Each spring the Cape Coral Cruise Club plans a “long cruise”, which is to say a much longer itinerary is planned than its normal three day monthly cruises to local destinations not more than a 3 to 6 hour boat trip. The Martins began planning the 2015 trip to Tarpon Springs last fall, making marina and restaurant contacts, searching for interesting places to visit at each planned location.
The two week 2015 long cruise began April 13 with fourteen member boats departing Cape Coral, bound for Palm Island Marina in Cape Haze, Florida. After all boats were secured in the slips, several club members enjoyed the marina’s pool, and on-site restaurant. Other members opted for the complimentary water taxi to the marina’s Gulf front beach. Four other members ventured off in a dinghy looking for the channel to Rum Bay on the beach. A minor incident occurred when the captain, wanting to get the dinghy up on plane, encountered the large wake from a passing boat that caused a wall of water to wash over the bow. The dinghy captain’s quick action, plus an efficient bilge pump, prevented almost certain swamping of the small boat. The only casualties were two wet women, and a cell phone that ended up under several inches of water on the bottom of the boat. On the second day of our stay at Palm Island, the cruise leaders prepared breakfast, and later, with help from other cruisers, grilled sumptuous herb-crusted beef tenderloin for dinner.
The next morning the boats departed Palm Island traveling north to the gorgeous Longboat Key Club Marina and Resort. Due to an unannounced bridge closing on the GICW just north of the Venice Inlet three boats went out the Venice Inlet and proceeded north to New Pass Inlet returning to the GICW and into Longboat Key. Most of the boats were in slips along a sea wall less than fifty feet from the beautiful pool and a fabulous restaurant.
The next morning, breakfast was provided by the cruise leaders before members headed out on their own; some taking the Longboat shuttle bus to St. Armand’s Circle for shopping and the many fine bars and restaurants. Others opted to borrow the resort bicycles, ride around the resort, and/or pedal the 3-1/2 mile trip to St. Armand’s. As a side note, on the way to Longboat Key, one member drifted out of the channel, and ran aground in soft sand. Assistance from a tow boat got the boat back in the channel with no apparent damage. Such is boating in the sometimes skinny waters of Southwest Florida! Everyone knows how important it is to stay in the channel, but it is so easy to drift out. Two days later the cruise leaders drifted not more than fifteen feet off channel and ran aground. Again, a tow boat was called, and the boat suffered no apparent damage.
Our third stop on the trip was Loggerhead Marina in St. Petersburg. Two boats could not clear a nearby twenty foot fixed bridge and stayed at Maximo’s Marina. We all gathered by the pool under the Tiki huts and cooked burgers and brats, with lots of tasty side dishes.
Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs was our northern most stop for three nights. On our first night the town was celebrating “Night in the Islands”; a very romantic Greek food themed evening where several restaurants filled the street with long tables and strung up small overhead lights. Odyssey, one of the best Greek bands in Florida, supplied soothing, sensual, traditional Greek music. While some people danced in the streets, others formed a large circle where local ladies instructed them on traditional Greek dances. All this, while the wait staff continually delivered tasty Greek food and wine to the large crowd made this a truly memorable evening. Over the next two days members were on their own to explore the town. One night, we gathered at Hellas Restaurant and Bakery. Everyone was able to select a Greek dish to suit their desire. Several dishes of Saganaki (flaming cheese) were delivered to our tables as shouts of Opa made the meal festive.
Turtle Cove Marina was very accommodating to our club, dock hands were prompt, helpful, and attentive. One night, with a threat of rain, the marina opened the lounge for us as Phil and Gary prepared their famous fish bites. We also used the lounge the next morning where the cruise leaders prepared a pancake breakfast. One note here; a guest on a member boat slipped on the ramp of the dock, and fell, injuring his leg. An ambulance was called, and he was transported to a local hospital for x-rays. Fortunately there was just severe bruising with nothing broken.
Our first stop on the return trip was a single night at Clearwater Beach Marina. The dock master was alone, and overwhelmed with our arrival, so it was up to the members to help get all our boats secured up in the slips. A short walk had several members taking in the fabulous Clearwater beach along with its several bars and restaurants.
The next to last stop on our trip was the always popular Marina Jacks in downtown Sarasota. After breakfast by the cruise leaders, several members hopped on the shuttle to visit the Ringling Circus and Art Museum and the John Ringling Mansion. Others opted for the great shops and restaurants in downtown Sarasota.
The final stop before heading back to Cape Coral was Gasparilla Marina. A final happy hour under a huge canopy by the docks gave the cruising members the opportunity to express their thanks to the cruise leaders for arranging a great itinerary, and or course assuring that the winds were calm and the weather outstanding.
All boats returned home safely, ending the “Long Cruise” for 2015. Bonnie and I want to thank all the participating members of CCCC for joining us on this cruise, and we hope that everyone else had as much fun as we did! The fellowship and cohesiveness of our club is like none other, and is so apparent in a setting such as the CCCC’s long cruise. We can all be very proud of the courteous and proficient seamanship displayed at all times, by all our members!
The Cape Coral Cruise Club is open to new members who own a boat with overnight accommodations and reside in the Cape Coral / Ft. Myers area. For membership information please contact Phil Kryger at 239-541-0236. View a short picture video of recent Club activities and read additional Club information on its website, www.c-c-c-c.org Like us on Facebook.
By Robert and Bonnie Martin