4.08.2011

First trip: Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Gasparilla

 
We have been working on the boat non stop for MONTHS!  Time to have some fun…

We went on our first trip with Vitte in mid March (sorry for the delay in posting).  Our desired destination was Key West, but since we were expecting a package for the boat we had to stay a little closer to home.  We decided to visit Charlotte Harbor, two days sail from Bradenton. 

(I must apologize in advance for the lack of pictures.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I only got a few shots and they are mostly from our first day in Charlotte Harbor and Cayo Costa.)

Our first destination was Venice.  We didn’t get in until ~1am and the designated anchorage was CROWDED, so we decided to anchor in an 8ft pocket between the North Jetty Fish Camp and Crow’s Nest Marina.  We were hoping that the dogs would have learned to go “bye-byes” on the strip of astro turf we put on the bow, but they were stubborn and held it until we took them to land at around 2am (that’s over 12 hours).

Full moon over the Gulf of Mexico


Since we got to bed so late, our departure was delayed and we didn’t get underway until around 10am.  The wind was absent at first, but once we got off shore it picked up and we were eventually cruising towards Charlotte Harbor at 5kts. 

When we reached the channel going into the harbor we made a rookie mistake.  We decided to lower our sails and motor in because it is a tricky inlet..…big mistake.  We didn’t take into account that the sea state within the channel was producing side-to swell ~2-3ft and our sails would make the passage a little less bumpy.  We were not in danger at anytime, we were just very uncomfortable and the dogs (Charlie especially) were panting and shaking a lot.  However, we made it into Charlotte Harbor and learned a valuable lesson: DON’T LOWER YOUR SAILS IF IT WILL MAKE YOU MORE STABLE!

Rei trying to make herself as small as possible during our entrance to Charlotte Harbor


Once in the harbor we made our way to an anchorage between Useppa Island and Cabbage Key.  There were other boats there, but we found a great spot with a deserted beach in sight for the dogs to go and do some business. 

After getting anchored and the dogs situated, we took the dinghy to Cabbage Key for dinner.  As we were pulling up, we saw the dock house had a sign that read, “Conserve water, shower with a friend!”  We thought this was an invitation, but when we got to the shower house it said, “For overnight guests only.”  However, it wasn’t locked and I think the other restaurant patrons would thank us for breaking this rule.  ^_^  

Upon entering the restaurant we spotted an old wall piano with a sign saying "players wanted"....duly noted!  On the way out Ransom played "that song I like" and showboated a bit for the crowd the couple at the bar whom were quite receptive to his musical advances (and quite sauced).

After a restful night’s sleep, we decided to visit Cayo Costa for a nature hike.
Engine block...perhaps someone's mooring?

Engine block

Bath tub with mangrove tree

Bath tub...looks like a surprised alien face

Refrigerator

Cactus flower, a welcome bloom of color in an otherwise brown environment

Mariachi garden gnome

Sunlit path

I concur


After Caya Costa we went back to Cabbage Key for delicious lunch  ^_^

View from the water tower on Cabbage Key (roof of restaurant and golden tree)

Charred palm

Us after a full day and full bellies

 
On our second day we took the boat north to Gasparilla Island for some supplies and lunch.  Once we anchored Ransom shouted, “Look a manatee!”  Of course I didn’t see it; I’ve only seen a sea cow in captivity and thus believe that (in the wild) they live with unicorns.

We took the dinghy to shore, docked, and walked into town.  Gasparilla is a cool place, a bit touristy, but if you look deeper you find a sleepy little island town with an old Florida vibe.

Flemming yacht


After two days in Charlotte Harbor, it was time to head back north (or “less south” to my friends in New England) to Bradenton. 

Leaving Charlotte Harbor

We reached Venice around 6 pm, but decided to keep going since our last experience there was not ideal.

Ransom and Chuckles


Unfortunately after dark the wind did not cooperate and we had to lower the sails and use our motor.  Finally we were passing Anna Maria Island and about to enter Tampa Bay.  There was a dredging vessel in the main channel and so we decided to try and enter through Passage Key Inlet…big mistake. 

The charts were WRONG.  Where there was supposed to be 13 ft of water we observed 9, and it only got worse from there.  8…7…6…BUMP, BUMP, BUMP, CRASH!  4.3 feet of water, we’re aground, and in trouble. 

Eventually a tow boat reached us and in no time flat had us free from the sand bar.  Even the Sea Tow captain was confused by the lack of correlation between chart and transducer. 

Dogs suited up in life vests for safety


Running aground was not fun, but Ransom’s dad, Curt, put it into words the best, “There are two types of sailors; those that have run aground and those that haven’t run aground yet.” 

I guess we can check that off the list.

Overall we had a great first trip.  Although there was drama, we learned from our mistakes and will convert “should have dones” to “will do next times.”
  1. No more overnights.  It’s too taxing on the humans, the dogs, and the boat.  Poor decisions are made when tired and fatigued.
  2. NEVER enter an unmarked channel at night.
  3. Early to bed early to rise gets you to your destination at a decent hour and claims you a better anchorage.
  4. Assess the sea state and plan your entry accordingly.  
  5. The dogs are not going to go “bye-byes” on board, even after holding it for close to 18 hours.
  6. Beans and rice are delicious! 

4.07.2011

St. Petersburg channel

Entering the St. Petersburg channel
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SKYWAY

We're headed to St. Petersburg, but the wind is not cooperating so we are motoring under the Sunshine Skyway.
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