Marina Jacks to Crow’s Nest (Jan 29-30)

Monday was a lazy day (actually nothing is lazy about this adventure).  We shopped, walked and visited, and prepared for travels Tuesday.  We found Zendeavor (another boat from Nashville) on another dock.  We previously met Bogue and Laura on Zendeavor in Tarpon Springs and again in St. Pete.  We also met Ramie, Tim and their dog Ringo – more loopers – on a neat red Ranger Tug called “Miss Norma”.  As the sun set our last night in Sarasota, we watched boats in and out of the harbor…….

    

Our morning travels took us by more big homes and several neat restaurants along the Intracoastal.  We’ve seen many of these that their patrons arrive on boats as opposed to cars.  The colorful restaurants, along with the beaches and kayaks, are more signs of the boating lifestyle in south Florida.

        

….looks like we’re heading for Cuba, but actually just Venice (Florida – not Italy)……..

……….as we look around our boat today, we realize Kara Mia is beginning to look a lot like The Clampetts.  With what we brought (way more than we needed), and what we have accumulated along the way (dinghy, bikes, fenders, fender racks, Santa, flags and wreaths) things are getting rather cluttered – but hey, it’s a boat!

    

We’re docking at the Crow’s Nest in Venice, Florida tonight.  Our walk along the beach found dozens of surfers, which is highly unusual for the west coast of Florida.  Apparently the combination of wind, current and jetty made for good surfing conditions.

        

First “blue moon” in years, with an eclipse to arrive early in the morning……..

    

Markets & Museums – Sarasota (Jan 27-28)

Saturday turned out to be a nice day for getting to know our new dock for the next few days.  We walked Marina Jack Trail through the dolphin fountains and banyan trees.  Later we walked a few blocks to a downtown farmer’s market full of fresh fruits and veggies, music and crafts, and lots of people!

        

……back at the boat we finally broke out Karen’s dinghy (thank you John and Kay!)……….and Karen explored the harbor full of beautiful boats……..

……..Ron napped………

   

While standing on the dock that evening a beautiful boat flying a looper flag came cruising in and docked behind us.  To our amazement, it was Dave and Penny, along with Captain Chris!  To explain – last October we attended a Captain Chris Boating Seminar in Vero Beach, Florida.  Dave and Penny also attended the same seminar and were in search of their perfect looper boat.  They obviously found it and Captain Chris was assisting in getting her home to Tampa.  We caught up on our adventures and had dinner at Marina Jack’s piano bar.  They got an early start out the next morning to get ahead of a serious rain storm heading our way.

   

    

We also headed out Sunday morning to the Ringling Museum.  Sarasota was the home of the founding family of Ringling Brothers Circus.  They donated their home and 60+ acres to the history of circus in America.  It was a fun display and replica of the circus in it’s hey-day across America.  It brought back memories for Karen and Ron!

            

We completed our tourist day by visiting St. Armands circle on the beach where they were holding an art festival.  Unfortunately the storms closed the festival early and we took shelter in the Crab & Fin restaurant.

    

    

………………despite the rain, another good day!…………………………….

St. Pete to Sarasota, Florida (Jan 26)

We fueled up – pumped out – and headed into Tampa Bay.  In order to leave we had to go under the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

    

We were headed for Sarasota and Marina Jack.  Travel was windy, with another small craft advisory out.  Our sightseeing today included more million dollar mansions, more bridges, more dolphins.

        

We were impressed with the sights as we entered Sarasota Harbor.  Dozens of boaters were anchored out “on the hook” and would dinghy in to our marina for provisions and fun.

    

As you can see, we were once again dwarfed by the 100+ foot yachts docked at our marina.  In the second picture we are the small boat on the right.

    

Cole (who lives in Venice but we know from the Braxton in Tennessee) and Mark joined us for a glass of wine and treated us to a delicious Italian dinner at The Mediterraneo Restaurant  in downtown Sarasota (one of their favorites)!

   Great food and friends after another wonderful day on the water………….

Last days about town – St. Petersburg, Florida (Jan 24-25)

Our final St. Pete sunrise……..followed by one last chance to enjoy the beautiful downtown park system along the water’s edge, with numerous shops, restaurants and museums………

    

The marina in which we stayed was also the home of one of the largest sailing schools in the Gulf……….sailboats ran in and out of our harbor daily, with young crews honing their sailing skills in the Tampa Bay waters……….

   

We enjoyed dinner at Stillwaters Tavern with Todd (from Knoxville), planning his trip to the Keys on his new SeaRay Sundancer…………

………………….and we caught up with Canadian loopers Doug and Glenda aboard Saoirse (Irish meaning – Freedom) at The Oyster Bar (with Ronnie B).  We first met Doug and Glenda on the Tenn-Tom at Bobby’s Fish Camp last November.  It’s always fun to re-connect with fellow loopers and compare our “war stories”.

In preparation for our travel days ahead, we (Karen) walked to the local Publix, with rolling insulated shopping cart in hand……….and Ron and Karen had their final meal out at Fresco’s Bistro on the water…….

    

farewell……St. Pete………a wonderful looper stop……

Fog Again….(Jan 22) and Museum Day….(Jan 23)

If you remember the previous picture of the night reflections in the harbor, below is the same shot the next morning as the fog moved in.

Karen used the rest of this day catching up on paperwork while Ronnie B and Ronny A picked up groceries and ran a few errands.

        

Having forgotten to take a picture of the Salvador Dali Museum before entering, these are photos from within the museum toward the harbor where our boat is docked.

    

The Dali Museum houses one of the largest private collections of Dali’s work spanning periods of Surrealism, Expressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Salvador Dali was a Spanish Surrealist painter and print-maker, influential for his explorations of subconscious imagery.  Dali evoked his dreams and hallucinations in unforgettable images while his provocations and flamboyant personality made him an art star.

        

The Museum of Fine Arts presently exhibits a Star Wars collection – which excited Ron!  Remember his Christmas present was to see the current Star Wars movie.  Once again Karen, feeling strong with the force agreed to spend her afternoon with Ron.

        

    

The Museum of History depicted not only pirate ships, but the baseball history of the area as well.  For over a hundred years farm leagues, semi-pro and spring training of major league baseball has played an important part of St. Petersburg’s history.  St. Petersburg considers itself Cooperstown South and is now home to the Tampa Bay Rays.

    

Friends in Tampa Bay (Jan 20-21)

With the morning sunrise at St. Pete Municipal Marina, we bid farewell to our friends and Brady the dog, on the sailboat Sustenance.

    

Again, we were greeted by friends from the Tampa Bay area (on the back of the boat, left to right – John and Jill, Karen, Ronnie B, Ronny A, and Colby).  Colby is Ronnie B’s son who lives in St. Pete and teaches and coaches a winning soccer team at a local high school.

   

After lunch at Fresco’s, Karen and Jill were inspired to create a new cocktail – appropriately named “The Kara Kocktail”.

    

As our favorite pass-time, we visited and walked the docks.  We still enjoy looking at boats and just being on the water.  We were impressed with the downtown skyline of St. Petersburg adjacent to our marina.

        

On Sunday, John and Jill boarded a cruise ship in Tampa with their daughter “and Chris” and headed to the Caribbean.  From our boat in the harbor, we had fun watching their cruise ship ease through Tampa Bay and head to Key West.  It was fun waving to them and them to us (they are right in the middle on the top deck).

   

As the night fell, we saw the city lights reflecting in the water of the harbor…..

…………………………….changes to come in the morning………

Clearwater to St. Petersburg, Florida (Jan 19)

In preparation for a late travel day, we had a hearty breakfast at the Salt Cracker Fish Camp.  A short distance away was Pier 60 which features a 1,080-foot fishing pier and recreational park.  The reason Pier 60 is such a popular spot for anglers is its many lights which make it ideal for night fishing.  Pier 60 also is home to one of largest beach playgrounds on the Gulf.  Clearwater Beach is known for its white sandy beaches.

        

After our walk on the beach, we pulled out of Clearwater Marina headed through the Narrows (ICW) for St. Petersburg.  The Narrows is a narrow section of the Intracoastal Waterway which passes through several beach communities (Sand Key, Indian Rocks, Madeira Beach and Treasure Island).  Because of homes, most of this travel only allows minimum wake speed (6-7 mph).  The shoreline is dotted with expensive high-rise condos and multi-million dollar beach homes.

……and yes, there were more beached boats!

    

        

Many of the bridges serving the beach communities are bascule or lift bridges.  At the right-side foot or fender of each bridge is a gauge to determine the present clearance due to tidal change.  Kara Mia is 19.5 feet tall so we look for a 20 foot clearance.  Sometimes it is pretty close!  You see in the picture we had about 21 feet of clearance.  In the second picture, our anchor light cleared by inches.  These bridges are manned, so if you cannot clear the bridge you must call the bridge master on your marine radio and request the bridge be raised or opened.

    

    

After clearing the Narrows and several of these bridges, we were finally up on plane (31.4 mph) and officially moving into Tampa Bay.  In the distance we could see downtown St. Pete and our destination for a few days of R & R.

    

Along with a few other loopers, Bouge abaord Zendeavor (also from Nashville) and the dock master (Doug), we were greeted at St. Petersburg Marina  by Brady, security patrol of his sailboat, and the “duck greeting committee”.

   

The municipal marina at St. Pete is the only superyacht (200 feet and above) marina on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  Port St. Pete is located in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, replete with shops, restaurants, bars and pristine parkland. The port is just a short walk from the world-renowned Dali Museum, as well as scores of other galleries and museums.

One weekend each March, the Grand Prix race season begins in St. Pete.  They close off the downtown streets and use two runways of Whitted Airport as the race course.  One of the reasons the race is held here is St. Pete’s ability to accommodate the mega-yachts of the companies that come to participate in this event.

Clearwater Beach and a visit to Tierra Verde……(Jan 18)

At 3:00 a.m. this morning we were on the bow of the boat adjusting lines and fenders for a 3 foot tidal change.  We are still getting used to tidal changes!  It was 32 degrees with 20+ mph howling wind gusts.  (No photos!)

But a few hours later we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over Clearwater Beach…….

    

John and Jill, our friends from Nashville that now live on Tierra Verde Island, picked us up for lunch and a tour of the Tampa Bay area.  We had the best grouper and Cuban sandwiches at the Palm Pavilion and a “brief” but chilly walk on the beach before visiting their home in Tierra Verde.

        

    

We returned to Kara Mia to catch up on our blog and get ready for an early morning departure to St. Pete.

    

Tarpon Springs to Clearwater, Florida (Jan 17)

Departure from Turtle Cove was delayed due to skinny water.  Turtle Cove, while being an excellent marina, was primarily a boat storage facility for the area.  It is a good stop for loopers to layover for a day or two after completing the gulf crossing.  After bidding farewell to Herb, Lee and Maddie, and a few other loopers, we left the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs and entered the Anclote River.  It was a beautiful start with glassy waters and much appreciated warm sunshine (not so much later).

        

As opposed to when we entered in the fog, today we could clearly follow our red and green markers and see some of the beautiful homes along the river.

    

    

As we re-entered the ICW, it was back to bridges………

………..and dolphins!  Karen was finally able to capture dolphins out of the water.  We also enjoyed a school of dolphins swimming and “belly-flopping” in our wake!

    

Later that afternoon (and shortly before we made it to the dock) the weather took a nasty turn.  The US Coast Guard issued a small craft warning due to 25-35 mph wind gusts and high swells.  Once again, as a result of the recent hurricanes, we witnessed numerous beached sail boats along the route.

    

After we were finally (and safely) docked at Clearwater Beach Marina, we were joined by Ron’s college roommate and fraternity brother (his brother from another mother), also named Ron.  Don’t hold it against him, but he is an attorney in Tampa.  He tried relentlessly to convince Santa he would be a better boy this year!

    

Enjoyed another beautiful sunset in Clearwater and caught up over dinner at Guppy’s.

    

Birthday and Work Day (Jan 15-16)

As we awoke on Karen’s birthday, we were surprised with a more than dramatic tidal change – as we had not experienced before.  Even the floating dock (in the first pic) could not compensate for the larger than normal tidal difference.  The dry land across the channel had not been visible since our arrival in Tarpon Springs and Kara Mia was inches from sitting on the bottom!

    

A bit about Herb the Harbor Host………..Along the waterways of America’s Great Loop, former loopers, future loopers and fellow boaters volunteer as hosts and hostesses at marinas and ports of call to assist loopers with everything from finding the right slip (length, beam, depth, floating, fixed, cost) to getting to a grocery store.  Herb was all of this, plus he greeted us with cinnamon streusels upon docking!  He also helped us find a Volvo technician and a diver to help address our engine alarm issue.  Last year Herb was voted by loopers from all over the country as HARBOR HOST OF THE YEAR!

    

Before attacking anything mechanical, we wanted an accurate evaluation of the props.  Kelly, and her father are busy divers in this crab pot crowded fishing village.  Kelly gave us a clean bill of health for our props and the bottom of the boat!  Matt the Volvo technician also ran routine maintenance and verified everything was in good operating order as well.  With a huge sigh of relief, it was determined by all that the engine alarm must have just been a hick-up and we are good to continue on our journey.    

Herb joined us for a fish and chip dinner at Tarpon Tavern on our last night.  We thanked him for his assistance and knowledge – Herb had recently completed “The Loop” himself…….