Thursday, August 10, 2006

Life in Ft. Myers Beach

Ft. Myers Beach is a strange place. Especially in the off season. As you would expect there are big expensive condos along the beach side although we think most are not occupied during the summer. So, who is here then? Carny people apparently! Yeah, there is a rough looking crowd here that lives on the other side of Estero Blvd… not the beach side. Nothing dangerous just a lot of tattoos (but the prison kind) on leathery skin and not so many teeth. The guys don’t look much better. People who are here on vacation are here because the rates are cheaper now and they need that because by the look of them, they’ve spent most of their expendable income on snacks. Lots of parking here too for their Harleys.
(Above photo is of Salty Sam's Marina where we also dingy ashore and purchase ice, use showers and do laundry.)

The good news is that there is a trolley that runs the length of Estero Island all the way from Bonita Beach north and across the bridge to Summerlin Mall. Price? 25 cents! Really! Runs about every hour so we can time our going ashore to catch the trolley going which ever way we want. To get ashore we take about a 10 minute dingy ride down this one canal that cuts into Estero Island. At the end of this canal is the “dingy landing”. This is mostly mangroves with a couple of grooves someone cut out for dingys to pull up. Depending on the tide this can be some ugly docking especially because the shore is crawling with hundreds of little crabs that go underground when you step ashore. Yuck. (Photo at left is of the yukky, mukky 'dingy dock') From there we walk one block to Estero Blvd on which runs the Trolley.

Right at our dingy landing is the Topps grocery store which is really handy for us. One block south of our dingy landing is the public library with free internet. We’ve used that a lot! Sometimes we have to wait a little to use the computer so I use that time to read the NY Times. Looks like the world is going to hell in a hand basket! Across the street from the library the library runs a used book store with paperbacks 50 cents and hard backs $2.00. Yeah! If we take the trolley north it is about a 5-10 minute ride to ‘Times Square’ where the pier, beach, and lots of bars and restaurants are. As to the beach they’ve done a nice things here. Although the beach side of Estero Blvd. is lined with big condos and hotels there is beach access for everyone between the buildings and these places are marked with signs along Estero. So nobody owns the beach itself and anyone can walk out to the beach at any of these points. Nice. If you stay on the Trolley it goes over the big bridge and ends up at a largish mall – Summerlin Square where the West Marine lives. Always need to find the West Marine, right? There is also connections here for other buses that go to the airport and downtown Ft. Myers – yet to be explored by us. If we take the trolley to the south from our dingy landing you first come to the Red Coconut trailer park. Notable only because it’s been here since at least the 1940’s and it is RIGHT on the beach. Further along is a movie theater that serves real food, beer and wine with the movies. Haven’t tried this yet but we plan to. Beyond that there is not much until you come to the Santini Square mall. Here we find a nice little hardware store, a book store, drug store, some restaurants and other vacation type beach stores. Beyond here the trolley leaves the island and goes across bridges to Lovers Key and on to Bonita Beach and Bonita Springs. At the end of the line (in a mall of course) there is a K-mart.

We’ve fallen into a pattern of working on the boat until about noon followed by some exploring of Ft. Myers Beach, library, reading or naps during the hot part of the day. Maybe happy hour at the marina later on and then some chess and snacks back on the boat. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it. (Photo at right shows Scott working on the teak-an ever ongoing project.)

As to the boat we recently installed a new 8D battery. I had to get some hired help from the marina to be able to lift the old one out and put the new one in. We could tell that we needed a new battery as twice the voltage would suddenly drop to 10.5 volts! That ain’t right and probably indicated a shorted cell or two. The old battery came with the boat so we had no idea how old or how many charging cycles it had been through. No battery lasts forever. The refrigerator is acting up. It will come on but really it is only the fan coming on and not the compressor. Then the fan shuts off and the next second both fan and compressor come on. It is still making cold but for how long? I called Adler Barbour (and by the way, when you call them a person answers and transfers you to Lester the tech guy who is very helpful and friendly. Why don’t more companies do this. Aren’t we all sick of the menu and then the long hold?) Lester had me rewire the thing to do a diagnostic that showed that the little pc board was probably fried. He is sending us a new board as this thing is still under warranty. He says it is easy to swap them out….we’ll see. Finally, I installed a key switch where we used to just have a toggle switch. Now it will be harder to steal the boat! Sometimes when we press the start button nothing happens. I had this before and found that it was the button itself and put in a new one. Now it’s not the button so I suspect the solenoid and will put a new one in soon. When it doesn’t start I have to jump it at the starter motor. Yikes! Love those big sparks!

So, all in all, Ft. Myers Beach will be an ok hidey hole for us during hurricane season. I may look for work soon to feed the sailing kitty. Would really like a new auto helm. We’ll see.

Since writing the above the new pc board arrived (it has one resistor, one capacitor, 3 fuses and 1 relay on it. I don’t think anything on there can even break.) I swapped it out and the frig does seem to be running more normally. In the mean time however we find that two bags of ice lasts about a day and a half. I calclated the difference in cost between running engine two hours a day or buying ice. Buying ice wins! Plus I don’t have the constant worry about the state of the battery or the operation of the frig. Maybe we’ll use the frig when it is cooler or when we are on the engine all day. I’m kicking myself for not paying more originally and getting the frig with the option to exchange heat with sea water rather than with the ambient air. Even though the air is cooler than the water at night the important thing is that water is a better conductor of heat. At the time I didn’t want to put two more holes in the hull for input and outflow of water. Well, too late.

As of this writing we've been moored in Ft. Myers Beach for almost one month. Yesterday we decided to replenish our water and fuel supplies and then go sailing. As we threw off the mooring line we discovered that we couldn't move forward. Barnacles! Luckily we quickly retrieved the mooring line and secured the boat before the current got us. Time to dive and scrape. A nasty, nasty job but a few hand and head cuts later the prop and most of the rudder were barnacle free. We also floated the dingy around the boat and scraped along side the hull. We' ve learned that the waters we're in are rich in nutrients and the worst for barnacle bombardment. Diving and scraping will be an on-going project. How long can you hold your breath under water? We may have a job for you!

We were very happy to have Donna and Ken (Scott's sister and brother-in-law) visit us this week. We were going to go out for a sail but the winds and waves were high so we stayed in the mooring field. As it turned out we wouldn't have gotten very far with the inch thick layer of barnacles on the prop!

Although Kenny was ready to tackle the bottom had we sailed and anchored as planned (we knew barnacles were growing, we just didn't realize how thick) we still had fun watching the afternoon storms with our snacks and cocktails.

Finding wifi access is still a problem. I (sue) am currently sitting in the lobby of the Best Western where Donna and Ken stayed where we discovered they have wifi. So far no one has noticed me.

Stay tuned for future posts on: hiring a diver; the new wind scoop; making net covers for hatches; happy hour at parrotkey; the amazing gracie, the blues-blind cat; teak for two; plus much more.

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