Cayo Costa, FL

As we headed south from Venice on the ICW on a Saturday we were rocked, rolled and waked by all of the boat traffic. We try not to travel on weekends but after waiting so long we had to go when the weather was good. Our poor little dinghy went airborne a few times with the huge wakes.

We got settled anchored between Useppa Island and Cabbage Key in the same place we anchored a couple of years ago. Our draft is too deep to get into Pelican Bay so we went where we knew we’d be just fine. There were quite a few boats there already but plenty of space. We took the dinghy over to Cabbage Key to explore. Last time we were here we just ate quickly and got back out to the boat. We wanted to walk around the island a bit this time. We got docked and immediately made friends with the gopher tortoises. There were five of them, named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The girls had no clue who that was.

Then we took a quick hike to the top of the old water tower and took in the view of the islands around. I’m terrified of heights and even this not very high water tower was enough for me. Next up we took one of the trails around the island to find the shell tree. We spotted a couple more tortoises on the way and stopped to watch them for a bit. After finding the shell tree on our second lap around we headed back to the main lawn and got some drinks and cooled off for a minute!

We headed back to the boat for the night with plans to be at Cabbage Key right when the restaurant opened the next day for lunch. We got there around 10:50 AM and got our name on the list. Perfect timing as we got there just before the tour boat flooded in! We ordered our very over priced burgers and at a quick early lunch and then headed back to the boat.

We were so excited to go find the Tunnel of Love and Cayo Costa beach! Last time we were here we went into Pelican Bay via dinghy and took the shuttle to the other side of the island to the beach. This time I found Tunnel of Love on our charts so off we went to explore. We are so limited by depth in the big boat that we all love just zipping around and not caring what happens to the dinghy (for the most part). We hit bottom? Ok. We get stuck in a mangrove? Ok. It’s kind of relaxing to be able to motor around and deal with whatever comes our way in an inflatable boat.

The Tunnel of Love was great. What a neat experience. We were pretty sure we may not make it through some spots. Molly navigated a lot of mangrove branches and we all played some limbo with the branches. We had to push ourselves off a few times but we kept following the little GPS dot and finally found where we could tie up and hop out on land!

Not 50 steps away the grasses opened into breathtaking beach. And we had it almost all to ourselves. It was so amazing to be here instead of where the shuttle lets off with all the people. I can’t get over how beautiful it was.

Shells everywhere. Shell jackpot. We walked and walked and walked. Shells. Crabs. You name it we picked it up.

We chatted with a few scattered people and then went back to where we came into the beach and let Maddy play in the sand for a bit. She loves to imagine and create. She was busy building a horse jump out of shells and sticks.

Eventually we were hot and it was time to head back through the grasses to the dinghy (which was thankfully still there!).

By the time we got back to the boat we were hot and the kids were ready to jump right in. They had a great time swimming off the back of the boat and were thrilled to discover an adult favorite….the life vest diaper. They thought they were so clever wearing their vest upside down with legs through the arm holes. Little did they know that adults have been doing that for ages!

Ben and I enjoyed sitting out back and watching them and just relaxing. It was Sunday afternoon at this point and all the boat traffic had calmed. What a lovely way to spend an evening!

Venice, FL

It was time to say goodbye for now to Gulfport. It was a fantastic 2.5 months and really felt like home. One final sunrise over the gorgeous pool and a final picture of our slip.

Our dinghy was in the water and needed to be hoisted so I stayed on the dock while Ben pulled the boat around to the t-head so I could catch lines and tie the boat up there. Low and behold the drama of moving the boat started right then and there. Ben went to hoist the dinghy and the crane wouldn’t lower at all. Seems that while it sat still doing nothing the cable bound up on itself. The first option was to stay put…but we had done that for so long already. I was really not interested in that option. Second was to try to fix it. Ben tackled it right away but to no avail. It wouldn’t budge. Third option was to tow the dinghy. Feeling somewhat frustrated and discouraged, Ben hooked up our tow line and off we went.

Have Another Day at Sunrise

It was a beautiful day to cross Tampa Bay and the dinghy did just fine being towed. Once across the bay we pulled up to a restaurant dock and met a fuel truck there. It was a ton cheaper to get fuel that way. The guy just dragged the hose down the dock and fueled us up and we were on our way.

Sunshine Bridge – it was my dad’s favorite

We took the ICW to Venice and stopped at a marina right on the inlet. Not ideal for a calm night but we wanted to be right by the beach and the inlet if we decided to run outside the next day. As soon as we got tied up and settled the girls and I hit the beach. It was a wild day on the Gulf. Huge surf and crazy winds. I was on a hunt for shark’s teeth. This beach is known for them. I searched and searched but didn’t find a single one. The girls took turns running and jumping down the sand ridge and then Molly got right in the waves. Maddy was more tentative. I asked Molly how strong the current was since they were not in life vests and I was not in the water with them. Too chilly for me. The water was super shallow except when a wave came in so I held my breath and kept a close eye on them. They had a blast jumping the waves and watching the surfers.

After getting back to the boat we took the dinghy over to this little island right across from the marina. Molly was chilled from the wind and water so we took a quick walk around and headed back to the boat for dinner. The next morning before heading out I walked into town to stop by the post office and stumbled upon a fabulous farmer’s market. Downtown Venice is adorable and I wished we had a day to spend there but we had our sites set on Cayo Costa and anchoring for a couple of nights so I took a quick walk around town, stocked up on lots of goodies at the farmer’s market and walked back to the marina lugging everything I bought. After enjoying croissants and cinnamon rolls we took the dinghy on a brief run out into the Gulf. It was smooth and calm but had big swells so we decided the ICW with all it’s weekend boaters throwing huge wakes was likely better for those of us who hate swells! We untied lines and headed up the ICW to Cayo Costa. I’m glad we had a quick stopover in Venice and look forward to spending more time there at some point.