Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Finally, on December 15th, a forecasted warm morning, mid 50s, - we took advantage of it and motor sailed on light winds under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the Manatee River at the southeast end of Tampa Bay. Just a few miles up the river is the Bradenton Yacht Club @ Snead Island, where Keri and her good friend, Lisa, joined us. For their visit we planned to bike, sail and enjoy our time together. Both Keri and Lisa are excellent cooks and we were the beneficiaries of their talents – yummy dinners they brought with them. On Thursday there was little wind with temperatures around 70, perfect for the several mile bike ride to explore Emerson Point Preserve. There are several ancient Indian Shell Mounds that afford great views of the surround waters. Dense Mangroves, Live Oak, Magnolia and Gumbo Limbo trees provide nesting areas for the Egrets, Herons, Ibises and many non-aquatic birds like the Palm Warbler and the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. After this delight sojourn we decided to take a short car ride to St. Armand’s Key to see the shops in all their holiday decorations. We did not leave empty handed – a Christmas gift or two. Friday’s planned sail had to be postponed as another cold front came roaring through bringing blustery 20-25 knot winds. After much discussion on Christmas plans, it was decided that we could not cook the traditional “Standing Rib Roast” in our galley oven. Thus we should trek to Orlando and enjoy a fresh smelling spruce Christmas tree and a feast with all the trimmings. Their short visit ended and the ladies returned to Orlando. We braved the cold winds for two more nights at the Yacht Club connected to shore power and warmed by Zephyrina’s heater. On Monday we moved a couple miles down the Manatee River and anchored off Emerson Point, again enjoying the calmer warmer weather. To accomplish the logistics getting to Orlando for the holiday we sailed 25 miles north (burr) to the Davis Island Yacht Club (Tampa) to leave Zephyrina. After a short taxi ride to the Amtrak Station and then a 2-½ hour train ride we were in Winter Park (Orlando). Santa added a few items under the decorated tree and Christmas dinner was Keri’s usual culinary treat. On our return what do you think was approaching – another cold front. We’ve stayed an extra two days to wait it out but tomorrow it will be warm enough to point Zephyrina south again. Longboat Key (Jewfish) anchorage will be our first stop, then out in the Gulf and to Venice on New Year’s Eve.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The first of what was to be three strong cold fronts chased us into the St. Petersburg Yacht Club three days earlier than planned, two weeks ago. This gave us the chance to have Lippincott Marine Canvas come to remove our original bimini in order to make a new one at their shop just a mile away. In five days the new one was up and our enclosure reattached. It looks great and is keeping the cockpit dry and warm, as the next two cold fronts have come through, preceded by rain and bringing temperatures in the low 40s on several nights. Three days ago, it was 71 yesterday 52 with winds 10-30 knots. Highlights of St. Petersburg: A terrific Saturday Farmers Market, just 2 blocks away. The fresh produce (Florida Strawberries are in) and diverse ethnic food vendors along with French pastries and fresh squeezed orange juice are treats. The restaurant selection is also varied and within walking distance of the Yacht Basin. Our favorites are “Ceviche” with wonderful tapas, “Moon Under Water” featuring entrees from former British colonies along with a great beer selection and “The Lucky Dill”, a New York style deli, offering both a large breakfast and lunch menu. This illustrates the saying “Getting there is fun, but being there is even better”! Now for the focus of our two-week stay. The St. Petersburg Boat Show was Dec 2-5. We attended several seminars, explored tents full of vendor stalls and it was fun to see the new sailboat models. Fortunately for our pocketbook none appealed to us more than our “Zephyrina”. Then on Dec 10-12 Helen’s good friend, Jan from Pennsylvania, came to town. Her granddaughter was getting married near by. So we did what we love to do, and entertained her with a sail in Tampa Bay. As is often the case, the forecasted light winds quickly turned to 12-18 knots and we “streaked” east across the bay at 6 to 7 knots for over an hour. When we came about to return, thinking we’d sail back on the reciprocal we discovered that Zephyrus, the Greek God of the West Wind had spotted his wayward daughter, Zephyrina, and aimed his wind right on her bow. This change of wind direction now had our sailing angle at 90 degrees off from a straight shot to St. Petersburg and towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. With winds gusting to over 20 knots out of the west we tried a few short tacks, then furled the sails and motored back. The high winds and chill of the third cold front are subsiding today and tomorrow, Dec 15; we plan to motor sail over to Snead Island to meet Keri and Lisa for a 4-day visit to include sailing in the Manatee River and biking to Emerson Point.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
"Time flies when you are having fun." Indeed. John celebrated his birthday fishing off shore Clearwater with Dale and Pete. Catching should have been the operative word in that sentence as they were very successful. We dined on grouper and grunt for several nights. Helen played tennis with Jeanie and her "fun bunch". On our last day of rental car access we drove to Tarpon Springs to walk the "sponge docks" and enjoy Spanakopita and a Gyro at one of the many Greek restaurants. Last time was by sea on our first Gulf crossing in 2005. Between these activities we took a sojourn to Orlando for Thanksgiving, cycling on Cady Way and building a kitchen shelf for chef Keri. Checking weather is a constant while cruising and seeing an impending cold front approaching for Tuesday night and Wednesday we made the mariners decision to move on to St. Petersburg two days early. Knowing the wind would be on our nose for 2/3s of the sail, outside, from Clearwater to Pass A Grille we went ahead, for the other evil was five drawbridges and the "stop and go" of the Inter Coastal Waterway. It was sunny and the crab pots along the coast were not as numerous as usual. An hour before sunset we dropped anchor at Maximo Point in southern Pinellas County. Three fishermen were wading half way between our stern and the shore as they caught several fish, One looked like a flounder. John tried his luck from Zephyrina's deck. It was catch and release - a Ladyfish and a Silver Seatrout. This was a good anchorage, spacious with 10 to 17 feet depths and protected from all but south wind. It wasn't the quietest though, with the causeway to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge 500 or so yards away. Next time we will anchor further north closer to the public park. We raised anchor by 0900 the next morning and motored into an east wind for an hour. Once around the tip of the mainland, we sailed up Tampa Bay to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. While enjoying the St. Pete Boast Show, cycling (we have folding bikes aboard), great restaurants and museums, Lippincott Marine Canvas will replace the bimini they made for us in early 2004. The Florida sun is brutal.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
We're writing this post from the comfort of a lovely spot on the shore of downtown Clearwater. Our friends, Jeanie & Dale Walden have lent us their slip for the past 3 days while their boat is in St. Petersburg having its bottom painted. Last Sunday, November 14th, we got underway from Pensacola to begin our 5th winter spring cruise to South Florida. After clearing the channel into the Gulf, we were delighted to see that the forecast wind direction had improved and we picked up 10-15 knot winds from the SSE. That gave us a terrific 10 hours quiet sail. When the wind direction shifted and the velocity slowed we furled the foresail and motor sailed with main for another five hours, until the God of the East Wind said we had used enough "free sailboat fuel" by again moving, this time in the path of our intended direction of travel. We motored into St. Joseph Sound at sunrise. From there we proceeded to transit the cross county canal and ICW to Apalachicola. Though we did not beat our 2008 record for the 144 NM trip, we did it in a respectable 25 1/2 hours. We did, however, beat the approaching weather from by 12 hours. It rained hard during the night and through Tuesday morning. Tying up in Scipio Creek with several good restaurants nearby allowed us to enjoy fresh Apalachicola oysters, local bay scallops and shrimp. We even took aboard delicious seafood bisque for our next night's "crossing dinner". After a short 8.5 NM crossing of St. George's Sound and through Sikes Cut aka Government Cut at St. George's Island, we again were in the Gulf of Mexico with a 131 bearing for Clearwater. We quickly hoisted the sail to take advantage of NNE 12 knot winds. The afternoon winds slacked 6 hours later, so we figured we'd motor sail until the evening breeze built. Well, the engine ran for 20 seconds then coughed and cut off. Two more tries were repeats. After ten minutes and a survey of all pertinent engine and fuel components nothing obvious was noted. John tried again. The engine started and kept running. Whew, 50+ miles from shore, an issue like that is cause for a few more gray hairs. Not wanting to tempt fate, we decided to keep the engine running at minimal RPMs. Naturally we had great winds through the rest of the trip. Zephyrina now has a new record for this route: 26 hours dock to dock for the 164 miles. The engine has behaved since our arrival! A gremlin at Sea? Tomorrow, we will move Zephyrina over the Clearwater Yacht Club and we will drive to Orlando to enjoy Turkey Day with daughter, Keri.