Blue Florida Water
25 March 2013 | Venice, FL
We left Bear Point Marina early on Friday morning when the wind was calm. John performed magic getting us out of our slip as there was very little room to maneuver. The dockmaster told us there was no way to turn around and we would have to back up out of the canal before being able to turn around. Well, Mariah has a full keel and backing up is just not in her bag of tricks. She can back up, but due to the keel in relationship to the propeller, she pulls to the left when going backwards, resulting in a turn rather than a straight line. But John defied the dockmaster and actually did manage to make the turn right out of the slip without even coming close to the charter boat across the way called "1 Cold Mil", presumably the cost of the brand new boat. We were away and off we went into Florida waters. Finally! Of course, the water didn't turn blue immediately, but when we got to our anchorage, Fort McCree Cove, there was a very big difference. We suddenly started to see people having fun on the water, something we hadn't seen all the way through Texas, Lousianna and Alabama. Maybe it was just Spring Break, but there were jet skis, Hobie Cats and little fishing skiffs running circles around us as we left Pensacola Bay bound for Port St. Joe.
Port St. Joe is the jump off point for any boats going south. We just loved it there. Most of the boats in the marina were "live-aboards" in the process of going south or north. There was a mixture of people like us who haven't a clue and several "old salts" who have done it all. We got so much wonderful information about how to make the jump down to Clearwater (ocean passage of 30+ hours) and whether the wind was right or the "chop" wrong or..or...or. The next weekend, we set out for Clearwater with our buddy boat friends on "Sea Vu Play." They are the people that we met in Galveston and we have hopscotched one another ever since. They were waiting for us in Port St. Joe and it was wonderful to travel with another boat on such a long overnight passage. We each took lots of pictures of each other's boat at sea, so we finally have some nice pictures of Mariah under sail (see picture with this post).
We arrived in Clearwater in time to celebrate my birthday. Oh, what a wonderful present! Blue/green water, white sand beaches, Clearwater Yacht Club and their wonderful Tiki Bar. Heaven! The weather was wonderful, the yacht club members were amazing and our friends were with us to enjoy it. We spent the whole week there, riding bikes on the boardwalk, walking on the beach (water still too cold), and meeting wonderful people at the Tiki Bar. This is what cruising is about. We have waited a long time to get the real feel of cruising.
Last Thursday, after work, we left "Sea Vu Play" to get their autopilot installed and did an 8 mile jaunt down the ICW to a lovely little cove in Redington. Friday afternoon, we did another 8 miles after work to Pass A Grille where we anchored just off the channel to St. Petersburg. Saturday morning, we left for a long day of ICW cruising in an attempt to get to Cabbage Key in Charlotte's Harbor. When we started out at 7am, we were looking at 17 bridges in 12 hours. Below is a list of the bridges and what we had to do to get through them:
Welch Causeway Bridge - opens each 20 minutes only - if the timing is wrong, you do "donuts" in the ICW canal.
Treasure Island Causeway Bridge - opens on demand
Corey Causeway - opens each 20 minutes only
Pinellas Bayway Northern C Span -opens each 20 minutes only
Pinellas Bayway Southern E Span - opens each 20 minutes only
Ana Maria Island Bridge - opens on the ½ hour only
Cortez Bridge - opens on the ½ hour only
Siesta Key Bridge - opens each 20 minutes only
Stickney Point Bridge - opens on the ½ hour only
Blackburn Bridge - on demand but call early because the bridge tender has to walk out to the middle to open it
Albie Road Bridge - on demand
Hatchet Creek Bridge - on demand
Venice Ave Bridge - on demand
Tamiami Trail Bridge - on demand
Monasota Bridge - on demand
Tom Adams Key Bridge - on demand
Boca Grande Causeway Bridge - each 15 minutes only
However, when we got to the Venice Ave Bridge, the bridge tender asked how far we were going and did we realize that Boca Grande Bridge was closed until Tuesday for repairs? Huh? But that is our last bridge and our only way out of the ICW?? So, we turned around, told the Venice Bridge tender that we loved his bridge so much, we wanted to go through it again, and retreated back to Venice where we are now enjoying the locals. Venice seems to consist of retirees; lots of "old folks" clothing stores, art galleries, a theater for live plays and several banks (always a sign of old people with money). Not much Spring Break happenings here. Somehow, we fit in very well. Yikes!
All these bridges in about 50 miles. You can see why we like going out into the ocean whenever the weather allows it and why the ICW can be difficult. But when the weather makes it impossible to make progress, the ICW allow us the keep moving south, so we're thankful for it.
With luck and good weather this next weekend, we hope to make the jump to the Keys, to a place called Marathon that is said to be friendly to boaters and not nearly as expensive as Key West. We are hoping that "Sea Vu Play" can accompany us.