Monday 4/19 we make it out of the Collins neighborhood without any depth issues. It is another beautiful sunshine day with very light winds so we are motoring with the Main out doing 6-7 knots. We will head south and instead of going back into the Gulf, this part of our trip will be via the ICW (intracostal waterway). By 3:30 we are anchored just off Useppa Island. We get the dinghy out, inflate it and in the water. Steve gets the motor on, as I am handing him the lock a part of it falls into the water - GONE! Even though he wants to strangle me, he doesn't and controls his emotions. The lock still works, just not as good as it did/should. I feel horrible and will never hand anything over to the dinghy again without BOTH hands holding on for dear life. By 4:30 we take a dinghy ride over to Cabbage Key and walk around the trail, go up the water tower before going to the restaurant for a drink. The restaurant is known for its "wall paper" it is covered with $1.00 bills that everyone who comes by signs with their name or boat name and tapes the $1 bill to the wall. It is estimated that they have about $70,000.00 on the wall, about $10,000 falls off each year and that gets donated to charity. We go back to the boat for sunset from the cockpit, do a Skype call to my nephew Dylan so he can see where we are.
Tuesday 4/20 another beautiful day, This is dinghy exploring day !!! First we go all around Useppa Island - a private Island so we can't land anywhere, have an "appointment" to go ashore on Wednesday to see the museum. Than we drive around Cabbage Key and over to Cayo Costa which is a long barrier Island between the Gulf & ICW, that is mostly uninhabited and part of the State Park. We explore north at first than head back to Cabbage Key for lunch. After lunch walk down to docks, and people are pointing and taking pictures of something in the water. We figure "manatees!", and rush to see. Wrong. It was a mama otter and her baby. Junior got a bit disturbed when mama disappeared and was swimming frantically around the harbor calling for her. She eventually appeared and they swam off together. We verify directions to the tunnel of love with the dockmaster - a passage cut out of the mangroves through the Island of Cayo Costa to a little lagoon a few yards away from the Gulf. We find the tunnel of love and wind our way through - what an amazing sight going through / under all this foliage. Then once over the sand dune, it is an unbelievable sight turquoise water and deserted white sand beaches. This Island is only accessible by small boat, so is almost always practically deserted. We walk down a couple of miles looking at all the shells washed ashore, they say after a storm this is the place to get to first for premium shell finds. There is NO trash anywhere in sight so the combo of very few people coming here & the State Park workers they do an amazing job of keeping the beach clean of all trash. As we walk back, there a 3 other couples that have come through on their dinghys so we visit with them. They are locals from Punta Gorda anchored near Pelican bay & know the Collins - small world. Back through the tunnel of love into open waters and back to the boat, later Steve prepares another wonderful dinner. It was a fabulous day! Later that evening we hear another boat coming into anchor, they are close but it is dark so we can’t see them well, the next morning we see it is Polyphonic the boat & couple we met up in Venice. They are now traveling with friends stopping here before going to Key West. They are headed to Cayo Costa today as Steve and I go over to Useppa for our appointment to go see the museum. The Island is a private Island and very quaint and very beautiful in the “old Florida” style. Early evening Jeff & Jane and their friends come over for a visit. We will be a day or so behind them going down to the keys but will try to meet up again down there. It has been a fabulous three days here on the ICW. TOO many pictures to post, they are on facebook & I will try to get a link to all the pictures OR select a few and post them.