Sunday, March 28, 2021

We decided to stay a while, Crystal River

We woke this morning originally thinking we'd head to Steinhatchee. From there it would be just a 9 hour trip to Apalachicola, shorter if we aimed for Alligator Point. But looking at the weather ahead for the week it looked like we'd be stuck in Steinhatchee for most of it. Which probably isn't bad, but there were also stories of the wind in the right direction making the already thin waters of Steinhatchee even thinner.

Fun times on the Crystal River!
Turns out this was the weekend of the Manatee Festival.
Such a lovely day brought out the crowds.

Russ driving the tenders, inQuest in the back
Russ thought it better to stay. If you have to spend a week somewhere, you could do a lot worse than Crystal River.

And thank goodness we opted for that. The winds were way worse than predicted, even tucked way back here up the river. If we had gone and needed to bail the only out was Cedar Key, which is an island. Then we would have been stuck there for a week.

Needless to say, good call.

The river was placid on Saturday.
inQuest is out there, on the left.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Tarpon Springs to Crystal River

Originally we wanted to do this trip yesterday, Thursday. But Wednesday night I really worried about the trip -- weather apps were predicting windy weather. And while it all would be on our stern -- one of the best ways we like our waves -- I just didn't feel good about it. So we waited a day.

The plan was engines on at 7 am. At 6:30 am we noticed how low the low tide was. Across the fairway we could see lots of mud. Next to us was a really long SeaRay whose nose stuck out 15 feet beyond the piling between us. To clear him and spin to turn out, I was going to need maneuvering space and not mud. As a result we waited for 90 minutes or so to let the tide creep back in before heading out. Getting out was tricky even with the added water, but we did just fine.

We hit the Gulf of Mexico around 9:30 am and turned northward. The seas were maybe a foot, and we trundled nicely as we cleared the last of the barrier islands. The further north we went -- and I can't stress my glee enough -- the better the water got. One footers turned to 6 inches, which turned to smooth. Throughout the day the water kept improving. THIS phenomena, I can tell you with confidence, I have never experienced before. But the day was fabulous.

Nice start to the day

But, wow, look at that water!

I was also pleasantly surprised that, while off the coast about 12 miles, for the most part we had cell service. I love that.

LOON!
It was quite a nature day, too. We saw dolphins (we continue to be the envy for folks with dolphins; when other boats jamming by us notice our hitchhikers they slow down and point and take pictures), ospreys, a bald eagle (I couldn't snap a pic of him fast enough), and a loon. A LOON! We could tell by it's famed Katherine Hepburn-style warble. We haven't see one of those since Canada on the loop.

It's about a 90 minute ride off the gulf into Crystal River as you go up the (shockingly) Crystal River. We anchored without incident. Then Russ toted the pug off to land for a reprieve while I made dinner -- French Onion Ramen.

The breeze is lovely, the temp is ideal. I predict a hardy night's sleep.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Still in Tarpon Springs

The boat splashed on Monday right around 9 am, which was when the tide was high. There was a decent north wind, which was helpful in blowing us out of the chamber, but made docking a little tricky.

While the weather is good for traveling--and we really want to only travel on decent days for the next 4 or 5 destinations--we can't leave TS just yet. I got my first Covid shot yesterday, but Russ is scheduled to get his second Wednesday. We'd been in the Port Tarpon marina a while, which isn't very handy to getting to town. So today we took a small cruise back to Turtle Cove to spend the next 2 nights. Also, they have a pump out here, which we needed (there is not in Port Tarpon).

Look how shiny the tunnel is!
Tomorrow we'll drive back to LBK, hopefully for the last time in a long time, and with lucky weather we'll take the 8 hour run for Crystal River on Thursday.
Some crazy driving in and around Port Tarpon

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Getting hauled in Tarpon Springs (Monday)

Since we painted the bottom about 6 months ago we haven't checked how our running gear is doing or how the paint is holding up. Moreover, while we sat in LBK all that time we never had the bottom cleaned. So. We're curious.

The plan was to haul us out at 8 am. Russ went to the office around 7:30 to verify we were still a go, and they wanted to get us in sooner if possible. The tide was going out, and the haul-out dock is shallow. Even with our small draft, they wanted to do it ASAP.

We're up really early, as we usually are. It's too bad no one looked at the tide charts last night since we could have gotten it done around 7 if they were up to it. But we made the attempt around 7:45. Gotta say, it was a challenge, as the outgoing tide was stronger than anticipated, and we were trying to enter the chamber with it on our starboard beam. But I set her up for a second try and got her in without much fret. They had us shut off engines with the idea they'd pull the boat forward into the slings. But she didn't move. They pulled and pulled. No joy.

Turns out the tide was low enough that we bottomed out in the chamber. They mostly haul out mono-hulls, so the mud divot is deepest in the center of the chamber. Our double hulls stuck firmly in the mud around that. Nothing to do but wait for a higher tide. They asked us to park inQuest on the floating platform nearby and wait until noon.

Hauled again
Backing out was another challenge, and almost a disaster. Immediately we were pushed to the port where there were lots of boats. Realizing we were being pushed into them I jammed the engine back hard. We missed, but not by much!

Knowing the strength of the current this time I was able to set up for a first-try against the platform. That went well... so then we waited until the second try. When the current will be running the other way.

See all the worms?
Around 12:30 they were ready to try again. Wind gusts joined the party, blowing with the current on our port side. We planned on nearly hitting one of the boats on the pier with the expectation that the current and wind would push us off and line us up perfectly for the chamber. From the helm it looked like I was going to run into it which freaked me out, all the while my husband (on the bow) is saying it's great. I backed and twisted a bit, and tried a second time. And we nailed it -- got right in. I love it when that happens.

Also, see the blue paint? 
That all results in us staying in a hotel for a couple of nights while Russ washes, polishes, and chisels off the worms from the bottom of the boat. Yeah. Shoulda had that puppy dived while in LBK. Also, he wanted to touch up the paint. If you recall, when they reblocked the boat so we could paint the bald spots it was raining. Pouring, in fact. So the paint patches didn't cure right, and have washed away. Good thing we did the base coat in blue, to that was obvious to see.

One of 2 depth gauges. Totally explains why it's so off!


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Dunedin to Tarpon Springs

Ideally when you visit here you want to stay at the town docks. They are inexpensive and located in the center of town, amidst the sponge boats, tour boats, and a plethora of Greek dining establishments. Alas, it is not an ideal world and there was no space for us there. Or anywhere near the downtown area. So we're at a working marina where, as long as we're here, we'll get the boat hauled and check our bottom (see if our paint job is holding up), clean our running gear, and replace a through-hole with a better seacock.

Yep. On the water for 3 days and already got things to fix.

We plan on taking the rim route which traverses around the gulf instead of crossing it, like we did the last time. Everything should be working perfectly for that. Also, great weather would be nice, so we'll be waiting for the next blow to move through this coming week. With any luck we'll be underway by next weekend.

This pic doesn't do the view justice.
The sky was barely light, but that wisp was
brilliantly lit. Turns out it was from the launch.
ON THE OTHE SIDE OF THE STATE.
Tarpon Springs in off the coast and down the Anclote River, and throughout the day, it was bustling. As we came in we got seriously knocked around by a really big, really fast boat. It through about a 6 foot wake. Even the dog slid around the floor. 

In fact, ever since we left LBK absolutely no one has hailed us for a slow pass. Well, okay, once. And, curiously, it was another power cat that wanted to pass us. I'm curious if this is due to the vast number of new boaters not knowing the protocol (boat sales skyrocketed from Covid last year), or if this is due to politics ("the world is ending since Trump didn't get elected, so screw you!"), or boaters who themselves have been rocked so much they're happy to wake you back. Whatever the answer, I'm curious how things will be as the year progresses.

A constant clog of boats, both in and out of TS



Saturday, March 13, 2021

Gulfport to Dunedin, anchor

Last night some folks who winter in Gulfport told us about a great breakfast place, Stella's. Travel today would be short, so we decided to check it out before we got underway. It did not disappoint. We had a wonderful breakfast.

At 9 am we were underway, heading north, us and about a million other boaters. Lots of runabouts and rentals, all speeding and zipping, made for an interesting and busy ride. Being a bigger boat allows us to just get waked a bit, but these guys nearly swamped one another. Kinda fun to watch, actually. Russ commented that he owes the North Carolinians an apology.

Boats everywhere!

By 1 pm we'd reached our destination which was an anchorage near Dunedin (pronounced duh-NEE-dn). It's right off the ICW, however, which meant a bumpy afternoon while we waited for the traffic to dwindle. 

Shark boat. Now you've seen everything.
We took a tender ride to the Bon Appetit, a restaurant near the town's docks. At first we couldn't get into the provided slips due to the quantity of dinghys already there. But the dog needed walked, so we snuck into a private slip where Lizzie and I disembarked. Russ picked us up and we checked out the docks again and, lo, someone was leaving. 

The new Rigid Boat works exceptionally well. I felt much safer despite the bouncy seas. I think we'll get a bunch of use out of it.

A couple of dolphins escort us some of the way.


Friday, March 12, 2021

LBK to Gulfport: Back on the water

When we went to lunch yesterday we were staying in Longboat Key for another week. When we left lunch, we were headed out today. 

Originally we planned on heading south (to the Keys) the first week of March. But we were plagued with a number of delays -- my small surgery (spoilers: I'm dandy) which required a week to wait for the stitches to come out, then the winds that came up again making travel a bit less fun, and Russ's 2nd Covid shot, which is coming next week. We'd planned on renting a car for that but looking ahead at the weather, we weren't sure we'd be someplace where he could rent a car to get back to LBK. So we were staying.

Last dawn in LBK for a while
But we just hated, after over 3 months of being docked, to miss 3 good boating days. And we already cut our time short as to what we'd be able to do in the keys. So, we thought, what if we just started heading north?

We are crazy early, but that's okay. Given we have a condo in Nola, and still some work to do there, we thought we'd boat all the way to New Orleans. We don't want to head up the rivers until May anyway. So this gives us some time to get to NOLA and back. 

Getting back onto real water of Sarasota Bay
We planned for "engines on" around 8 am, but we had a small setback. Our inverter wasn't running. It took Russ a half hour or so to realize it was in a charging-only mode. Once he flipped a switch (he loves when solutions are so simple), we headed out around 8:30.

It's Friday. As I mentioned, it looks like a great weekend. The boaters were already out in numbers. We had to deal with a few SeaRay/Prestige/go-fast boats who clearly believed that if they are on plane they make less wake than if they'd go slow. Which would be no issue if the channel were wide enough that we could pass with more than 10 feet between us. But the ICW in Florida is both skinny and narrow, and we were waked repeatedly.

Even the pirate wears a mask
We have stayed in this marina before so we knew where the fuel dock was. inQuest wasn't out but it had been since St. Augustine since we tanked up. The plan was to anchor out but we asked about staying for the night and, hey, they had a slip. From the fuel dock we'd have to do lots of tight moves to spin around to head toward the slip then spin again to back into it. So, to simplify things, I just backed the boat up the entire way.

Worked great. And that maneuver was a good introduction back into the techniques and subtleties of boating. All in all a good day one.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The last of the big projects... for now

The old dinghy.
We have been in Longboat Key for over 3 months now. Having done this for a second year (staying in FLA for the winter) we remain very happy with our selection of  "home port." Weather is decent, lots of restaurants around (not that we got to enjoy them much this year due to Covid), and various marine-specific stores and workshops nearby. 

In fact, there are only 2 things that are not convenient about our location. Firstly, it is an island, so you do have to plan for that, especially during "the season." It can be tricky -- lots of traffic, long waits, and no movement -- to get on or off the island. Most weekends we don't even try to go anywhere; we have our shopping all done and just cook on the boat.

The new tender

The second problem with our location is getting a small boat in or out of the water. Normally this doesn't concern us but (big project #1) we bought a new dinghy. Russ had to traverse a portion of Sarasota Bay to get to the nearest boat ramp both to retrieve the new dinghy and deliver the old one. Of course, weather being the uncooperative entity that it is, both days were very windy, making the task that much more of a bother. He survived. And we do love the new tender (we decided we should us a more upscale term for our tiny boat). We settled on a Rigid Boat. It's so awesome.


The view from the tender while going out to lunch on Sarasota bay.

Big project #2 just got finished today. We had the upstairs cushions reupholstered, with some new, harder foam in the seats we use most frequently. The original covers were in a faux leather vinyl. It worked, but it wasn't exciting. And we managed to ruin one of the cushions within the first week of owning the boat. We thought we'd go with a fabric this time. However, with supply chains still an issue, any pattern we selected was not in stock. Then out of the blue the gentleman who did our job showed me the fabric he was doing on his boat. Something new. Silicone.

We went with green.

And we just love it.

Out with the old (you can see the patch on the left side)

...in with the new.

That done we planned on heading out. But, a health issues raised its head. The dermatologist discovered I had a basal cell carcinoma that needed to be removed. Once the stitches are out we'll be underway. Early next week.

From here we plan on heading south. We've yet to get to the keys so that's our destination. We'll pass this way again in April or May, stay a while, then continue north to go into the river systems -- Nashville, Chattanooga, and Pittsburgh are on the list of places to get to.