Saturday, September 20, 2014

6/8/14-6/14/14: Sarasota to Ft. Myers: 80 NM

My wife Amy met me Sarasota for a couple of days touring the city and then for a week on the boat on our cruise to Ft. Myers.  I would take the ICW for the entirety of the trip.  For the second time in two years Amy would be on the boat on the hottest week of the year.  Even so we had a nice relaxed time and enjoyed the cruise.

Amy is a knitter so we hit all the yarn shops in Sarasota.  Here is a coral reef in yarn.
We toured the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on the waterfront in Sarasota.
We enjoyed some good food and drink in Sarasota.

The first day of cruising was from Sarasota to White Beach.

Second anchorage was at Venice.  We couldn't get an acceptable slip at the marina so we anchored out in inlet.  There were swift currents but the anchor held for the night.  I wouldn't want to do this in windy conditions.

Here is our Anchorage in Cayo Costa State Park on our third night out.

We met my brother Pete and friend Kristen in Ft. Myers where Amy flew home and I acquired new crew.  The next leg was from Ft. Myers to Dry Tortugas to Key West.

Friday, September 19, 2014

5/30/14-6/3/14: Sarasota to Marco Island to Sarasota: 200 NM

My route to Marco Island

After my month away from sailing, I returned to Sarasota for more.  I had some time to kill before my wife joined me in Sarasota, so I decided to sail down to Marco Island for a couple of days and meet some friends that were going to be there on vacation.  I got some directions for exiting Big Sarasota Pass and it's shifting sands from the dock master and headed out for Marco Island in the morning.
Sailing along peacefully off of Venice Florida
Just after the above pic was taken, a coast guard transmission came over the radio of this storm producing 60 mph winds.  It was headed my way so I decided to motor my way out of harms way.  After cranking the engine and putting her in gear I realized I had no engine thrust, not being able to make more than 2 knots speed.  I decided to anchor out in the gulf in 50 feet of water and check the prop.  Being solo and swimming and diving around the boat untethered with no life jacket 8 miles out in the Gulf with an approaching storm is not much fun.  I found I had a prop that was totally fouled by barnacles.  It took 10 to 15 minutes of furious work to get her cleaned up.  I boarded the boat with bleeding hands from the sharp barnacles but thankful the task was completed and off I went at 6 knots trying to out run the storm, which I did.
Night approaching as I round Sanibel Island
I decided to sail all night instead of spending the extra hours making anchor in Charlotte Harbor.  It turned out to be a very bumpy and uncomfortable night of sailing that is so often the case in the Gulf of Mexico with cross seas and variable winds.
Marco Island Anchorages: the first night after my overnight crossing at Coconut Island and my second night at Smokehouse Bay.
I arrived at Marco around noon on May 31st.  I took a nap while on the hook at Coconut Island before provisioning at the Piggly Wiggly that afternoon.  The next day I picked up the James family at Piggly Wiggly dock and we had a great time sailing in the Gulf.
Captains Pat, Dylan, and John

Maddie and Kristy James

Were on a boat!
The next day I headed back to Sarasota to ready the boat for my next crew member, my wife.  I decided to stop by at Cayo Costa State Park and tour the park and relax.  There was stormy weather all the way from Marco to Cayo Costa.

I did not make the entrance to the anchorage at Cayo Costa due to darkness.  It is a very narrow channel running into Pelican Bay.  I anchored out in Charlotte Harbor and was pounded by wind and waves all night.  The next morning I was up early and motored into Pelican Bay and slept most of the day away.  I toured the park the next day on June 2.  Below are pics of the anchorage and the park.
Pelican Bay and Cayo Costa State Park

After touring the park and spending one more night in Pelican Bay, I headed out for Sarasota the next day on June 3 and had a great sail for most of the trip.  The highlight was some energetic and playful dolphins that  swam alongside for a bit.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

4/27/14-5/10/14: Dunedin to Moonshine Island to Jewfish Key to Sarasota: 50 NM

I walked downtown Dunedin for the last time early on departure day.  I was ready to leave and be on the hook again.  I would savor one long hot shower before leaving.  I do miss those long hot showers living on the boat.  I had been nervous about getting my boat out of the hole they had me in.  It is not easy to maneuver in tight quarters.  I had the dock master come out and pull my stern around as I took the wheel.  It worked and off I went headed for Moonshine Island.

The attraction to this island was its proximity to Caladesi Island, a state park and nature preserve.  It was voted the best beach in America by some fellow at sometime.  I was more interested in the trail system they had set up.  It was only three and a half miles long but I wanted to see what it was like. 

The ride over from Dunedin just took an hour or so.  I was anchored up within 150 feet of it in 7 feet of water.  I unloaded my inflatable for the first time since Carrabelle and would test out the carburetor work.  It fired up second pull and I quickly motored over to Caladesi to look around.  I found a path to the trail system and then walked to the beach for a quick look and throw of my fishing line.  I would run the trail in the morning when it was cooler.

Caladesi Island is one of the places you can find the borrowing owl. The Island used to be larger before a hurricane split it in two and made it and Honeymoon Island.  I was on the trail at seven thirty in the morning and ran a well maintained and beautiful trail that wound it’s way through pine forests and scrub.  I made it to the far side where the ranger station is and headed back.  It was a nice and sweaty run in the thick humidity.  

The next morning, having become tired of the boat traffic and high rises of Clearwater area, I decided on a whim to get off the ICW and hit the ocean and put Clearwater, St. Petes, and Tampa behind me.  Even though I was going to be beating against the wind, no matter, I wanted a day on the ocean. 

After powering through a very strong current in Clearwater Pass, I set up the sails and wind vane and headed on a Southwest bearing.  Soon I had a nice grouper on the hook and it would provide plenty of good meals.  I had to make several tacks during the day to make south.  Nearing late afternoon I decided to motor the rest of the way in to Tampa Bay in order to get to bed at a decent hour.  
Clearwater Pass

Nice grouper

It was dark by the time I got to Southwest Channel leading into Tampa Bay and my anchorage at Anna Maria Island.  I used my radar to keep track of the navigational buoys to good benefit.  I was safely anchored at around 11pm.  The wind was kind and I had smooth waters in my very exposed location.  

The next morning I motored on in to Jewfish Key.  Its a nice spot and popular with sailors.  I would stay there for two nights and just relax and walk around the area.  On a walk down the beach one day I noticed a residential home being built and it had a seawall extending into the ocean.  It had completely blocked any strolling of the beach and also had trespassing signs in place warning of impending arrest of any violators.  This was very surprising to me that this would even be allowed.  I always thought that the high tide areas were public domain.  I guess this is law is negated by pushing the high tide mark further into the water by the seawall.  THIS IS JUST WRONG!!
Jewfish Key Anchorage

Grouper, rice,and apples.
After my stay at Jewfish Key, I motored on into Sarasota to find a mooring to leave my boat for a month while I attended obligations back home.  I spent a couple of days exploring Sarasota and readying the boat for my absence.
Approaching Sarasota and Marina Jacks mooring ball where I will leave my boat.
Mary Annie at Marina Jacks mooring.
As I was strolling around Marina Jack, my phone started buzzing with warnings of a tornado within a mile of my position.  It never materialized.  This same storm produced some F5 tornados in Arkansas and one tornado skipped over my house in Little Rock.  My wife called me in the closet, hiding as it destroyed homes very near our house.  Three people lost their lives in this storm less than two miles from our house.  A small town 20 miles away was devastated and declared a disaster area.

Farmers Market on a rainy Saturday in Sarasota.

Riding my beach bike on the deserted Florida beach.

Island Park in Sarasota near Marina Jack

Island Park, Sarasota

After readying the boat, I rent a car and head back home to Arkansas for a month.  I will return then to continue down the gulf coast, dry tortugas, key west, and the bahamas.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

4/23/14-4/26/14: Tarpon Springs to Dunedin: 20 NM

Baby Jaws: I need a smaller boat.

After two nights at anchor off of Anclote Key, a sailor friend I met in Biloxi encouraged me to see Tarpon Springs if I hadn't already.  Why not?  So I caught an incoming tide to help me up the Anclote River.  I docked at the Tarpon Springs city marina and hit the town on foot.  What quickly caught my attention of this nice quaint town was FOOD!, and history of course.  This town is dominated by sponges and everything Greek.  It grew up on the sponge harvesting industry in its early years and is now a prominent tourist attraction driven heavily on its Greek heritage.  And the food, what can I say, it is wonderful.  I stayed a night here and packed in everything I could.  I walked the sponge docks located on the Anclote River and then toured the historic district just a few blocks from the docks.  There I ran into the famous Panellas Trail that runs from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater.  After running a few miles on it I headed back to the sponge docks to relax.

Food and Sponges dominate the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs

A walk through the Historic District and the Panellas Trail

And back to the sponge docks before heading on to Three Rookers Bar

The next morning I motored out to Three Rookery Bar.  It was crowded and loud compared to the Anclote Key anchorage, but most of the traffic left in late afternoon and things became peaceful and nice.  Just as the sun set the birds began to scream, some laughing some crying.  It was a spectacle.  I saw many species of seabirds; gulls, herons, ducks, pipers, osprey, and many others.  That night I set out a shark line and caught a three footer and let him live another day.  The next morning I got the kayak out at daybreak and paddled over to Honeymoon Island two miles away.  There I was going to run the beach for a couple of miles but was stopped by the shell covered beach.  I was running barefoot.  So I paddled back to my boat and prepared for the trip into Dunedin.

Dunedin was just an hour motor away and I was soon at the city dock tied up and secure.  The city marina is very nice but very inexpensive at 90 cents per foot of boat length.  I would say that is the cheapest I have paid anywhere.  What I didn't realize is this dock is smack in the middle of town and a busy sidewalk filled with tourist was right next to my boat.  Chad and Maria, two young teachers in town, were very interested in Mary Annie and we had a nice conversation about it and their profession.  They both teach special needs kids in town.  They were definitely givers, not takers.  I bow my head to them.  Then a fellow came up and told me what a hole in the water boat ownership is.  Yeah yeah.  Then a good looking 70 year old sailor of Swedish descent admired the boat and all of her "systems".  After I tired answering questions from tourist about my boat I left the scene for downtown to become one of the tourists myself.

Dunedin is a town of Scottish heritage.  Bagpipes blow every Friday afternoon just to prove it.  It is a bit more upscale than the working class look of Tarpon Springs.  Downtown is painted up with pastels and lined with palms and upscale restaurants line the streets.  As I walked I came across a trail, the Panellas Trail, the one I ran into in Tarpon Springs.  So I set off on a 4 mile run.  The trail was nicer here than in Tarpon with huge white oak dripping with spanish moss providing shade for the trail goers.

The next day in Dunedin was much the same as the first, some good food, good exercise, and a relaxed mood.  It was a Saturday and there was a farmers market downtown.  I bought some gifts for my girls at home at the market.

Tomorrow I will head out to Moonshine Island near Caledesi Island and try and explore both before heading south out of the Clearwater area for the Manatee River just north of Sarasota.  In the meantime, cheers from the Mary Annie.