05 March 2015 | Sarasota, FL
EVS: Bright, warm, and breezy
We now are in Sarasota, having departed Cayo Costa State Park on Tuesday. Because of fog in the morning and waiting for tide (so we could get out through the entrance cut), we could not depart until about 10:30. There is no deep water access from the Gulf of Mexico to Sarasota Bay, so one either has to go all the way on the Intracoastal Waterway (the ICW) or on the outside to Venice and further north on the inside. Not ever having made the trip, with the winds in the wrong direction and light at that, we decided to take the inside route up the ICW.
As to be expected, there are numerous bridges across the ICW to the barrier islands on the Gulf shore. Although some of them are Interstate routes, or are built to Interstate standards with 65’ vertical clearance, most are bascule (weighted on one end to counterbalance the longer portion that goes up to open the pass) but some are swing (that turn on a central pedestal thereby opening the passage for boats). Vertical clearances of those bridges vary between 9’ and 26’. (Gratitude could not get through most of those even lying down.) To complicate the issue, the schedules for opening differ from one bridge to the next: some open on demand, others open on the hour and half-hour, some open on the hour and each twenty minutes thereafter – unless they do not. (For example, one bridge that was to open on the twenty minute cycle – e.g. at 11:20 and 11:40 – responded to a schedule request to inform us that the bridge would open in 10 minutes, at 11:50. In another instance, the bridge could not be opened because an emergency response vehicle was expected to pass over the bridge so all boat traffic had to wait.) Because the bridges are varying distances apart (one to two miles or many more) the duration of the trip between them varies as well. And, there is boat traffic on the ICW to consider. In some places, the speed limit is 25 (Gratitude goes 6) and in other places, idle speed with no wake (basically the speed at which we travel). All these different combinations make timing important, but not so easy to accomplish with precision. As a result, one must be prepared to wait for the necessary bridge to open. Often that is not a problem, but with tidal flows and winds, staying still is not so easy. To make it more interesting, the ICW is dredged for sufficient depth, but outside the channel the depth can be minimal (or the bottom can be exposed) so one has to turn one’s boat “on a dime” in awkward conditions.
In all, we had to pass through 10 bridges and we made it without incident, but not without some anxiety. All of the bridge tenders were polite, helpful, and informative. We, and the other boaters underway, thanked each for their service and that seems to have been appreciated. Of course, we encountered some cowboys en route – you know, the folks with fast powerboats that absolutely have to get to the front of the line, if only to wait for the bridge opening. Some of those passes included significant wakes, which only added to the “excitement”. By the time we got to Sarasota, we were ready for some R&R.
We got that from a surprising quarter. Van had posted on Facebook that we were on a mooring at Marina Jack in Sarasota. Pretty soon the phone rang – it was Lauren’s cousin from Ohio and her husband – escaping the cold of Ohio in … Sarasota! So, we dropped what we were doing (preparing leftovers for dinner) and changed clothes, went to shore, and met Leslie and Gene for dinner at a seafood place that was in easy walking distance. Fun reunion and a balm for our frazzled nerves! (Well, the wine helped too.)