We spent a calm and uneventful night at the Gasparilla Marina on their one floating dock with our nearest neighbour being a bit noisy. He was after all a crane, and if you haven't experienced one of them honking in your ear at two in the morning, well, you just haven't lived. This is an absolutely amazing place and has introduced me to a whole new concept in boating. The marina has thousands of boats as members but only about a hundred of them are stored in the water. Most are powerboats - day cruisers, runabouts or sport fishermen and are stored in one of four huge four level boat barns. These boats are still very active; it's just that they don't spend their lives in the water like they would at home. If the owner wants to go fishing on a particular day he lets the marina know with three hours notice seven days a week 24 hours a day, and when he arrives at the marina, there is his boat tied up as a loading dock. When he has done for the day he brings the boat back to the loading dock, informs the yard staff that he is done for the day and drives away. Should he happen to come back to the marina for some reason he will find his boat up in its rack in one of the barns. They all have their own designated spot so he knows exactly where to look and the boats have a number taped onto the stern so the yard staff knows where to put it. This is a lot more equipment and labour intensive than the system we use back at home and I hate to think of the annual fees, but it does allow them to manage far more boats per acre of land than we would. Add to that, this place really gets the bathroom prize for the trip: although you wouldn't want to do so, you could eat off the floors, large and roomy stalls and a huge shower where they provide soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razors etc.
We were the very first customers at the newly opened cafe that they now offer at the marina, and if the breakfast that we had is any indication it's a great deal. I had my old standby poached eggs sausages and hash browns, but Barb had something that is going to go into Nelleke's permanent recipes. We'll have them first for Christmas breakfast. Normally yours truly does a Christmas breakfast that consists of toasted English muffin, poached egg and ham or sausage round with a slice of cheese. This recipe will be modified for southern climes with a crab cake substituting for the sausage round and Hollandaise sauce for the cheese. It was out of this world!
We got underway at 0730 and cleared the first bridge at 0800 which was the first of a gazillion! Slight exaggeration, but this is the first time that we experienced what everyone was telling us about the number of bridges on the ICW or the Gulf Inter Coastal Waterway (GIWW). As near as I can make it the one huge matter that I am having to get myself used to is the constantly traveling in water with as little as 3 feet under the keel as the norm. Back home if it gets less than 10 feet you start worrying since you know that everything shoals up very quickly, but here 3.5 is normal. We only ran aground in the channel once on this trip and it was more of a sandy kiss as we traveled over a sandbar at the Venice Inlet. Other than that we were fine until shortly after we noticed that the engine temperature was slowly climbing. I was trying to make all sorts of excuses - the surrounding water is warmer, I was running the engine harder, etc., but eventually it just climbed toward boiling. That's when I finally stopped making excuses and we anchored and shut down poor old Paula Perkins for a rest. Once I opened the engine compartment it was obvious what was the problem - there was no more engine coolant in the water jacket. My first clue was when the boat bilged, and the second was to notice all the antifreeze in the engine tray. At first I thought that it was one of those damn British drain plugs that are located in various places on the engine block. I say damn because the one that appeared to be dripping was seized and if I tried to force it I could just see that I would be breaking it off and there are no replacements aboard and unlikely any in the local auto store either. Then I noticed that there was a water hose leading from the exhaust manifold back to the block and furthermore there was a conspicuous absence of a hose clamp at one end of this hose. It had broken off and was dangling in a teasing fashion just out of sight behind a piece of the block. A close inspection showed that this was where the real leak was coming from. I had maligned the British drain plug unfairly. Sorry Brits. Sorry drain plug. This was particularly galling as I had noticed its absence during my first parade this morning but thought "If it hasn't caused any problems until now, I don't have to worry." How boneheaded! A wise old Warrant Officer once said to me "Second Lieutenant Turney, Never pass a fault!" Great advice that if I had followed it would have saved me a whole lot of trouble. The best part is we had plenty of hose clamps aboard. Could it be that easy? It was! Don't ya just love it when a repair is that easy?
As we traveled along we got a good lesson in what not to name your boat. There was another sailboat going through the bridges about half an hour ahead of us who kept having to spell his name for the bridge master, sometimes several times. There is a good rule of thumb for naming boats. Don't pick something from a foreign or archaic language that is difficult to grasp. This fellow had name like Laguibbe or something. After the number of requests for him to spell it you'd think that he'd have learned. Instead he just got angry and rude. We are fortunate that they seem to get Nelleke quite easily although there is sometimes the tendency to pronounce it Nel-leaky and the work leaky when spoken in conjunction with a boat is not a good thing.
Once we had gotten past that hurdle it was a mere two more bridges before we got to the anchorage at Sarasota. We have now anchored in almost dead calm but for the wakes from passing motor boats. There is a state park within rowing distance to walk the dog, and there is cold beer in the fridge. Life is pretty good. Tomorrow on to the Tampa area.