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Thursday, December 29
Despite the expense, the Gulf was too rough to move and there are too many bridges on the ICW going south, so we just stayed here at Clearwater Municipal for another day. Annie sewed up a "Super Slapper Stopper" canvas which will, we hope, reduce the noise of small waves hitting the stern while at the dock, and I adjusted (again) the boom vang so that the boom furler would roll up properly. Then it was back to the beach for more play.
Tomorrow we plan to move south in the Gulf down towards Tampa Bay, but we don't want to move too far because next week we've promised Laura a trip to Disney.
Photos: (1) The white Egret is making his move--a second later he successfully made off with some fresh filet of fish. (2) Pier 60 at sunset. (3) Laura on the deck of the replica of the Nina, which is just a few boats down from us at the Clearwater dock. (4) Summit!
Saturday, December 31
Yesterday we filled up with 13.1 gallons of fuel (204 engine hours since Sale Creek) and headed out Clearwater Pass into the Gulf. The water today is a soupy green, stirred up and not quite as pretty as what we saw in the open Gulf. The wind was light from the south and the sea was almost flat except for long swells still coming in from the west. The crab pots that were a constant issue around Tarpon finally thinned out and it was possible to relax in the cockpit. The chatter on the VHF radio, however, was constant. Coast Guard St. Petersburg was dealing with two or three boats in trouble while Sea Tow and Towboat U.S. competed to satisfy a continuous stream of requests for radio checks (the radios around here must need a check every day or so judging from the traffic). As we passed a huge Asian ship in the Egmont Channel, we were hailed by a friendly pilot who offered advise on local marinas and anchorages.
We anchored off the south end of Egmont Key and lowered the Nemo for a trip ashore. We were making our way a mile back up to the north (the south end of the island is off limits unless you are a bird) when we spotted three sailboats coming in to anchor, including our friends Anticipation. Egmont lived up to its reputation with white sand, palm trees, lots of shells, and the fascinating ruins of gun batteries from the Spanish-American war era. Legend also has it that the island is heavily vested with rattlesnakes, but the trails were wide and we saw no serpents. We did enjoy a lengthy encounter with a foot-long tortoise (another was in the bushes nearby) which made the island seem for a while like the Galapagos.
Photos: (1) The paradise of Egmont Key. (2) We're not positive, but we think this friendly fellow is a gopher tortoise. (3) Atop the remains of gun battery on Egmont.
Sometime before Noon the next day we pulled anchor--most everyone else had moved on hours before--and motored six or seven miles to the DeSoto Point anchorage in the Manatee River. The National Park Service has an excellent park on the shore. We toured and learned about the brutality and bravery of the Spanish Explorers. Turns out this crazy guy DeSoto had already spent some twenty years gathering silver, gold, and slaves in Central America and become one of the richest men in Spain, living a life of leisure, but he got bored and decided to invest his entire fortune on one more great expedition. As Park Ranger Jim pointed out, thanks to their can-do attitude and weapons, in the span of 50 years the Spaniards were able to wipe out two of the greatest civilizations in our world's history, the Inca and the Maya. DeSoto spent his fortune and died three years into his trip after finding no silver and gold, although he was able to undermine the entire social infrastructure of the region. It turns out that DeSoto, like most of us, was surrounded by riches he couldn't appreciate and so blindly went on searching for what he thought he needed instead.
Just up ahead
It doesn't matter what
Any of us is looking for.
We'll never find it because
It's not even there.
(Lyrics by the contemporary musician Hayden.)
Photos: (1) Laura reads precariously. (2) Hiking the nature trail at DeSoto (the anchorage is just out of sight to port). (3) A rare female Conquistador. (4) Alas, DeSoto was fond of enslaving the Indians he didn't kill first.
Sunday, January 1, 2006
Laura woke up this morning with the best New Year's Resolution I've ever heard: to stay close to Mom, Dad, and her family. It was a foggy morning here at DeSoto Point--in more ways than one for some folks in this area, I suspect. At midnight, be they on land or the dozen boats anchored around us, people were shooting off fireworks, honking horns, and shouting in a somewhat less than sober fashion. Still, given the wind and waves we've seen elsewhere, this was one of the more peaceful nights we've spent at anchor since hitting the Gulf.
I believe we'll spent today just anchored here. Do some more walking on the beach at the park, maybe play some Rat-a-Tat-Cat later. We have New Year's Resolutions to keep.
Monday, January 2, 2006
We were on the move by 8:30 AM and following a ship and a tow under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay an hour later, headed for St. Petersburg. We were motoring along in a brisk breeze--everything seemed quite normal--when I suddenly remembered that we were in a sailboat. We raised the sails and soon we were going a knot faster with the engine silent, for once. We sailed up the west side of the Bay to the strange juxtaposition known as the Pier in St. Pete, an inverted pyramid with a pirate ship tied to it. Just past the Pier we motored into the North or Vinoy Yacht Basin, a nicely protected anchorage where we tried twice to set the Delta and had to resort to the smaller Bruce.
Once anchored, we dingied ashore (giving the nice folks at the boat rental place $5.00 for the use of their dingy dock), rode a free shuttle tram out the Pier, and toured the small Aquarium on the second floor ($2.00/person, a great deal). We weren't able to tour the pirate ship, which was actually a replica of the Bounty, because the ship was closed on Mondays. Given the past history of the ship, management was apparently trying to avoid labor problems by giving the crew time off (although like the Nina, the Bounty was also in need of crew). We walked around the central basin which houses the Municipal Marina and eventually located a beautiful playground. I went shopping at the nearby ships store (got some new reefing lines) and when I got back Laura had made a friend and was playing madly. Later I sailed the Marlin around. To make up for the lousy holding, there's both free and low-cost wireless Internet here in the Vinoy Basin, and although we usually prefer the sounds of nature, the city lights were beautiful with the sunset behind them. We are surrounded by the downtown, including the history museum within a stone's throw of the boat. Most of the area around us is a park and there's even a small beach. Claiborne Young the cruising guide guru was right: St. Pete is worth a visit.
Photos: (1) Laura and her new friend Haley at the playground. (2) The Marlin sails for the first time on the expedition. (3) The Pier. (4) The Vonoy Basin Anchorage with the Vinoy Hotel in the background.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
There aren't a lot of big gifts you can give to a six-year-old when you live on a sailboat. One of our Christmas gifts to Laura, arguably the grand prize, was a visit to Disney. And so we rented a car and drove to Orlando on Tuesday, leaving the boat to the safety of the St. Pete Municipal Marina (around $65/night for our 35 footer, although the transient pier is to be demolished and rebuilt in a few weeks).
After contemplating a number of budget hotels with allegedly heated pools, we ended up at the Raddison Parkway Resort, which was a great choice. For just a few dollars more ($80/night, apparently a "low season" price) we had premium rooms, gardens, two hot tubs (one with a waterfall) and two swimming pools (one with a waterfall and water slide). We swam in the heated pool, slid once on the very cold water slide, and spent a long time in the waterfall hot tub, which was cool enough for kids to enjoy as well. For dinner we drove into Downtown Disney and ended up at Planet Hollywood--which was about as far removed from the cruising lifestyle as I can imagine but there were lots of things to see and plenty of loud music to keep Laura entertained.
In the morning we got a free breakfast courtesy of a resort tour, where they informed us that because we were not employed we couldn't get Disney discounts. Annie said the breakfast wasn't that good, but I thought it was worth the money. By 9:30 AM we were in the Pluto parking lot of the Magic Kingdom and embarked on eleven hours of non-stop Disney. In addition to her usual favorites, Laura did the Teacups, the Haunted Mansion, a new 3-D movie, the Tiki Room, and Pirates of the Caribbean, which had scared her to death when she was two. We had the best jungle cruise ever with all new jokes by Captain Chris, and two rides each on the PeopleMover and It's a Small World (reopened to our relief). We saw both the afternoon and evening parade and didn't leave until the last fireworks had faded from the sky. Just before that happened, during the fireworks, she made a solemn wish upon a star which she reported to us later:
"I wished," she said, "for every animal to be safe everywhere, all the time."
By midnight we were back on the boat, proud as could be of our little girl.
Unfortunately, during the wee hours of the morning Laura fell out of the v-berth and injured her arm, so as I write this the next day I am sitting in the emergency room of All Children's Hospital in St. Pete. They have a fish tank, computers, two trains, and Monsters Inc on a plasma TV, so this isn't as rough as it sounds, at least on me. Later, Laura emerges smiling and I get the good news: her elbow is not broken, just bruised, and she'll be fine. Got a call from Steve from Living Well saying they were in Everglades City and to come on down. Sounds like a plan. We also had an e-mail from our former Sale Creek Neighbors Steve and Cindy in Punta Gorda, so we hope to visit with them along the way.
Photo: (1) We arranged to meet old friends Pluto and later Mickey while at the park. (2) Laura takes a victory lap at the Disneyonaplis Speedway. Incidentally, I still haven't been able to figure out what they did with Captain Nemo. (3) I feel a little guilty about this photo now, but Laura had been on it before said she enjoyed Goofy's roller coaster, even after this round.
Friday, January 6, 2006
It's a rather blustery day on the bay, and Francis the friendly Dockmaster tells us that if we pay for one more night we can do a week for the same price. So now we're paid up until Tuesday although I'm sure we'll leave before then. Eventually.
Photo: St. Pete dock at night.
Sunday, January 8, 2006
Yep, we're still here at the dock. We've spent the last two days (well, most of today, anyway) doing boat chores. Annie sewed up a riding sail for the boat so perhaps we won't sail around so much while at anchor. Today she repaired the sacrificial cloth on the genoa and made a stuff stack for the 125 feet of rode attached to our Danforth anchor mounted on the stern, so it can be instantly and easily deployed. I had installed a new 3/8" reefing line for the roller furler--the 1/4" Sampson we'd tried had gotten pretty torn up. I filed down the anchor mount so the Delta could be locked in place with a pin through the chain stopper, then cut an inch off the forward cleat so the chain stopper would function and it would be easier to get a rope around the cleat. Next I marked the 210 foot rode on the 33 lb Bruce (actually it's a Claw) anchor; that's 20 feet of heavy 3/8" chain and 190 feet of rode. Then I marked the halfway point of the 100 feet of 5/16" chain on the 44 lb Delta and each 50 feet of the 150 feet of rode attached to that. Finally I changed the oil in the diesel (the engine is at 215 hours with the last change at 120 hours, so it was time). I found a nice Security guy pumping out a small motor yacht that had just arrived from Montreal who took the used oil off my hands. Tomorrow I think we'll see if we can get a pump-out as well since it's a long way out into the Gulf. Yes, we are actually planning to leave tomorrow...that is, if everything works out.
One reason we didn't leave earlier was that Laura's is still favoring her left arm a bit, and I didn't like the idea of her bouncing around in the boat. Her elbow is still bothering her but is much better than it was; the huge sum of money we spent taking her to the hospital have bought us peace of mind about her prospects. Before turning in the rental car I stopped at a Lowes and picked up a board which we now put across her bunk at night to prevent any future falls.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
News Flash: we did leave the dock at St. Pete yesterday and motored down to the DeSoto Point anchorage on the Manatee River, which we had all to ourselves. The light winds gave us one of the most peaceful nights at anchor we've had. We overslept this morning but around 9:00 AM we were motoring into Tampa Bay and then out the Southern cut by Egmont into the Gulf. Like our anchorage, the Gulf was oddly calm with no swells, something we hadn't seen before. The wind came up for a while and we were able to sail for an hour, but most of the day was under power. Shortly after 4:00 PM we entered the inlet at Venice and came up the ICW a quarter mile to the Yacht Club where the city has a park with a free dock. There were only two boats there (including Kama Kat, one of our neighbors from St. Pete) but the space looked tight and I aborted--too soon, it seemed, since a fellow came out and moved his dink to make more room. Instead, we anchored just to the north of the Yacht Club in the 30 feet between a shoal and a channel, all three anchors (plus our riding sail!) set to make sure we stay here. Tomorrow we plan on heading back out into the Gulf and down to Charlotte Harbor, another 30 miles south.
Photo: (1) Annie patches the genoa on the St. Pete dock. (2) Laura after face painting at the St. Pete pier. (3) Sailing the Marlin back over for one last visit to the DeSoto Monument.
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