Saturday, January 15, 2011

Venice-Pelican Bay-Punta Gorda

As mentioned in the previous post, we spent New Year’s weekend plugged in at the Venice Yacht Club allowing us to see our choice of Jan 1 football games while connected to dockside TV cable.  We also made the acquaintance of Max, a well manners Poodle that enjoy dingy rides like our dachshund, Mac did.

Monday, the 3rd, we got underway before 10 AM when the dense morning fog started to lift, heading for several days in Pelican Bay off Cayo Costa State Park.  NOAA (“no account”) weather said the fog would lift by 9:30, which it did, but only temporarily.  By the time we were a mile off shore the fog set in again and we had visibility from 100 yards to a quarter mile for the next 4 hours.  With 4 knots of wind behind us and a following sea with long 3 to 4 foot swells, Zephyrina wallowed a bit as we made 6.5 knots under engine power.  Thanks to the radar we could keep tabs on the few boats crazy enough to be out in the fog.  Luckily at 2:15 PM the fog lifted just as we were nearing the Boca Grande Channel, giving us a half-mile visibility at a critical spot.  Once in the channel, heading for the pass, the fog shrouded us again.  With radar indicating several small fishing boats along the edge of the channel, our fog signal alerted them to our approaching presence. As we drew closer to the Boca Grande Lighthouse the fog lifted again and disappeared as we entered Charlotte Harbor.  Unfortunately, our Pelican Bay anchorage less than a half-mile away, was invisible.  This is one of the trickier approaches and requires perfect sights of water depth and shore landmarks.  A decision was made to make for the waters near Gasparilla Island, which was in light misty sunshine. We dropped anchor at 3:10 PM just off a long row of Condos and large homes in 15-foot water.  Thirty minutes later the land around Pelican Bay emerged from the fog so we raised anchor and headed for our planned destination. 

The next 2 days were the nicest weather-wise sunny, warm and calm.  We took the dingy to the park dock and walked across the island to the Gulf beach and then walked the shoreline for another mile or so.  It was fun to see seashells occupied by hermit crabs.   On our return to the boat we took the dingy along the mangrove edges of the bayside, watching the herons and cormorants.  On day 2, we motored the dingy over to the Pelican Bay entrance along the backside of the shoals to go ashore to explore and fish in the lagoons.  With artificial plastic “Gulp” bait John caught a “too small to keep” flounder, a lizardfish and a strange looking thing we’ve now identified as an “Oyster Toad Fish”.  We had beefsteaks on the grill for dinner. 

The evening weather report promised a gusty rainstorm for the next morning so we secured the dingy to it’s davits and hoisted the motor.  This time NOAA was right.  We tracked the front’s movement, the rainstorm and lightning with Sirius Weather on the chart plotter.  After a phone call to the Isles Yacht Club and receiving an OK to come in a day early, we waited for the hard bands of rain to stop and the tide to rise to give us enough water to motor out of Pelican Bay.  We arrived to tied up on the transient dock at 4:25 PM. 

A new battery, installed in Tampa and bought from West Marine didn’t seem to be performing appropriately during our 3-night anchorage.  A call to the Punta Gorda West Marine produced a manager who offered to bring his “digital load tester” to the boat after work.  He confirmed that the “new” battery was only 85% good.  Our other 3 ½ year old AGM battery was still perfect.  We also received the startling news that the new battery was a conventional lead-acid type contrary to what was asked for and it was made in March 09, much too old to even be in anybodies stock.  The next afternoon the manager and a helper delivered a new AGM battery. Personal service and quick resolution to the problem was much appreciated.  We’re sure there was communication between the Punta Gorda and Tampa stores on this snafu. 

Our plan to return to Pine Island Sound for several more days of anchoring before moving Zephyrina into a slip in Ft. Myers was altered when another winter front was forecasted to strong north winds and cold nighttime temperatures. Sailboats have little insulation and when you are anchored out without a generator there is no heat, and by morning the inside temperatures are only a little higher than outside.  Following our decision to stay several more days, we discovered the Isles Yacht Club could provide Zephyrina a slip for the next month.  So here she’ll stay.  With friendly hospitable members welcoming us and assisting us with land-based needs plus a watchful helpful professional staff, we couldn’t asked for more.  The Isle YC has a reputation for all of the above and is enjoyed by many sailors’ whose home Yacht Club belongs to the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs (FCYC).

Next Friday we’re off to enjoy a week on the beach at Sanibel with Helen’s sister Dru and her husband, Bill.  After that we’ll drive home to Gulf Breeze to see friends, check on the house and make a flying trip north to visit the matriarch of the Caffrey family, Virginia.  We’ll return to the Isles YC in early March to continue our 2011 sailing excursion.

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