Thursday, January 25, 2007

St. Petersburg to Boca Grande, FL

We finally (sadly) left Cathy's dock at St. Petersburg on Saturday, January 20th. While there, Todd continued his landscaping efforts and we both performed a number of minor boat maintenance projects. Fred Winkler, the broker we met last spring when we seriously began boat shopping, paid us a visit shortly after our last post, as did Paul Schlechter, a gentleman we had some conversations with early last year regarding his boat, "Heart's Desire," and again later when we were looking to purchase some charts for the Gulf coast. Paul lives in Clearwater during the winter months and contacted us after reading in our blog that we were in St. Petersburg. We had a great chat and appreciated the opportunity to put a face with the name.

We had a wonderful time visiting with Cathy and getting to know some of her neighbors, primarily Bev and Frank. Bev supplied us with fresh-squeezed orange juice and Frank graciously gave us a ride into town to pick out a gazing ball and stand to adorn Cathy's pool-side patio as a token of our appreciation for her limitless generosity and kindness. Cathy is an amazing lady and a treasured friend who we feel incredibly fortunate to have developed such a special relationship with.

A view of "Life's2Short" from Cathy's beautiful pool-side patio. "What Daze It?" is to our right facing into the canal.

A fun evening cooking with Cathy in her kitchen.

Dinner on Cathy's patio with Frank and Bev. Taz is looking for a sympathy morsel!

Our beloved Cathy with her baby girl, Taz, on the left and Rafiki (the gazing ball) on the right.

After maneuvering away from Cathy's dock, we crossed Boca Ciega Bay to pump out the holding tanks at Gulfport Marina before making our way to Sarasota to anchor for the evening. We originally tried to anchor in the harbor near Marina Jack's, but after several unsuccessful attempts at getting the anchor to hold we went out into a nearby mooring field/anchorage where we had somewhat better luck. We finally determined that the anchor wasn't swiveling properly and that it was dragging along the bottom on its backside. Todd applied a little WD-40 to the swivel and we were back in business.

Because the mooring field was in an open area, the water was a little rough with all the weekend boat traffic but it got better as darkness settled in and the boat traffic died down. Since we had (hopefully) fixed the problem with the anchor, we decided to pull up anchor Sunday morning and try again in the more protected harbor near the marina. Another trawler had been anchored there when we arrived on Saturday, but they pulled up anchor and left Sunday morning so we had the harbor to ourselves. We still experienced some difficulty getting the anchor to hold in the very soft bottom, but we finally got situated and put the dinghy down to go over to O'Leary's, a neat little waterfront restaurant and tiki bar, for lunch.

Our first-night anchorage in Sarasota with a view of the skyline in the background.

Our second-night anchorage near Marina Jack's in downtown Sarasota - much nicer!

We left the dinghy at O'Leary's and walked into downtown Sarasota to find a place to watch the NFL playoff games. We watched the first half of the first game at Smokin' Joe's, a local sports bar, before calling a cab to take us across the John Ringling Causeway to St. Armands Circle, an area with upscale shopping and several restaurants. St. Armands Circle is technically on St. Armands Key but is just a short walk away from Lido Beach on Lido Key. We browsed through a few of the shops before wandering into Lido Grille where we watched the remainder of the first game before walking over to Lido Beach to watch the sunset.

A beautiful Gulf sunset on Lido Beach!

We returned to Lido Grille and had some wonderful appetizers (lobster dip with pita bread and veggie quesadillas) while we watched the rest of the second playoff game and then decided to get a little exercise by walking back to the boat - as we ate ice cream from a nearby shop. While the cab ride over seemed relatively short, the walk back turned into an almost three-mile hike! After our long walk, we had a quick nightcap at O'Leary's before dinghying back to the boat and calling it a day.

Monday was very windy and it took us 5-1/2 hours to cover 30 miles. We had originally planned to go from Sarasota to Boca Grande (another 20 miles), but we were both tired of battling the wind and decided to anchor at Englewood Beach by mid-afternoon. There were several other boats in the anchorage with us and about 8:00 that evening the wind shifted, turning the boat in the opposite direction which placed us uncomfortably close to a nearby sailboat. So we started the engines, pulled up the anchor and moved the boat a safe distance away. Fortunately, the anchor performed well and we had no difficulty getting the anchor to hold on the first try.

By Tuesday morning the wind had died down and we boated the final 20 miles to Boca Grande without incident. As we wound our way into Boca Grande Bayou, we saw about a dozen other boats already anchored. While that isn't a large number of boats by most anchorage standards, the Bayou is really just a slightly wider area in a canal and it isn't wide enough for boats to swing on one anchor without blocking boat traffic; plus, you would only be able to fit a handful of boats in the available space if they were swinging on one hook. Consequently, the accepted practice is for boats to anchor "med style" with the stern tied to mangroves and an anchor off the bow.

Our "med-style" anchorage in Boca Grande Bayou.

We were secure in our anchorage by 2:00 p.m., so I decided I would buckle down (finally) and paint the boat registration on the dinghy, a task I had been putting off for several weeks. Todd stenciled the letters and numbers on each side and I spent the next couple of hours applying three coats of paint and then painstakingly detailing the areas where the paint had seeped over the stencil lines. After that task was complete, we lowered the dinghy and toured the surrounding canals, admiring the many plush, expensive homes in an area known as "a hang out for the VERY rich and famous."

The weather was forecast to turn rainy and much cooler by Wednesday evening, so we dinghied across the canal to a local dock and walked into the village of Boca Grande late Wednesday morning. After grabbing a sandwich at the Dolphin Cove/Pink Pony eatery, we rented a golf cart and drove two miles to the south end of Gasparilla Island to see the historic lighthouse overlooking Boca Grande Pass.

The Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890.

While at the lighthouse, we ran into our boat neighbors and invited them to join us for a drink at South Beach, a beachfront restaurant just north of the lighthouse. After chatting with Chuck & Diana for an hour or so, we came back into town and toured around a bit more before returning the golf cart and walking over to the Boca Palms Restaurant to peruse the menu. Chuck & Diana had eaten there Tuesday evening and highly recommended it. Even though it was still a little early to be thinking about dinner (about 4:30), our waiter was very accommodating and offered to let us order off the lunch menu so we decided to have a couple of their lunch specials, which were very good, before returning to the boat.

As forecast, the rain began Wednesday evening and continued off and on throughout the night. Thursday dawned cool and overcast with a few more showers, but by afternoon the sun peeked through and the temps improved somewhat. Todd has been itching to catch some saltwater fish, so he broke down and dinghied over to a nearby marina to purchase some live shrimp to use as bait and is currently trying to catch some fresh fish.

Our plan is to leave Boca Grande in the morning and travel the final 40 miles to Ft. Myers where we will anchor for the evening and spend Saturday checking out some of the marinas in the area to determine which one we want to stay at for the next month or so. Bob and Linda Eckels from Springfield, MO are scheduled to meet us in Ft. Myers a week from today, so we need to get settled in and learn the lay of the land before they arrive. Stay tuned as "Life's2Short" continues its journey south!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The New Year Begins

We left St. Petersburg on December 28th to go to Orlando to spend some time with Todd's sister. Cathy was kind enough to give us a ride to Tampa where Jennifer and Mark were returning from a cruise and we rode with them to Orlando.

Since they were gone for Christmas, we celebrated a late Christmas on New Year's Eve with Jennifer and Mark and their children, Shannon and Sara (Jennifer's) and Chris, Rachel and Jessie (Mark's). After everyone opened their presents, we enjoyed a wonderful fondue feast and then went next door for a fireworks extravaganza hosted by Jennifer's neighbor, Michael. We all managed to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop in Times Square as 2006 ended and 2007 began.

The Captain models his new Crocs and Croc socks. Isn't that a lovely sight!

Left to right: The lovely Rachel and Jessie (Mark's daughters) and Shannon and Sarah (Jennifer's daughters).

Sarah is thrilled with her new industrial-strength wagon!

Jessie and Shannon checking out a few of their gifts.

Shadow giving Rachel kisses!

Fondue anyone? Pictured (left to right) are Jennifer, Mark, Shannon, Jessie, Rachel and Chris.

On New Year's Day, Jennifer and Mark went with us to see Bobbi and Keith in downtown Orlando. We met Bobbi and Keith in June of 2006 at the Yacht Basin in Demopolis, AL where they were living on their houseboat. When we returned to Demopolis this fall, we learned that they had relocated to Orlando so we made plans to get together while we were in the area.

We met at Lee and Rick's Oyster Bar that afternoon and spent a few hours visiting and catching up. Bobbi and Keith plan to return to Demopolis later this year to resume life on the boat so we hope to see them again the next time we are at the Yacht Basin.

That evening Todd started watching the now famous Fiesta Bowl featuring the underdogs from Boise State University against the powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners. It turned out to be a very exciting game and Todd was up into the wee hours of Tuesday morning watching the overtime finale and post game show as Boise State walked away with an amazing 43-42 victory. Many are dubbing it "the best college football game ever" and I think Todd would probably agree with that assessment!

We spent the next few days enjoying the space and conveniences of being on land and made plans to go to the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park on Thursday. We arrived at the park about 10:00 a.m. and spent the day roaming around and riding the rides, primarily the two roller coasters: Duelling Dragons and The Incredible Hulk. Both were pretty intense and even downright scary at first, but it was fun and we rode each of them several times. The park was only open until 7:00 p.m., so we stopped by Margaritaville, just outside the theme park entrance, to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to Jennifer's.

Islands of Adventure, here we come!

The Captain poses with Betty Boop. Don't they make a handsome couple?

Jennifer and Mark brought us back to St. Petersburg Saturday afternoon and spent the night on the boat before returning to Orlando late Sunday morning. We shared a great meal Saturday evening with Cathy and her visiting niece, Lora, on Cathy's patio. Mark had brought along some killer barbeque ribs he picked up on his way home from work Saturday and then he and Todd went to get some Chinese food after we arrived in St. Petersburg. The food was really good and the company was even better!

A parting shot of the four of us before Mark and Jennifer head back to Orlando.

We got up Sunday morning and took Mark and Jennifer out to breakfast before making a restocking run to Wal-Mart. After helping us get the groceries unloaded, they headed back to Orlando and we settled back into life on the boat.

Buddy was very lethargic all day and by that evening he wasn't even able to stand up. We put him to bed early and woke up with him several times during the night as he seemed to be getting worse. He took his last breath Monday morning shortly after we woke up, so we got the dinghy down, went out into the bay and found a place to bury him among the palm trees. It was hard to see him go and we will miss him terribly, but he lived a good, long life and appeared to really enjoy the time he spent in Orlando roaming around Jennifer's big yard and hanging out on the patio.

A good friend of ours, Everett Hayes, wrote the following about Buddy in a recent e-mail: I can just hear him in dog heaven, some big dog comes up and tells about the high rise where he lived in the city and the big patch of grass in the park where he could lie down, and how he got to take cab rides. “The Bud Man” then ask, have you ever shit on a white sandy beach, pissed on a palm tree, swam in the salt water, swam in a fresh water lake, flown in an airplane, had your own boats,(yes that’s boats, not boat) met dogs from all over the country, looked up at night and it was so dark you could see all the stars and no neon lights. Big dog, I lived, you just existed. Now shut your yap before I hurt you. What a great and fitting tribute to Buddy and his many adventures!

After our traumatic morning, Cathy invited us to have dinner with her Monday evening and we cheered the Florida Gators on as they walked all over the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of the College Bowl National Championship game. We didn't stay up for the second half of the game, but the Gators managed to increase their 34-14 half-time lead by 7 while holding the Buckeyes to 14 total points and walk away with the National Championship in a 41-14 victory. An impressive win by the Gators!

Todd spent several hours working in Cathy's yard Tuesday morning while I worked on the blog and then we both worked in the yard some more that afternoon before retiring to a quiet evening on the boat. Wednesday was essentially a quiet day as well and was spent doing a few chores and projects around the boat and a little more yard work for Cathy.

The Captain couldn't resist taking of photo of this White Egret perched on a post just a few feet off our sundeck.

Mike & Mary of "What Daze It?" are due back from Alabama around the middle of next week after having completed a 17-day, 895-mile trip to deliver a 1985 43-foot Hatteras from Key Largo to Pascagoula, MS for a friend of theirs. We may stay in St. Petersburg until then and travel with them to Ft. Myers, but we haven't decided anything for sure. As someone recently told us, "I have no schedule and I'm sticking to it!"