23 January 2016 | Highbourne Cay
Happy New Year
29 December 2016
Hi to anybody still reading this, we have sold Duplicat and she is now renamed and we think sailing in the Bahamas en route to the Caribbean.
We decided that the price we could achieve in the USA would be far better than if we sailed her back to Europe with the prickly potential problem of being deemed to have exported the boat and that we would have to pay VAT again!
Happy 2017 to all we have met on our adventure and safe sailing to your dream destinations!
And we're out of here ....
15 April 2016
Duplicat is all scrubbed and ready to be hauled ashore for storage. We would have liked to see her in place but the yard couldn't get her into her spot for a few more days because of work being carried out on other boats so we left her tied up in Salt Creek on one of the yard's own docks. Hopefully she should come out next week some time. We did however get them to quickly pull her up in the slings for Gerry to check on the running gear etc. which all seemed fine.
We have moved off and into a small apartment in a holiday complex in the Treasure Island area of St Petersburg beach and tomorrow we drive back down to Miami to board our cruise ship back to the UK.
Last few days...
11 April 2016
As we had a few days before we needed to be in St Petersburg we looked at the cruising guides and an online app called 'Active Captain'
which using a chart of the area shows anchorages, marinas, yards, restaurants, navigation hazards and also most importantly reviews from cruisers who have had experience of the particular item.
The Manatee River and Bradenton looked good so leaving Venice via the inlet we set sail up the coast.
There was little wind to sail so we motored on hopeful that the afternoon would bring more wind. As we approached what looked like a dicey southern entry into the river the sea turned ever more green and shallow and the wind started to blow. We had been sailing with our code Zero up but decided to stow that and just put up the jib so we could navigate through the shallow patches easier.
We were rewarded with 15-20 knots of wind and zoomed past Anna Maria island and into the river.
On the charts it looks narrow because only the dredged channel is navigable to cruising boats but it was in fact wide and even the channel seemed much wider that we imagined.
We went further up the river until we found a wonderful anchorage on the south side behind a hook of land called De Soto Point. The bay had a white sandy beach and good water for swimming which was lovely as the SE wind had made the afternoon quite hot.
De Soto Point has been turned into a historical site where the life of the indigenous Indians and what happened when the Spanish invaders under De Soto arrived is depicted. We went ashore the following morning and enjoyed a talk about weaponry and life in the 16thCentury in this area by a well informed set of ranger guides all dressed up in period costume, despite the heat.
The following day we had yet another monumental thunderstorm and this time we filled out water tanks with almost 200 litres of fresh water and the boat had a wonderful wash. This of course cooled the weather down immensely and turned the wind into a very blustery and cool northerly which was blowing into our anchorage and making it all a bit bumpy so we decided to take the boat further up the river to the town of Bradenton for a walk and to get some lunch. We had our first Sunday brunch in the USA this trip at the Pier Restaurant overlooking the river and stretched our legs along the Riverwalk.
We had booked our final marina for the next day so took the boat after Brunch back down the river to anchor on the opposite bank at the Emerson Point Reserve. Binoculars out and from the boat alone we saw lots of birds both wading and in the trees. Next morning we decided we should take the dinghy to the Reserve dock and have a walk ashore to see what was there. It was a delightful place, all the original old Floridian trees and plants with trails through the woods, river on one side and although we didn't get that far along the other side is overlooking Tampa Bay. We saw loads of birds and lizards and had a great walk but by the time we got back to the boat it was lunchtime and we still had over 20 miles to sail to get to our marina in St Pete.
The wind had more or less died so we motored up into Tampa Bay and under the very impressive Sunshine Skyway Bridge (clearance of 175 feet!) On arrival at the Harborage Marina we were given a berth on the outer breakwater, seemed ok but the next night we woke up to waves crashing on the side, fenders popping and no chance of sleeping so we have been moved (twice) and we are now right inside overlooking some gardens belonging to the very large University of South Florida, St Petersburg.
We are nearly through packing and cleaning and will be hauling Duplicat on Thursday this week. Gerry has already been to the yard by dinghy as it's very close and taken said dinghy to an even closer yard to have its patched hole repaired.
Will try and get some photos up later
Gulf offshore islands and Venice
30 March 2016
We pulled out of Pink Shell Resort and into the Gulf Inland Waterway mid morning on Easter Saturday! It was hot and sultry and our route to Sanibel island anchorage near the nature reserve cut through a section called 'Miserable Mile' - narrow channel with very shallow water either side and every imaginable small craft in the area out on the water at speed! However we and another sailboat in front were sticking to our track and let the other boats zoom in and out of the channel.
I had picked up a local newspaper from the marina and read that the record winter rains had filled Lake Okeechobee overful and the run off into the rivers and then into the Gulf of Mexico had made the water brown and murky. We had remarked just how poor the water quality had been from the Keys upwards - we expected to see much bluer water in the Gulf of Mexico.
We anchored in a bay near the J N Ding Darling nature reserve on the bottom end of Sanibel island. The bird life particularly in the late afternoon was fabulous with all sorts of herons and ibises coming through. Next day we took the dinghy into the Tarpon Bay reserve to have a look round and on the way back we encountered some very shallow water between us and Duplicat so I waded across and pulled us into the deeper section. Just ahead of us a manatees snout appeared so we just drifted in the wind towards the area and saw at least three others but one of the big ones must have been startled by us drifting towards the group and came over and rolled and flicked his tail at us putting loads of water in the dinghy - we could just about see him under water coming again so we started the engine and made a hasty retreat.
Next morning we set off in a foggy mist - anchored out off the island of Captiva and Gerry went ashore to get some more petrol for the outboard as we had forgotten when we were in Fort Myers. We carried on and anchored again in the gap between Useppa Island (private with homes and a small marina) and Cabbage Cay which has some of the first holiday cottages for rent and the clubhouse in the area dating back over 60 years. As the afternoon wore on more and more boats appeared in the anchorage which is literally just off the waterway and by the time we dinghied over for our very pleasant dinner there were 11 of us there.
The restaurant is lovely and all the walls and pillars are covered with dollar bills from years gone by - estimate of over 50,000$ stuck, pinned and stapled with signatures and sayings on them.
Next day our epic voyage was 3.5 miles round into the anchorage inside Cayo Costa which is a state park. After lunch on board we took the dinghy in first into a small mangrove cutting opening out into a small bayou and there must have been at least 6 manatees feeding and swimming around inside. Mindful of our last encounter we watched where they were and saw one arch its back and tail - it must have been nearly 10 feet long.
The day had started sunny but the cloud had built up and by the time we walked across to the other side and the Gulf beach we could hear thunder. The walk took about 25 minutes and went through untouched old Florida mangrove, woods and seaside grasses but half way back one of the rangers who shuttled tourists to and fro stopped and offered us a lift.
Good job he did because by the time we got back to the boat the rain had started and the sky over the sea was going very black with odd nearly turquoise coloured clouds underneath the black. Within 15 minutes we had over 50 knots of wind, flying spume, driving rain and monumental flashes of lightening. Gerry turned off all the batteries and we put our electronic gadgets in the oven for protection just in case.
The rain fell in biblical proportions then huge hailstones started to hit the boat. The boats either side of us who were anchored just on rope had their engines on and were motoring upwind to keep the anchor from having too much strain but as we were happy that our anchor had set well we decided just to keep an eye on things.
By early evening calmer conditions had settled in and the temperature had dropped dramatically. The night was cool and with quite a ENE wind blowing we could hear the waves slapping the side of the other hull whilst we were in bed.
With a forecast of ENE winds around 10-15 knots we left the anchorage at 0800 and made out into the Gulf through the Boca Grande Inlet. We had booked a berth 30 miles up the coast at Venice Inlet at the Crows Nest marina and restaurant promising we would be there mid-afternoon.
However we soon realised as we left the anchorage that reefs were needed in both main and jib and we were going to have a very fast sail with an offshore wind of 15-20 plus knots. We arrived at 1230 which made our average speed 8 knots - with maximum speed of 10 knots reached on more than one occasion. Only downside is the amount of crab pots laid not far offshore and of course on our track.
We borrowed a bike from the marina and pulled out one of the folders from the cabin and set off this afternoon for the 2.5 mile cycle to Publix supermarket for what will be one of our last stock ups as our next port of call is the area just south of St Petersburg where we will be hauling and storing the boat.
Fort Myers Beach
25 March 2016
We have had a great sailing trip from Marathon to here.
We left on Wednesday morning and cleared under the Moser Channel bridge at 11am.
With 120 miles to go and with the forecast of dying winds we reckoned on a fast then medium then slow trip all day and through the night to arrive in the area early to mid morning but the wind stayed up and with the code zero flying we were too.
We cleared the Florida Bay seeing only one other yacht en route but thousands of crab pots.
By early afternoon we were coming to the conclusion that we would arrive in the early hours and the entrance looked too daunting to attempt so we searched the chart and found that it would be possible to anchor off the open beach at Marco Island in the dark and grab a few hours sleep.
Late afternoon the wind did die and we had to put on one engine but thankfully as the evening wore on the wind reappeared and we able to sail and if we then went over a pot it would probably just bounce off.
At midnight we were tucked up in bed and slept well. We thought we were close in but at daybreak we realised just how far out we were.
Again the wind appeared and we were able to sail the 35 miles or so to the entrance to the inlet and we took our berth which I had booked at the Pink Shell Resort and Marina.
This small marina is on the inside of the barrier island which is called Estero Island and the area is Fort Myers Beach. We are downstream from the first bridge which actually leads into the Okeechobee Waterway across Florida to the Atlantic coast near Stuart.
The other side of the road is a huge hotel resort complex of which we are guests complete with electronic wrist bands so we can use all the facilities and charge to our slip. The hotel is on the white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico side - the whole strip of land is only 100 yards wide at this end of the island.
It is a very friendly place and the marina staff are great. Unfortunately we are leaving tomorrow and will anchor out in the channels between the barrier island of Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa for the rest of this week. Along with lots of other boats judging by the number of craft in and out of this river all day.
Fort Lauderdale second week and leaving
21 March 2016
Our second week started to warm up weatherwise - so glad of the air conditioning so far from the sea breezes.
We got our engines fully serviced (which had not been done satisfactorily at the yard in St Augustine) and a few other jobs sorted out including fitting a new toilet in our heads. The West Marine chandlery store (for which we have a loyalty card!) has its flagship store in Fort Lauderdale and now that we had wheels we were able to get to spend lots of money there!
We also treated ourselves to some new clothes and in Gerry's case to a new suit and all the trimmings ready for the big family wedding this summer.
We did loads of walking in Fort Lauderdale mainly because at nights you could reach all the good restaurants in the downtown area by crossing over to the dinghy dock and walking along the Riverwalk so no driving was needed meaning we got to try some very fancy cocktails (see gallery)
During our time in Fort Lauderdale it was St Patricks Day - the city had their parade on the previous Saturday which included a wonderful free concert in the park featuring a very good U2 tribute band called U2byUV which we managed to see the last half of on our way back from and early meal ashore.
There are some amazing apartment blocks along the river which have sprung up in the last 10 years or so - they must have amazing views and hopefully some pretty good insulation from the train noise which happens mostly at nights and early mornings.
More and more large motor yachts appeared under tow going to the Palm Beach Boat Show - Logica appeared again but this time being towed backwards. We dinghied up the New River on our last afternoon to see what was up there and we were astonished at how narrow it is with some huge yards working on megayachts which is where the towboats must fetch and take them to.
On Friday 18 we got up early to get through the 2 lifting bridges just downstream of us before the 0730 commuter shutdown and pulled onto the Lauderdale Marine Fuel Dock to top up our diesel tank as we knew we would be motoring today.
The elegant 55foot clearance SE 17th Street Causeway Bridge opened for us alone at 0730 and we said goodbye to Fort Lauderdale for the time being and motored out into the very flat Atlantic Ocean heading south.
Our first idea was to anchor on the west side of Key Biscayne but as it was a very warm day we pushed on and cut through into the inside of Key Largo and anchored in the lake like conditions for a cooling swim.
Next morning we didn't realise how much wind had picked up on the oceanside until we cut back through and as we are limited from here south as to where we can now cut through onto the inside of the Keys we beat into some pretty windy but not too bumpy conditions until the wind finally died and we motorsailed into a spot called Long Key Bight. But bite our anchor would not do and at nearly 7pm we had to anchor twice to cut through the dense grass below to get a hold. Good job we persevered as during the night a squall blew up to 25 knots for a good hour but we held fast.
The following day we got going earlier and as conditions outside were bumpy and on the nose we decided to cut under the 65 foot clearance Channel 5 bridge and run the Intracoastal Waterway marked channel which although just as windy had flat seas. We managed a little sail on one section and at lunchtime on Sunday with darkening skies we pulled under the Moser Channel bridge and into the harbour area of Marathon.
The anchorage area was packed and we managed to shoehorn ourselves into a spot on the edge of the channel. Our boat was covered in salt from the day before and we hoped the dark stormy skies would bring rain, waiting patiently with brushes and mops but when it finally came we were tucked up in bed. It has however cleaned us down nicely.
Marathon is not the most appealing of places to visit by boat, we went to see the harbour master but were told that we needed photo id and to bring in our boat registration if we wanted a dinghy dock pass $22 per day - which enabled us to use the facilities ashore and park the dinghy. It is an almost 15 minute dinghy ride to the dock so we decided we wouldn't bother as we are hoping to leave tomorrow so opted to take the dinghy to a marina opposite, have lunch and use their dinghy dock to get to the supermarket to top up supplies.
There are a lot of boats in the anchorage just left here, despite the regulations forbidding it and this morning with 25 knots of wind from the north fortunately we were at the front of the anchorage so any problems were all behind us! The temperature has plummeted as forecast and I am sitting inside to keep out of the cool wind filing this blog.
Plan to pull out tomorrow, top up the diesel again and anchor off one of the smaller Keys north of the Moser Bridge Channel ready to leave Wednesday for our 22 hour sail up to Fort Myers Beach where we have booked a marina for a couple of nights.