With 2 weeks to visit, we were able to find a nice cruise of 200 miles or so from Marathon up to St. Petersburg. It's comfortable for us to go about 40 miles in daylight - rise with the sun, have a nice breakfast but don't dawdle, then get sailing. Cruise at 4-5 knots (I like to travel when the wind is favorable for us), and 8-9 hours later, drop the hook somewhere protected from the swell but windy enough to keep the bugs down. I also have a bridge up for sale, vintage, classic. I wish it were like that every time. All sailors do. So, since I can't guarantee 5 days of that in a row, I budget double or triple that time to account for reality. That gets us about 2 weeks to travel 200 miles.
The first day was great, leaving Marathon early in the morning after getting my mom from the airport in Key West. We borrowed a car, since her flight got in late enough the bus would have been inconvenient. That was the first time I'd driven a car since early November, in DC. Before then I'd driven a car for a few days in mid-September, then mid August. Everything happens so FAST in a car! It was scary. Anyway, the first day of sailing was perfect. 15 knots of wind on the beam, we sailed about 45 miles due north to the mouth of the Shark River. There was a great rainstorm just as we arrived, but the wind died, so we just stopped where we were. Beautiful rainbow, and deck showers for the girls.
Next morning the wind was lighter than predicted (and I hadn't figured out the typical daily weather patterns for this area yet) so we motor-sailed for the morning, then the wind picked up from the wrong direction in the afternoon. We just dropped the anchor where we were for lunch before the wind came up, since Florida is freakishly shallow. The whole trip we've been sailing in depths we'd normally anchor in: 10-30 feet. Creepy. You get used to it, which is even scarier. The wind picked up after lunch, but from the wrong direction, so we raised anchor (the waves had built up quickly, Jenn got a little tossed about on the foredeck) and headed in towards land to look for smoother water. We anchored about sunset, the wind died, and within 10 minutes was blowing 15 knots from the SE, a perfect wind for us to sail in. I was disgusted, but we were all tired so we didn't do any night sailing that time.
Next day we sailed and motor-sailed the rest of our intended journey from the day before, up to Indian Key, in the 10,000 Islands portion of the Everglades National Park. Actually, the previous 2 nights had been off the Everglades as well. Active Captain told us people had been yelled at by the Park Police for anchoring too close to Indian Key, so we left it a wider berth than I would have liked and settled in. Here we could just barely get some cell service, which was kind of nice to feel civilization not too far away. The wind forecast for the next few days was not favorable for us, but we had time, so we spent 3 nights at Indian Key. There is a great tidal beach, and we waded around the whole island collecting shells and watching wildlife. We also found another beach that almost connected 2 other islands, which had lots of old horseshoe crab shells, and scallop shells, and other pretty ones collected for jewelry and assorted scoops.
With good wind we headed around the shoals that stuck 7 miles out from land. As we came up near Naples, a serious thunderstorm built up and caught up to us. Wind gusts to 35 knots ish, and pouring rain, and lightning! Since we were only a few miles from land the waves weren't bad, and our boat is so good at reefing the wind is easily managed as well. Lighting is another story. There's nothing we can do about it, except not be there. So we sailed as fast as we could out of the path of the storm, but not fast enough. We ended up soaked from the rain, and Jenn did lots of work keeping the sails under control, and my mom helped and didn't get too scared when the boat started heeling way over in the pounding rain and wind and waves. No lightning, and a beautiful rainbow for dinner afterwards. The wind came up after the storm very favorably for us, so we kept going all the way up to Ft. Meyers, another 6 hours or so. We anchored about midnight off Bunche Beach, since conditions were calm.
Left early the next morning, and soon a whole gang of boats were sailing out of Ft. Meyers! We had a good wind forecast, so we weren't able to stay for a day or two in Ft. Meyers to see some of Jenn's friends that live there. Darn. We'll just have to go back another time! The wind died about mid-day again, in a pattern I was beginning to recognize. Then it filled in from the NW, a terrible direction for us, as the land heated up and built thunderstorms. We outran the first one, but the second got us just as the sun was setting. Once again with the wind and the waves and the lightning. Ugh. Lightning scares the dickens out of me. Especially when you're sitting on a 40 foot metal pole with nothing around you. My mom went below to bed, so she could be dry. After the storm passed, Jenn and I alternated shifts through the night to take advantage of the good wind, and the wind that was forecast to be in Tampa Bay that we wanted to take advantage of.
Dawn found us sailing well under the direction of our Super Hero Cape, coming up towards Egmont Key and the entrance to Tampa Bay. Once we got inside the bay we found the wind was just a few degrees not good enough for us to sail straight in, so we motor-sailed under the Sunshine Skyway, a very impressive bridge. A few hours later we pulled in to the little mooring field in Vinoy Basin, right in the heart of downtown St. Pete!
|Aletheia on the mooring ball|
This is a great town. Lots of pleasure boats, Tampa Bay is a great place to sail, all of downtown is within easy walking distance, and it's beautiful! The locals have put significant effort into their infrastructure and social systems, and it appears to be paying off in spades. It feels remarkably young and vibrant for Florida, which I otherwise think of as America's retirement home. I love this town.
|Mom & Jenn at the Chihuly Collection|