Sunday, December 8, 2019

Nov-Dec 2019: Back to FLA & a Short Cruise

We Sustained Two Deep Gelcoat Gouges on This Area of Starboard Bow During 
Our Throttle Failure Experience.  But After Mike Worked His Magic 
on the Light Grey Gelcoat It Was Hard to Discern.
By the time we returned from our visit to the Midwest to our southwest Florida home the fall season was finally making a debut in Fort Myers.  Within a few days we were seeing highs in the low 70’s instead of lows near 80F, but having just departed single digit temps it still felt blissfully warm.

We spent about a week getting the boat ready for some overdue cruising.  That included getting Ghost Rider detailed once again by Frank at Ultimate Marine (LINK), and Mike Peters of Brightworks completing the gelcoat repairs on the starboard bow, and of course keeping up with the usual routine maintenance items that Wheelhouse would point out to us.  The most significant of those was replacing the raw water pump’s impeller on the wing engine, a once-a-year proactive task. Rick decided to try out one of the Globe “run-dry” soft rubber impellers this time which theoretically will last longer, although to be fair the hard rubber Jabsco that we replaced still looked very good.
Frank from Ultimate Marine Giving Ghost Rider the Spa Treatment

Of course we (meaning Chelle) had lots of provisioning to do since we had mostly emptied the boat of food, drink and personal items over the past year.  But since we were waiting on the detailing and bottom cleaning work anyway, we had time to get that done without getting too rushed.

Then, as soon as Ghost Rider’s monthly bottom cleaning was completed we were ready take advantage of a good weather window to point the bow south.  Instead the cold and flu bug hit us (meaning Rick) and a lengthy recovery pause followed.  By the time we felt healthy enough to get back underway we were into early December and waiting on another weather window.  The delay had another advantage -- Red Tide has returned to the southwest Florida with a vengeance, but by the time we did  get underway it had largely dissipated, at least in the direction we would be going.  (North of us it was still bad.)  We also took some solace in the fact that we had passed the official end of hurricane season with nothing more than a strong breeze affecting us locally.
Ghost Rider is a Dolphin Magnet

We finally departed Legacy Harbor and Fort Myers on the morning of Wednesday, 04-December at around 0915 in fabulous conditions: a very slight northerly breeze, clear skies, temp around 60F and low humidity.  It was jacket weather up on the fly bridge but it was nonetheless quite comfortable, and the outgoing tide gave us a following current heading down-river.

Our destination was Marco Island, about 50 miles to the south.  Even with the pushing current it took nearly two hours to get all the way down the Caloosahatchee River, and while there was only sparse boat traffic we enjoyed multiple dolphin formations on both sides of the boat and in the bow wave.  By the time we entered the Gulf of Mexico our bottle-nosed friends had split off on a lunch-hunting vector and temps had reached the mid 70's.  Winds also picked up a bit, clocking around to the WNW, and after passing south of the Sanibel lighthouse so did the seas.  Forecast was for 2-3 footers but we saw 4 to 5 foot swells most of the way, mostly quartering on the starboard stern and occasionally right on the beam.  Intervals were mostly comfortable but the stabilizers still got a workout.  It was pleasant enough to steer from the fly bridge all day.
Ghost Rider ran perfectly the entire way, loping along just under 1500 RPM and averaging about 8 knots SOG.  Rick made some  minor adjustments to the shaft's stuffing box, tightening its adjusting nuts just a bit to reduce the drip rate, and was very happy with the resulting 95F gland temperature in the 75 degree gulf waters.  Our Wheelhouse maintenance program had been nagging us to "performance test" the water maker's membrane, so we also took the opportunity to run that for a couple of hours in the clean waters of the Gulf; it produced about 27 gallons of good quality (<200 ppm) fresh water in a two hour span, which is pretty much spot on its specs.
Our Track from Fort Myers to Marco Island

We reached the entrance to Big Marco Pass just after 1500, and as expected it was a little adventurous with the 4 to 5 foot rollers on the stern; such wave action in the inlets tends to push around a full displacement Nordhavn like a bathtub without a rudder.  The autopilot isn't particularly useful in such conditions but we've learned the art of manual steering and throttle adjustments, and thankfully the tide and current were going with us.  After we reached the calm of the inner bay Chelle took the helm from the fly bridge station and steered Ghost Rider around the corner to the Marina at Factory Bay (LINK) for a smooth docking maneuver on their t-head floating dock.  We got tied up and cleaned up in short order, with the usual attentive help from Craig the dockmaster.  Temps cooled rapidly again after sunset, making it a good night for Chelle's crock pot chili.
Ghost Rider on Her T-head Tie-up at Factory Bay
We spent the next two days (Thursday, 05-December and Friday, 06-December) just hanging out and relaxing at Marco Island as the idyllic fall weather continued. Chelle got a loaner bike from the marina office and spent time cycling around and checking out the beaches.  Rick got a lot of small projects done on Ghost Rider -- rolling back a bad Windows 10 update on the ship's PC; tightening the hinges on two overhead hatches; exercising & leak-checking the hydraulic davit; and a few other minor tasks.  Thursday night we walked the short distance to our favorite restaurant here, Old Marco Pub (LINK), to enjoy lobster tails and a tender filet.  Late Friday afternoon we hiked a bit farther down to the Snook Inn (LINK) for some early cocktails (the Passion Fruit Mojito is good) and an appetizer (tasty conch fritters which also have shrimp chunks and the mango habanero sauce packs a punch.)
The Old Marco Pub Doesn't Look Like Much from the Street but Inside
It's Comfy with a Good Bar and Excellent Food

The perfect weather continued on our departure date, Saturday, 07-December.  We started engines just after 0900, departing the dock shortly thereafter, wound our way out of Big Marco Pass, and pointed Ghost Rider north back towards Fort Myers.  Temps started in the low 60's but quickly warmed to the mid 70's, under a clear cobalt blue sky, with a light northerly breeze that yielded smooth seas.  Waves barely measured a foot with wide periods and only a light wind chop on top.  It was a bit cool on the fly bridge cruising upwind, but a light jacket and Chelle's hot chili for lunch made it comfy enough.  As with the trip down Ghost Rider purred along happily and without issues on the return sortie.
The Snook Inn Located on the Northern Tip of Marco Island

We bucked a light current most of the way but still averaged just over 7.5 knots and made Legacy Harbour in Fort Myers right at 1600.  The light winds allowed for a smooth stern-in docking with minimum fuss, followed by quick post-flight checks and an equally quick hose down of the hull.  Then it was pizza and college football time back at the condo.

We now need to ready the boat and the condo to receive holiday visitors, but also plan to take another short cruise soon.  That should be about two weeks out when we hope to sortie north to Sarasota for a Christmas rendezvous with family.  More on that later.


  1. Yeess! A cruise w/out complications! Congrats! Marco's a fav spot of ours as well; I still have to drop off plane, scratch my head and think coming in Big Marco Pass at that channel jog to starboard once inside. there's more markers there than anywhere else on Fla's West Coast.

  2. Indeed. Big Marco Pass has some serious turns and where it splits off into Capri Pass has confused many. Shallow draft boats on plane can get by with cutting the corners…but not us. We noticed significant shoaling on the north side of the entrance. Submerged portions of Coconut Island are impinging into the channel after the first big turn to starboard (south) as well. Requires attentiveness.