Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Relaxing in St. Pete

Vector is in St. Petersburg, Florida, where we dropped the hook ten days ago at the South Yacht Basin (map). Construction of the new pier is well along, but it has closed off access to the dinghy dock for the mooring field in the Vinoy Basin, where we normally take a mooring ball. The city has closed the moorings, and ongoing repairs at the municipal marina have the transient docks closed as they rotate tenants in from the docks under repair.

Sunset over St. Pete and the docks of the south yacht basin from our anchorage.

For us, there is not much point to being in St. Petersburg unless we can be right here, and so anchoring was our only remaining option. Fortunately, state law changed in 2016, invalidating the local prohibition on anchoring here in the basin. There were two other boats when we arrived, and there have been a few comings and goings in the time we've been here.

Vector at anchor between the docks and breakwater of the south basin. New pier structure is behind us.

Shortly after getting settled, we splashed the tender so we could get ashore for dinner. While the marina would allow us to tie up behind the fuel dock, that closes before dinner time, and so instead we tendered all the way to the city courtesy docks at the northwest corner of the basin. These docks are $1 per hour regardless of length, with a six-hour limit. You note your slip number and then pay at a machine that is just like the ones you might find at a parking lot.

The courtesy dock "parking" meter. A couple of slips could fit Vector.

We poked and prodded at the machine for a few minutes, but the screen was either blank or simply unreadable, and we finally gave up and walked down Beach Drive to dinner at one of our old standbys, Stillwaters Tavern. In the morning I talked to the marina office about the meter; they told me it was frequently broken and not to worry about paying until it was repaired. While the slips are inside the marina basin, the meter is handled by parking enforcement.

One of the good things about tendering to these courtesy docks, versus either the dinghy dock at the mooring field or the marina transient docks, is that they are right along the waterfront and a very short walk to the restaurant district along Beach Drive. It's also a comfortable walk to the Publix, the weekly farmer's market, the multiplex cinema, and even a nice spa.

Our more usual anchorage, the Vinoy Basin, as seen from tony rooftop bar Canopy. Vinoy hotel at left, pier at right. The ferry is a seasonal service to Tampa; this same vessel serves Provincetown in the summer and we've now seen her both places.

Wednesday morning our friends Martin and Steph invited us to join them at the yacht club for lunch at their weekly gatherings. Louise opted out of meeting Steph at the Salty Sisters meeting, which often involves club business, but I tendered ashore stag and met Martin at the informal Briney Brothers group, mostly comprising husbands with time on their hands while their wives run the show. We remember this whole dynamic from our last vist, and I enjoyed reconnecting with several folks I had met there last time, as well as a few new faces. We returned the following week together.

Another sunset. You can see taxiway lights of the airport at left, and the Dali museum behind the boats.

After lunch Martin walked me over to the office and sponsored us for a temporary guest membership, which allows us access to the club facilities for nine days, with charges billed to our credit card. Among other things, this gave us access to the club's dinghy dock, which is gated and also closer to the grocery store, farmer's market, and museums. We signed in with the dockmaster and have used it several times.

In the course of our time here we've eaten at a handful of downtown restaurants, got massages at the day spa in town, got haircuts at the joint next to the Publix that still had our preferences in their computer from three years ago, and have generally been relaxing and visiting with our friends. After about a week we went over to the fuel dock for water and a pumpout before setting back in to more or less the same spot.

The bathroom sink at Ford's Garage burger joint, with gas-nozzle faucet.

In addition to Steph and Martin, we also had a nice dinner with fellow boaters Kristina and Atle, and Ben and Karen came down from Clearwater to visit the Dali Museum, where they are members, and met us for dinner afterward. Martin and Steph are customers of our long-time friend Steve, and they were nice enough to invite us along for a couple of meals while he was in town for a customer visit.

A, umm, different fixture in that same bathroom, made from a beer keg.

Our stay has not been without some amount of drama. You may recall we hightailed it out of Clearwater to make it here before things got rough on the bay, and the high winds behind that had us dragging a bit in the tight anchorage. We had to re-set the anchor and let out more scope, and even then we found ourselves plowing through the mud at a rate of about two feet per hour before the winds abated. We had heard that the holding here is poor, with loose silt over a hard bottom, perhaps marl. The 40mph winds really warranted more scope than we could deploy in such a tight anchorage.

I strolled through Albert Whitted Park, and I spotted a familiar but ancient logo on the "tail" of this airplane-themed play structure. My very first flight was on National Airlines, which went out of business decades before this structure was built.

We were anchored immediately adjacent to the Albert Whitted airport, and the other drama involved a minor plane crash, wherein a canard-wing Velocity Elite with three persons on board overran the runway and ended up on the rip-rap leading down to the bay. All three walked away unharmed, and the phalanx of emergency vehicles that responded left a short time later empty-handed.

The view of the crash site from our deck. You can see the wing of the plane behind the fire trucks.

We took the dinghy around to the bay side of the field to get a better look before heading to dinner; by the time we returned to Vector they had removed it from the rocks and towed it back to the ramp. Going outside the breakwater gave me a chance to breeze out the dinghy, which has otherwise spent the entire visit inside a slow speed, no-wake zone.

Closer view of the canard-wing, pusher-prop Velocity Elite on the rocks.

I've gotten a few projects done around the boat, including the very important one of getting new insurance. The majority underwriter of our last policy withdrew from the marine market, leaving us high and dry at our renewal date this month. Of course they barely gave us one month notice and so it has been a mad scramble. Between having a weird nearly-one-off steel boat, a claim on our record, and massive industry losses from storms over the last two years, insurance has become expensive and difficult to get. I am happy to report that we were able to find suitable coverage at a reasonable price, owing in part to my new professional license, and in larger part to our USAA membership, courtesy of Louise's dad.

We'll be departing St. Petersburg in about a week, when it will be time to continue south toward the Keys. Our next planned stop is Key West, and whether we proceed direct to the gulf, or make a couple of stops on the inside route first, will depend on the weather. My next update here will likely be under way, to one or the other.

1 comment:

  1. Do Martin and Stephanie have any plans to revive their blog? I miss Blossom!


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