Sailing West #51

Friday-Saturday, June 7-8

We left Twin Dolphin Marina at 9 a.m. We headed back down the Manatee River past familiar sights and back to the Gulf of Mexico.

We passed the many nice houses.

We passed Hernando DeSoto's first anchorage.

We put up the sails.

Ralph and Arlene were at the helm.

Soon we were back in the ICW.

We passed the lighthouse and the first of many entrance buoys.

 

Stephen began fishing. He has a Florida license now.

He has lots of nice fishing toys now.

Here's Franci documenting as usual.

By 11:30 we had turned right and turned off the engines. We were sailing.

At noon we were on a close reach going 5 knots. By 1 o'clock the screecher was up and we were making 7 knots. This pace would continue for the rest of the afternoon.

 

The same watch schedule began again. Ralph until 3 p.m. Arlene 3 – 6 p.m.. Stephen and Franci 6 – 9 p.m. and so forth. The plan was to go to Destin, Fl.

Folks pretty much made their own sandwich for lunch at their own pace. However, dinner was prepared by Arlene and served in a formal manner. We had noodles with four cheese sauce, mushrooms, shrimp and broccoli with parmesan cheese to taste. Yum!

Sunset was gorgeous. Stephen and Franci were on watch and documented every moment.

The wind slowed down in the evening and by 9 p.m. we began running the engines. We were motor sailing once again, but we had had a good long day of sailing. The watches went on through the night. It was a clear night with some of the best stars we've seen on the entire journey.

In the morning the fish began to bite. Around 7:30 a.m. Ralph woke Stephen up with the words “Fish on!” And so began a big morning of fishing. Stephen caught four Little Tunnys on his trolling rod. Ralph caught three on his hand line. Ralph threw his back but Stephen kept and cleaned three of his. The last big one he threw back as well. There would definitely be fresh caught fish for dinner. Most of this action was caught on video.

One flying fish flew right into the trampolines.

The winds were light on Saturday so we motor sailed a lot of the day. However, the winds look good for Sunday. We changed our course to Pensacola because we would have arrived in Destin in the middle of the night. This also put us on a more westerly course…..good for sailing whenever the winds did pick up. We could get fuel, water and ice in Pensacola and head back out for a big day of sailing. After that we could go to Venice, Louisiana in pursuit of the oyster and a good route besides the ICW. That was the plan. More later.

At 1:30 p.m. we changed the plan again. We headed even further west and put out the screecher so we could sail. We would not make landfall until Monday morning. Saturday afternoon we sailed at about 4 knots but we looked forward to better winds on Sunday. Our destination – Baptiste Collette Bayou in the Mississippi Delta. And on to Venice. That was the plan.

By 5:00 we were back to motor sailing. Weather didn't sound as favorable for the next day (5 – 10 knots, probable rain) but we shall see what happens.

Fish dinner Saturday night.

Life is good.

Fair winds,

Franci and Stephen

 

Day 3 – Bradenton, FL #50

Thursday, June 6

The storm finally came and to tell the truth it wasn't that bad. Here's my best attempt at the palm trees blowing sideways photo.

The day ended in total success…..the shore powered AC is working. There were three more trips to the marine store, a stop at the grocery store for water and a stop at the liquor store for adult beverages. We are ready to take off on the next leg of our journey.

The manatee jokes never ended. We discovered that they have a lot of services for manatees here….the Manatee Hospital, the Manatee Ear, Nose and Eye Clinic, Manatee Insurance, Manatee Chamber of Commerce and Manatee Judicial Center. They even have a Manatee Furniture Store and a Manatee Mattress Store. We suspect manatees enjoy water beds.

On a more serious note they will also tell you all you need to know about manatees.

Sunset following the storm was a welcomed sight.

We met Tracy Dell, another Maine Cat owner. In fact, his claim to fame is that he owns the most Maine Cat catamarans. His boats work and earn income for him (charter business). One more dinner at Pier 22. We think it's time to move on.

Our next destination is Destin, FL. It looks like the winds will be in our favor for sailing offshore. We should be there by Sunday.

Life is good.

Fair winds,

Franci and Stephen

 

 

End of Day 2 – Bradenton, FL. #49

Wednesday, June 6

That evening we packed a picnic dinner. We packed up the dishes and silverware. We brought along steaks, mahi mahi, cut up veggies, leftover rice and beans and two bottles of wine and headed up to the pool area

They have two propane pits that we were welcome to use along with numerous tables and chairs in a covered area. The rain would eventually come. This was after all a tropical storm party.

We even had the fun of somebody else's children playing in the pool all evening. They were no problem

We set the table and Stephen started up the pit as soon as he got done with his dip in the pool. Earlier in the day Franci and Arlene had enjoyed the pool, hot tub and showers as well.

 

As everyone is aware Stephen makes a grand grilling chef. The food looked and tasted wonderful.

 

Eventually the rains came but we were dry in the covered area. We stayed until the wine was gone and then we wandered back to the boat for a night's rest.

Everyone agreed that this was perhaps their favorite picnic ever.

Life is good.

Fair winds,

Franci and Stephen

 

Day 2 -Bradenton, FL. #48

Wednesday, June 5

It has taken days to learn how to spell the name of the town where we are currently hanging out but we believe we finally have it correct – Bradenton. Bradenton is just across a bay from Tampa on the west coast of Florida. It's on the Manatee River and everything here is about manatees. It's in Manatee County. There is a statue of a mother manatee and her baby along with a fountain on the sidewalk in front of our marina, the Twin Dolphin Marina. Capt. Ralph says they are the “founding” Manatees and swam along side the Mayflower.

Today as we ran errands about town gathering parts to improve the boat, we drove down Manatee Avenue. We saw the Manatee Technical Institute, the Manatee School for the Arts and Sciences, Manatee High School and Manatee Dental. We had no idea that manatees enjoyed education so much. We even saw the Manatee Library. I guess if you're going to have manatees that are that well educated, they are going to need a library. And sadly, a service for Manatee Families in Crisis. Who knew? And so went the morning jokes. We chortled our way through the errands and so began another day as we sit here and wait for the tropical storm to hit.

Stephen and Ralph spent several hours installing new handy things on the boat…….new winch handle holders for the back of the boat to use with the screecher, hardware to hang boat hooks, brooms and mops, etc. We are still waiting on the delivery of parts needed to get the shore powered AC going. Stephen made the on demand hot water heater work by turning it on. Well, sort of. We suspect this is the first time we have actually had fully 30 amp shore power and that may have made the difference.

 

Franci and Arlene did laundry and enjoyed the local swimming pool, hot tub and showers.

We received a comment from good friends that suggested how much they enjoyed the blog but mentioned that adult beverages seemed to be kept hidden. This section of the blog will be devoted to adult beverages so that you can rest assured that we have not left our former selves behind.

To begin, let me say that while we do not drink adult beverages while the boat is under way, we do have happy hour every time we pull into a marina and dock the boat. We do not keep beer on board because it takes up too much space in the cooler. However, Ralph and Arlene like vodka and Stephen and Franci are known for enjoying their Myers Dark Rum.

Franci and Arlene both like to laugh and do so very well. Ralph and Stephen enjoy telling jokes so we make a merry little happy hour bunch.

 

We often have happy hour on the boat followed by a home cooked meal. Sometimes we go to one of the local restaurants. Last night we went to Pier 22, the restaurant associated with our marina. We put it on the level with the Marriott Marquis in New York. The food was gourmet and delicious and the drinks were great.

Stephen and Ralph have on their matching aloha shirts that we bought on sale at the Boat, Bath, and Beyond West Marine today.

A toast to another great day on our journey.

Crab cakes for hor'derves.
Tempura Shrimp with rice and veggies.

Fish and chips.

Grouper with a white sauce and capers.
Franci especially enjoyed her Coconut Mojitos served with sugar cane soaked in Myers Rum.
It was beautiful in the evening when they lit the torches. The lights made the waterside patio even more delightful.

As usual, we were among the last to leave the restaurant.

Please rest assured that we are still the same fun loving people you have always known and loved. We look forward to happy hours with you guys when we return. In fact, it's 5:00 at this moment. I think I'll make an adult beverage right now. Grilled steaks on the boat tonight.

Life is good,

Fair winds,

Franci and Stephen

 

 

 

 

 

Sailing to Badenton, FL. #47

Monday, June 3

It took us awhile to motor through the Caloosahatchee River and Fort Myers. At some point Stephen took the helm and Ralph and Arlene took naps preparing for the journey ahead.

There was a lot of traffic heading out to the Gulf.

By 11:30 we were back in the ICW following the red and green markers through the maze of islands to Redfish Pass where we would make our exit into the Gulf of Mexico.

For lunch we had sandwiches and chips. We reached Redfish Pass at 1 o'clock.
By 1:45 we had the sails up and the engines off. We were sailing on a close reach making 6 knots with one reef in the mainsail heading to Bradenton.

There were thunderstorms all around but we had checked the weather carefully and we were able to make our sail free and clear. We were all thrilled to be sailing without the incessant roar of the engines. Very fun.

Eventually we would be on a beam to broad reach and the winds would slow down. By evening we were going only 4 knots and by midnight the winds slowed so much that Ralph took the sails down and we putzed the rest of the way on only the port engine. We were in no hurry.

Sunset was outstanding. Red skies at night, sailor's delight.

We did three hour watches. We had six hours off in between watches to nap, eat or relax. Arlene from 3 to 6 p.m. Stephen and Franci from 6 – 9 p.m. Ralph from 9 – midnight. Arlene back on midnight to 3 – 6 a.m. Stephen and Franci back on 3 – 6 a.m. Ralph brought us in to Bradenton. He reported that there were huge swells and pounding surf as we left the Gulf of Mexico and came back into the ICW. He also took a photo of the lighthouse that Stephen and Franci saw for hours on their pre-dawn watch. We arrived at 9 a.m.

We had mushroom cheeseburgers for dinner.
 
Ralph took photos of the surf as we left the Gulf of Mexico and re- entered the ICW in the Tampa area. He reported that it was very exciting with lots of rocking and rolling. Some of us snoozed through it all.

Here's the lighthouse whose light Stephen and Franci saw throughout their pre- dawn watch.

For the most part we saw no other boats on our journey through the Gulf. Perhaps the threat of a tropical storm scared them away. As we came close to the Tampa-Bradenton area, for several hours we could see the lights of ships that were anchored in the shipping lanes waiting for their turn to come into port. We turned right into the Tampa area before reaching the shipping lanes.

This is the area of Florida where Hernando DeSoto first landed many years ago. As we pulled into the Manatee River where our marina in Bradenton is located we saw what may have been his first anchorage of choice. It was a beautiful protected cove with white beaches.

We also saw many very nice houses.

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By 9 a.m. we were at the Twin Dolphins Marina, a very nice place that will be our home for the next few days. We refueled and checked into our dock site. Parts to fix the AC will arrive here tomorrow. We'll be happy to have AC. It's beginning to get warm. We're not in Maine anymore.

We had breakfast at Robin's Cafe, recommended by the marina. They certainly knew what they were talking about. YUM!

Ham and eggs with potatoes and English muffins.
Gyro sandwich with a Greek salad on homemade pita bread.

Spinach feta cheese quiche with fruit.

Tortilla Wrap fried with lots of delicious things inside. Side of potatoes. Not pictured is a grilled sweet roll with icing that we split for hor'derves. We were all really hungry after our 26 hour journey.

On our way to breakfast we passed this lovely fountain with a mother manatee with her baby. Everything here is about manatees. We are, after all, on the Manatee River.

We've been here long enough to know that the Bradenton area where we are located is very charming with many restaurants, museums, walks with outstanding tropical landscaping and shopping areas. We'll tell you about it in our next blog.

Life is good.

Fair winds,

Franci and Stephen

 

Across Florida – Day 3 #46

Monday, June 3

It was a beautiful dawn in the Franklin Lock Campgrounds.

We made it to the 7 a.m. opening of the Franklin Lock which would take us down 2 feet and put us back into brackish waters. Today we make it to the Gulf of Mexico.

We passed through one last basculle bridge.

For breakfast we had cream of wheat with English muffins and fruit. Yummy! Forgot to take a photo.

We saw some sort of very large power plant.

In Fort Myers we stopped for fuel and ice. Today we are headed offshore into the Gulf of Mexico.

 
The boat got a little wash inside and out.

The news of the morning is an upcoming tropical storm that should hit us by Wednesday.

Tonight the weather is good and we turn right and head off shore to Barrington, close to Tampa, Florida. We expect to arrive tomorrow midday.

Currently Stephen is at the helm and we are still headed to the coast. We are surrounded by lots of civilization here in the Ft. Myers area…..hotels and houses and bridges and boats everywhere.

Life is good.

Fair winds.

Franci and Stphen

 

Across Florida – Day 2. #45

Sunday, June 2

We left Indiantown Marina at 6 a.m. I regret that I did not get any photos because it was a very quaint marina. It was small but had all the amenities….fuel, electricity, water, showers, laundry. There were palm trees lining the cement docks and the garden beds were filled with plants that we would call house plants in Texas. Here they grew outdoors lush and large. There was a large shade tree covering a central area with several tables with chairs and two fire circles. The tree was lined with lights that glowed in the nighttime hours.

It was clear when we left but soon the fog rolled in. We felt like we were back in Maine. The fog cleared within the hour. We were still in the St. Lucie Canal headed for Lake Okeechobee.

 

Our first challenge of the day was fitting under a railroad lift bridge with a 49' clearance. We let our new friend David go first. We met David the night befor at Indiantown Marina. Our mast is 48' high and we needed to go very slowly and very carefully. We all sighed with relief when we made it with only inches to spare.

The day would be filled with many bridges and locks. The first lock was the Mayaka Lock. There we met up David once again. He is delivering a boat named Seal Boat to Buloxi, Mississippi, his home town. This lock would drop us 4″ after which we would be in Lake Okeechobee.

Lake Okeechobee is a very large natural lake in the south central part of Florida. It feeds the Everglades, the swampy lands in southern Florida. We were surprised not to see a lot of recreational boats on it, it being the weekend and all.

 

For breakfast we had pork chops and scrambled eggs with english muffins. Lucky us!

By 10:45 a.m. we were across the lake and entering a canal. It was surrounded by marshland. The grasses looked a little like cattails. There were lots of birds. We saw several bald eagles and lots of herrings. We saw several alligators.

This alligator was huge.

We passed the town of Clewiston which is behind a lock. Today the lock was open.

Late morning Stephen began his task of whipping the ends of all the lines on the boat. You may have already enjoyed his instructional video on this topic. This would go on throughout the day and continue into the next. He's very good at whipping lines now.

Shortly after noon we met up with our friend, David, from Seal Boat at the Morehaven Lock. This lock let us down about 1 1/2 feet. After that we passed through a RR swing bridge and under a fixed bridge.

By 1:30 we had entered the Caloosahatchee Canal and we began to see homes along the banks. They were very modest homes. We believe this to be farm area. If we could see over the high banks of the canal we might have seen orange groves and such. We did see a few cows so there was at least one ranch.

At 3 p.m. we arrived at the Ortona Lock. By this time we were communicating regularly with our friend David and made plans to stay at the same marina for the night and have dinner together.

Shortly after that it began raining. Down came the eisenglass. Within a hair hour it was over and the eisenglass went back up. Arlene applied Snap Stick to all the snaps to keep them in good working order. There's also a product called Zipper Ease which we will be obtaining to keep the zippers working properly.

As we reached. La Belle the houses became bigger. We saw lots of these modular screen porches. They are selling like hotcakes here in Florida. Very popular.

We went through another basculle bridge.

We went through the Fort Denaud swing bridge.

It was Sunday and we saw lots of small powerboats out having fun. Yahoos!

Finally we went through our last bridge for the day in Alva.

Soon we would arrive at our dock site in the WP Franklin Lock Campgrounds. It was a Corps of Engineers campground and had boat slips, RV sites and tent camping. It was next to the lock we would go through the following morning and suited our needs just perfect. They had electricity and water.

The Seal Boat was a few slips over.
 

We got to take a tour of our new friend David's boat, the Seal Boat. Very nice trawler that he was delivering to Buloxi, Mississippi, his home town, We enjoyed grilled salmon, salad, peas and rice and tortillini for dinner. Yum!

 

The photo is a little dark but this is David. We enjoyed having him as our buddy boat for the day. We hope to run into him again in our travels. He's on his way to Buloxi.

Life is good.

Fair winds.

Franci and Stephen