Being boarded by the Coasties
Friday saw our first true day trip out on Lucky. We took Mike, Jackie and Rachael out for lunch. The plan was to leave Naples; head out Gordon Pass into the Gulf; head north to Sanibel Island (about 25 miles from Gordon Pass); anchor and have lunch; return. If conditions were bumpy, our contingency plan was to return into Naples Bay after a suitable period of bouncing - the length to be determined by the average shade of green of the passengers - and anchor in the Port Royale lagoon for lunch. Port Royale is a very well heeled part of Naples with lots of $20M+ mansions on the water.
As it turns out, our contingency wasn't needed and the Gulf was like a mill pond. Small waves, much less than 1', gave us good running and we were soon cruising at 23 knots (one knot is 1.1 mph). I kept the RPM at 3000 (85% of the maximum 3600) to reduce sound levels. From a MPG point of view, the cruising sweet spot seems to be between 3000 and 3350, so we got there a little later. What's the hurry? The gulf is pretty flat around here, so we were running in 25' or so of water which never changed, despite running 3 miles off shore. The only things to be wary of were the crab pot buoys. Crabbers throw their crab pots off there boat in one (or sometimes 2) straight lines. Attached to the pot is a line, which is then attached to a floating buoy. This helps them find the pot and haul it in. Unfortunately, if you run directly over them, the line will wrap around a prop. At best, this means diving down to free it. At worst it can mean mechanical failure. So you try not to run over them. They're spaced far enough apart to maneuver between them, but it does require keeping a sharp lookout in the "11-to-1" sector ahead. Stephanie helped and we had no problem.
We anchored a couple of miles south of Sanibel Island, just west of it's eastern tip (where the lighthouse is). A nice lunch was enjoyed by all. As we were having tea I noticed a small rib, crammed full of people, headed straight for us. My thoughts of it being a few joy riders coming for a look were soon changed as, instead of veering off, they came straight to us and slowed down at our stern. It was the Coast Guard. "Permission to come aboard?" Great, a safety check. So three came aboard. Two stood on the swim platform and went through all the paperwork while humoring Mike, Jackie, Steph and Rachael bombarding them with questions, comments and jokes. The other took me around the boat asking to inspect various things - bilges (make sure they're dry), fire extinguishers (make sure they're on board and good), flares (on board and not expired), life jackets (one for everyone on board). We almost passed. We only had three life jackets on board. Turns out we left 4 back in California. Doh! They were nice and didn't cite me but did ask me to get some before we went out again. My rule of running a dry boat paid off. I'm sure they were expecting to see a group of partiers quaffing various alcoholic drinks, not a group of Brits having a cup of tea.
Once the excitement was over, we up-anchored and headed back. Soon after heading south we saw the Coasties again, this time headed for us from a "10 o'clock" heading. As they had right of way (when two boats are on a collision course and all things are equal - i.e. power vs sail or large boat in small channel - the vessel on the left has right of way) I slowed down and steered to the left to pass to their stern. Rather than allow me to do that they sped up, turned to their right and circled around me. Testing or messing? We'll never know. They waved and headed off to another boat bobbing in the distance.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful, except for the dolphins playing in the channel around us as we headed into the dock.
More pictures here