Sunday, January 15, 2023

Old stomping grounds

We are under way in Tampa Bay, bound for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) northbound to Clearwater. We've just wrapped up a nice week in St. Petersburg, and we'll be back there again before we leave the area.

Vector in St. Pete, tucked in between Spa Beach, the Pier, and a small breakwater.

Last Saturday we had to wait out the morning at Manasota Key in order to get back over the bar. I took the tender to Chadwick Park, which has no dock, but I found an old piling to tie up the tender so I could get in a walk through town. That landing option will allow us to get to a better dining venue next visit. Around 1pm we had enough tide to get out and we weighed anchor for the short trip up the GIWW to Venice.

With one more day still before the Albee Road Bridge was scheduled to close, we made it a short day and booked a night at the casual Venice Yacht Club (map), where we had a nice dinner at the outdoor tiki bar. This was the last place we had stopped on our way south earlier this year before becoming symptomatic with COVID. We were both glad to have a short day, because even at high tide we had a lot of shallow water through Venice, including a spot we had to jog around where the storms had caused a landslide into the canal.

Quite a few beachgoers at Englewood Beach.

While we were having dinner we learned the club does a nice brunch on Sunday, served plated nowadays since the start of the pandemic. So we walked back over to the tiki bar when they opened at 10 and had a nice breakfast before getting under way. After all the angst about getting through the Albee Road Bridge before they closed Monday, the gulf was flat calm on Sunday and we went right out the inlet after departing the club, thus bypassing the bridge altogether.

We had a lovely cruise in perfect weather, and ideal conditions for coming back in at a new-to-us inlet, Longboat Pass. We can't use either of the inlets in Sarasota, and so our decision to go outside meant skipping that stop and a free night at either of the yacht clubs there. Longboat pass turned out to be easy and plenty deep at 9', and after threading our way through the weekend traffic we re-joined the GIWW and continued north to a familiar anchorage in Cortez, across the channel from Bradenton Beach.

Running the ditch through Venice. These buoys mark a new shoal where the bank collapsed.

The Cortez anchorage was more crowded than ever, and we had to squeeze past numerous boats and couple of wrecks to drop the hook almost to the fish plant (map), which later became moderately odoriferous, in a deep spot where the holding was a thin layer of sand over rock. Still, it was good enough for light conditions overnight, and we splashed the tender and headed to the Bradenton Beach dinghy dock to find dinner. We ended up on the patio at The Bridge Tender, which turns out to be a huge Green Bay Packers hangout, and the fans were already congregating. We finished up before the game started, thankfully.

Timing our departure Monday morning for the Cortez Bridge opening on a positive tide gave me time for a little walk in the morning. On my way ashore I stopped by to say hello to friends Amy and David on Selah Way, who were anchored across the channel in Bradenton Beach on their way south. I was back at Vector with the tender on deck in time for the 11:15 bridge lift.

Tiki bar at the Venice Yacht Club, with some festive holiday lights still lingering.

We had a pleasant cruise across Tampa Bay. I was hoping to update the blog, but I spent most of the time on the phone lining up doctor appointments and scheduling visits. We were in St. Pete by 2:30, and with perfect weather for it, dropped the hook in our secret spot behind the small breakwater off Spa Beach (map). Even though the state has slapped St. Pete on the wrist and told them to stop enforcing their illegal anchoring ordinance in the harbor, they are apparently still harassing boaters by now claiming the marina extends to the breakwall. We opted to avoid the discussion, at least for now.

At dinner time we splashed the tender, landed at the yacht club courtesy docks, and walked over to Red Mesa Cantina for dinner with our friends Steph and Martin. It was great catching up with them. We had hoped to cross paths with them somewhere in New England as we were coming down from Nova Scotia, but we missed the end of their cruising season by a couple of weeks. After returning home I watched the Falcon 9 launch, impressive even from 120 miles away. Too far, however, to see the booster land.

Sunset over Venice Inlet on our walk out to the point.

Tuesday's errand agenda including dropping of twenty pounds of obsolete AIS at the UPS store to send to a buyer overseas, and a grocery run to Publix. Those two places happen to be separated only by a decent Italian joint, Gratzzi, and so we just made it a trifecta and had dinner in the middle of errands. The sidewalk dining is sort of charmless, but we're doing our best to stay outdoors with the latest surge.

 Even though we had carefully anchored outside the harbor to avoid any police encounters, we had a visit from SPPD marine patrol Wednesday morning. He wanted to know when we were moving along (Friday, it turns out), and in hindsight, I should have refused to answer his questions. Instead I ended up explaining that we were outside his ability to enforce anchoring limits, and that, in fact, we were in exactly the place the last guy said we could be. After that he tried to tell me that no one can live aboard their boat in city limits unless they are at a marina, which is simply false.

If you look closely you will see lots of Packers attire at the Bridge Tender.

He could not cite his own municipal code but told me I could look it up. I asked him for a card, and after he left I looked up the code, wrote up the whole sordid affair and sent it to the gaggle of attorneys and executives making up the anchoring coalition, bracing for yet another battle. In a stunning development, however, he returned twenty minutes later to apologize and tell us he had been mistaken and that we were legally anchored.

That at least gave us a good story to tell at our weekly Wednesday lunch group at the club, where it was great to reconnect with everyone. With lunch thus being our big meal for the day, we planned on snacks for dinner, which worked out well for meeting Clearwater friends Karen and Ben, who were coming downtown for a performance event, for evening cocktails. A busy social day.

Vector and the St. Pete Pier complex, see from Spa Beach.

Thursday I finally had picture-perfect weather for a long walk, after first taking a spin around the Vinoy basin in the dink, still full of moorings which are still, inexplicably, closed.  I strolled the length of the pier, as well as much of Beach Drive to see what had changed. We ended up there at Birch & Vine for dinner, taking advantage of the very generous gift certificate we received from our California friends at Christmas.

Friday morning we moved to the yacht club docks (map) in anticipation of a serious cold spell. It was blowing 30 when we weighed anchor, and I had to come alongside in two thirds of that in the basin. It was great to be tied up as the temperature plummeted throughout the day. In the evening we were invited to join a bunch of local friends to celebrate Martin's birthday at the club.

Dinner under the heaters at Birch & Vine in the Birchwood Hotel.

Yesterday was even colder than Friday, with the mercury not climbing past 50 until well into the afternoon. We never left the boat until dinner time, where, in hindsight, we should have planned for take-out. We figured at 5:30 we'd find plenty of outside dining with heaters, but even at 5:30, every such place was packed and had a wait list. We ended up having Thai indoors at Lemongrass, which at least was not very crowded.

This morning was equally cold, and we lingered at the dock until checkout time to run the heaters. But that will be the last of it for a while, and tomorrow things should start to warm up. The engine room will give us plenty of warmth when we stop for the night. Update: We're anchored in a familiar spot in downtown Clearwater (map) and will head ashore shortly to meet our friends.

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