Wednesday, November 12 - Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, FL
Today was a true test of our nautical stamina! The Crossing of the Gulf is approximately 180 miles from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs...and can be a doozy on a bad weather day. Fortunately, Dockmaster Buddy had given us a good forecast and encouraged us to travel today...water was relatively calm (no more than 3 ft waves on average) and winds were very calm as well.
Our course took us 40 miles offshore between ports - the farthest we had ever been out in open water - whew!! Since we had so many miles to cover, we had to leave the marina at 6:15 am (it was still dark!) in order to arrive at Tarpon before sunset. As we came out of the Carrabelle channel and approached the Gulf, we watched the sun come up! It was a glorious sight!
As we began our course (with "MaryEllen" and "How 'bout Us" following in our wake), we met up with another boat "Trilogy" who was heading to Tarpon as well. They fell in line, and we had a parade of boats for several hours.
We were both exhausted and exhilarated when we arrived in Tarpon Springs - 10 hours later! We docked at the City Marina and enjoyed the evening and the next day just relaxing in this little pseudo-mediterranean village. Lots of good Greek food here!
Friday, November 14 - Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg, FL
The ICW between Tarpon Springs and St. Pete is full of life! Pretty homes, condos and hotels line both sides of the waterway. As we passed through the Clearwater area, I was reminded of the first time I saw this part of FL (with my old Foremost friends years ago)...I fell in love with the Beach then, and it has not lost its charm on me yet.
We were accompanied by several groups of dolphins on the way, but they're always too quick for my camera lens!
Friday evening, once we got settled at the St. Pete Mun. Marina, we strolled over to the "Rib Fest" on the other side of the Pier...quite the party. People everywhere "pigging out" on BBQ and getting ready for the main act - "BTO" (Bachman Turner Overdrive) - guess that would explain all the fortysomethings that were there.
On Saturday, Tom watched some football and I got to do some shopping at the malls in St. Pete. In the evening, we went on a "date" to the famous Bern's Steak House. Tom has been telling me about Bern's for years - and the chateaubriand did live up to its reputation. Dinner was an experience. From the martinis - to the excellent meal - followed by a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar - to the private dessert rooms upstairs...we had a wonderful evening!!
Sunday, November 16 - St. Petersburg to Longboat Key, FL
Leaving St Pete and heading south, we were again struck by the beauty of the Florida Gulf. The further we south we went, the wildlife became more interesting; and, the real estate, more impressive!
The marine traffic in the waterway was heavier today than we have seen - lots of Sunday boat drivers out today! Yikes!
We arrived at Longboat Key early enough to grab a late lunch at the marina restaurant (very nice!) and take a long bike ride toward the north end of the island. We stopped midway to watched a beautiful sunset over the Gulf (is there anything else like it???)
On Monday, while we were preparing to go out for the day, we had a special "visitor"... a manatee was just lumbering around the bow of the boat. Now - that was a sight to see! Quite the huge mammal!
In the afternoon, we took a cab to St Armand's Circle, an incredible little shopping area at the south end of Longboat Key. Lots of little gift shops, island clothing store, designer shoe stores, art galleries, etc. A shoppers paradise!! Cap Tom went to get a haircut, so I could indulge in some well-deserved shopping time!
We had dinner back at the marina restaurant, and called it a night.
Tuesday, November 18th - Longboat Key to Boca Grande, FL
It was another pretty run today - waters were calm and there was not nearly as much traffic in the waterway. We again saw some interesting sea creatures - lots of dolphin, and even some white pelicans!
In the late afternoon, we hopped on the bikes and headed into town for lunch. It is a darling town - very small, very quaint - and it seems like everybody here knows everybody else.
After lunch at the "Loose Caboose" we followed the long bike trail (a converted railroad bed) to the north end of the island. It was a much longer ride than we anticipated (4 miles out and 4 miles back), but it was a pretty easy ride. We did take a break on the way back to stop and admire another gorgeous Gulf sunset. This time we actually got to put our toes in the sand...for the first time on this entire trip! (Can you believe that?) It felt great.
On Wednesday, we spent the morning onboard as the weather was rainy. Once it cleared up, we rented a golf cart (seems to the favored mode of transportation here) and toured the south end of the island. We learned that there is a great amount of history here on Gasparilla Island - founded in the early 1900s with the discovery of phosphate here. Although the industrial portion of the island has since been removed, the history is well preserved at the maritime museum near the lighthouse. We thoroughly enjoyed hearing about it.
The homes on this island are just lovely. The styles are all pretty similar; pastel coloring, tile roof, white trim - but each has its own personality. Very beautiful.
Later in the evening, we took the golf cart out again - to go to dinner. It was a long, very dark ride along the beach path to get to "South Beach" restaurant - but it was worth it! Great food!
Thursday, November 20 - Boca Grand to Cape Coral, FL
After breakfast in town, we packed up for our last run of the year! We planned to leave the boat in Cape Coral for the next several weeks, as we head back to Atlanta for the holidays. We were thrilled that our friends, George & Wayne, introduced us to Cape Harbour - it is a beautiful new yacht club development - and we look forward to seeing it again when we return in January 2004.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004 - Cape Coral, FL to Marco Island, FL
After spending a couple of months off the boat, it took us a bit to get reacquainted with our nautical surroundings once again (and the Cap says it took the First Mate a little longer to remember her jobs!!)
We left the lovely Cape Harbour around noon - a little later than normal, since we had to wait for the early morning winds to die down - and set out for our next destination, Marco Island. It was a 3 hour cruise to the mouth of the Marco Island River. The first part of the ride was pretty calm, but when we got out in open water of the Gulf the swells got larger. We were glad to arrive the the Marco River Marina in the afternoon.
In the evening, our friends Bob & Carol came to join us for a glass of wine at the boat. After our little happy hour, we went to see their new house (it is beautiful!) and on to enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Island Cafe! Yummy. We had a great time - and enjoyed hearing all the Bob & Tom tales from their many years of working together!
Thursday, January 29, 2004 - Marco Island, FL to Key West, FL
There was a slight wind as we left the dock at Marco, but nothing we couldn't handle. After refueling, we set out for a long ride on the open water to Key West. We met some pretty big rolling waves on the way, but since they were coming from behind us - we didn't feel them too much... we just "surfed" all the way to Key West. Crab pots were a nuisance, though. Docking was a bit tricky at Galleon's with the wind and strange current there.
Friday - we cleaned the boat in preparation of Craig & Nicole's arrival - and they arrived early! We finished our cleanup and headed for Duval Street for lunch. Later, we enjoyed the festivities on Mallory Square (where Craig was the assistant to the Gypsy for the evening!) After dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, we called it a night - everybody was tired.
Saturday - was a little rainy and overcast, so we decided to take a tour around the Hyatt Time Share Vacation properties (they give you Freebies if you do that!). Later, we did a little shopping and had dinner at Crabby Bill's. And, much later, there was dancing at Rick's.
Sunday - some of us were a wee bit tired (from too much dancing at Rick's!!!) We rode bikes around town and got pampered at Cat's Scratch. Dinner was pizza around the SuperBowl screen.
Monday - we enjoyed a wonderful day trip to the Dry Tortugas! We toured the massive Ft Jefferson and did some snorkeling at the beach there. Since we were all pretty tired, we had a quick dinner at Fogarty's and went back to the boat.
Tuesday - the girls shopped while the guys toured Key West on scooters! Later, had dinner at Margaritaville (can't come to Key West without that!)
Wednesday - Craig & Nicole had to fly home today (early am), and Tom and I spent a lazy day around town. Later, we had dinner at Rooftop Cafe.
Thursday - we attempted to leave Key West today - but it was not to be... the winds were stronger than we expected out on the open water causing 7 ft seas, so we had to return to Galleon's to spend another night there. Had dinner (again) at Two Friends Patio.