Monday, February 3, 2020

Wastin' away again ...

As I begin typing, we are underway in Tampa Bay, approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge with the St. Pete skyline receding behind us. It's been a wonderful stop, and we could easily stay a few more days, but today and into tomorrow is the only decent window we will have for crossing the Gulf of Mexico for the foreseeable future, so we decided to make a run for it.

Our destination is Key West, where we will spend a few days before cruising up the keys to Miami. Our usual haunt in Key West is the municipal marina at Key West Bight, but they were sold out when I called, so we are instead heading to the Margaritaville Resort, tucked in behind the cruise ship pier. This being high season, every place in town is ridiculously expensive, but at least we can use all the resort facilities. I do not to expect to run into Jimmy around the pool, but I'm sure there will be a surfeit of parrotheads.

When last I posted here, I was actually typing aboard an American Airlines jet, en route to San Francisco. The confluence of being in a place with a decent airport, a place with reasonable dockage for Vector, and a place where we have good friends who were willing to pet-sit for us allowed us to make a trip back to our old stomping grounds to take care of various things and get some visits in.

Yosemite National Park from our flight. That's Half Dome just right of center frame, with Yosemite Valley down the middle.

To that end we weighed anchor at the St. Petersburg yacht basin in the early afternoon of the 20th and backtracked to Boca Ciega Bay, at the southwest corner of St. Petersburg. We had made reservations for the 21st at Maximo Marina on a decent weekly rate, and our plan was to check out the channel to the marina on a favorable tide, then drop the hook in the bay and perhaps tender over to the Gulfport municipal dock for dinner.

As luck would have it, we arrived in 15kt of crosswind out of the north, and even at a +1' tide, the marked channel from the ICW to the marina was incredibly shallow, we think due to water being blown out of the bay. There was at least one stretch where the sounder registered less than six feet and we plowed our way through the silt. We had been advised to follow the markers for the best water, advice which proved to be plain incorrect, but we made it all the way to the marina's entrance canal without getting stuck.

Given the difficulty we had getting up to the channel, and the fact that we'd need to come into the marina much closer to dead low tide in the morning, we opted to skip the anchorage and go directly to the marina a day early. We arrived before closing time and tied up at our slip (map), got all squared away, and walked a couple of blocks to Portofino restaurant in a nearby strip mall. It was next door to the Publix, which we also needed because we were out of milk for our morning coffee. Fortunately, I was able to buy just a pint.

An earlier window shot from the plane. I think this is Ivanpah Solar.

Tuesday we Lyfted over to Steph's place to borrow her car, which we subsequently used to schlep Angel and all her accoutrements over to Karen and Ben's place in Clearwater. Ben was traveling on business and Karen had very generously offered to watch her for us while we were away. We wanted to arrive early in the afternoon and spend a couple of hours, to let her acclimate to her new surroundings while we were still around. She settled right in, so after an hour or so the three of us went for a quick dinner at nearby Rumba's. After dinner we said our goodbyes to both Karen and the cat, and brought the car back to Steph.

We spent the whole day Wednesday flying, and the following six days were a whirlwind of appointments and visits. Among the former, we met with our financial planners in San Jose, and we also made an inspection visit of our condo in town, which we rent out. This is only the second time we've been back inside the unit since we moved out of it over 15 years ago. The tenants wanted to be present, and met us at the door.

Things were in surprisingly good shape, considering our major kitchen and bath remodel turns 19 this year. The tenants, who are very nice, pointed out a few things while we were there that clearly need to be addressed: the glass surface cooktop was cracked in several places, the microwave turntable was no longer rotating, and there was a four-lamp light fixture in the master bath with an intermittent connection in one of the lamps.

New microwave range hood installed. Maple cabinets are in great shape.

We took photos and made notes of all these things, and I sent a long missive to our management company about buying replacements and getting an electrician out to the unit to install them. But overnight it worked on me that we'd be paying thousands for work that I might get done before we left, and so I arranged with the tenants to get back in for a few hours. We dropped by Home Depot together and got a new light fixture, and after dropping Louise off for a family visit, I ran to Fry's to see about appliances.

Fry's is a chain of giant electronics stores (that also carries some appliances), which is imploding after nearly forty years in business. Ironically, they are famous for supplying Silicon Valley with all the bits and pieces to design the technology that ultimately made them obsolete. It's sad to watch; I imagine they'll be bankrupt in a few months. In any case, they have little inventory left, but I was able to snag the last over-the-counter microwave in stock at a clearance price of $130. The only glass cooktop they had was the floor sample of a high-zoot model retailing for $1,500. They were willing to knock it down 30%, but I needed it to be less than half that.

I bought a few cheap tools at Dollar Tree and spent the afternoon changing out the light fixture and the microwave. No way could I have been lucky enough for the mounting holes in the top cabinet to line up with the mounts on the new unit, but I was able to borrow a cordless drill and 3/8" bit from a contractor working on the exterior of the building, and thus did not have to drop $100 at Home Depot on them (still a bargain compared to having to send someone out).

The view on our way out of the anchorage this morning. The trawler came that close to us, too, at the other end of his circle.

No one had a cooktop in stock, so we'll still be paying an electrician to go out there and install one. But I figure we saved several hundred on the other two projects, and the tenants are happy. I drove away with the old light fixture and microwave in the back of the rental car. The light probably needed an internal wire replaced, and the microwave needed a $10 turntable motor. But without the wherewithal to repair and re-purpose them, we reluctantly dropped them off at the San Mateo recycling center just a block from our hotel, where they ended up in a scrap dumpster.

In the course of our travels around the area we made a few detours through some of our old neighborhoods just to see what's changed. The thing I found the most remarkable was the sheer number of RVs now parked on the streets, almost everywhere you looked. Long-time readers may remember us "stealth parking" the bus on city streets during our annual visits to the area; the need for stealth, it seems, has passed. Even tony Palo Alto has its "RV row" -- the bay area housing crisis has risen to epic proportions.

This is now typical of industrial back streets in the bay area. Each vehicle has to move every 72 hours.

It was a full calendar, especially with the unplanned appliance replacement project, and by the time Wednesday morning rolled around we were very ready to return home. I celebrated the completion of another orbit of the sun Wednesday by spending the whole day flying. Our connection in Charlotte was so tight we could not even stop at the bar for a celebratory beer.

Rather than Lyft back home and spend Thursday doing the whole two-Lyft dance to borrow a car to get the cat, we grabbed a cheap rental car at the Tampa airport when we landed. We were home by 11pm, happy to be spending the night in our own bed. Thursday we drove up to Clearwater to get Angel and spend a couple of hours with Ben and Karen. Thrifty let me return the car to St. Pete instead of Tampa, saving me an hour and a few bucks on my return Lyft.

Given our low-water experience on the way in, we waited until mid-afternoon Friday to have at least half tide on our way out. I plotted an exit route that avoided the marked channel altogether in favor of an unmarked route that showed as deep water on my crowd-sourced chart software, but that often proves to be imaginary. In this case it was spot-on, and we had 18' most of the way back to the ICW. We again bypassed the nearby Gulfport anchorage in favor of just returning to the St. Pete yacht basin for a few days.

Green track is the marked channel, less than 6' in spots. Red track was 18-20'.

We dropped the hook in the basin just a bit SE of our last spot (map), where a somewhat shop-worn trawler has taken up residence. The sailing cat that was there when we first arrived to St. Pete was still there; I learned later they've been anchored for a month dealing with boat and medical issues. It was pouring when we arrived and we spent the evening on board.

We enjoyed our final two nights in St. Pete, having one final dinner with Martin and Steph, and strolling downtown in some pleasant weather. The city has fixed the "parking meter" for the courtesy docks, so it cost us a few bucks to go ashore, but still less than what we had paid for a mooring ball when they were available.

As I wrap up typing we are in the Gulf, offshore of Longboat Key. We'll probably lose our Internet connection just south of Venice, not to return until we are an hour or two out from Key West tomorrow evening. So far it has been a calm ride, with gentle two foot rollers on the beam. My next post will be underway northbound (well, really eastbound) from Key West, in perhaps a week's time.

1 comment:

  1. My trip to Key West is going to be a month too late to actually see Vector in real life. It's semi-ironic that despite actually going to various places once a year in Florida that I think when you were in Chicago last fall.


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