01 March 2021 | St Petersburg
Friday 26 February 2021
North Longboat Key anchorage, known as Moore's for the former eponymous restaurant ashore, is active, yet relaxed. Besides great protection, two restaurants make it an especially popular stop. Moore's Stonecrab was sold in 2015 to be rebuilt as The Shore. Mar Vista, remaining somewhat as it was, more rustic with tables under the trees, is my favorite. And there's a good breakfast place just up the road. After an active three days in Sarasota this place is so easy we decided to stay a second night before venturing into the Manatee River.
Emerson and DeSoto Points, defining north and south entrance to the Manatee, have nature trails. Well maintained and pleasant, some bits through mangrove forest, they have a major flaw - no waterfall at the end. This could be explained by the tallest mountain reaching about six meters not counting the middens. Jan's standard inducement for me to stomp through nature is to see the waterfall. This is the point where one can rest, say "wow, isn't that great" then schlep his saggy caboose back to where he started. Besides seeing water pouring over a cliff one can also observe trees, rocks, dirt and the odd wild beastie. No matter your feelings on the matter, the critters don't seem so thrilled as they hide or run away at your approach. Shrubbery probably would too if it could. Many people enjoy birdsong, which can sometimes be heard, but, not speaking bird, they don't realize the chirping means, "go away and leave me alone to do bird things you annoying interloper". We also spent a day in Bradenton for coffee and dinner and to visit the eclectic Bishop Museum of Science & Nature. This nature walk was inside and shorter, a plus, but since the manatees have been released back into the wild, virtually all the flora and fauna are old and dead. Two planetarium shows about the universe and our solar system respectively would have been even better had the live narrator been a wee bit less pleased with himself.
Despite nearly perfect air temperatures, balmy days and cool sleeping, water remains chilly. Not quite having a handle on this information for swimming under boat to replace zinc anodes, remove gargantuan barnacles from running gear and scrape long green fur from waterline, dressed in shorty rather than full wetsuit. Fortunately high speed weekender induced waves convinced me to hurry before hypothermia could set in.
Now heading to St. Pete Municipal Marina for at least a couple weeks of virtual dirt dwelling, medical assault and boat work. Chart plotter, autopilot, washer/dryer and anchor chain will be replaced. All this work seemed like a good idea at the time and indeed perhaps eventually happiness will ensue.
Half of crew is scheduled for covid vaccine this Wednesday. Other half, below sixty five and an alien, is not. Since she is also now past visa renewal expiration, had one ever been issued, can't get vaccinated in Canada, as a citizen, or Australia, as a permanent resident, we just ignore all risk assessments, medical and legal, and plow forth. Perhaps immigration has concluded that Canadians are not, as a rule, an existential threat to the country... or they're ummmm... For someone with OCD issues Jan remains blithely unconcerned.
Jack & Jan
Three Ring Tour
25 February 2021 | North Long Boat Key
Wednesday 24 February 2021
The delights of Sarasota kept us sufficiently busy that fatuous prose was kept to a minimum... until now. Besides the eternal quest to patronize every coffee shop, restaurant and pub in every town along the coast, three days here allowed a trifecta of tourist type explorations.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a sylvan escape from the fuss and flurry, is walking distance from downtown. The place is well designed and tended. It's beautiful. The current intruding theme, however, is the art of Roy Lichtenstein. You may have seen his art, which is a cartoonish salute to impressionist Claude Monet. Seems that it's taken seriously. Whatever.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, another well maintained exhibit along with their eco work, is also well worth a visit. They have manatees, sharks, rays, alligators and much other good stuff including, at the other end of the scale, a cane toad. Jan claims these guys, which infested her yard in Australia and are ugly and exude poison, sneer at her. She takes it personally, but they probably sneer at everybody.
The several hours we spent at The Ringling, which includes John & Mable's mansion: Ca d'Zon, a large art museum, gardens with amazing banyan trees and a circus museum, was a highlight and passed quickly.
We like art and some of it was OK. Sam Gilliams use of color, texture and shape was very good, but most of the place was littered with paintings hundreds of years old. Call me a cretinous barbarian, but religiously inspired, mostly Italian paintings, especially of undraped, corpulent women and chubby babies, is depressing and is surely an acquired taste, like Reunite on ice only worse. Jan liked the Asia section that includes a video of Japanese kabuki performances. That's another of those things that one may have to grow up with to appreciate the artistic subtleties.
The circus museum, however, was most excellent, including a 3,800 sq. ft., incredibly detailed model recreation by Howard C. Tibbals of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus during its heyday from 1919 to 1938.
Some interesting facts from Wikipedia about the 3/4 inch to the foot scale model:
"It contains 42,143 items, not including small pieces such as thousands of railroad stakes.
It consists of eight large tents, 152 circus wagons, 1,500 workers and performers, 7,000 folding chairs and more than 500 hand-carved animals.
Everything can be packed up into the 55 train cars, also individually hand-crafted."
An astonishing eighteen year plus labor of love.
Despite what many believe, we are now living in the best of all times, but the full re-creation and actual exhibits from "The Greatest Show On Earth" makes one wish to have lived then to have experienced it as it was and will never be again.
As a final observation, The Ringling estate and extensive grounds is a great tribute, wonderfully decadent and shows yet again there is no substitute for over-the-top showmanship and obscene wealth.
Rita Rudner, "Someday I want to be rich. Some people get so rich they lose all respect for humanity. That's how rich I want to be."
Jack & Jan
A Matter Of Taste
17 February 2021 | En Route Venice
Wednesday 17 February 2021
Why is poo an acceptable utterance in polite company, but a word that means
exactly the same is not? This is an expression that everyone knows and most use
(my mother wouldn't speak the word if her mouth was full of it although she came
close a few times with something that sounded like "nyit"), but is considered
terribly crass to say, especially in the presence of children or the godly.
Well poo! Speaking of which, fluid flow through blocked forward head was chased
all the way from intake to just before outflow and discovered clear - a
momentary quandary. Subsequently, when valve opened, no water came in, not even
a trickle, so either it closed itself and pretends to open when handle moved
(although, like most inanimate objects, the thing is sufficiently malicious it's
just not that clever) or thru-hull choked with growth. It's strictly outflow so
not likely an obstruction was pulled in. Next tactic will have engineering
section swimming under hull to remove suspected culpable flora and/or fauna.
Problem could be exacerbated by valve partially closed with mechanism broken,
which would be particularly lamentable as it would necessitate an expensive haul
out or lost use of that device. Well poo!
North wind from yesterday, promised to turn east then south, has obstinately
refused to do so. Although overnight rain ended, sky remains overcast with
visibility at a mile. Clearing is still insinuated for this afternoon
(pronouncements by weather weasels must always be considered mere suggestions),
but skepticism abounds. Suspect frontal passage did not eventuate (huh?)
leaving us under its less desirable conditions for awhile.
Arrival at Crow's Nest will be early enough if we can drag our saggy butts off
the boat to allow walking or biking (they have bikes to rent, but will probably
use our own) into town for a look-see although expect to return for dinner at
the marina bar. They have, or at least had over a decade ago, tasty grouper and
mahi mahi sandwiches with an excellent salad. Upstairs restaurant is more
upscale and thus more expensive and anyway as sailor scum we prefer the more
informal gulp and gobble nosh-up.
Jack & Jan
15 February 2021 | Cabbage Key
Friday 12 February 2021
Lovely sail up Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda after French toast at Cabbage
Key. Fresh tripletail and grouper last night at the Key also excellent if a
smidge pricey. Do not order their chardonnay, it's nasty. Replaced with Pinot
Gris, which is OK. No burger, so that delight will await another occasion.
Plan to make Venice came a cropper when Crow's Nest Marina had no availability
with marginal anchorage possibilities for two point one meter keel and wind
piped up to twenty five with thunderstorms around. Return to Useppa Island
provided protection and opportunity for another breakfast this morning at
Cabbage Key. French toast again ripping (no, not old enough to actually
remember expression - old movies). Now have dock space in Venice for Wednesday
& Thursday so after riding out north wind tomorrow will likely head that way at
last. Friday & Saturday weather may be unsuitable for travel further north.
Will cross that rickety bridge when and if necessary.
Unplanned layover provides window to fix forward head, which is jammed up,
tighten new steering cables, which have expectedly stretched, add spiffy new
turk's head knot to center of wheel, disassemble and clean speed impeller and
cut and mount hatch & fixed-light shades. Enforced stop doubly annoying by
removing any excuse to procrastinate work so mounting guilt requires engineering
section discontinue blathering and go to it. Crap!
Jack & Jan
Rustic And Refined
11 February 2021 | Cabbage Key
Thursday 11 February 2021
Planned destination after Naples, Ft. Myers Beach, was a no go as all marinas and moorings able seven foot draft were chockers with no anchorage reasonably close. Continued on through the "Miserable Mile" (in fact about five miles of prodigious churning by hordes of powerboats, big and small) to St. James city, south end of Pine Island, for two nights where we enjoyed ambiance of a slowly vanishing erstwhile Florida at Ragged Ass Saloon with a cast of characters. Unlike Marco and Naples where waterways are lined with meticulously manicured mansions, small houses and trailers predominate along the many canals.
Speaking of old Florida (a genteel version), currently anchored across from Cabbage Key in Pine Island Sound, home of the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" of Jimmy Buffett fame. Or so they claim. More likely song's inspiration was either somewhere in Roadtown, BVI, or Le Select in Gustavia, St. Barths. Don't think Jimmy's talking, but you could send him a query. Having never been a connoisseur, never tried their burger during any of several visits, but may do tonight when we dink in for dinner. On one trip here experienced sand fleas, no-see-ums, on the beach so thick we could see-um as a fuzzy cloud around our ankles. For such a wee critter, they have a vicious little bite. It's winter, but taking bug spray just in case.
Jack & Jan
07 February 2021 | Naples
Thursday 4 February 2021
Mea culpa. Last entry a bit grumpy, sorry. Also no departure today. More
exploration of Marco, so Naples perhaps tomorrow. TBD.
On the difficult destination list, Naples is nearer the top. With room for just
a few two meter keels in the shallow bay and increasingly limited dock space as
demand goes up, enjoying the rewards of a visit is nevertheless worth the
effort. As with Marco Island this is more like Palm Beach than most of west
coast and north Florida. Weather here is beautiful most of the year, but is
stiflingly for three or four months before and just after the autumnal equinox.
That's OK. Those who can afford to live here probably have a summer place in
Maine, Montana or Murmansk... OK, that last one might be too far north.
Although we're not football fanatics, expect to brave some rain to putt over to
Tavern on the Bay for dinner and to watch Tampa Bay eviscerate Kansas City in
Super Bowl LV. USVI buddy Tim, who takes more of an interest and whose
cherished Patriots were a huge disappointment this year, forecast the Bucs with
Tom Brady would go all the way. One more win will demonstrate his sagacity. As
the bar is only a hundred and seventeen nautical miles south of the Ray Jay,
expect Chief fans to be out-shouted, out-drunk and, of course when they lose,
Jack & Jan
03 February 2021 | Marco Island
Wednesday 3 February 2021
First Wed ness day in Feb roo ary. Whoever figured out these spellings and
pronunciations should be pummeled with a dangling participle.
Wind eased so we went in to morning farmer's market then breakfast at Hoots,
both excellent. Of course, after being cooped aboard for a month (slight
embellishment) a walk through the valley of the shadow of death would seem like
a frolic in clover... a little over-dramatized you think?
Snook Inn for dinner then tomorrow we'll be off to Naples where no marina space
is available and anchoring highly iffy even if we can get up the river on a low,
but rising tide. As two yacht clubs are located there space was once usually
available for a member in the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs, a great if
expensive benefit, but now we're commoners. Still a bit disappointed with St.
Pete YC as they wouldn't allow suspension of membership with reasonable annual
dues for someone sailing away for a decade.
Economics, the so-called dismal science, is thought to be primarily about money,
but more essentially concerns what causes people to do what they do and why.
Again wanting of something to write, will bore with a bit of it: The US does
not trade with other countries. Individuals and companies trade with
individuals and companies in those countries. Trade deficit is not a thing.
Trade requires, by definition, an exchange that benefits both parties or they
would not agree. If there were an actual imbalance that would require force and
be called theft. Trade restrictions of any type help a few, hurt many and
ultimately harm everyone with a poorer economy and lower standards of living.
Jack & Jan
01 February 2021 | Marco Island
Friday 29 January 2021
Growing slightly stir crazy after remaining aboat all yesterday, planned shore trip for daily guided tour of fort by ranger. Also lunch on Yankee Freedom, park ferry, which allows patronage by unwashed sailor trash. Inertia intervened, however, so may go tomorrow. Float plane was absent yesterday either due no business or too much wind. Although now averaging just below twenty knots it's still a bit blowy, but she came in this morning. Somewhat surprised ferry made trip both days as it's slab-sided with what must be impressive windage. She's a big cat, so at least may ride smoother though shallow, choppy sea.
If we don't break out of here tomorrow or Sunday, looks like Wednesday may offer next opportunity. Possibly good sailing after that, but don't want delay and weather can always turn to custard (or porridge.. one or the other, I forget) in the meantime. A bit boring here as we usually tend toward activity (somewhere between ambulant and manic), but loafing is nice on the odd occasion.
Possibly delusional interpretation of latest forecast suggests doable conditions for departure this afternoon. A bit frisky this evening, but nice after that. If someone, who shall remain unnamed, were moderately conscientious he would get in the water while its only chilly instead of frigid, as it will become further north, and clean lower boot stripe, which became quite unsightly during migration through the ditch. Top stripe, cleaned awhile ago, has remained reasonably unmucked. Since deck had been scrubbed removing much chalked gelcoat & rust streaks and some stainless has been polished, boat would thus become moderately presentable.
Previously unnamed, occasionally conscientious, but slightly daft individual got most of beard off boot stripe and smoothed prop faces before departing Saturday, but water too rough from wind waves for serious cleaning. Although prop and bottom had only light scum, other bits lacking anti-fouling, including shaft, strut and some of lower stripe, sported gigantic barnacles requiring chisel and sledge. Prop zinc, which should be replaced, awaits calmer conditions with compressed air.
Enjoyed good, if spirited, sail most of night, but wind, which disregarded forecast for about six hours by backing thirty degrees, sent us so far north of rhumb that motor-sailing last bit was necessary. Arrived, didn't run aground in shoaling inlet and subsequently anchored in open Marco Bay. No availability in sufficiently deep marinas and both Factory and Collier Bays too shallow. Crikey it's harder in skinny west coast water with Hylas' seven foot draft than previously with Cabo Rico's five.
May or may not dinghy ashore for dinner tonight as wind, maintaining thirty one knots, will make for moist ride. Jan, no fan of soggy dinghy butt, is unenthused. On board alternative, entire crew appreciates, does not depend for acceptable palatability on my culinary capabilities.
Jack & Jan
28 January 2021 | Garden Key
Wednesday 27 January 2021
Shiny new passport in hand. Half of crew now free to leave US or stay as the mood strikes assuming prospective destination permits invasion. Others of crew are five months into limbo status awaiting response to visa renewal request made six months ago. Apparently servicing customers at immigration is not highly incentivized. They are, after all, a government organization whose employees, like unionized school teachers, get paid whether they work or not.
Arrival over an hour after sunset wasn't really in darkness as full moon is tomorrow. After a long day some of crew are sleeping in. Since we may be here until Sunday if forecast eventuates (does what?) there will be no early rush to check in with park rangers. Don't even recall that being necessary last time - it's been a few years. Expect to dink around to them on east side of Fort Jefferson, then likely take big boat around through narrow channel for more protection against north wind coming late tomorrow and Friday. Wind stays fresh through Saturday, but veers east so may inveigle admiral into leaving then. Sunday looks to have light wind aft with lots of motoring and rolling. Will check weather GRIBS (Gigantic Rebuke of Inexcusable Blunders) frequently as they are only accurate for about five seconds after dissemination (no Cal, that has nothing to do with rescuing yourself from getting pregnant... anyway you're too old).
Concerned that safer anchorage may fill, moved over before unshipping dink. Pancakes and coffee first then see what new delights fort and officialdom have to offer.
Fort Jefferson, third largest in US and covering most of largest island in Dry Tortugas, was built to control navigation to Gulf of Mexico. Last masonry fort ever built, original impetus didn't work out and construction was abandoned after twenty eight years in 1874 without it seeing action. Middle gun tier (third level is open so that would have been precarious duty during a skirmish) was never completed because apparently no one realized that sand was poor foundation for weight of sixteen million bricks. Among nuisances other than structural cracking, water catchment cisterns under its walls opened up to seawater. During US Civil War it was always in union hands and was used as a prison for deserters and then for four men involved in President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Dr. (my name is) Mudd, the character who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg, spent some quality time here. The place saw some use during World Wars, Cuban Missile Kerfuffle, Mariel Boat Immigration and Spanish American War where US freed Cuba from the Spanish so they could subsequently be ruled by people like Batista and Castro.
The islands were named Tortugas by the Spanish due an abundance of green and loggerhead turtles. Dry was added by the English to emphasized an absence of fresh water. There's still no water and many fewer turtles, what with them being quite tasty. That winnowing concept didn't work on alligators in most of Florida. Perhaps they're not as appetizing... or have bigger teeth.
This is now a park, research area, bird & turtle sanctuary and heavily restricted tourist & boating destination. Ferry and float planes bring in folks from Key West most days. There are no facilities or supplies unless you want a T-shirt or other memorabilia sold by park rangers. If you bring it in, you haul it out with a minor exception for internally processed food that may be deposited at two composting pit toilets in the camping area.
North wind is and will be howling until departure so three and a half NM dinghy ride for diving near Loggerhead Key will await next visit. Any potential return requires that a large cat anchored directly upwind doesn't drag down and smash us to fiberglass flakes. If no contact for several days assume the worst... or best depending on personal tolerance for aberrant commentary.
Jack & Jan
26 January 2021 | En Route Dry Tortugas
Tuesday 26 January 2021
Despite tenable pessimism mail was available at post office yesterday afternoon so we left as hoped this morning at 0730. Rather we started anchor then, but discovered chain was fast onto something below our bow that, had windlass been powerful enough, would have hauled us to the bottom. Donning full scuba gear discovered a mooring post screwed into the bottom upon which chain had, in shifting tides over two weeks, wrapped a dozen or so times. Easy off and we were gone by 0845, but will not now make Garden Key, Dry Tortugas, in daylight. No worries as reefs are invisible when it's dark. They're only scary if you can see them.
Revisiting a place with wonderful memories is sometimes disappointing. It's often not as good as your mind has played up in the interval. This was not the case for Key West. We had a great time and could have stayed longer if there hadn't been other adventures on call. You'd think time wouldn't be a constraint when cruising, but it always seems to be.
Scheduling for St. Pete is necessary as friends from one of those winter-like states will meet us and various medical professionals should be seen - dentist and doctors. In eleven years of cruising the world have not had a PCP (primary care physician) that everyone seems to think is important. Hope to find one to maintain a central base of knowledge for reference. Checkups for dermo, ortho, oto, ophtho and onco to be accomplished.
Erratum: Loggerhead Key, referencing loggerhead turtles, is location of erroneously remembered India Reef, due its shape. Current reading shows its name as Little Africa Reef. Well, both places are wide at the top and pointy at the bottom, right?
West coast of the state is a grand cruising area. Everything here that you might want including fun cities, great marinas, large busy anchorages, small friendly ones and isolated gunkholes. Stopping spots abound with bars, restaurants or nothing but nature that run the gamut from the nicest modernity to the most decrepit old-time Florida. Jan has never seen it, so plan is being formulated for about three months of insouciant merriment as we sail north from Tortugas when weather allows, perhaps Sunday.
Jack & Jan