VIVE LA DIFFERENCE
Vive la Difference
By Barb Hansen
Michael Kearney of Plymouth, England chartered the yacht Markat for a week in March. Later he wrote to say he really enjoyed cruising our Sanibel-Captiva barrier island paradise. But, also, he wanted us to know that the “Miserable Mile” was not as bad as he imagined.
The Miserable Mile is a stretch of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway that runs generally east and west across the bottom of Pine Island. Sometimes the tide runs pretty fast and a skipper must make sure his vessel stays in the channel. That’s about it. It’s not exactly a mile and it’s not miserable…most of the time.
I realize that it has a lot to do with what you’re used to. Michael wrote that in his homeport, Plymouth, the water is 90 feet deep at high tide. In Plymouth, they don’t worry about running aground.
I guess it’s human nature to imagine the worst. Old sea charts designated unexplored waters with the sketches and the warning, “Here Be Monsters.” Today, when some boating writer calls a section of channel the “Miserable Mile” our imaginations conjure up the equivalent of monsters. But, here in Southwest Florida, If your vessel moves outside the channel, it will not break into pieces on a rocky cliff. Get too far adrift and you could scrape the bottom on a sand flat. That’s not good. But everything will be okay. Monsters do not lurk there.
Caution is a virtue. It can keep us alive. But being too cautious can keep us from doing things we ought to do. Most of the cruising people I know strike a good balance between caution and courage. They recognize the risks. They plan what to do in an emergency. But they don’t let their caution turn into paralyzing fear. Cruising new water fuels their dream machine. They do the research. They plan. They take precautions, if necessary. They cruise. I suspect Michael Kearney is one of those careful-and-adventuresome skippers.
Michael learned about cruising with Southwest Florida Yachts in a British publication, Motor Boat and Yachting, which put Southwest Florida in its top ten list of bareboat yacht charter destinations. The article also noted that when Brits and other European readers think of Florida, they think of Florida’s East Coast, usually Miami and Fort Lauderdale. For a welcome change, the article suggested that readers consider chartering on Florida’s West Coast. They took the words right out of my mouth.
Florida’s East Coast is high-energy, high-rise. Florida’s West Coast is a laid-back, low-rise sanctuary of green and blue surprises. Vive la difference.
In the shallow, sandy cruising water of Southwest Florida you can look into the clear water and see the bottom. Maybe you’ll spook a ray from his sandy hiding place. Over there, you could see a leopard ray gracefully moving across the grass flat. A dolphin or two will surf your bow wake. On low tide, you’ll pass sand flats and oyster bars hosting roseate spoonbills, herons, ibis, wood storks, and egrets. Look up and you’re likely to see the magnificent frigatebird with its seven-foot wingspan drawing figure eights in the air. Anchored up, you might see a manatee family swim curiously by your vessel.
Michael said he’d be back to cruise with us again and we look forward to outfitting him again. I hope he tells all of his cruising mates in Plymouth and beyond. The stars are aligned well this year for Europe-to-U.S. vacation visits. The Euro-to-dollar exchange rate makes visiting the U.S. a bargain. Florida’s low summer rates make it even more of a bargain.
Thousands of Europeans visit and enjoy our area every summer. In the restaurants and shops I hear the enthusiasm in the voices of Brits, Germans and Frenchmen. But I suspect they don’t know what Michael Kearney knows. It’s even better in a boat.
Vive la difference.