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St Pete 2024

March 2024


We finally left the dock for a 10-day trip. We were delayed a bit as we had to replace our dripless shaft seal, which was dripping, ironic.  Bob was able to get this done in the water with the help of our diver and Franky, our mechanic.  I am proud of Bob that he realized that he needed help with this one.


Every year we have gone to St Petersburg to meet our buddy boat friends Bill and Michael.  This year, they were unable to be in St Petersburg during the winter having done some overseas travel to Thailand and Turkey and they lost their accommodations due to the owners remodeling delays. We decided we would make the trip anyway.  We love the city, and it is home to one of our favorite spots, 3 daughters brewery.  We let our BSM friends know of our intentions and Katie and Steve McGreevy decided to make the trip (buddy boat) with us.  They did not have much cruising experience and thought this would be a good opportunity for them.

Looking for shark teeth as the sun sets.

We left the marina on a Tuesday after lunch and sailed over to Cape Haze, our favorite nearby anchoring spot. We had a relaxing 10-mile sail across the harbor but just as we were making ready to take the sails down, the auto pilot started making a very loud scraping noise.  We immediately turned it off and the sound stopped.  We checked the steering to make sure the wheel and steering were not compromised, which they were not.  We turned onto the ICW and motor sailed most of the way to the Boca Grand Bridge, took the sail down and motored the rest of the way to the anchorage.  We were not too concerned about the autopilot as we didn’t plan on relying on it for this trip.  It was at least 20 years old and had never required any maintenance, so we knew we were on borrowed time.  Bob figured that when we got somewhere we were going to be for a while he would take everything out of the sail locker, no small task, and investigate what might be wrong.  We were unsure if the auto pilot was hydraulic or mechanical, as the owner’s manual was for both. Nothing we could do for it at this point anyway.  A few years ago, this would have put me over the edge, not anymore!  “It’s a boat”.


Steve and Katie got to the anchorage about an hour after us.  We quickly picked them up in our dinghy and motored over to Don Pedro State Park to see the sunset.  Bob got a little too close to the western portion of the ICW by the entrance channel to the park and the engine stated sputtering. At first we thought the engine was acting up. The thought of rowing back to the boat was not pleasant. Thankfully, we quickly realized that we had gone aground in the muddy sand and we worked our way back into the ICW and motored off.  I looked for shark teeth for a short while before we were treated to a beautiful sunset, complete with a green halo around the sun as it dipped below the horizon.  Green flash number three for me.   


Motoring down the ICW is old hat for us and can be enjoyable.  There is beautiful scenery on either side: bike trails, people hiking, lovely homes and an occasional boat on its side left over from a prior storm.  The downside is the motorboats that sometimes scream by throwing a wake and in this case the multitude of bridges that you have to go under or through.  Most of the bridges between Cape Haze and Sarasota open on request, which means you don’t have to wait too long for an opening.  But some are on a schedule, so you must time your arrival so that you don’t have to coast in a small area for an extended period.  This can be particularly challenging if there is any amount of wind.  We did pretty well with the bridges and there was only one where we were there in time for the opening and called the bridge tender to announce ourselves.  When the scheduled time came, the bridge didn’t go up. After waiting patiently for around 10 minutes we contacted the bridge tender, who admitted she had forgotten to open for us. We had to wait another 20 minutes.  Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often.


Our one mishap on the ICW was that after a particularly strong wake from a passing motor boat, our hanging double basket laden with fruit fell from the cabin top on to a settee. Weirdly, nothing fell on to the floor, and the fruit wasn’t bruised.  Already fixed, all I can say is, it’s a boat!


We arrived in Sarasota around 5:00 pm, and easily picked up mooring balls at Marina Jacks.  The pendant on the ball appeared to be new with an extra line on the pendant that made picking it up very easy.  We dinghied into Marina Jacks and met our friend Jeff Nash for dinner.  The food was delicious but the music was a bit loud for having an easy conversation.  We took a walk around the park to the north of the marina and then headed back to the boats for a quiet night.


Cavu (38 foot Hunter) and Her Diamond at the dock in The Harborage.

Here is where things got interesting.  Our original plan was to sail up the Sarasota Bay, under three bridges and dock at Pier 77, a Safe Habor Marina.  BSM is a Safe Harbor marina, so we can stay for free at other Safe Harbors if there is room for transients.  We had made the reservations in advance but knew that the water in the marina was not very deep.  The dock master said that we would both be okay with our five foot drafts on the T dock in the harbor.  That morning, after checking the weather, Steve called Pier 77 to ensure that we were still okay to dock there.  We knew that a storm was coming on Friday and wanted to make sure that by Thursday evening we were safely docked.  It turned out the wind was expected to be heavy and from the east which would blow water out of the marina, making it probable that we would be sitting on the bottom in muck, rather than floating at low tide, and perhaps even at high tide.  So, at the last minute we evaluated our options.  We could stay on the mooring ball at Marina Jacks, see if we could get into the city marina in St Pete a few days early or see if The Harborage, another marina in St Pete, could accommodate us.  Bob and I had docked at The Harborage some years ago and were not impressed with their docks, as we had been shoehorned into a space the last time we stayed there. After going back and forth a few times and making numerous calls, we set out for The Harborage, who assured us that there would be easy access to a long face dock.


Both in Sarasota and on the grounds of the South Florida University, just north of Harborage there is a display of signs about diversity. This one reads, Similarities make us comfortable, differences make us fascinating"

Our trip to The Harborage was uneventful, but we had to motor or motor sail the entire way because the wind was directly on the nose.  We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find a wide-open wall, that was normally home to a very large (perhaps 100 foot) yacht.  The yacht was so big that on the dock is a chiller for air conditioning when the boat is in its home port.

Katie and Steve walked, and Bob and I dinghied down the salt creek to Big Catch for dinner.  A rustic local place with delicious food.  Steve didn’t want the hassle of lowering his electric motor and dinghy.  It did rain a bit while we were eating which made for wet tushes on the way back.  But we enjoyed the adventure of the short dinghy ride.


Friday was rainy as expected, a constant drizzle but not much of an accumulation.  The rain did clear out in the late afternoon, and we rode bicycles down to the city pier to check things out.  The Harborage is on Third Street just south of Eighth Avenue, not as convenient as the city docks, but not too far away from everything either. We came back to the boat and had a spaghetti dinner. 


Next morning we went to the farmers market – lots of terrific people watching. Later in the day we again got on our bicycles and this time rode on the St Pete bike trail to 3 daughters.  We stopped along the way at an interesting gallery with Mayan artifacts.

Once back at the boat, Sean Micheal, Julia Guerra and Sean’s parents Terry and Michelle came for happy hour.  Sean and Julia are a young couple we met while they were living on their boat at BSM before Ian.  We were delighted to meet Sean’s parents, who we had heard so much about.  All six of us went to Doc Ford’s on the pier for dinner.  We had a long wait (1.5 hours) since it was very crowded with spring breakers, but small airplanes and dolphins gave us a show to watch, and we had good conversation that made the time go by quickly. 

Sean, Michelle, Terry, Bob, Sheila and Julia


Sunday, we had a quiet morning and then met the Micheal gang at 3 daughters for afternoon of drinks and games including, Cribbage (I won ), Cards Against Humanity and Corn Hole (Sean won). 

Terry, Michelle, Bob Sheila and Sean

On the way back to the boat we stopped of to see their apartment (The Sage) which is lovely.  We cooked steaks on the grill for dinner and Katie and I had a coleslaw competition to see if Marzzetti’s or Maria’s slaw dressing was preferred.  Since this is my blog – I’ll call it a draw. 


Monday morning, we were supposed to start on the way back.  The wind was howling, and the wave forecast was not great until much later in the day.  One forecast for Tuesday indicates that the winds will be even stronger, and one says it will be a bit better.  So, after much back and forth and since neither of us are in a hurry, we decided to wait until Wednesday to leave.  We converted the daily dock rate to a weekly rate, so the last days don’t cost us anything.  We will reevaluate tomorrow am.  Right now, the sun is shining, and the wind has gone down – so I am feeling sort of weird that we didn’t leave today.  I am going to go buy a lottery ticket and hope for the best.  This is how cruising goes – one day at a time.

  • Bob, Sheila and Sean - love this place, so much fun.



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