We made it to St Pete!!

So much has happened since we left Naples. Certainly we have covered some miles.

After leaving Naples, we anchored in the ICW just north of Ding Darling (where we anchored on the way down) and south of a cute little place called St James City. Getting there from Naples we had to travel the “miserable mile” as it’s called in the cruising guide. This is a short stretch of the ICW where there is some very swift current that can take you off your course if you don’t pay attention and there are numerous power boats that rush through like there is no tomorrow. Not really miserable, but certainly challenging for a sailboat. After “the Mile” we came to a quiet anchorage that friends had said was a real gem. It was already close to five o’clock when we anchored and clouds were gathering but with a bit of encouragement from me we lowered the dinghy and ventured up the canal to St James City.

Bob in the dinghy heading up the canal - note the dark sky

The homes on either side of the canal are more modest than on the ICW; a bit of old Florida. The sky was getting dark and it looked like we were going to get some rain but we were so entranced by the canal, that we kept going, even though we knew we had left both hatches open. About two miles up the canal, we came upon Woody’s – a tiki hut covered patio, with a small bar and great music playing. We docked the dinghy, had a beer and some wings and really enjoyed the ambiance.

The bullmastiff and his owner added to the appeal. This was one of the little treasurers that you can find along the way if you take the time to look. It was turning darker and the wind really picked up just as we got to the boat and thankfully everything was dry.

The next morning we motored on to Burnt Store – Aquila left a bit after us and detoured to Caya Costa for a night. It felt like coming home when we docked at Burnt Store-except that we were in the south basin right in front of the restaurant this time so that Aquila would be able to dock near us when she got there. Unfortunately, that meant loud music from the bar and construction noise from the repair of docks that were wiped out by Irma. We were only going to be there for three nights so I figured I could take the noise. We unloaded the bikes and road over to David and Rhonda’s house to say we had landed and to see Rachel, Brain and Brady, who were down from Cleveland and leaving that evening. David and Rhonda stopped at the boat after taking the kids to the airport and it was nice catching up with each other.

Sunday, Aquila arrived and we played a few games of cribbage. My luck had turned and I proceeded to lose multiple games. I still love the game and am confident that tide will turn at some point. We finished the day with a delicious steak dinner on the gas grill and conch blowing from L dock as the sun set on the gulf.

Dee and his 2.4 meter boat

We were lucky enough to be in Burnt Store in time to drive to Port Charlotte and see our friend Dee Smith compete in a 2.4 meter regatta. Dee was a professional sailor who raced competitively in the Americas Cup and multiple around the world races. Since having serious medical issues he now competes in both open and handicap 2.4 Meter Class events. He is also an advocate for having the 2.4 Meter Class included in the Paralympics. He is super competitive and won not only the races we saw but the entire series for his class. Competitors were from the USA, Canada and the Virgin Islands. The yacht club that hosted the regatta was beautiful and we got to see the race from the power boat that carried the fleet photographer. We had a bird’s eye view of all three races and truly enjoyed being able to cheer Dee to victory. The mimosa brunch I had with Jocelyn and her friends in the yacht club dining room overlooking the Charlotte Harbor was an added bonus.

In action

Bob, Jocelyn and Sheila on photo boat

Monday, Bob and I had to go to Cape Coral to get an affidavit from the local police indicating that the car was in Florida so that we could renew his license plates and not have the mandatory e-check. Sometimes the little logistical issues can take up so much time and head space. We then came back to Burnt Store, picked up the boys and went off to provision at Aldi and Publix. Once things were put away, it was Monday night so time to play bingo at the bar. David, Rhonda, Bill, Michael, Bob and I enjoyed playing even though we kept Bob’s perfect record intact – no one won anything.

Bob and Bill hacking at coconuts.

Before we left Burnt Store we went on a coconut hunt. We went back to the place where I was able to find multiple coconuts to satisfy my fish painting needs last year. Bill was interested in joining me so that he could make some coconut candles. We found a gold mine and brought about 16 or so back to the boat to be cleaned and put away for later. Bob was dying to use his machete and we had one very green coconut. Bob and Bill hacked, harvested the coconut water and carved out delicious coconut meat that we are continuing to enjoy.

Had time to do a little clean up on Mona - who had a traumatic trip and lost her tail fin and Mini, the newest coconut. Mona is showing off her new tail fin.

We were watching the weather and agreed that Wednesday was the best day to head off for Sarasota and St Pete. We tried to get to St Pete last year in early May but the weather had turned summer like with lots of rain so we didn’t make it. This year we were determined and this time the weather was not an issue. We had a great sail from Burnt Store, outside on the gulf to Caspersen Beach on Manasota Key. It was a little touchy as we left the bay and entered the gulf with the wind at our backs at about 15 knots and the current at maximum tide coming in. When the wind is in the opposite direction of the current it is called a rage. The rough water only lasted about five minutes – not bad and then we had a six hour sail to the beach - our midway point to Sarasota and our anchorage for the night.

The wind was supposed to stay from the east and so we thought that if we got close to the beach (to our east) the water would be calm and we would have a peaceful night. Well, the actual wind and the forecast could not have been more different. Suffice to say we had a bit of rock and roll. I didn’t mind, in fact the rocking lulled me to sleep. When we first got to the anchorage we lowered the dinghy and rode to shore to hunt for shark teeth. We picked this anchorage because it is known for having shark teeth on the beach. From the boat we could see that there were very few people on the beach but a few men were naked or nearly naked, not exactly as expected. Undeterred, we took our beer, a few crackers and dinghied in – we were on a shark teeth mission!!! Collectively we found about nine shark teeth in a very short period of time, one of which is the largest I have found to date. Another pearl of experience.

Next morning after a rocky night (we will not go back to this anchorage) we motored to the Venice inlet, (the cut in Sarasota is not usable for those unfamiliar with the area – the cruising guide says “need local knowledge”) entered the ICW and had a peaceful motor up to Sarasota. We picked up mooring balls right off Marina Jack’s docks where we had stayed last year. We walked into town with Bill and Michael, had a beer at a local pub and then walked back to the marina by way of the WWII statue of the sailor kissing the girl on VE-Day. We found ourselves in the middle of a political demonstration with one side asking for disclosure of the full Mueller report and one side holding signs saying Trump 2020. Both sides were yelling at each other. What a world we are living in!

We returned to the marina and got picked up for dinner by Jeff Nash – a friend from Cleveland who now lives in Sarasota. Had a great sushi dinner then walked the docks back at Marina Jack to show Jeff some of the mega yachts that are docked there. We love being able to see friends from Cleveland along the way! Sorry we forgot to take a pciture with Jeff!

Although we had toyed with staying in Sarasota with Aquila and delaying our departure by a day, we left the next morning (Friday) so that we would not be traveling on the ICW on the weekend. The weekend brings out the weekend warrior power boaters that can make an ICW trip quiet rocky. The proper etiquette is to go slow when passing a sailboat or smaller power boat so that you don’t send them rocking in your wake. I had made a “Go Slow” sign that I could hold up last year to remind uneducated power boaters. This year the one time I used it, the power boater sped up as he read my sign – I have put the sign away: a good idea that went wrong.

Vinoy Hotel - Oldest luxury hotel in St Pete.

Chihuly chandelier in the Vinoy ballroom.

So let’s talk about St Pete. Never have I been in a city where everyone we meet talks about it in such glowing terms. Unlike other Florida cities it has a very young vibe. There is lots of downtown living and we have been able to bike everywhere we wanted to go. There is much affluence and the houses around the water edge are nothing short of spectacular. The waterfront goes on forever bordered by a lovely park the entire way. There is a lot to do. The boys rented a car and spent two days with us. We visited the Saturday morning farmers market (more than 100 booths),

Visiting with a injured hawk at the Saturday morning farmers' market.

the Dali museum (right on the water), the Imagine museum (gave me a new appreciation for glass art) and met up with Robin and Chris (fellow sailors we met last year who are now living in St Pete).

Infinity with glass at Imagine museum

Glass violin - beautiful

Thank you to Robin for your advice on what to do in St Pete.

Outside of Dali Museum - pronounced with emphasis on the final EE sound.

I have to take a minute to talk about the Dali museum. I was never a big fan of this artist because I tend to like more realistic art. However, our docent, who wore a very unusual Dali inspired hat, was so good, had so many facts and was so interesting, I loved the tour. She helped us to see things in the paintings I never would have taken the time to notice. The architecture itself is a piece of art. We were already aware of how the collection came from Beachwood, Oh to St Pete, but she made it much more interesting as she had firsthand experience with the Morse family who donated the art. I highly recommend a trip to the museum for anyone who goes to St Pete.

Our docent with shoe-hat

Inside the Dali Museum

Inside staircase

Next, I have to make a comment about social media. While working, I never really used Facebook or any other type of social media. I am still not very good with Facebook and sometimes I can’t find my own postings. But now that I don’t sit looking at a screen except when I update the blog, I am using it and it has been such an asset. I post some of my favorite pictures on Instagram although I don’t have that many followers. Sometimes these are my favorite pictures I don’t want to forget to include in the blog, so it keeps me organized. After I posted a picture of the Dali museum, Jessica Semel, someone who works with me at the Jewish Federation, responded that they too were in St Pete and planning on going to the museum. Their hotel was only five minutes away from where the boat was docked and they came over and spent some time with us. – What a wonderful serendipitous event. Jessica’s word and I agree.

Jessica and Alan Semel with Allenicks at Harboarge Marina

One more side note. We are staying at Harborage Marina, a ten minute walk to downtown. I made our reservation here because the city marina is under construction and could not accommodate us – their mooring balls are out of commission. Having stayed on a mooring ball in Marathon it was our first choice for accommodations here in St Pete. The marina got good reviews so it was a great, although expensive alternative. The boats here are sandwiched in so tightly with boats on every face dock that I was a bit taken aback when we rounded the final turn into the fairway where we were to dock. Most of the boats docked here have bow thrusters that allow them to turn in very tight quarters regardless of the wind. We don’t. I was very proud of Bob and how he was able to maneuver us into the slip with only me and a single dock hand to handle the lines I tossed. We arrived safely without any new bumps!

Found this boat at Harborage - made us feel right at home.

We are here till Wednesday when we will sail back to Sarasota, meet up with Aquila and continue the adventure.

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