After waiting an hour and a half for the morning thunderstorm to decide where it wanted to come ashore, we motored out of Pelican Bay for the second time in search of points north. Our plan was to go out into the gulf to sail in the predicted 7-10 knot winds. As we motored out the Boca Pass a little wind did show up for us to sail for about half an hour. That was the last wind we saw all day.
We figured we would go as far as Venice and then decide if we wanted to push farther on. Push on we did. The little Yanmar chugged along at 5 1/2 knots hour after hour. A couple of times during the day a small breeze would tease us into raising the sails only to be disappointed as the breeze faded away. Chug, chug, chug.
We decided to enter Big Sarasota Pass which sounded tricky, but doable. As we poked around in the shoals near the entrance we made the call to move on instead of taking the risk of grounding. This meant the next pass was another 13 miles ahead. Chug, chug, chug.
Entering Longboat Pass just south of Tampa we found it to be well marked with good water depth. Brenda had called ahead to the bridge tender an hour before to make sure it was still opening on demand. This was our first bridge and even being tired from motoring 11 hours and 60 miles we were still excited. The bridge tender agreed to open for us (VHF Channel 9) when we approached and all went well. It is pretty cool to see your sailboat going through an open bridge.
Our selected anchorage was just several hundred yards inside the canal after a right turn. We were paying way too much attention to the bridge and way to little attention to the IMMEDIATE right turn into the canal and came to a very quick stop. Yup, grounded in the lovely sand a few hundred yards from a restful night at anchor. We came in on a rising tide, so we weren't too concerned. Wait 15 minutes and we will most likely float off the sand bar. 15 minutes later we turn the key and push the start button on the previously reliable Yanmar. Really! Nothing. No buzz, rattle or bang. Dead in the water, stuck in the sand with the sun going down.
OK, it is time to call Tow Boat U.S. We paid for towing insurance when we first got Wrinkles and one month later we will now have saved more than it cost. Yippee for Tow Boat Unlimited! Mike started trouble shooting the engine while we waited for our tow boat. Battery good. Battery connections good. Key switch good. Fuse good. OK, time for the old bang on the starter and solenoid to see if it got hot and froze up. A couple good whacks and we have a motor again. The tow boat showed up about then and we gratefully accepted the tow back to the deeper water. Since it was dark now, we were happy to at least have a working motor to set the anchor.
When the tow boat operator dropped us off he told us to side tie to the abandoned pier of an out of business restaurant adjacent to the apparently full anchorage. Boy did it feel good to get the boat tied off and safe. A couple of stiff drinks in our galley were in order while we unwound our nerves and discussed our mistakes and options. Once we settled down we called our good friends Jim and Joni to tell them the tale of the day. They laughed with us as we recounted our blunder. Oh well, we are learning.
The next morning we woke early and settled on a plan. The starter will work for now, so we could move off the "No Trespassing" posted pier and find a gap in the already crowded anchorage. We took The Ernie T for a spin around the anchorage using an oar to probe for deep enough water for our 4' keel and 2' of tide. We found a spot that would work and moved Wrinkles out to set the anchor. Ahhhhhhhhh, that is more like it.
We rested up and dinghied over to the Mar Vista Bar/Restaurant just 100 yards from our boat. Cold beer, Sangria and good food overlooking the anchorage made our previous night seem like a distant memory. We enjoyed our meal and then sat down with a long term cruising couple to chat about our new lifestyle. It was good to hear them tell us about their tow boat experiences as well as all the things they love about the cruising lifestyle.
We've heard the first 6 months of cruising are by far the most stressful and challenging. We think we have matched that in our first month.