Thursday, March 14, 2013

Back on the Water - Heading South

We’re on the second half of our 2012-13 sailing excursion. 

As last reported we left Zephyrina at the Isles Yacht Club in early January.  By land we returned to Gulf Breeze, with a short visit to the east coast of Florida to visit friends who winter in Tequesta and Fort Lauderdale.  By air, we traveled to Delaware and Pennsylvania braving the snow flurries and freezing temperatures to visit John’s 100+ Mother and our son and daughter-in-law.  In February we enjoyed the spaciousness of our home while doing spring pruning and garden maintenance.  Our good friends and fellow sailors, John & Kay Sheehan had also left their sailboat, Sea Shell, at the Isles.  So with rented mini van, and packed with provisions, the four of us drove back to Punta Gorda and the Isles.

Here’s an overview of the journey south to Naples. 

Our plan to depart the Isles on March 1st was interrupted by a cold front, but finally seas and winds settled down and on March 4th the flotilla of two (Sea Shell and Zephyrina) departed for Burnt Store.  Only 13 miles south this is a huge gated residential community of varying sized single and multi storied homes plus 8 or so high rises.  We had visited Burnt Store 20 years ago.  My it has grown!  This overnight stop allowed us to have a shorter 37 miles trip through Pine Island Sound on to St. Charles Yacht Club near Ft. Myers.  St. Charles and The Isles rank as the friendliest clubs, with volunteer members that offer their services such as transportation to town or grocery shopping. During this stop, one of Helen’s former Harrisburg associates, Bob Feir, drove over from Estero for a luncheon visit at the club.

A good weather window opened up (yes we’ve been plagued with frontal systems just about every three days) on March 10th for us to go out into the Gulf and down to Naples.  Erratic east winds gave us enough for 6-hour bouncy motor-sail.  Our arrival at the Naples Yacht Club was just in time for the Sunday dock master to help with the lines as we docked in a crosswind.  During our stay here we’ve enjoyed the company of Ed Maxwell, one of John’s Wilmington neighbors and high school classmates.  Ed has been a Naples resident for more than 10 years and we always enjoying meeting up with him whenever we sail through the south Florida waters. Dinner at Campiello’s provided the opportunity to share information regarding mutual friends.  Another highlight occurred when a Naples Yacht Club member and frequent Bahamas sailor, Tom Talton drove us to Marco Island to Wednesday farmers’ market and then over to Goodland.  As a long time resident of the area, fisherman and cruiser he gave us a detailed overview of the area.  This will be our last ‘Zephyrina Sea Shell’ flotilla stop. On Saturday, Kay & John will sail from here back up toward Clearwater and then eventually, across the Gulf to home.

As sailors are always looking for a good weather window for the sail to the next destination, we think we found ours!  Tomorrow, Friday afternoon we plan to depart with varying east winds and head south to Key West.  We’ll round the southwest tip and head east for a short 8 mile for “in face windy” trip up to NAS Key West’s Boca Chica Marina.  The eclectic town of Key West will entertain us. We’ll reconnect with friends at the Marina from our many previous stays and then around April 1 join fellow PYC sailors on Partager to head up the Keys and over to the Bahamas.  

We'll post again when we’ve interesting tales and photos to share from Key West.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Moving South & Enjoying the Holidays

Well, it’s been almost a month since we last posted on the blog.  So, let us continue with a recap…

After a several day stay @ the Bradenton YC attending to provisioning and laundry, we headed for a favorite anchorage at Jewfish Key/Longboat Key.  There is a public boat launch with beach on each side for dinghy landing.  Dolphins are there to entertain.  Fishing is good; John caught a flounder, which we grilled for dinner aboard.  We enjoy walking the charming old Florida village of Longbeach.  We didn’t see Peacocks this year nor did we dine at either of the two great restaurants, Moore’s Stone Crab or Mar Vista.  Hope to do both on our return.  There is easy access to the Gulf thru Longboat Key Pass, just around the corner.

Weather and the upcoming Christmas Holiday had us motor down the ICW to the Sarasota YC.  We were looking forward to the on land sites, the Ringling Museum (to see the Pablo Veronese exhibit), St. Armand’s Key (for a little Christmas Shopping) and the Sarasota Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Keri drove down from Orlando to spend several days celebrating with us.   She also provided us with transportation to Total Wine, Trader Joe’s, Grocery Stores and a wash and fold laundry service.  Both avid photographers father and daughter were delighted to see so many varied shore birds on the Lido Key beach.  An added pleasure was a visit from our Medford, Oregon friends, Christie and Steve Sanders.  They were visiting family in Tampa and had a car so they could drive over for the day. 

Again with a cold front approaching, we motored down the ICW to Venice.  This was a first for us, since we usually sail down along the Gulf Coast.   The Rose Bowl Game on January 1st was broadcast only on ESPN (we only get through the air TV stations on the boat).  So we stayed an extra day so we could to go to the Crow Nest Tavern to dine and watch the game.  Swimming around the marina was a most unusual beautiful bird – a Razorbill.  The normal range for this member of the Auk family is the Artic to Maine.  It dives and swims underwater using its wings.  While it was alone, we heard reports of small flocks being sighted in the Sarasota Bay area.

The “hunk of metal”, called an anchor on our bow seems to be a magnet for the wind direction.  Though light, we had a south winds ‘on the nose’ as we headed south along the Gulf Coast to the Boca Grande Channel.  But as we turned east, the winds picked up and the tide was coming into Charlotte Harbor. WOW! with sails and incoming tide we flew @ 9.5 knots through the channel for several minutes before settling down to a nice 7 knot sail up the Harbor to Punta Gorda.  As we did in 2011, we have secured a slip for 2 months, so Zephyrina can be snug and protected while we visit friends and family ashore and return home to check in.  While we were preparing Z for her respite, we made new friends (Richard & Joanne Collins, owners of a 350) and visited with friends met in the past (Nancy & Steve Johnson). We plan to be back on the water in early March.