Thursday, January 31, 2013

Round Trip, Cape Haze

Days on cruise: 264

Distance:  6.8 miles

Travel time: 1 hr, 16 minutes

Total trip odometer: 5,746 statute miles

What do you notice about the screenshot below of today’s journey?  Sorta weird, huh? Bob calls it a “software perturbation”. Nonetheless it’s kind of accurate.

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Last night at Cape Haze Marina in the high wind was uneventful. Knowing we planned a short trip for today, we got a late start, and after buying fuel and pumping out, we headed south a whole 3.3 miles to Cape Haze Anchorage. This small cove immediately off of the ICW has 9 feet of water and is surrounded by nice mid-size (by ICW standards) homes.

After waiting a couple hours through lunch to make sure the anchor was secure and wouldn’t drag in the high wind, we dropped the dinghy and headed north a short distance to Don Pedro State Park, a barrier island which fronts on the Gulf of Mexico.


There’s a dinghy dock among the mangroves.


We walked the beach along the Gulf of Mexico, where it was VERY windy, looking for pre-historic shark’s teeth, an activity to which we’d been alerted by friend Jim A on “Blue Angel”. We didn’t know much about what to look for other than a brief description from Jim, but turns out we found the right stuff, as confirmed by a Google Images Search after the fact. Here’s our collection. The triangular-shaped teeth are complete teeth, and the others are broken pieces.


It was so windy on the Gulf the waves almost looked big enough to surf.


This crabby guy was feeling defensive when he saw us.


Lots of driftwood in strange poses.


This house is actually ON the beach, in the surf and waves. We were told the house was built in either 1968 or 1986 (the guy working on it couldn’t recall which) and has been lucky enough never yet to be destroyed by a hurricane.


This house is right next door to the one above. Character!


There are lots of houses like this in style and size on this stretch of the ICW; comfortable size, nice, but not ostentatious, the kind we prefer.


After our trip to Don Pedro we returned to Next To Me for a 30-minute nap. Suddenly Cathryn heard Bob speaking in a raised voice (very unusual) “Wake up! The boat is moving!” Jumping out of bed and looking out the window, it was clear our anchor had dragged while we napped, and we were now approaching the shore and a docked sailboat in Cape Haze cove. Nothing like having to hustle and deal with an urgent matter immediately upon waking, groggy from a nap, eh? But we have this routine down cold, assumed our respective positions, pulled the anchor, and headed into the ICW to return for a second night at Cape Haze Marina. We don’t want to spend a restless night worrying about anchor dragging, hence the weird routing in the screenshot as we really did make a round trip journey today. On the way to the marina, we checked the anemometer and found the wind blowing a steady 35mph with gusts to 40mph. No wonder our anchor dragged, even with 6:1 scope.  Happy to be settled in the marina.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Days on cruise:  263

Distance traveled:  36.8 miles

Travel time:  4 hours, 40 minutes

Total trip odometer:  5,739 statute miles

Often when we leave port in the morning, we don’t know for sure where we’re headed. We may have alternatives in mind, but the ultimate destination depends on things like wind, current, bridge openings required, the presence (especially in Florida) of posted zones that can go on for miles, saying “idle speed; no wake” or “slow speed; minimum wake” which lengthens travel times. This morning was one of those days. We’d seen enough of Sarasota to satisfy our interest so wanted to move on, but the weather called for a High Wind Advisory to move in sometime during the day. We knew we’d be okay in the protected waterways of the ICW with the barrier islands preventing lengthy fetch leading to big waves. So at 7:45 am, off we went: destination unknown, but multiple alternatives planned.

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All day there was an unusually bright glare on the water, small-ish waves, and high wind: as in the kind of wind that rocks the boat, whistles loudly through the canvas and isinglass, and heightens alertness to make sure we aren’t blown out of the narrow marked channel, or that we don’t get blown into a bridge as we pass closely underneath with current and wind combining to throw us off course. Fortunately it was warm, high 70s, so we were comfortable on the flybridge.


But the going was slow, we had to request 3 bridge openings, and there was a surprising amount of boat traffic to pass (mostly sailboats) or to be pass us (mostly sportfishers going  at high speed and annoying us with their huge wakes).


Our boat is 18.5 feet tall, meaning height above the waterline. So anytime we approach a bridge we pull out the binoculars and read the “air height gauge” posted on the bridge fenders to tell us whether we can get under. It is unlawful, and subject to fine of up to $25,000, to ask for a bridge opening if you don’t really need it to safely pass. The other complicating factor is most bridges are curved on the bottom, and height listed on the gauge is the height at the lowest point, not the center. So you have to read the tiny print to find out if the mid-section of the bridge is the same, or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 feet higher than the reading on the gauge. This only really matters on bridges like the one depicted below, where we can’t safely clear at the edges, but can in the middle. That doesn’t matter much either usually, but on days where the current is running and the wind is blowing, you really want to make sure you pass under the bridge smack in the middle so you don’t hit!


This big house was empty: no furniture, wall hangings, nothing! Anyone want to become a squatter? It’s got 270 degree views of the ICW, as it sits on a point.


Lots of Florida homes have these huge screen structures, often two stories tall and covering a patio, pool and decks. This is, of course, to keep the bugs out.


This was a 9-foot high swing bridge we had to request be opened for our passage.


Two-directional car ferries briefly blocked the ICW channel as they passed one another.


Finally at 1:00pm, with the wind blowing steadily 25 mph and gusts to 30 mph, with the forecast for it to continue through the night, we decided we wanted to sleep soundly, so pulled into Cape Haze Marina instead of the anchorage at Cape Haze. It’s sunny and warm, so pleasant conditions for getting some boat chores and laundry done onboard.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Days on cruise:  262

This morning we walked 5 blocks to the downtown Sarasota Transit Center and for $1.85 (both of us, one way) we rode the bus 15 minutes to the Ringling Museum. Surely all our readers (except maybe our adult kids and folks of their generation) have fond memories of attending a Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus show as a child!


John and Mabel Ringling were entrepreneurs who, among other things, owned the Circus. In the mid-1920s they built a winter home on the shore of Sarasota Bay, and tours are available of this magnificent Mediterranean Revival, Venetian structure.


The 60 acres of grounds are planted with lush gardens.


The house has many tons of marble, hand-painted ceilings and wall murals, hand-blown colored glass panes in every window and gorgeous textiles. We went on a 45-minute tour of the interior.


A marble and brick promenade fronts the 1,000 or more feet of waterfront.


Sittin’ at the dock by the bay. A marble tile dock????


The salon.


In addition to the home, the site houses a Circus Museum that provides Ringling Circus history, many exhibits, circus stories and artifacts.


Remember humans being fired out of canons?


Silly circus stuff: Cathryn has always wished for longer legs, while Bob looks like a dwarf in the background!


We could get used the view on this deck!


After 5 hours of Everything Ringling, we took the bus back downtown and walked past this iconic artwork adjacent to the waterfront. Why is Bob looking up her skirt?


We got a text from Dick and Deanne on “Sareanna”, the wonderful couple who led our Gulf Crossing group a couple weeks ago. They’re also in Sarasota, so we stopped by their boat in the marina for a visit. Deanne’s adorable 88-year-old mother is visiting them on the boat for the week, and we had a good reunion with them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sarasota, Florida

Days on cruise:  261

Distance traveled:  38.6 miles

Travel time: 4 hours, 23 minutes

Total trip odometer:  5,702 statute miles

Stephen from “Jackets II” came for coffee on our boat this morning as he often does when we’re together, and we had a good visit. Cathryn visited Joy and Bill on “Proud Mary” and said goodbye to Charlotte, then it was time to leave.

The weather was mild today with light winds, small whitecaps, and warm temperatures, so our trip across Tampa Bay to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and on to Sarasota was uneventful.


Blog reader Mike, on 40’ DeFever “Full Step” asks what navigation software we use for the screenshots, as above. This is “Garmin Blue Charts Mobile” app, a new Apple app that came out in November which integrates Garmin charts with Active Captain. The app itself is free, but you can buy charts for all of North America, including Canada and Mexico, at a cost of $50, so Bob sprung for it, and we love it!

We were in the Tampa Bay Shipping Channel for a while today, so of course passed big ships.


The new Sunshine Skyway causeway bridge, below, is a 4.1-mile cable-stayed bridge completed in 1987. Cathryn’s  parents lived in Tampa from 1977-1981, and during that time her Dad was General Manager of a network TV station. During a storm in 1980 the freighter “Summit Venture” collided with one of the bridge’s piers sending 1,200 feet of the bridge plummeting into Tampa Bay. This caused 6 cars, a truck and a Greyhound bus to fall 150 feet into the Bay, killing 35 people. Cathryn’s Dad recalls lots of details about the accident, his news crew covering the story on site for more than 24 hours and feeding live news coverage nationwide to tell of the disaster. The new bridge today, beautiful and modern, evokes no negative reminders of that tragedy, especially on a sunny, calm day.


The Sarasota waterfront boasts, among other things, a lavender Performing Arts Center, on left below.


Marina Jack, where we’re now tied to a mooring ball for two nights, is a big, fancy marina. It has valet parking (not something we’ve seen before), HUGE yachts in residence that make “Next To Me” look like a tender by comparison, and every amenity one could wish for, including a fancy on-site restaurant and a shuttle (which is not available for use by those of us on the mooring balls; only for those who pay much higher prices to stay in the marina).


We dinghied to shore and walked into town to get the lay of the land and grocery shop at the nearby Whole Foods Market, not something we’ve seen in ages.


“Next To Me” is surrounded by dozens of sailboats in the mooring field, and only one other power boat.


Late in the day a poor boater came in under tow.


The view from our sundeck back to the city is pretty!


Last Day in St. Pete

Days on cruise:  260

Again, we planned to leave St. Petersburg on Sunday, but got text messages from Looper friends Stephen and Charlotte on “Jackets II” Saturday afternoon saying they were leaving Caladesi Island and coming into St. Pete. They were the first Loopers we ever met, and we haven’t seen them since October on the Tennessee River, so we stayed another day.

Most of our day was spent in the parks and waterfront sidewalks enjoying the scenery. As in most of Florida, there are large, often-but-not-always attractive homes and beautiful neighborhoods.


This right-next-to-downtown beach is reminiscent of Alki Beach back home in Seattle, except the water is 20+ degrees warmer, and the air temp is only similar in July. It hit 78 degrees here in St. Pete today. These were two person volleyball teams competing, and they were good! Another scenic attraction.


It’s not really clear in the photo, but this guy had 3 colorful parrots sitting on his shoulders, and a t-shirt with a parrot face, maybe hoping he could blend in?


How hard could it be to live in a place like this?


Dinner Sunday night with (L to R) Joy and Bill from “Proud Lady” and Charlotte and Stephen from “Jackets II” was outside at sidewalk tables, and downtown was still hopping.


We’ve enjoyed Bill and Joy’s company here in St. Pete and were happy to see Stephen and Charlotte again. Since Jackets is staying here another week while daughter #4 visits, and then going to the Bahamas, we’re not sure we’ll see them again on the Loop.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More St. Pete

Days on cruise:  259

Not sure if last night was the official full moon, but if not, it was awfully close. Moon shining in the aft hatch over our bed kept Cathryn awake awhile at bedtime. That’s the kind of sleep disruption we can appreciate.


Are you bored by sunrise photos yet?


Promptly at 8:30 this morning we were out the door with Bill and Joy of “Proud Lady” to walk to the Saturday Farmer’s Market.


The quality of the produce rivaled any we’ve seen at any farmer’s market in any country.


These flowers are for you, Adrienne.


The food vendors had fabulous-smelling cooked wares on offer, but we’d already had breakfast so resisted.


Anyone looking for a method of boosting retirement income? This guy was playing “Blowing in the Wind”. Guess he knows some of his 1960s-era audience?


Bill and Joy rented bicycles at The Pier for 24 hours, we unloaded ours from the guest stateroom, and off we went for the next adventure of the day. St. Pete has some wonderful bicycle lanes separated from the roadway by parking curbs so you’re completely out of traffic. Unfortunately they only got us 25% of the way there; the rest of the time we rode on sidewalks.


Our destination was the Boyd Hill Nature Park 5 miles away on the shore of Lake Maggiore. We rode through the trails, mostly seeing raccoons, squirrels and lots of birds.


A bridge crosses a pretty marsh out to Maggiore Island.


Anyone identify this bird for us?


How about this one? Here's life imitating art!


There was a bird rescue facility in the park, hence the next two raptors.


Wish we could still rotate our necks like this guy!


Several unusual metal art pieces.


Nope. NOT tempted to swim with the alligators.


And then we finally saw two alligators offshore. BIG!


Lots of cormorants, vultures, gulls, egrets, herons and more.


After returning to the marina neighborhood, our reward for biking those miles was lunch at The Moon Under Water where we found delicious pub-style food, good beer choices, good service, and good prices.


If you guessed we took a power nap after that, you know us well or have been following this blog for a while.

Did you notice we both started and ended this post with a moon over water?  How’s that for symmetry.