Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crossing Our Wake - Day 394

October 11, 2016
Day 394

On October 11, 2016,  “Building Our Wings” crossed her wake at 3:00  PM as she entered the western end of the “Miserable Mile” near Fort Myers, Florida.  Sharon and John Watts along with our two Border Terriers, Jake and Kimi, have spent the last 13 months on the adventure of a lifetime.  We started our journey September 14, 2015, with a “side trip”, taking our boat from our home in Gloucester, VA to Fort Myers Beach on the west coast of Florida, a journey of 1270 miles.  On March  17, 2016, we left Fort Myers Beach, crossed the Okeechobee Waterway and started north again along the east coast to begin our Great Loop trip.  Here are some trip statistics:

Great Loop Miles Traveled:           5091
Side Trip Miles Traveled: 1270
Total Miles Traveled: 6361
Gallons of Diesel Fuel Used: 2276
Engine Hours:                 534
Number of Locks Transited: 116
Nights at Anchor:              4
Nights at Free Docks:   24
Nights at Marinas:          366
Number of Countries:     2
Number of States:            17
Number of Great Lakes:      3
Atlantic Ocean Miles:   86
Gulf of Mexico Miles:          179
Number of Days on the Trip: 394
Number of Weeks on the Trip:   56
Number of Weekly Masses Missed:    1

Along the way, we met many wonderful people, made new friends, and saw many wonderful places in the USA and Canada that would never have had the opportunity to visit otherwise.  We met many challenges, developed new skills, and learned to work together as a team.  Since we made attending Mass every week a priority we were able to worship in a variety of churches from basilicas and cathedrals to simple country churches.  We have attended Mass with hundreds of people, and one Mass so small that the priest started early because all 16 usual attendees were already there.  We were able to meet and hear men of God from all over the world give their homilies.  We thank God that we have had the opportunity to have such a wonderful adventure!

Here is a little-known fact:  More people summit Mt. Everest each year than complete the Great Loop.

“If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: "It's gonna go wrong." Or "She's going to hurt me." Or,"I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so, therefore . . ." Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

― Ray Bradbury

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sarasota, FL - Day 392-393

October 9-10, 2016
Day 392-393

Sunday we checked the weather when we got up and it looked like we would have a respite from the wind that afternoon for long enough to get to Sarasota.  We spent the morning putting the flybridge cushions back, reinstalling the bimini canvas, removing and stowing extra dock lines and getting the boat ready to travel.  Our marina's diesel fuel supply had water in it, so we had to pull around to another marina up the river to refill our aft tank.  By the time we actually started on the 5-mile no-wake trip down the river it was after 11:00am.  Once we got out to the Gulf Intra-Coastal Waterway it was BUSY!  The channel is narrow and I believe everyone with a boat was out on the water that day.  On the west coast of Florida nobody watches their wake, nobody slows down, so as it turned out we had to contend more with wakes than with wind driven waves,

After one wrong turn that I had plotted wrong on the chart plotter, we got back on track and finally reached the largest body of water left in our trip, Tampa Bay.  Below is a picture of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay.

We crossed Tampa Bay and reentered the smaller waterways until finally the Sarasota skyline appeared and we approached our marina for the night.  With our unplanned detour it was an 80-mile day.

We pulled into "Marina Jack" and as often happens due to our wide beam we were put on the megayacht dock next to the 100 footers.  This whole marina seemed to be mostly 60 foot or above yachts.

This green heron kept hanging around a crapping on our dock lines to let us know we were in the wrong marina.

Sharon walked around and took some photos of tour boats, megayachts, and the waterfront park.

This was the first time we had seen valet parking at a marina.

This line of cars in the valet parking lot are from left to right a Lexus, a BMW, a Ford (sorry), a Tesla, an Acura, a Cadillac, and a Bentley.

 Yes, a Bentley Mulsanne.  You too can own one for just $306,425.00

We stayed an extra day here because the next day looked windy.  We had some trouble with the starboard engine being hard to start the last couple of days, so while we were here I pulled apart the starboard stateroom to check the starting battery.  It turned out that the battery was original to the boat, over 10 years old.  I found a nearby NAPA store that was willing to deliver to the marina, so I got a new starboard starting battery and installed it.  I also checked the port battery and found that it was newer, so I did not replace it.  One more long run to Fort Myers and we will be finished our loop, and we ae anxious to be finished and take a break from the boat for a while.

Oh, I almost forgot . . . . . A Maserati to you, too.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tarpon Springs, FL, Waiting for Hurricane Matthew to Pass - Day 385-391

October 2-8, 2016
Days 385-391

Our plan for Tarpon Springs was to stay two nights and then go on to Fort Myers, which would take two days, and finish our Great Loop.  After that, we would go east across the Okeechobee Waterway to Stuart where we would store the boat for a few months and perhaps take it to the Bahamas in the spring.  We arrived in Tarpon Springs Saturday evening after a long and tiring day crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle, and just fell into bed after tying up and walking the dogs.

Sunday morning we got up and took an Uber to Mass at a very nice nearby church, St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The Stations of the Cross in this church were unlike any we had seen before.

The church was right across the street from a Walmart, so after Mass, we walked over and stocked up on a few items.  When we got back, we walked a couple of blocks from the marina to a seafood restaurant, Rusty Bellies.  While we were there we saw a shrimp boat unloading its catch at the wharf right at the restaurant.  It doesn't get any fresher than that!  I decided not to have the shark.

Afterward, we walked around the main street that runs along the sponge docks.  We had read that Tarpon Springs is the closest thing to being in Greece without actually being there.  Greeks came in the early 1900's and established the town and the sponge trade here.  The quaint main street is full of Greek restaurants and shops.

There are bicycles all over town decorated with flowers.

This is a shot of the sponge docks.

This statue dedicated to the sponge divers was also on the sponge docks.

A sponge market in a Greek shopping area.

This was a great idea!  I wonder why nobody had thought of it before!

This is St. Nicholas, a Greek Orthodox cathedral in town.  Sharon walked there one day and someone at the church gave her a guided tour including seeing the relic of St. Nicholas they have there.

There were seafood shops all over town.  We thought our son Michael might like to know that apparently they had heard of his prowess with Blue Crabs and opened a store there dedicated to him.

There were many murals all over town depicting different aspects of sponge diving.

We thought the flower bikes all over town were just for decoration, but this fellow was riding one.

There was a trolley running through town that ran from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater and back with many stops in between.  We bought a three-day pass for $5.00 each and rode the whole route to see what we might like to go back and see later.  We wound up going back to a little Celtic-centric town called Dunedin.  It was another interesting little town with a number of  Irish pubs and a Celtic store.

We had lunch at a seafood restaurant at the Dunedin marina where I had a platter of blackened grouper cheeks.  Many consider the cheek to be the best tasting part of the fish, but there are only two bite size pieces on even a large fish.  When I saw them on the menu I could not resist a whole plate full.  Delicious!  Interestingly, while we were eating, the couple at the next table asked us if we were Loopers because they had seen Sharon's Green Turtle Bay T-shirt (the marina in Kentucky) and then told us they had done the Great Loop a few years ago.  We swapped Loop stories back and forth for a while until we finished lunch.  They lived in Tennessee and kept their boat at Joe Wheeler park in Alabama and had come back to Florida by car to see some of the places they missed when traveling by boat.

After we arrived in Tarpon Springs we found that the weather forecasters were calling for Hurricane Matthew, which had been in the southern Carribean, to turn north and run up the east coast of Florida.  Considering that, we decided we should just hunker down in our protected location on the west coast and wait for the storm to pass.  We spent Thursday getting the boat ready for a storm, because even though Matthew was on the east coast, tropical storm winds were being forecast for our location on the west coast.  We added extra lines and chafe protection, took down the bimini top, and stowed all of the flybridge cushions in the cabin.  I reset all of the fenders and then as a defensive measure I went to the slip next to ours and reset some lines on the boat there so it wouldn't break free in a high wind and damage our boat.  It was a fairly large boat tied only with small frayed lines, and the owners never came to check on it, so I figured I did them a favor by retying it.  The black arrow on the picture below shows our location.

In the early morning hours of Friday, we began to get some of the predicted wind and rain, and that continued for most of the day on Friday.  We saw winds up to perhaps 35 to 40 mph and weathered them very well.  We were glad we decided to stay in Tarpon Springs.  Even though we were there for a week, there was plenty to see and do.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Carrabelle, FL to Tarpon Springs, FL, Crossing the Gulf of Mexico - Day 384

October 1, 2016
Day 384

We got up while it was still dark so that we could be underway at first light, which turned out to be about 7:10 AM.  The crossing dock to dock figured to be 180 miles and at our cruise speed averaging 15 mph I figured we would arrive in Tarpon Springs in about 12 hours, getting us there just before sunset.

By the time we left the no wake zone in Carrabelle we could see pretty well and soon the sun peeked over the eastern horizon.

The predicted light winds and less than one-foot seas did not quite work out.  The seas were initially running 2-3 feet with whitecaps as far as we could see.  Once we turned southeast the waves seemed to settle to about a two-foot average, plus we were taking them mostly on the stern quarter, so they were easier to take.  Even so, we got bounced pretty hard a few times and there was stuff falling all over the cabin.  We kept thinking as the day wore on that the waves would die down, but we were two-thirds of the way across before they finally settled to somewhere around one foot and the ride became much more comfortable.  Below is a picture of the "less than one-foot calm waves" we experienced for most of the trip.

Eleven hours and six minutes after we started our engines in Carrabelle we shut them down in Tarpon Springs, covering an even 179 miles.  Our average speed dock to dock was 16.1 mph including the no wake zones on each end of the trip.  Even though it was a quick crossing, it was exhausting.  

As we pulled into our slip there was another boat pulling into the slip next to us.  Since it was after hours at the Turtle Cove Marina the people on the other boat helped us tie up and hook up our shore power.  It turned out that they had just moved there from Maryland and one of the women aboard had graduated from Kenwood High School where Sharon had been the Wellness Center Manager some years ago.  They found out that they knew some of the same people from there.  Small world!