St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Venice, Englewood

Travelogue - April 8, 2006

On the Pier Go, 'Gators! Woo-ooo! We have attracted some attention this past week with our orange and blue stripes and apparent University of Florida 'Gator affiliation. It's fun to be a winner by association!

Ahoy, friends and family! It seems like a lot has transpired since I left us "swinging on the hook" at St. Petersburg. In our last Travelogue, Sea Gator was pictured with the Vinoy Hotel in the background. In the first photo here, the Vinoy is the left-most building with the single tower. Sea Gator is tucked away behind the trees, sheltered from Tampa Bay's open waters by the sea wall in the middle distance. For this picture we had swapped photo duties with some nice foreign tourists we met on the Pier, so both Rick and I are in the same shot for a change!

St. Petersburg Pier The Pier was cool - at its extreme end is an inverted pyramid building. Why a pyramid? I do not know, but here it is as seen from the anchorage. It has shops and an aquarium, and a restaurant on the top floor.

City view We had lunch up there one day and took photos of the city. The photo, left, shows the basin with the City marina, the south end of the city skyline and the boulevard out to the Pier.

The next photo, below right, shows the boulevard and downtown, and there is the Basin in the upper right portion and the Vinoy Hotel in the far right corner. That whitish speck at the left edge of the basin is Sea Gator!

City view Like all other anchorages, the Basin had both good and not-so-good elements. The good things included its location, obviously! Also, there is a dock on the south bank where a commercial operation rents boats. You can leave your dinghy there all day by slipping $5 in the honor box - a bargain, considering the folks were there all day keeping an eye out.

Also, "Seawall" lived there! He is a merganser, I believe. A day earlier he had been more cheerful and submitted to being stroked. I had never before petted a duck or other large bird. I've provided a photo of him in his hutch, below left.

More good things included the lovely Vinoy Hotel porch, also pictured, below right. And we enjoyed the excellent Euro Café and its owner Demetri Koutsopanagos, and a fun little retro shop called Cherie's Eklektika where they had all those great cards like "The Bigger the Hair, the Closer to God".

Seawall, the Duckmaster I took the tourist trolley to an errand and enjoyed the driver's spiel; I asked him to help me know which stop was mine, and he promised to look for me in two hours when I returned. Well, I was done in one hour, and darned if he didn't drive right past! He screeched to a halt mid-block and apologized, explaining "You're early!" It was fun to imagine living downtown in the city - there is something going on every day, including street fairs and outdoor concerts and farmer's markets, and there were some nice old houses just crying out for TLC.

The not-so-good things included the Basin's vertical concrete seawall, which reflected waves rather than absorbing them as a sloping or vegetated bank would have. When easterlies blew directly in off the Bay it was like being in a washing machine! Oh well, we knew our anchor was set, and what does one expect in an urban anchorage? So, as always when it's breezy, we stuck close to Sea Gator "just in case".

Vinoy Hotel porch The only other not-so-good things were the just in cases: other boats. I hate to criticize, but sheesh! When we returned one morning after slipping away to Café Euro for breakfast with Demetri, a sailboat had anchored too close to us and Rick politely conveyed that information. The sailor muttered some assurance, and added, as though it were relevant, "We don't get many power boats in here." Um, OK. So? Rick also told him we had over 70' of rode (anchor line) out, and he said he had 30'. Yikes, what can you do? Our friend Gary will have some pertinent suggestions, all of which will include some salty language, but we are too tolerant. We figured, at the least, we are bigger than the sailboat, and bigger generally wins. We put out all our fenders.

That afternoon I heard some scuffling and went on deck to see that sailboat nestled close beneath Sea Gator's prow, trying to start his outboard. I called for Rick and busied myself maneuvering fenders. The sailor dithered over his engine while floating along our hull. From our swim platform Rick fended him off then easily reached down and picked up the guy's sliding anchor, which he handed over, saying yet again, "It's 10' deep here, you need more than 30'." Muttering, the sailor finally motored off to the other side of the anchorage.

I will digress: I was told last autumn by an insurance adjuster that Rick and I, in the depths of our vast ignorance, were better prepared than the majority of boaters solely because of our intensive three-day hands-on boating course. Well, I found that both alarming and difficult to believe. But I am no longer skeptical because boy howdy have we seen some stunts. Not that our performance is flawless - remember we failed to account for our line stretch in Boca Grande - and I'm sure we have done and will do many stupid things.

Here's what Cap'n Gary taught us about anchoring: approach downwind of (behind) other boats if possible; face into the wind; come to a full stop; gently lower the anchor until it rests on the bottom and then, while backing downwind, gradually feed out enough chain and/or line so that it runs from the bow to the anchor at a shallow angle, a "scope" of about 7:1. Then gradually exert serious rpm's in reverse, and you will feel, hear and see when the anchor is firmly set. The angle of pull should be shallower if a storm threatens (we survived a whopping thunderstorm at 10:1), and it may be less if all is well (we reduced our scope to 5:1 when the anchorage was too crowded on a calm night).

Danforth anchor Claw anchor These are our two anchors, common types. Visualize the anchor chain attached via that hole in the shank, and it is apparent that a low angle of pull will force the anchor's flukes into the seabed. As the wind shifts the force pulling the anchor comes from different directions, and theoretically the anchor pivots while continuing to dig in. If the anchor pulls free and drags, it is designed to re-set itself IF the scope is adequate; it won't re-set if the scope is inadequate. To weigh anchor, lift vertically and the flukes slip free.

So when I watch someone do anything different from what our hero Cap'n Gary explained, I get nervous. Where were we?

Bradenton sidewalk fronting the Marina Right, so a storm was predicted with consistent 20+ mph north-easterlies, so we opted not to stay at Vinoy Basin. We headed across Tampa Bay and although the winds weren't technically up to speed yet it was a pretty rough ride. I wasn't too pleased, but Rick loved it. I think he's a frustrated bronc-buster at heart.

We motored a short distance up the Manatee River to the town of Bradenton and hunkered down at the Twin Dolphin Marina. I'm sure that we could have ridden out the winds in fine shape in a protected anchorage, but I'm just as glad we didn't try.

Marina fairway First: we learned that Bradenton is another really nice town with a lot to offer;

Second: I was ready for a shower where lather, rinse, repeat is more than a dream;

Third: our friends on Jazz rode it out in a less-than-optimal location, and reported that for the first time in seven years of live-aboard cruising they packed their Abandon Ship bag. It was no sissy storm.

Renovation project While Don and Gillian were fighting for their lives, Rick and I were enjoying a lovely lunch al fresco at FAV's Italian Cucina on Bradenton's historic Main Street.

The marina was our finest lodging to date! The dock hands were knowledgeable and friendly (!), the washing machines and dryers worked (!), the showers were spotlessly clean (!), and it was a mere stroll to Main Street. Above, see the City sidewalk parallel to the marina's docks and expansive fairways.

Carnegie Library Bradenton was nice. Like many communities in Florida, they are beginning to reclaim their downtown from the biker bars and creeping degeneration; there is much to do, but it was comfortable and fun. Here is a COOL building slated for restoration. And their Carnegie Library has been in constant use since its construction.

We were rocking and rolling to the wind while tied in our slip, but we managed to get some work done. We broke for Saturday's farmers market, and found some fine produce. Rick slipped into FAV's for bread and I bought a bracelet.

After three days the winds began to subside so we headed downriver to deSoto Point anchorage, where we had stayed before on our way north. We were only there one night, but it was wonderful and peaceful.

Bishop Bayou, Longboat Key Ever southward. We are hitting the highlights we missed, starting with the Longboat Key anchorage. Gillian exclaimed on the phone, "That's a beautiful anchorage!" And it was: quiet, spacious, crystal green waters, pretty shores...

We anchored in and retired to the sundeck for lunch. While we were enjoying our nourishing repast and being sincerely grateful for our good fortune, in comes another boat. And another and another and another… and before the hour was out 13 boats had come in and snuggled around us.

They were from the Cruising Club of America, and they were very friendly, nice folks.

Package transport It was a great place! We dinghied up secret Bishop Bayou (above left), past mangroves and little hidden yards, until we came at last to the back of a row of shops where we tied Bump Head to cleats on the sea wall, then slipped around front for breakfast at Isabella's Eatery. Afterward we shopped for groceries at the organic market. I returned to Bump Head and socialized with the natives while Rick patronized the adjacent liquor store. He was amazed at the selection of fine beer and chose a couple of obscure treats for his sunset sipping.

The next day I rode my bike several miles to pick up a roll of architectural plans at the designated UPS Store, which proved a bit of a feat. But there was a bike path the entire length of the island, so it didn't matter how much I wobbled. And we took one very nice beach holiday. I worked to avoid a tan, below...

Beach day However, as you may have guessed, back at the ranch there was some confusion among that many boats about who is going to swing where. During the first night I got up to check and poor Bump Head was being menaced by another boat's anchor chain. We freed him and tied him against the swim platform. In the morning, the boat's owner was apologetic, and he said, "You should have waked me up." True, but how does one do that? Hmmm. Anyway, he was nice about it. The next five people were not so nice, and why make a pretty anchorage be all about arguing? We decided to move on before the weekend rush. As we were idling out, a sailboat puttered in and hollered his thanks to us for saving him the best spot. I called back, "It is the best, and you'll have to fight to keep it!"

Sarasota city park Next stop: Sarasota Bay! Back at our old stomping grounds, and where were Mickey and Gary when we were jonesing for pizza? They are on the east coast of Florida, so we're outside their delivery area. We were forced to make do.

We stayed aboard Friday and Saturday, working. Sarasota Bay is huge, and there was a lot of boat traffic and some wind, and no way to be protected. In other words, we were rocking and rolling like mad. By mid-afternoon Saturday we took ourselves to shore and just sat quietly, enjoying solid ground and watching kids play in the Park fountain.

Sarasota city park fountain Sunday we worked all day, and even with "snap" tools activated, it was extremely challenging to create legible AutoCAD drawings with the boat bouncing all over the place! Nevertheless, I completed a set of plans and Rick burned a CD for a new client; Monday we rode our bikes a very long way to make copies and put it all in the mail, and now we are caught up and all is well.

We stayed in the Sarasota rodeo (bull riding event) long enough to get everything in the mail, then headed south to Venice.

Venice city dock We had lodged at a marina in Venice on the way north, where we learned that our friends on Aurora really enjoyed their stay at the City dock. So we made a play for the dock. It's a great little spot if you can get it. We pulled in at 11:30 a.m. and there was room for us! Yea!!

Venice city park We tied up and went for a walk. Last time we were here (Travelogue 5) it was raining and blowing and cold - this time it was really fine.

We strolled the 30 minutes to town through their nice central Park - there are wonderful banyon trees there, and benches and flowering shrubs. We had lunch (see Rick lunching, below) and Rick shopped for shorts. Remember I told you that, inexplicably, pigs are Venice's town mascot? I didn't want to disappoint you again with no photos, so by golly here are enough pig statues for everyone.

Butler Pig Biker Pig I've been talking about nice towns here and there. Before beginning this adventure Rick and I theorized that we might see parts of towns that people in their cars overlook. We thought that we might run into the original "downtowns" of old Florida fishing villages, or any village which relied on waterborne commerce, just by stepping ashore.

From the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), Florida seems to be one big sprawling strip development. But from the water, we've discovered some real gems that have been overlooked by the interstate. It's been fun.

Fish Pig So when I talk about "town", I mean that we found a Real Town, with a definable center, sidewalks (ohmygod), coffee shops and cafes, and maybe even groceries near the waterfront. Punta Gorda, Boca Grande, Venice, Tarpon Springs, and Sarasota all qualify as real towns by our definition. Rick has excluded towns on barrier islands (except Boca Grande) because he disapproves from an environmental stewardship standpoint.

Money Pig So beach-front condo developments never count.

Scenic Pig Have you seen enough of Venice's pigs? Very well. Let's move on.

Signs at the Venice city dock limit your stay to 18 hours, although we met a lady who said that the police are very lenient when it comes to storms. However, it was gorgeous out and no storms appeared in the forecast, so after an excellent night's sleep and 19.5 hours dockside, we went our way.

Rick We came here to Englewood anchorage. It is fairly distant from the wake of traffic of the ICW and sheltered by Manasota Key on the west. The Key is noted for its amazing crop of prehistoric sharks' teeth. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, they are supposedly just littering the beach as far north as Venice which claims to be the "Sharks' Teeth Capitol of the World" (wait, where do the pigs fit in?).

We went for a walk yesterday at the nearby Stump Pass State Park beach and I found a nice selection of likely suspects (yay!), which I subsequently learned is mostly just rocks (boo!). But I'll keep looking.

Englewood anchorage Soon after we arrived here another boat, Gallivant, pulled in nearby. They left us plenty of swing-room and anchored in a sober, seaman like manner, so I knew we'd get along.

I hollered back and forth for awhile with the woman on the bow, then finally we met in person. We've exchanged evenings aboard each other's boats since then, and that's always a nice change of scenery. I hate to admit that our lines were so distinctly drawn by sex stereotypes, but Pam and I discussed crucial decorating decisions and lifestyle choices (plus world events of course) while Rick and Don crawled around each other's engine rooms. It's exactly what I wanted; I've been starved for feminine conversation and I have nothing to prove. Neither does Pam: they sold their house in Wisconsin to live on Gallivant! I deeply admire that level of commitment.

Here we both are in the photo, above. Further up the channel on the right is Stump Pass State Park. The photo of the anchorage, below, is taken from the second-story walkway of a Park building. Many boats pass nearby on their way to the Gulf via Stump Pass, but the majority of them honor the "no wake" sign so this is a nice place. Even with winds of 15 mph+ it's been very pleasant.

Englewood anchorage

Today we went for a long, hot bike ride, then took our first dip off Sea Gator's swim platform! It was great fun; but when Rick dove in and disappeared beneath the water poor Goldie almost had a heart attack. She stood on the deck crying until he climbed up to reassure her. Poor Goldie! I can't imagine what she thought, but we won't subject her to the experience again. Here she is, struggling to regain her composure.

Goldie unwinding I hope you are all well - Pat

Back to top

Ship's Manifest