25 January 2010 | Useppa Island
When we anchored at Shell Island last Monday evening, we had planned to sail to Port St. Joe, then through more of the Intracoastal waterway to Appalachicola Bay. We would then set out across the Gulf from St. George Island Wednesday or Thursday. This trip would take us to Clearwater in a little over 20 hours. I typically like the shorter crossings, because neither of us sleep well underway.
The weather, however, was so perfect the next morning, we set out from Panama City straight to Clearwater, a trip that takes approximately 33 hours. We were certainly glad we did. There was virtually no waves. The wind was 10-14. It was just enough off the nose, we were able to fly the main, which stabilized the boat. We were sailing straight up with no waves and making good time. The temperature wasn't bad and the stars were breathtaking. In the middle of the night, we enjoyed our homemade peanut butter cookies that were a farewell gift from friends. Aaaaah!
We arrived in Clearwater Wednesday late afternoon. Right before we left the Gulf, Keesi and I were sitting beside each other in the cockpit. All of a sudden, she shrieked like she was hurt and jumped up. Frank said a dolphin came out of nowhere and jumped as high as the lifeline on the boat near the cockpit. He said it looked like it tried to get in the boat. Never had that happen before.
There was plenty of room on the dock when we arrived in Clearwater. Wednesday night we had our usual take out oysters on the half-shell, grouper sandwich and key lime pie from Crabby Bill's at the marina while we watched Memphis State play basketball. It was our first fresh grouper. We were both snoring soon after the game was over.
The next day, we organized the boat a bit, then showered (as luxurious as a spa when cruising). Clearwater has the best showers, clean, plenty of room, seat for shaving legs and plenty of hot water. Then, we had our typical breakfast at the little hole in the wall at the marina. They have a few tables outside, so Keesi can go with us. I always get their feta and tomato omelet. Mmmmm! By noon the marina was full. The wind piped pretty good overnight Thursday.
Friday morning, we headed down the Intracoastal waterway. Initially, it was really foggy, so we traveled slow. This is one of my favorite parts of the waterway because many of the mangroves have birds resting and nesting in them. The Egrets and even the blue herons had their breeding plumage, long wispy feathers that grow from the back of the next down to the ground. When they lay in the mangroves, the feathers spread out around them like a giant dandelion ready to blow the seeds. The beauty of this area is never disappointing.
We made it to Tampa Bay. We anchored in a new spot that was plum. It was in a cove right inside the north part of the bay, didn't know it existed before. It was a quiet, almost no wave motion that rocked you to sleep. It also had a small public beach for Keesi. It isn't always easy to find a proper place for her to visit because the coast is full of shore businesses.
We proceeded further south, next stop at the Crow's Nest marina at Venice Beach. This is a really sweet spot. The wind picked up and a front came through, so we stayed two nights. Just enough time to watch NFL football on shore power. Some really exciting games. Lots of turnovers, but maybe that's what happens when the whole season on the line. Archie Manning may be conflicted during the Super Bowl, with son quarterbacking one team and the other being his former team. I can't help but pull for New Orleans. They've waited a long time to get this far.
I must mention that I also got my Seafood Bisque with a shot of smooth Sherry at the Crow's Inn. My mouth starts watering for that when I leave Niceville. I know I talk a lot about food, but good food is part of sailing. We participated in a week long regatta from Pensacola to Cancun. They gave out more awards for good food than for the race itself!!!
Monday morning, moving on down the Intracoastal. Kind of an uneventful trip, destination Useppa Island. Right before we enter Charlotte Harbor, there is a small mangrove island that (for the second year now) has a thousand white pelicans resting. What a sight. White Pelicans are huge. They have a wingspan of up to 120 inches, that is 10 feet!! I used to try to find them in the past, they come through Pensacola for two weeks in November, but I've not been lucky enough to catch them. Now, I merely look up and there are many hundreds. Two years in a row!!!!
We are now anchored at Useppa, enjoying the evening right before the sun sets. Until next time, typically a week, smile.