Forward to St. Petersburg

February 22, 23 Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg FL

We had planned to leave for St. Pete on Thursday, but Dirk was up most of the night Wednesday with a stomach bug so we quietly recovered on Thursday. I walked around the Sponge Docks again, chatted with boat neighbors and we went to bed early.

Yesterday (Friday) we were up and out by 8am, and although it was windy (6-8 knots) on the larger waters in the GIWW (Gulf Intracostal Waterway) the swell was only about a foot so no drama for us. (Yea!)

We saw final scenes of the Tarpon Springs as we traveled through the Anclote River to the waterway.

We initially we encountered both waterfront homes as well as beaches and southern “woods” along the way, but after Dunedin and our first Florida bascule bridge, both sides of the rivers, bays,etc were just solid with homes, condos and high-rises of all sorts. I guess that is what we will be seeing for a while.

We also needed to slow down for no wake zones and people fishing along the way. This is normal in Florida but it was the first time it had been required quite so often since we were on canals in Canada.

The St. Petersburg Municipal Marina is big and has very nice facilities (clean shower room!) and is 2 blocks from down town of the large city. We immediately saw Jane Johnson, a friend from the Mobile AL marina, and we joined her and another couple for dinner.

We stopped to listen to a band near the restaurant as left for the short walk back to the boat.

 

Ukulele Fun and Good Friends

February 20 & 21, Tuesday and Wednesday; Tarpon Springs, FL

In the last two days I’ve traveled south to the town of Dunedin – by car or bus – not boat. And why? So I could play ukulele along with Jan Mutaska’s dulcimer; Jan being the boating friend the joined us Sunday night. Yesterday she drove 1/2 hour north from Dunedin to pick me up so I could enjoy their Dulcimer Club meeting at the Dunedin Senior Center. I was amazed at the number of players –  25 or more- all playing lovely music. Jan had told me to join in with my ukulele and people were very welcoming. Of course there were 3 women there originally from Massachusetts and we chatted a bit.

We had a quiet evening and I took a walk around the marina at sunset.

Today (Wednesday) we had more musical plans. We joined a groups of blue grass musicians that play together for a few hours next to a Rail trail in Dunedin. There were 3 fiddlers, a banjo, a bass and 3 guitars, a hammered dulcimer, Jan with her dulcimer and myself and another woman with our ukuleles. It was fun and challenging in that we had no music and had to figure out when to play which chords by ear. I’m not sure the ukes added much but it was fun.

To get to Dunedin I decided to figure out the public transportation in this tourist area – the Jolly Trolley! It involved going online, downloading an app (of course) to get a schedule and then walking about 5 minutes to the local stop. But I forgot about the “exact change” part and ended up borrowing a quarter each from two nice young men on the trolley!

Since it was our last night in Tarpon Springs we planned to go out with our friends Chris and Roger to the famous Rusty Bellies seafood restaurant. (They had non-seafood options as well). To do organize our outing I downloaded yet another app – “Nowait (for guests)” because the restaurant always has long wait times.  The app lets you get your name on the wait list before you leave your abode.  We had a good meal and a very good time. We will miss our new friends.

 

 

More time in Tarpon Springs

February 18, 19 – Sunday, Monday in Tarpon Springs

Although we have places to go and people to see, we are really enjoying Tarpon Springs and decided to stay the rest of the week (through Thursday)  since we get 2 days free by paying after paying for one more day.

On Sunday morning I found another Unitarian Universalist church to visit – only about 8 blocks from the marina. Unfortunately the church is undergoing massive repairs right now due a sink hole that caused major issues and need for rebuilding a portion of their buildings. I walked about 1.5 miles to their temporary space and who did I see? Helen Ham from our church in Stow!! She lives in the area for 3 months each year. This church has quite a thriving congregation –  the largest I’ve seen in my travels thus far. Here are photos of the historic church – you can see how much work is needed…

In the last few days I’ve roamed the area a bit. Here are photos of the Sponge Docks (tourist shops and Greek restaurants on the harbor)

In the downtown area there is an amazing mosaic mural honoring a women that helped beautify the town in the late 1800’s with her gardens. Also a large Greek church.

There is an upscale area not far from the marina ….

Monday evening we joined Chris and Roger to watch the sunset at a small beach in Tarpon Springs

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Tarpon Springs – Real Florida!

February 16 & 17; Friday/Saturday Tarpon Springs, Florida

Why do I say “real Florida?” It’s warm!!!  Today I wore shorts for the first time since we arrived on the  Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast (where I thought it would be warm, but it was not to be this year).  Yesterday and today were sunny and in the 70’s – how very nice.

So about Tarpon Springs… This small city has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. It is also home to the Florida sponge industry, which grew rapidly when Greek sponge diving was introduced to Tarpon Springs by recruiting divers and crew members from Greek islands.  The sponge industry was once one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and is still the focus of the tourist industry here. Guess which type of restaurant is most prevalent here? Hint: Thursday night we went to Costas Restaurant and Friday night it was Mykonos. Lots of lamb and feta cheese. Both restaurants were very good and flexible enough to have at least one vegan option on the menu.

Friday morning Dirk and I walked to a popular breakfast cafe (Tula’s) which is along side of a 35 mile bike trail and explored a little of the main town.  To get there we walked about 1/2 mile on  tree-lined and brick paved streets where we found the  banks, antique shops and eateries. The separate tourist area is by the harbor and called the Sponge Docks. It has the normal shops with t-shirts and jewelry, but most stores also have a large selection of the natural sponges of different varieties.

On Friday we needed to find a dentist since Dirk had lost a filling a few days earlier. We were lucky on two counts – he found a dentist that would see him in the afternoon, and boating friends Chris and Roger loaned us their car so we could drive him 15 miles to the appointment. He got a new cap and I took a walk and saw two ducks with about 30 little ducklings following them – too cute!

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In the evening we ate with 3 other looper couples at a Greek restaurant of course.

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Note: Left front to right front: Tom and Lili Hudson, Dirk and I, Roger Kay and Kris Martinsek, and Kim and Tom from Sweet Liberty.

Today I did some shopping in the morning, boat cleaning up for a while in the afternoon, and Dirk had a much needed hair cut and beard trim. Around 4pm our friends Ron and Jan Matuska from Dunedin came for a visit.

We met Ron and Jan first on their boat Adagio in Brick, New Jersey and then we met again when the Champlain canal flooded in Whitehall, NY. A number of boaters had to wait 3 or 4 days for the water levels to go down to a safe traveling level to allow us to go through the last lock on the canal.  Jan plays beautiful dulcimer and I played along with the ukulele, and then we made music again today on our boat. We enjoyed catching up and trying a new Italian restaurant in town.  (We are living it up these last 3 days – pretty unusual for us, but all good).

The Crossing: Part III

February 15, Thursday –  Cedar Key to Tarpon Springs

We made it across the Big Bend! The crossing of the open water in Florida called the Big Bend that I worried would be hard and scary is done, and wasn’t that bad after all. Not to say there weren’t a few challenges in the last twenty -four hours of it, but we have arrived in Tarpon Springs. Yeah! Here’s a drawing of the Big Bend showing our 3 legs versus the overnight option. (Note: Our Great Loop adventure is still not complete – we need to get to Islamorada in the Florida Keys for that “crossing the wake” milestone. Maybe another month or more).

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Yesterday in Cedar Key we decided to save some time  by anchoring in a calm bay vs going down a windy path to the town in order to shorten our morning “commute” to our next stop 65+miles away. The anchorage  was fine,  had a beautiful view of the Milky Way, all was calm. But – after we were in bed some large swells disrupted our peace for a few hours- tossing us back and forth for a few seconds, dying down and then starting again. Pretty hard to sleep. I finally took 2 ibuprofen and sang songs from musicals in my head until I got to sleep. Dirk was awake until the bay calmed down about midnight or one. Whew. Lesson learned.

This morning it was very foggy but we left anyway since we had a track to follow and it was predicted to be gone by 9 am. Well, it was thick and difficult to see more than 100 yards ahead for more than 3 1/2 hours! We have the radar and nav lights were on in case other vessels were near.  Since I was enjoying the fresh air of the fly bridge, I piloted most of the morning. It wouldn’t have been bad but I couldn’t take my eyes off the water and relax because of the little crab pots we can’t float over – we saw 100’s of them today. Finally the fog lifted around noon, making it easier to slalom around the crab pots.

Foggy ride and can you spot the crab pot?

The rest of the day (8 1/2 hours in total) was beautiful again, with sun, warmth and calm seas. As we came closer to Tarpon Springs we started to see some of the character will explore in the next day or two.

We are staying at the Turtle Cove Marina and so are our friends we left in Apalachicola – Tom, Lili and Roger just finished the overnight trip direct from Apalachicoloa. We’ll all sleep well tonight!

 

 

 

 

 

The Crossing: Part I and II

February 13 and 14, Monday and Tuesday; to Steinhatchee and Cedar Key FL

Yesterday we traveled about 70 miles across the Gulf of Mexico to Steinhatchee Florida. We had anchored out in Alligator Bay to save about 10 miles and were glad we did. Although we thought wind and waves wouldn’t be too much for us, the swells were just high enough from the wrong direction to cause me some queasiness.. I took a 1/2 Bonine  (like Dramamine) and sat comfortably down outside. Then I enjoyed the ride, sitting on our comfy chair cushion in the bow, eyes closed, half snoozing while the boat rocked me. Worked for me but Dirk had a long day.

At one point he shouted and there were dolphins all around us and they stayed with us for about 5 minutes. His photos are here. I was on the bow so could see them swimming under as well as on top of the water.

 

We stayed at a marina after all. We were going to anchor out, but the likely spots were already full of sailboats and there was an opening at an easy-to-reach marina, called Sea Hag Marine!. Dirk treated us to pizza down the road; an early valentine-day treat.

Here are our leaving shots in the morning.

Today is the miracle day on the Gulf;  barely any waves, just feeling small  bounces with little swells and then the sun came out. It is gorgeous. Still not hot mind you, I’m wearing two layers of long sleeves, but am comfortable. ( It was 4 layers at the start of the day).

After lunch I relaxed on the bow seat again, and then moved up to the flybridge with my Uke so Dirk could rest. We saw more dolphins, and now jellyfish too as we get close to our next stop, Cedar Key. The shot of me below was taken on my bow seat, being lazy on this lovely day. About an hour after we anchored near the town of Cedar Key we saw a nice sunset – the first in a while.

 

Lovin’ Apalachicola

February 6 – 10, Tuesday through Saturday nights, Apalachicola, FL

We had been looking forward to visiting Apalachicola by boat since our fellow loopers, Dodie and John, have moved here after finishing the loop. We are staying in the Scipio Marina (silent C) which is on a creek off of the Apalachicola River. It is only about 8 blocks from our friend’s house in one direction and from the downtown in another.

The first night we ate again at the Up the Creek Restaurant near by – good place.  We passed it on the way in, along with houseboats that are AirBNB or VRBO rentals – how fun would that be?

I loved visiting Apalachicola.  The town center is about 4 blocks deep and 8 blocks long, mostly one or two story buildings, and people like to chat and are friendly. There are  plenty of coffee and breakfast places, a couple of bookstores,  many cute stores and a number of art and pottery studios. Although we didn’t take advantage of all the seafood restaurants or the bars with live music, we heard good things about them from the other boaters.

Which is another reason this was so much fun – when we got to the marina we found two sets of loopers we knew from Mobile: Lili and Tom Hudson and Chris and Roger, and we started getting together most days for docktails around around 5:30 to share boating stories, sites to see in the area, etc. Two other boats joined us after a few days, and there are 3 more anchored in the harbor that we’ve met as well. What is  the main topic? When are we going to cross the Big Bend?

The Intracostal protected waters stop about 20 boating miles from here (west of Lighthouse Point on the left of the map) and don’t pick up again until after Florida’s Big Bend ends in Tarpon Springs, FL (bottom right).  The direct trip across the gulf is at 18 to 23 hours, an overnight trip, and boaters must wait until the Gulf of Mexico is unusually calm before taking off on this trip. The alternative to cruising overnight is to do the trip in 2 of 3 legs, which is our preference, anchoring out in the few safe harbors along the way. We will stop in Steinhatchee and Cedar Key areas before getting to Tarpon Springs.  This route still is highly dependent on calm winds and waves. So we discuss the weather, the approach, etc.big bend

Here we are one evening have dock-tails on our sundeck…

I did a lot of walking around town, and one day I rented a bike as well. The trip to the only grocery store (Piggily Wiggily) was a decent workout on a regular basis.

Looking at the map, our marina is on the creek near the Orman House, the downtown is where Commerce and Water street are labeled, and you can see Piggily Wiggily up about about another 10 blocks. Here are more scenes from the area.

Today (Saturday), our last day here, was busy. Lili, Dodie and I joined the local Yoga class and I had quite a workout and then I headed to the Farmers Market near another area along the creek that I hadn’t explored. John and Dodie were there and after some shopping, Dodie took me to Wildlife Preserve boardwalk that provides a view of the natural look of the area.

I don’t want to leave out the Vietnam War Memorial located in front of the historic Orman House which I also toured.

Enough! It was a great visit and we very much enjoyed being with our best boat buddies, John and Dodie as well as new boat buddies we will hopefully continue to meet up with as we travel the west coast of Florida.