Marc Bennett, the mutual, free spirited friend from home who introduced Trent and I, recently put us in touch with another new to cruising, couple.
We’ve landed in Charlotte Harbor and Pepper is docked at Burnt Store Marina next to Mike and Gigi, for an indefinite amount of time. Upon our arrival our new friends immediately threw us in the car where we stuffed our faces at the Crab Shack. What a treat! And cheers to new friends!
Burnt Store Marina has achieved Country Club status, in my book. It’s complete with a golf course, tennis courts, fitness center, restaurants, bars, pools, hot tubs and they even have their own little farmer’s market. But the real kick-in-the-pants (people talk like that a lot here) is that I’m also smack dab in the middle of a retirement community. I always heard that people hope to retire in Florida, never understanding why. I get it.
Morning jogs are always interesting. People still visit their neighbors here! It’s just not what you picture or the way I remember it as a kid. Convoys of golf carts converge in cul-de-sacs for coffee. It’s rare to find a through street I’ve learned. You see more golf carts than cars here. I’m not even exaggerating. The streets are narrow because hardly anyone drives their car. Everything you need is right here, even a pharmacy. Believe it or not, many of the retired even walk their dogs via golf cart. Man, what a trip!
The neighborhoods look like something out of a movie set too. There’s not a blade of grass out of place or a dead palm tree branch to be found. You can’t tell where one yard ends and another begins, no lie, it’s all so picture perfect. At first I thought they coordinated their grass cuttings or something silly like that but I found out that homeowners actually only own what’s directly under their roof. The grasses and gardens are all maintained by the neighborhood associations. And lastly, there’s no state income tax in Florida which means pension funds are worth 6% – 8% more. Now, I’m sure it’s not cheap to live here either but what else do you want in a retirement community?
Having my first wild manatee sighting was the real treat this morning. I was on our inflatable stand up paddle board (SUP), just a cruisin’ through the marina when I heard a startling puff of air push through the surface of the water nearby. Wondering what could make that noise I sat down on my board so I wouldn’t fall off into the water. I scare real easy. Then I started noticing enormous swirls of water and bubbles coming up to the surface. I knew their were manatees in the Florida but every time someone seems to point one out I always miss the sighting. Trent spotted the manatee in Clearwater; I just saw the swirling water from it’s whereabouts.
Now not only was I seeing the elusive manatee with my own two eyes but I was in the water surrounded by 5 or 6 of them. Gentle as they are supposed to be in nature, their size is just absolutely intimidating. It didn’t help that a woman on the dock mentioned that one could breach under my board and knock me in the water. No thank you. I wasn’t ready to swim with manatees just yet, all alone. I was extremely nervous but there was not a chance in hell I was turning back because this was just too cool. The manatees kept me guessing as to where they were and when they’d come up for air. That big exhale when they break the surface is so loud. It rattled me every time, therefore, I remained seated on my SUP for the duration of the encounter.
This is the best part though. Almost sensing my nervousness, a little baby calf swam around me for a long while. He, or she, was really interested in me and my board; it had a very childlike behavior too. The baby was as long as my board and just as wide but I still bet he still weighs over a thousand pounds. I know this because at one point he was directly under me paralleling the board, just inches from the surface. The calf even got brave enough to put his whiskery, plump, little nose up onto my board, right by my leg, as if to say, “Good morning Monica. Why won’t you play with me?” I think he was just trying to get a good look at me though. I could have petted the little guy a dozen times he was just so friendly but I was minding my “Manatee Manners” too — look but don’t touch. (It’s actually a real thing in Florida, “Manatee Manners.” Ha!)
Unforgettable are the adventures of being a liveaboard. Punta Gorda is fantastic!