Sunday, February 27, 2011

Longboat Key Marina

Kite Surfers on Tampa Bay
On Friday February 25 we left Pass a Grille and headed back to our home port of Longboat Key Marina. ( Winds were predicted to be 15-20 knots from the south so we stayed "inside" until we crossed Tampa Bay heading south. WE took a channel paralleling the I 275 highway leading to the Skyway bridge until we entered the bay. with Fresh winds the kite and windsurfers were out.
After an uneventful cruise of 27 miles we arrived "home". WE hosed the salt off Island Hopper and headed home.

Pass a Grille

Passing Anclote Key and the Lighthouse
Channel to Pass a Grille-Don Cesar in background
The mate ready for docking
As an intermediate stop before our home port of Longboat Key we docked for the evening at Pass a Grille clubhouse of the SPYC. Two blocks from a beautiful beach. Nice protected marina with a clubhouse and a restaurant. WE bicycled to the village and checked out the beautiful beach near the Don Cesar Hotel on St Pete Beach. We met some cruising friends from the SPYC for dinner.

Leaving Tarpon Springs

Customs Officers preparing to board Island Hopper
Departing Tarpon Springs
Main Street view
Note name of Vessel "Capt Eddie"
We left on Thursday morning after the fog cleared. Our next destination was the Pass a Grille clubhouse of St Pete Yacht Club about 35 miles. Because the weather prediction was excellent, sunny 70's winds south at 5 knots we decided to head back out into the Gulf for the passage to Pass a Grille inlet, just north of the entrance to Tampa Bay. This inlet is very reliable, well marked and with no shoaling so we gave it a shot, luckily no problems were encountered.
We were half way there, 3 miles offshore opposite Clearwater Beach, and we were stopped by a Customs Boat and boarded. The officers' checked the Ship's papers and our ID's, I presented my coast guard credentials as I have a Captain's License. They stayed for 15 minutes radioing back to their boat. I suspect checking our ID's through their computer. They asked if we had been in a foreign port, I responded, "No, unless you count Tarpon Springs as a foreign port with all the Greeks." They didn't chuckle. Nor did their checklist include Grey Poupon!
They went back to their vessel and departed. We continued our cruise to Pass a Grill.

Tarpon Springs Visit

Sponge diver Boats complete with sponges
Just Like a Taverna in Greece
Island Hopper's Dock for the Night
We enjoyed our visit to Tarpon Springs a Greek fishing village north of Clearwater. Very Touristy but fun. Plenty of sponges for sale and Greek restaurants to visit. Very picturesque community.

Tarpon Springs

Entering Tarpon Springs on the Anclote River
Shrimp boat approaching in the fog in a narrow channel GPS worked! This mark indicates a dredged cut in the shoal to enter the river
We were delayed leaving Clearwater due to AM fog. Even with radar and GPS it can be a challenge due to other vessels that go too fast for the conditions. We were headed to Tarpon Springs which is 22 miles away, north on the ICW and then up the Anclote River. Since the weather was perfect we elected to go out Clearwater Pass into the Gulf. This is much easier than negotiating the ICW which has become shallow in spots. AS we turned up the Anclote River I noted a fog bank rolling in off the Gulf. I turned on the Navigation lights and the Radar just in time for the visibility to be reduced to 500 feet. I noted a few green blobs on the radar approaching, I blew our horn as required by the rules of the road and there appeared two large shrimp boats headed out to sea. We passed safely in a tight channel. The fog lifted as quickly as it had rolled in.

Clearwater Yacht Club

Clearwater Yacht Club
A Pirate Ship departing Clearwater Beach
We traveled from SPYC to Clearwater Beach to stay at the Clearwater Yacht Club. This club only has a few transient slips so if we are in Clearwater we usually stay at the Municipal Marina about 1 mile away. Since this was a Tuesday night we were able to obtain a slip. Nice club, with emphasis on sailing and racing. The club was hosting over 100 Lasers (small sailboats for one person) from all over the country. While there a member saw Island Hopper's hailing port of Cincinnati and introduced himself. He was also from Cincy, and happened to be an attorney. Jerry Harris by name. He spends the winter in FL and enjoys helping with the regattas at CYC.
After checking out the beach and the town by bicycle the crew had a nice meal at CYC.

St Petersburg February 20-21

Fog in the AM delayed our departures
Leaving SPYC
After two nights with the SPYC cruising club we departed on Sunday afternoon after a bike ride around Davis Island and downtown Tampa. The captain pointed the bow of Island Hopper towards St Petersburg and the docks of SPYC. Only 20 miles down the bay so we took it easy at 9 knots on a beautiful sunny day. WE enjoyed two nights at SPYC taking in the new Dali museum and the Chilhuly collection as well as good biking and eating. dinner the first night at SPYC followed by a pub called the Moon under Water, great curry dishes surprisingly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cruising in 2011

Our Cruise to Tampa with the SPYC cruising Group
M/V Island Hopper secure at the dock Had to wait for a larger vessel to dock. I like the help needed.
Cruise ship entering the channel just below our marina, a daunting sight. Debbie with her new Panama Hat from Ybor City We took the Trolley from the marina to Ybor City in Tampa This vessel transports yachts to far away destinations. She sinks to allow the yachts to sail in and then she refloats. The yachts and their Captains end up in foreign ports for about $1000 per foot of length. So Island Hopper could end up in the Med for about $55,000. We found a nearby dog park on Tampa Bay. Salt water and all
. We have been remiss in posting this year of our travels on Island Hopper. Several cruises in between cold fronts to Captiva Island and St Petersburg Yacht Club. We had to shorten a trip that we had planned to make to Naples due to high winds and anther cold front in January. February is turning out to be a great month for weather. We traveled to Tampa (Marjorie Park Marina) with 12 boats from the SPYC cruising group. beautiful weather and a great venue. We traveled from Longboat Key to Tampa on Friday 49 miles and 4 hours up Tampa Bay after crossing Sarasota Bay. Beautiful day so we cruised at 9 knots and a bit at 20 so I could arrive early enough for a conference call at 4PM.