Back to Fort Myers and the Miami Boat Show

306 Days Looping
4,512.2 Nautical Miles Total (5,192.5 Statute Miles)
16.8 Nautical Miles This Week
2.1 Hours Underway This Week
8.6 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks

Monday – Feb 10th – 16.8 NM – To: Fort Myers, FL
Monday morning at 7:00 our newspaper and muffins arrived. We had only a short run back up to the Fort Myers City Marina where we were last week. We were returning there because it’s a good secure and economical marina for us to leave the boat for a few days while we drive to Miami for the Miami Boat and Yacht Show. Because of the low tides and the shoaling at the marina entrance, we couldn’t leave until about noon when the tide was up enough. We did some puttering around on the boat, and at 10:00 we saw a dredge barge come down one of the canals and position itself right in the entrance channel!

We sat on the front of the boat watching them dredge the channel and the boats playing dodgem trying to get in and out around the dredge. It was quite the show! The tide was still coming in and a lady in a kayak couldn’t paddle hard enough to move forward and pretty much blocked up the channel. The dredge had to stop so that it didn’t cause a wave and swamp her! In the end, a boat let her hold onto their side to get out into open water.

Right at 12:00, the barge had filled its hopper and they headed out to dump it. It was perfect timing. Callin In Gone was waiting to go as well and they took off first, and we followed out. The dredging had already done some good and we were able to slip out without any issue.

Once we were back in the bay, it was back up the Caloosahatchee River to Fort Myers. This would be our third trip up and except for dodging other boats, the boat pretty much drives itself! There is an area that is a slow zone because of manatees, and the channel is quite narrow. There are also two side channels that come in on either side of it so it’s a big choke point. The locals call it the miserable mile!

We arrived in Fort Myers at 2:00 and got into our slip which was just on the other side of the dock from where we were before. I washed down the boat and in the evening we got together with Tom and Connie on R-Pad for Dinner at the Firestone restaurant where we’d had such a great dinner when we were here the week before. We had to wait so we went up to the roof to the bar and had a drink, then went back down for another excellent dinner.

Tuesday – Feb 11th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
On Tuesday aside from using the shower at the marina and checking for mail, we didn’t leave the boat for most of the day. We spent most of the morning doing route planning for the next leg of our trip is going to the Florida Keys. This is the busy season in the Keys and you have to make reservations for slip space in advance as the marinas are full. It’s also Tax Time, so we put together our tax information, filled out our accountants’ questionnaire, and walked to the post office to send it to him. While we were out we walked past a few more of the steel sculptures that line the waterfront area of Fort Myers and took some pictures, we also grabbed another Geocache that was along the way.

In the late afternoon, I took a walk up to the local Publix (about a mile away) and picked up a few things for dinner. When walking to grocery stores, we usually take a small backpack and a couple of reusable carry bags. In order to make sure that we don’t buy more than we can carry, we keep the bags in the cart and at times will pack what we select into the bag in the cart to make sure it will fit. So far, we have not been stopped for shoplifting! Most of the grocery stores have baggers, and it annoys them when we direct what goes where, or just tell them to step aside so that we can pack our own stuff. We pack as much as we can into each bag.

We had dinner on the boat and turned in a bit early.

Wednesday – Feb 12th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Wednesday morning we called Enterprise to pick us up to get our rental car. When we called, they said that they didn’t have a car at the location for us yet and that they would call us back. They called back 15 minutes later, we had reserved a compact car (small Toyota or Nissan), the agent asked if a Chevy Camaro convertible would be okay, at the same rate. Well, okay, I guess we can put up with that!

On the second Wednesday of the month, the staff at the marina put on a BBQ for all of the folks staying there. The marina has 286 slips so it’s quite a crowd! The marina provides burgers and hotdogs and everyone brings a dessert or side dish, Brenda decided to bring Blondies (blond brownies). On the way back from picking up the car we stopped at the grocery store so that Brenda could pick up some supplies for her Blondies.

In the afternoon Brenda baked and I worked on the blog and did a bit of boat maintenance. At 6:00 we walked down to the marina office for the BBQ. There was a large crowd and it was interesting to speak with some of the non-loopers there. We stayed until about 8:00 chatting and then turned in for our car trip to Miami in the morning.

Thursday – Feb 13th – 0 NM – To: Miami, FL (by car)
We planned to be on the road by 9:00. After breakfast, Brenda finished packing and getting the boat closed up. I did a super pump out on our tanks, then filled them with fresh water and a special tank cleaner as they would be sitting for a few days. Just before 9:00, we closed up the boat grabbed our suitcases, and were just stepping off the boat when a police officer came running down the dock. “Who called 911!”, the man from the boat 3 slips over from us called out “Over Here!”. As we stepped onto the dock, there was a crowd of emergency personnel running down the dock. Firemen, ambulance drivers, more policemen. They had two ambulances 4 police cars, a fire truck, and a police boat all there in a manner of a minute! We hung back near our boat to be out of the way until they were on the boat with the emergency, then snuck past and got out to the car. (We heard later that lady on the boat had suffered a heart attack. She was in the hospital but recovering.)

There are two main routes from Fort Myers to Miami. There is Interstate 75, a 4 lane highway that cuts through the middle of the everglades, and Route 41, which is called the Tamiami Trail (Tampa-to-Miami) and was the original route across the state. It also goes through the Everglades but is a 2 lane (for much of the way) road with visitor centers for the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades National Park. We decided to take Route 41 on the way to Miami, and I-75 on the way back.

We put the top on the convertible down and headed down Route 41. The first part of the road goes through Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, and Naples. It’s 4 lanes with lots of traffic and stoplights and not a break in development for about 40 miles. We wish we’d given that a miss. Our biggest entertainment was counting the Publix supermarkets. There were places where you could see a large Publix every mile or two!

Once we passed the turn-off to Marco Island, the road narrowed from 4 lanes to 2 and it got natural very quickly. We stopped at the Big Cypress visitor center and walked around looking at the birds and watching for alligators, nothing there. At the Everglades visitor center, we took a walk along their boardwalk and saw quite a few gators and some interesting birds. It started to spit a bit of rain, so we put the top up while we were stopped.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant run by the local Indian tribe, well, actually it’s owned by the local Indian tribe but run by Hispanics. We had “traditional Indian tacos” which turned out to be Cuban fry bread covered with beef chili, cheese, and sour cream. It was quite tasty, but I don’t think the early Native Americans were eating tacos!

After lunch, we pushed on to Miami, and here again, the road went from 2 lanes with a canal and grasslands along the road to strip malls and 4 lanes in under a mile. We got into Miami around 3:00 and traffic was heavy but the GPS guided us right to the area of the hotel. Parking at the hotel was $50 a day plus tax, so we found an online parking service on the block next to the hotel that was $30 per day. We had pre-booked and pre-paid online. Our reservation said to go to 105 NE 3rd Ave and look for a black umbrella that said “Valet Parking”. We got to 105 NE 3rd ave and saw a blue umbrella with “Valet Parking” on it and figured we’d found the place. I went up to the attendant and handed him our reservation form. He studied it for a minute then in rapid Spanish with some wild gesticulations in another direction was I gathered him telling us we were in the wrong place. I then said, “it says on the form the valet stand at 105 NE 3rd St” and pointed to the sign on his stand that said the same thing and had the name of the company on the reservation on it. He looked at me blankly then said “No Habla Inglés. Habla Español?” I could quickly see that this was going to be a real challenge. I again pointed to the address on the form, and the address on his stand. He looked confused and said “Uno Momento”. (my limited Spanish was paying off!) He called someone on his phone and after a 2-minute conversation, took a picture of the form and sent it to whoever he was talking to. A minute of conversation later his face lit up! “Is Good” he said, took the form, my keys, and started walking away. I stopped him “Claim Ticket?” while drawing a square in the air with my fingers. Again a very confused look, “Claim Check” I repeated, then again a dawning of recognition and he fished in the drawers and found a claim check, gave me half, and put our keys in his pocket. Okay, well it’s a rental and it’s insured, I would have given better than even odds at that point that we’d never see the car again. We walked around the corner to the hotel and checked in. Here things went much better and we got a nice room on the 8th floor overlooking Miami harbor.

We purchased our boat just across the bridge in Key Biscayne. We could just see the marina in the distance! It was right next to where the Boat Show was being held. When we were looking at the boat, we went into Miami one evening to the Bayside Marketplace which is right on the water. After settling into our room we walked across the street and found where the boat taxi to the show left from, then went and walked around the shops at Bayside stopping for a cool drink (it was 88 degrees) and getting the screen protector on my phone replaced (I’d dropped and cracked it).

When dinner time came, we walked around the corner to where we’d dropped off the car with the Valet (it wasn’t there anymore, so we assumed that they had either sold it to a chop shop or parked it somewhere). We decided on a Peruvian restaurant called “Pollos & Jarras” mostly because the menu was in both Spanish and English, and it had some really neat-looking fluorescent signs on the wall as decor.

Our waitress was great and explained what some of the foods that were not fully described were. The meal was Tapas style so we ordered a number of small plates including “Peruvian Sushi”, we’ll call it Peruvian Fusion! (haha) The food was excellent and different than anything we’ve had before. We had “Papas a la Huancaina” (cold mashed potatoes stuffed with chicken pate, covered with a yellow pepper cream, cheese sauce), Take Rico (fried chicken cracklings with pickled onions) and Cubiche roll (crab salad, avocado, shrimp tempura, topped with sweet plantain and sweet soy sauce). One of the things I miss about London is experiencing excellent foods from other cultures, and this was reminiscent of some of the meals that George and Jan my friends from London introduced me to!

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and turned in ready for a long hot day at the boat show.

Friday – Feb 14th – 0 NM – In: Miami, FL (by car)
Happy Valentines Day! Friday was our first boat show day. We had breakfast at the hotel which was horrible. $20 for cold powdered scrambled eggs, limp bacon, cold sausage, lukewarm potatoes, and crappy coffee. We paid by credit card and I decided to leave a cash tip (the service was not stellar either), when she saw $0 on the tip line, the waitress accosted me, asking why I didn’t leave a “Gratitude”, was there something wrong with the service? Her tip went down even more! After breakfast, we walked over to Bayfront for 9:30 and got onto the water taxi for the 20-minute ride to the show. We got some great views of the Miami waterfront on the way over.

The show was large, several hundred boats in the water and more inside the show tents, huge tents with every sort of boat, dock, and fishing accessory you can think of and some that you’d never think of! I’ve been to two shows in London and this was just slightly smaller than the Southampton Boat Show.

Our top reason for visiting the show was to see the new Beneteau Swift Trawler 47. It’s the next size up from our boat and was just introduced last fall. We love our boat, but there are a few things that given the opportunity, we’d like to see changed and the 47 is advertised to have some of those changes so we wanted to see it.

When we got to the show, we beelined for the Beneteau area so that we could have time on the boat before the crowds got there. We registered and went to the boat. Mike from St. Barts Yacht Sales in Charleston greeted us at the boat. We’d meet him when we were looking for our current boat. He gave us a full tour. We were very impressed by the huge swim platform that lowers into the water to be a portable beach or to launch your dinghy. The rear deck (cockpit), also is very large with great access and lots of room for entertaining. The salon area was nice as well with some upgraded features like dual refrigerator/freezers and some extra room, but it still felt a little cramped even though it was quite a bit larger. Brenda liked the galley area with the convection oven and cooktop and lots of counter space, but found that the storage was somewhat limited, it seemed less than on our boat. Also, we prefer gas appliances and this boat had all-electric, but we were told it was an option. I liked the up-to-date electronics, lots of whistles, bells, and buttons to push!

This boat has three bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom is in the front like it is on our current boat, it has a bit more room, and it has a separate shower and bathroom. The second stateroom is much larger than on our current boat and is well set up with lots of room. The third bedroom is more of a basement. It has really low ceilings to the point that you have to get on your knees to move around. It would be okay if you had young children or grandchildren, but other than that it’s more of a storage space than a bedroom. We had hoped that it would be good enough to use as an office, but the ceilings are too low. The washer/dryer was a nice addition, however. I pulled up every floor panel that I could to look under. It was a much cleaner layout and some of the issues like dual pump out tanks and no gray water tank have been fixed on the 47.

The side decks were very roomy. We were concerned that the asymmetrical design (starboard has a wide covered walkway while the port has a narrow walkway) would make moving around while docking difficult, but it was easy to get around the entire boat. On the flybridge, there was tons of room and this model had a full hardtop with a retracting sunroof. There was also a sink, grill, and refrigerator. The upper helm was also full of fun gadgets, however, with the large table, it was hard to move around the helm. There was only 10″ of space to squeeze between the helm chair and the side benches.

Overall we liked the boat, and if we were to upgrade it is definitely on the list, however with a price tag of just under $1 million, it didn’t seem to have the value that we’d expect with a boat of that price. After talking about it, we decided that it’s built to try to appeal to a very wide audience and in doing that doesn’t fit perfectly in any of the categories. Also, it’s a “day/weekend cruiser” not a live-aboard type boat.

We walked around the show looking at a few other boats, but none of them were of the type that we were interested in. It was hot, near 90 and very humid. So we went inside the air-conditioned tents and walked through the aisles looking at all of the boating accessories, electronics, smaller boats, deck material, cleaning products, the list is endless! In the end, the only thing we bought was an insulated soft-sided cooler. We had lunch about 1:00 and had to wait in line and eat out in the hot sun, then went and walked through the second large indoor display area.

At 3:00 we were hot and had had enough of the crowds and boat stuff (must have been sun-stroke!!!) so we re-boarded the water taxi and went back to the hotel. Being Valentine’s day, we didn’t try to make plans at any of the “nice” restaurants as we knew that they would be very busy and it would not be a great experience. For dinner, we walked across the street to the Bayside complex and went to the Bavaria Haus, a German restaurant that we’d eaten at when we were there buying the boat. The food was good, but definitely not like my mom used to make!

Hearts on a building for Valentines Day

Saturday – Feb 15th – 0 NM – In: Miami, FL (by car)
Our original plan for Saturday was to go back to the boat show, but the other boats we wanted to look at were not there and we’d had enough of the crowds on Friday, and Saturday was supposed to be the busiest day of the show. Instead, we decided to get tickets to the Big Bus hop-on-hop-off tour and do some sightseeing. I’d made dinner reservations at a rooftop restaurant for that evening at 6:00, so we had the whole day. In the morning we watched the container ships and cruise ships leave the harbor. The cruise ships in Miami are the new Mega 20 story ships and it’s amazing to see them spin in the basin with limited clearance to bridges, the shore, and other ships! You can tell when one is going to move because the police boats close off the ICW into the turning basin.

We walked across the street to Bayfront for breakfast, then boarded a bus for the tour. The first section of the tour crossed over the causeway past the cruise terminals to Miami Beach. We saw some massive cruise ships and some nice yachts at anchor as we went across.

In Miami Beach, we went down Ocean Drive, the Art Deco Hotel district, and past the famous Muscle Beach. We were riding on the open top deck of the tour bus, and as we approached the famous Lincoln Road Mall (an outdoor pedestrian mall) we started feeling a few raindrops. We decided to jump off the bus and walk around the mall so that we could duck into a store if it started to rain.

The Lincoln Road Mall is an 8 block pedestrian mall with a wide center park full of fountains, trees, art deco covers, and sculptures. We walked about 2 blocks, and it started to rain very hard. We zipped from awning to awning to try to stay dry, but it only worked a little. When we made it to the far end of the mall, we decided to go back to the bus stop and move on. Most of the stores in the mall are what you would expect for Miami Beach, high-end clothing and galleries with $5000+ paintings. When we reached the bus stop, the rain started coming down really hard, so I had Brenda wait under an awning, and I ran two blocks down to a souvenir shop and got a couple of umbrellas and a towel.

We had to wait about 10 minutes for the bus, and when it arrived, the bus driver advised us not to get on because the bus was leaking. We only planned to go a few stops, so we boarded anyway. Good that we had umbrellas because we pretty much needed them in the bus! The top of the bus is open, and the busses are old, they are right hand drive and the spelling and grammar on many of the signs is “british english” so I’m assuming that they are rejects from the London Bus Company. The top was acting like a huge funnel, and the water was pouring out of the roof on the inside all over the seats. We found one semi dry seat for Brenda and I stood dodging streams of water as the bus turned corners or started and stopped.

We got to an area of Miami Beach called the Wynwood section. In the 1970’s this was one of the areas of Miami you didn’t go. Now it’s a showcase of Graffiti art with museums, art galleries, and restaurants. We saw some amazing paintings and decided to get off and have a look around. We started by stopping for some lunch at the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. We sat outside on the covered patio which gave us a great view of the “Wynwood Walls” large graffiti art installations that cover walls in an open park area.

After lunch, we went to the art museum and walked around a bit looking at the art, some paintings, some found object sculptures. It was an amazing collection from some very talented artists.

Here is just a sampling, we’ll let the art speak for itself.

It started to rain again so we jumped on the next bus (also leaking heavily) and went back to downtown Miami and the Bayfront Center. We thought that the bus was going to go through Little Havana on the way back, but it stopped at the main terminal near our hotel. The rain had stopped, so we stayed on the bus and headed out to Little Havana. We had just arrived, when the skies opened up again. We’d finally dried off, so rather than get wet again, we just rode the bus back to the Hotel. We watched the cruise ships leaving and arriving through the falling rain.

At 6:00, the rain had stopped and the sky was starting to clear. We walked to Tuyo Restaurant which was just a couple of blocks away. Tuyo is the restaurant of the Miami Culinary Institute. It’s on the top floor of the school building and has some great views of the city. It’s a 5-star restaurant and this was our Valentines’ Day meal. We had a very nice dinner. They had a special menu for Valentines’ day, Brenda had the steak and I had the Sea Bass. Both were very good, the service was great, there were a couple of local drug dealer types a few tables away talking loudly with lots of foul language that tempered our enjoyment, but they left about halfway through our meal and we enjoyed the rest. I’d say the food was very good, but not the best we’ve had.

Sunday – Feb 16th – 0 NM – In: Fort Myers, FL
Sunday we returned to Fort Myers. In the morning we went for breakfast, then I went to see if I could find our car. When I got to the Valet Stand there was someone there, looking good! I had to wait while someone else dropped off their car, then handed the attendant the claim check. He reached down into the stand, pulled out the keys, and handed them to me. I asked, “where is the car? ” “You ride with me,” he said and pointed to the car that just got dropped off. I got into the passenger seat and he drove to a parking garage about 2 blocks away and dropped me off in front of the car. Perfect! It worked! I drove back to the hotel and parked in the day lot, then went in and we checked out and put our luggage into the car.

We then drove about a mile up the road to the “Miami Yacht Show”, different from the Miami Boat Show, we went to on Friday and different still from the “Miami Superyacht Show”. All three were going on at the same time and had different entry fees. I’d read that two of the other brands of boats we wanted to see were at the Yacht show as they are larger than 50 ft. It wasn’t raining but it was very hot and humid. We walked up and down the docks looking at boats in the 50 ft to 90 ft range! There were some VERY impressive boats with some VERY impressive price tags!

We found the Fleming 55 that we wanted to see. Some boating friends of ours have one and we like it very much! It’s a bit bigger than we’d want, but it is designed to be loop capable. We got a full tour of the boat (sorry no pictures), and it was as impressive as we thought, a completely different class of boat to the mass-produced Beneteau’s, with a correspondingly different class of price tag! Let’s just say that a new one is not in our budget unless we win the lottery! Across the dock from the Fleming was a Kadey-Krogan, another high-end custom-built boat. The salesperson invited us on to have a look around. The Kadey-Krogan is a blue-water boat capable of an ocean crossing, all custom woodwork with exotic woods, again a beautiful boat in a different class from what we would be interested in. Also, its top speed is only 10 knots. Every boat has its trade-offs and compromises, the ability to go fast is one of the things that we’ve decided we won’t compromise on.

After looking at those two boats, we’d had enough and were a bit disappointed that two of the brands we wanted to see were not at the show. There is another show in Stuart Florida at the beginning of March “Trawler Fest” that those boats will be shown at. We decided to head back to the car and go back to our good ol’ boat! (We hope that our boat didn’t know that we were looking at other boats, get jealous, and get back at us by breaking down!)

On the way back we took Interstate 75 which cuts through the Florida Everglades Grasslands. It’s amazing to see miles and miles of just open grassy areas with no trees except right at the horizon. When we got back to Fort Myers, we stopped at Publix and did some grocery shopping to resupply for the next leg of our trip.

When we got back to the boat, Brenda put away the groceries and unpacked from our trip. I did another pump-out of our waste tanks to flush out the cleaner that we’d put in while we were gone. It had done its job, I wouldn’t drink the water that flushed through, but it was crystal clear and the walls of the tanks were translucent again.

In the evening we had dinner on the boat and just relaxed.

NEXT WEEK: Heading to the Everglades and Keys!

Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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