Adventures in the Gulf

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November 29th 2016
Published: November 30th 2016
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It has been a week of adventures for us here in Florida. We have been moving along fairly quickly, and in between all the cruising we have seen a lot of interesting places and had some new experiences.

After leaving Pensacola on Sunday, November 20, we headed east to Destin, where we anchored for the night. Early the next day, we left Destin and headed out for the first time into the Gulf. Up until now, we had been cruising on the Intercostal Waterway (ICW), which is a route you can travel from Texas around to most of Florida without having to go out into the ocean. Our trip in the Gulf that day was calm and beautiful, it was nice to be out in open waters again as opposed to the constant traffic of the ICW.

That afternoon, we arrived in Apalachicola (I just love that name; end up singing the Chica Cherry Cola song every time). It is an absolutely beautiful area with white sand beaches and clear blue waters. When we entered into the bay through the channel, it was feeding time for a huge flock of pelicans.

Before this trip, I had not seen many pelicans in the wild. They are surprisingly graceful in flight (honestly I always thought they looked gawky); they will flap their wings a few times and then glide down across the water, their wings almost touching the waves. But the way they feed had me laughing. They will glide up and then nosedive straight down into the water with a huge splash (now that is more how I pictured a pelican moving!). That evening, we watched as the water was covered with splash after splash as these giant birds dive bombed for dinner.

We left Apalachicola very early the next morning, not knowing exactly where we were headed to (what?? Us?? No plan?? Ha ha). The next major port was St. Petersburg, but that was almost 200 miles; a long trip at only 6 – 7 knots an hour. So we just decided to make up our minds as we went along.

The start was rough, to say the least. While the weather forecast had predicted moderate winds with 2 – 3 foot waves, as soon as we left the bay we were hit with waves between 4 – 6 feet. I had been laying down and had to quickly jump up to put everything down to avoid a big mess. With everything put away, I lay back down again. Have to admit, I wasn’t feeling the greatest (guess with all the river cruising I have lost a little of my sea legs), but really, when it is like that, you can’t move around too much anyway, unless you have great balance…which most of you know, that’s not me!

From there, it is a long crossing over part of the Gulf to reach the next major port. We had initially thought to try and angle up to shore at a closer spot, but part way through the day, as the waves flattened out, we changed our minds (not unusual for us). We headed towards St. Petersburg, which ended up meaning a 31+ hour run. Thankfully Lukus did most of the steering, as my night vision is “less than perfect”, but a few times during the night I took a couple hour shift. Lukus commented he was amazed how dolphins were jumping and swimming around at even 10 and 11 at night; many of them stayed around for almost an hour just playing around. It was great entertainment as we cruised the long voyage.

Coming into St. Petersburg on Wednesday around noon, I saw my first shark (yes, Jess…a shark)!! Of course, he was only a little hammerhead shark, around 2.5 feet long. Don’t think even if I jumped in, he would have done much damage. Poor guy was pretty startled as he swam directly in front of our bow. If he hadn’t been paying attention, we might have plowed right over him. I also saw a southern stingray swim by, and as we reached our anchor spot, 2 dolphins joined us to swim, jump and flip in front of us. What a greeting!

Since leaving St. Petersburg on Thursday, we have been doing pretty short runs as we were closing in on Venice, where we plan to stay for a week to hopefully meet up with some of Lukus’ family. Our first stop was Longboat Key near Bradenton. We dropped anchor around noon, lowered the dinghy and went into shore. Bradenton is a cute little town; very typical of a “resort beach” town, with funky shops and restaurants. We shared a great meal, then walked over to the beach. When they say white sugar sand beaches, they really are white; but Lukus correctly commented that it looked and felt more like baking powder (but I guess baking powder beaches just doesn’t sound as romantic…). Either way, it was a beautiful scene!

Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the boat where we took a swim and scrubbed the hull of the boat a bit (don’t worry, we looked for sharks first J). After drying off, we poured a drink and were sitting on our deck looking around at all the boats anchored around us; it was a very busy anchorage.

We watched as one sailboat came meandering in, looking for a spot to drop hook. They passed by us, and suddenly stopped; we thought to watch the dolphins putting on a show in front of their boat. But as time passed, we realized they had grounded in a shallow area. Lukus was talking about whether to go out and try help them, when we noticed the dingy from our neighbors to the starboard side of us had come untied and was floating away.

Lukus, always the first to willing help out, quickly jumped in the dingy, rescued the runaway (or should I say, floataway) dinghy and hauled it back to the owners, for which he was rewarded a lovely bottle of red wine – a good payment if I say so myself! Then he turned around and headed towards the grounded sailboat. A couple other dinghy’s from boats in the area quickly joined him and between our little inflatable zodiac and two others, Lukus led the charge in pulling the 40 foot sailboat off the bottom. It is always quite amazing to me to watch little boats be able to move giants!

The owner quickly tried to start his motor again to ensure he didn’t end up back in the same spot, but…it wouldn’t start! So Lukus towed him back to our boat where they rafted off. It didn’t take long for the captain to realize the problem was a simple fuel shut off valve, but by that time, they decided they may as well stay rafted to us for the night. It saved them having to find a spot, amidst all the boats, to safely anchor.

The following morning, we were invited to a thank you breakfast and had a lovely visit with the 3 ladies and captain on board II Easy. They then departed for Sarasota, and shortly after, so did we. There is a little anchorage in Sarasota that Lukus and I had seen when we visited his brother in Florida; and so that is where we dropped hook. We then went into shore to cute little tiki bar called O’Leary’s (where we had eaten gator nuggets a couple years ago) for a yummy lunch and some beverages. Afterwards, we took a walk around a little park. Along our walk, we heard “Emy…Lukus” being called out behind us. It was our new friends from II Easy. We had a nice little chat as we walked (would like to take a moment to thank these ladies, and their captain, for the hospitality, wonderful breakfast and the “not-so-funny” brownies!).

The next day, we meandered off again, this time pulling into Venice, where Lukus’ brother has a place. We set off for shore again and enjoyed an awesome lunch at a very “fancy” marina restaurant. I don’t know how well we fit in with our rugged boat clothes, but we had a fabulous meal of rare ahi tuna, and an open faced seafood ravioli with homemade pasta, scallops, crab and shrimp.

Yesterday, we set off again and anchored in a nice little bay in Engelwood. We would have stayed in Venice but the anchorage was super crowded and we swung a lot in the night. We decided to find a place a little more spacious, so we are now settled in Lemon Bay just close to Indian Mound Park. We ventured off this morning into town, and enjoyed an elaborate breakfast of smoked salmon eggs benedict, and the BEST grits I have ever had. I had tried grits before and they were pretty blah, but I can see now why, if made properly, people love grits. (Sorry for all the talk of food, but really, all the variety of food is one of the highlights..probably going to come back with a little extra weight!)

Our plan is to stay here now for a week or so. Hopefully Lukus’ parents will be down in this area soon, so we will have a chance to catch up with them. Then in a week or so, we will be heading towards the Florida Keys, and from there Bahamas!!


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