Full disclosure: This post is back dated- thanks to new and returning readers as we get up to date! ( a few more posts and we will be caught up in the new year)
The most direct route to Marco Island from Naples might be the “outside route”. This would be going back out through Gordons Pass and following the shore line south. We opted for the more scenic “inside route”. We consulted with local knowledge and were warned of a few spots that had shoaled over recently or shallow spots that must be avoided in low tide. The first challenge was at the intersection of the Gordons Pass- we lightly touched bottom searching for the channel that lead off to the south. Once we were past this spot and followed the channel we were good to go.
Our destination was Rookery Bay- just 7 miles to travel today! This anchorage was recommended for wildlife and mangroves in the Rendezvous presentation at Joe Wheeler. our guidebook also suggested taking the dingy to the island and following a well worn path through to the other side of the island for excellent shelling on the beach. We were greeted by several dolphins as we anchored so off to a good start!
It was easy to find the entrance to the trail- looks like local tour boats may stop here for shelling on Kewaydin Island- so we tried to get in early! Rookery Bay Estuary is considered one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
A short hike across the island; and popped out on the deserted beach
Colleen was prepared to do some shelling on the beach
We put the shells to good use- creating a shell Christmas tree! We walked up the beach and back – and found the tide had come in and washed it away! Glad we took photos first.
DINGHY RIDE THROUGH THE MANGROVES
The next day, we took the dingy in the opposite direction to explore the mangroves. The water way winds in and out around the mangrove islands. Takes a sharp eye to see the birds sitting in amongst the branches!
MARCO ISLAND– FACTORY BAY
Next stop is Marco Island. We continued down the inside passage; winding our way through the mangroves. Beautiful route, done on rising tide!
The skyline of Marco Island is visible in the distance .
Our destination is FACTORY BAY. There are two marinas in this bay; we opted to anchor out on the southwest corner of the bay. There was lots of room- the guidebook warned of shoaling in the center; but no worries. We chatted with our neighbors on a sailboat as the sun set. They were also heading towards key west; but expected to sit out a few days in anticipation of some high winds.
Once again we took a dinghy ride around to explore. While it was very easy to find room at the bay for anchoring; it was not so easy to find a spot to go ashore! Most docks had no mooring, no docking, private signs on them! Even the marina charged $5 to tie up the dinghy to go walk around! We did see a spot at the Tiki bar – so tied up there and had dinner on shore.
So with the feeling we weren’t too welcome- we decided to head out into the gulf and move further south before Christmas rolled around. The winds are predicted to gradually increase over the next few days, so if we don’t leave now; it may mean Christmas in the harbor of Marco Island! (I have learned there are other more accessible spots to anchor; but for now we are on our way to the Everglades)
Once again, local knowledge was gained by calling the boat us tow operators . We were still debating whether to continue on the inside route and head inland toward Goodland. His advise was to not chance going aground as some markers have been displaced due the recent storms. We had mixed messages from our sources of recent boaters passing through that route. Some were successful, others had damage or had gone aground and needed towing. We were not interested in loosing time or money at this point. Lets head back into the gulf and take the outside passage. The shoaling around the south of cape Romano requires us to go out about 3 miles and give it wide berth. No problem; winds are light, the day is sunny and off we go. 45 miles to Everglades/ Rod and gun club. More on that next week.
Christmas Eve at The Rod and Gun Club sounds interesting! So we begin to say goodbye to 2016… its been a great year!!