers proper. Because we were going to the Looper-palooza, we cruised up the river under three bridges (all fixed and plenty tall enough for us).

We arrived at the Fort Myers City Docks at 12:30, and backed into our slip. After a quick rinse down of the boat to get the salt off, we walked about a 1/2 mile to the Legacy marina where the Looper-palooza events were happening. Our friend from New Hampshire, Sandy on Karine who winters with her boat in Marco Island had come up for the event, and we got to see her new 63 foot Prestige Yacht, quite the beauty. I was most impressed with the stand-up engine room!

After our tour of the boat, we went with Sandy to Joe’s Crab Shack right next to the marina for dinner.

Thursday – Jan 23rd – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Fort Myers was the winter home of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They had winter “estates” next door to each other and those have now been turned into museums. The whole of old-town Fort Myers near the marinas, is “themed” to Ford and Edison. With Ford, Edison & Firestone restaurants, Edison bank, Ford boutiques, etc.

On Thursday, Brenda’s cousin Lorraine and her friend Diane came to visit. Lorraine winters in Bonita Springs which is just south of Fort Myers. Lorraine has been following our trip on Facebook, but we have not seen her for over 8 years. We had a nice visit and gave them a tour of the boat then went to Ford’s Garage, a burger place downtown and had a great lunch. Thanks Lorraine! The restaurant was unique with a “Ford Garage” decor right down to the restrooms.

After our visit with Lorraine and Diane, we walked around downtown looking at the interesting steel sculptures all along the main street. We walked back up to the Legacy Marina to pick-up our badges and welcome bags for the event. We then had docktails with Jack and Patty who had come down to speak at the event, actually it was room tails because they drove down in their car and got a hotel room. There was also a Looper Crawl where we got tours of fellow loopers boats at the marina. The dinner that night was for Gold loopers (people who have finished the loop already) so we went back to the boat and had dinner there.

Friday – Jan 24th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Friday was our seminar day. We walked the mile to the Edison Ford marina where the seminars were being held, stopping for breakfast along the way. We had several speakers throughout the day who gave us advice on the sections of the loop that we would be traveling during the rest of our trip. During the lunch break, we visited with Captain Chris and Alyse who we took our training classes from and have become friends. The seminars were very informative and we got a lot of great information on cruising in the Keys and Bahamas.

When the seminars wrapped up, we walked back to the boat along the waterfront. We walked past a great sculpture of the area’s celebrity residents. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone.

In the evening we went to the “Firestone” restaurant, named after Harvey Firestone of tire fame. It was a great restaurant with interesting decor and was one of the best meals we’ve had on the loop! And we topped it off with an amazing ice cream cookie dessert with brandied cherries!

Saturday – Jan 25th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Saturday was a beautiful day so we walked up to the Edison/Ford museum and took the tour. It was very informative! I’ve read a number of histories of Edison and he was an agressive businessman who had a, shall we say, difficult disposition. It was good to see that while he is the local hero, they didn’t completely gloss over it. One of the interesting things we learned was that he bought the property not so much because he liked Fort Myers (which was basically a cattle town at the time), but because there was bamboo growing on the property which he was using at the time to make filaments for his light bulbs. Henry Ford was an employee of Edison’s and it was Edison who encouraged him to start mass production of his cars. Later, after visiting Edison in Fort Myers, he purchased the next door property as a vacation home.

We took the guided tour which started with the Edison property, we saw his pool (first built with “Concrete” which he is credited with inventing. We walked past the stand of bamboo which first attracted him to the property, and the remains of the pier which was his main access to the property as it was built before main roads and the railroad arrived in Fort Myers. We were able to look into the house from the large wraparound porch at the simple but elegant furnishings.

After the Edison house we walked next door to the Ford house. This one was not as large. It has had several owners since the Fords and the furnishings are period but not original. They have some antique Ford cars and trucks in a garage. Again, not original to the Fords, however they do have some that Ford and Edison owned in the museum.

Across the street from the Edison and Ford houses is the welcome center, museum and the botanical research center that Edison and Firestone started to try to find a domestic source for natural rubber. They eventually did find it in Goldenrod! One of the plants that they tested was the Banyan tree and one of the larger examples in the USA is still on the property. We walked through the Edison/Ford museum, and the old plant laboratory.

After our visit, we caught the free trolley service back into town. In the evening, we just hung around the boat, and had leftovers from the prior nights dinner while watching a beautiful sunset.

Sunday – Jan 26th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Sunday was boat maintenance day. When we were in Dog River Marina in Mobile Alabama, you may remember that we knocked the top of our mast on a covered slip. Well, aside from our wind sensor, it also cracked the plastic on our Anchor and Running Light. Before we left Carabelle to cross the Gulf, part of which was in the dark, I checked the lights, and noticed that our running light which should face forward was facing sideways. I climbed up the mast and straightened it but noticed that the retaining ring was broken and the lens was cracked and very discolored. The light is 13 years old and original to the boat so it was not surprising that the plastic was quite brittle. It would be good enough for the crossing, but I ordered a replacement from Beneteau the boat manufacturer. It had come in and it was time to do the install.

The new fixture unplugs for maintenance, so I hoped I could just climb up the mast and swap it out, but the old one was screwed in. So we dropped the mast and I had to remove the old fixture (which involved pulling out three corroded screws, one of which broke. Then we had to make a run to Home Depot to get replacement screws. When we got back, I re-wired the new fixture, put on the light, and re-raised the mast. Job one done! I’d also ordered a replacement LED strip for the brow light on the boat. The old LEDs were not waterproof enough for a marine environment and had failed. So, Brenda and I installed the replacement LED bulbs.

At 5:00 we had a boater docktail event at the marina picnic tables. While we were all chatting, someone noticed a pod of Manatees swimming past on their way to the power plant upstream where there was warm water.

At Sunset when the docktails broke up, we went to a restaurant in town called “The Lodge” which is themed after a ski lodge, what that has to do with Florida I don’t know but the food was good, and they have a wall of beer taps that are SELF-SERVE! You get an electronic wristband, and just walk up to the taps, touch the wrist band to the one you want, and pour! The system tracks which beer you pour and how much, so if you want a half pint, you can just pour that much. Cool idea!

After dinner, we walked around downtown which was very busy, then back to the boat for the night.

NEXT WEEK: Bumming around Southwestern Florida. Marco Island, and Naples.