Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Back to Nature

Our days in Sarasota are drawing to a close, but we continue to find new adventures. After spending several days wandering around the city of Sarasota, we were ready to get back to nature. We hopped in our dinghy and scooted (that's about as fast as 4 hp can go) across to the other side of the bay by New Pass. We had seen this area by bus and it looked worth an explore.

New Pass, which was created by a hurricane in the mid 1880's, is located along the barrier islands. What we found was a great little nature park, Quick Point, where we could beach our dinghy. The weather was perfect and we practically had the place to ourselves. We wandered the trail around the natural lagoons, wetlands and mangroves. Informational signs reinforced how delicate of a balance there is between the environment and people and the importance these natural areas play in keeping the water clean.

After our exploring on land was finished, we took the dinghy to a sandbar out in the middle of the inlet. We were 500 feet from shore and the water was only waist high. We jumped in and splashed around in the water. We were smiling and giggling while a cormorant on a No Wake sign watched.

Last night was a true highlight in our stay at Sarasota. We joined Bret and Theresa (s/v Elusive) for a bus trip to Siesta Key where we heard there was a drum circle every Sunday night. Sure enough, just outside the pavilion there was a huge circle drawn in the sand. People were gathering around the outside of the ring, setting up lawn chairs and blankets. Many people were fresh out of the water. In one spot on the circle, there was a collection of any type of instrument you could think of: bongo drums of all sizes, marimba, flutes, bells and some we had never seen before.

We shared some drinks and snacks with Bret and Theresa as the music pulsed and the crowd grew in numbers and revelry. It was a feast for the eyes, ears and soul to see so many people of such diverse cultures and backgrounds just giving themselves over to that wonderful beat. From child to senior citizen there was pure joy on their faces.

Someone had a set of krakebs, which we later found out are used in Gwana music to represent the sounds of horse hooves hitting the ground and shackles as people were carried away toward slavery. As we arrived, some people were playing the drums and one lady in African garb and another in belly dancing regala were dancing in the middle of the circle. Soon the rhythmic pounding of the drums became more intense and the dancing followed suit. A few more people joined the inner circle with their hoola hoops, dancing strings, batons, devil sticks and poi (twirling strings). It was mesmerizing to watch as people continued to join and be moved by the music.

One of the original dancers moved around the inside of the circle enticing individuals to dance. She decided Mike should join her. If you know Mike, dancing is not something he is comfortable with, but he jumped right up and was grooving with the best of them.

As the crowd grew, the sun started to set. The heart-throbbing rhythm was infectious. What a magical evening we had as we shared this cultural experience.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Clean Is Your Bottom?

It was just three weeks ago in Clearwater that we had a diver clean the bottom of our boat. Apparently three weeks in Sarasota's waters is too long to wait to do it again. Normally cruisers have their boat hulls and props cleaned every one to three months. We noticed a lot of hard growth on the water line, but very little soft green yuck. Guess we better get under there and see what is up.

Check out this silly video of the job.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mooring Line Chafe

Wrinkle's bowsprit and mooring lines

Wrinkles has a beautiful teak covered sprit extending from her bow. It functions as an anchor platform and mounting point for the forestay. It also looks really salty. Despite these great attributes the bowsprit does present us with some challenges. When we are maneuvering around docks or piers it sticks out almost 5 feet just looking for something to stab or hang up on. Leaving a side tie dock with wind pushing us against the dock creates one of those tough situation where springing off can cause the bowsprit to cross well over the dock area.

Another disadvantage of the bowsprit shows up when we tie up to a mooring ball. A long sprit is supported by a cable, chain or rod called a bobstay. This bobstay extends right through the area where mooring lines attach to the mooring ball pendant. As the boat sways on the ball the lines drag across the bobstay creating chafe (wear) on the lines. If the lines are left unprotected they will quickly wear out and break which would make for a really bad day. So, to keep Wrinkle's on her leash we added clear rubber hose to the lines as chafe guards. So far they seem to be working really well.

Hose chafe guards



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Just when we said we hadn't heard much live music


All too soon it was time to send John on his way. It was sad to see him go, but it was a great visit. After we dropped John off, we took our lawn chairs up to the farmer's market. We sat and listened to a one-man-band all morning.

.No art fair today, but they're setting up a stage for the Harvey Milk Festival - a celebration to honor the work of Harvey Milk's for LGBT rights. We found a good shady spot under a tree and camped out. Starting at 2:30, a series of bands each got to play for 45 minutes. There were food, beer and merchandise vendors set up around the outside. Perfect! More music! We found it interesting to people watch. It was purposefully set up as a family oriented event with various art activities available. Of course a group from the Westboro Baptist Church had to show up and loudly display their hate. Fortunately no one took their bait and they soon disbanded. The musical acts were great to listen to, particularly Avan Lava. They were the final act, but we got to hear them play two songs during the earlier setup. That meant we didn't have to stay until 11 pm to hear them play. Live music for 10 1/2 hours in one day. Sweet!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Those four days went fast

The famous statue in Sarasota

John, our oldest son, arrived in Sarasota, broken foot (basketball injury) and all, on Tuesday evening. Oh, how good it was to see him again! Over the next four days we crammed in as much exploring as his foot would allow. Fortunately, he was able to get in the dinghy from the dock and climb the boarding ladder to the boat from the dinghy without issue.

John enjoying a Drambuie


We took a dinghy cruise along the shore of Sarasota Bay and into some of the canals to view some truly picturesque houses/estates. We also saw some beautiful unspoiled sections. We checked out the local tiki hut where we watched the boats coming and going.

One impressive home as seen from our dinghy

We took a bus ride over to Lido Key and north along the coast to Coquina Beach. We were able to show him some of our earlier sailing grounds (including our grounding spot) at Longboat Pass and to wander the beach. We stopped at the "world-famous" New Pass Grill and enjoyed a lunch overlooking the water. Since the bus would not be returning for another hour, we walked around the corner to The Old Salty Dawg and had a drink overlooking the water. We asked a local fisherman about getting a sailboat through New Pass or Big Sarasota Pass and he said he could guide us out, but he didn't recommend either one.

Bus touring
New Pass Bar and Grill

We took a bus ride over to Siesta Key and the #1 beach in the US (hmmmm....we've heard that before) where the sand was almost like flour. The water was a display in varying shades of clear emerald green. We took the bus back to Siesta Village and had lunch at the Daquari Deck Bar. Excellent food and mudslides. John was wearing one of many Ohio State shirts and was happy to get a couple of, "O - H's" shouted to him so he could respond with, "I - O". One of the numerous Ohio State traditions he loves so much.

Napping on the boat became the norm after our morning explores. Watching the beautiful sunsets that fell between the arches of the bridge were breath-taking. Watching each sunset from the bow of Wrinkles has become a treasured routine.

In the evenings we walked up to the town square of Sarasota and enjoyed listening to live music. We found a hotel built 102 years ago that was currently a bar called Gators. The two story structure had ceilings that were tinned and the woodwork was ornate. There were a couple sitting rooms upstairs that in a former life were also sitting rooms, but for a different type of client. Our research told us this was a brothel around 1915. The ceiling fans fascinated us. They were palm shaped and arranged in rows above the bar stools. They were mechanically linked to wave gently back and forth. This short video shows them in action and you can get a feel for the inside of the building.


The weather was the best stretch of perfect weather since we have been on this journey. The boat bobbed gently in the swells of boaters' wakes and let John experience the magic of living on a boat.

Oleary's Tiki Bar


But most of all, our time was filled with laughter and conversation as we soaked up our time with John.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

And how long will you be staying?

Have pass will travel.

Sarasota has so much to see. Just from our errand running, we can tell that we will be here for awhile. While the marina is expensive, the mooring balls are very reasonable and come with the use of the shore and laundry facilities, as well as a dinghy dock and bike rack. So what have we found so far?

On Friday, we walked up to the Sarasota bus terminal and bought our daily pass. These guys even give change! We headed over to Siesta Key for a bit of an explore. Our first stop was at Siesta Village. This is an area two blocks from the shore that is filled with shops and restaurants. We browsed a little, but then headed for the beach.

This was a very natural beach and not very crowded at all. We commented on the color of the sand..more black specs in it than we are used to, but still very pretty. We also noticed how level the beach area was and how easy it would be for the houses to be flooded. There was a cordoned off marsh area that had vegetation growing. We assume it is a nesting area as well. We wandered along the beach for a bit, got our toes wet and then headed back to Main Street and the Daquari Deck for lunch. Good choice! Prices were reasonable, serving sizes were plentiful and the taste was awesome. Oh, the Goomba Smash drinks were pretty good too. We definitely recommend this place!

Once we had our bellies full, we hopped back on the bus to explore the other end of Siesta Key at Turtle Beach. Mike laid down for a "siesta" and Brenda walked along the beach. Not much for shells today, but it was gorgeous out. We never get tired of hearing the waves come into the beach! What a beautiful day!

On Saturday, we got up early (for us) to be sure we got to the farmer's market before everything was gone. We were shocked. When we got there at 9:30, some of the vendors hadn't even opened up. We took a quick lap around looking for some homemade muffins for breakfast, but all we saw were booths filled with art. We dropped into First Watch, a restaurant that specializes in fresh original type selections. Another good choice. Then back to examine each of the art booths.

This was an up-scale art fair. All the vendors had high quality art work for sale. It reminded us of Art Fair on the Square in Madison. There were several, "Oh, look at this." as we wandered around. Once we had seen it all, we started to head back. We heard some music and followed our ears until we found....the farmer's market. Here we found the breakfast items we had wanted. Oh well, we'll just have to come back next week. We sat and listened to a two man group play flamenco guitar. What a great way to spend the afternoon.

Wrinkles at Marina Jack

So, how long will we be staying in Sarasota? We told the marina just to sign us up for the monthly plan! Hey, $9 a day we can afford.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Time To Top Off The Supplies

Marina Jack in Sarasota

After being at anchor for ten days, we needed to take a couple days off from playing and get some work done. Number one on the list was groceries. We still had enough on board for another month, but Brenda doesn't like to let the pantry get anywhere close to empty. Since we were on a mooring, we had to lower the dinghy and head to shore with our two large backpacks. Publix is just over a mile from the marina, so we enjoyed a brisk walk with a little sightseeing along the way. Keeping in mind that we were walking and carrying backpacks, we limited our provisioning. The cashiers are always amazed when we say, "No bags please, we'll put everything in our backpacks." It is incredible how much they will hold...especially when we take everything out of the cardboard boxes before packing. Back at the marina we piled into the dinghy and headed back to the boat. The wind was picking up, so it was a bouncy ride.

Once unloaded and everything was put away, we piled back into the dinghy with all our dirty laundry. It is so nice when a marina has washers and dryers on site. An hour later we had sweet smelling clothes and sheets. While ashore we even got to take hot showers! Brenda wasn't sure she was ever coming out. Believe it or not, it was time for dinner, so we headed back to the boat for some sandwiches. The wind was kicking up pretty well, so it was like sitting on a bucking bronco. No fancy cooking tonight!

Mooring ball T4

The next day we needed to take care of getting some water. Normally you could motor over to the fuel dock and fill up with water, but with the wind being what it was, it was easier to implement Plan B. Plan B was to bike to Target to pick up a couple water jugs to use to carry water from the marina to the boat. It was only about six miles out (and 90 degrees). We always enjoy sightseeing along the way. The Ringling Brothers influence can be seen throughout the town. There are several different clown schools and theatric venues scattered through the city. As luck would have it, Target did not have the jugs that the website showed they did. Not a problem though...Mike had spotted Wilma's Big Olaf Creamery, so our ride would not be in vain. The ice cream was delicious. We laughed. What weight we should have lost from biking, we more than made up for in ice cream!

Next stop, the local Ace Hardware store, just a couple blocks out of the way. No luck there either. Tomorrow we'll try West Marine, which is located six miles south of us. Our little bike ride turned out to be a nice workout of 15 miles. It is still well worth all the work not to dock the boat in these winds?!!

Day Three at Sarasota, we biked to West Marine on a gorgeous morning. They did have the water jugs and we were soon back at the marina, filled up the jugs, loaded them into the dinghy and headed back to the boat. Ok, now we have food, clean clothes and water aboard Wrinkles. Tomorrow we can start checking out this town.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Making Don and Gail Proud


Well, the plan was for us to pull the anchor up at 6 a.m. from Bishop's Point and head south to Blackburn Bay. Unfortunately the weather forecasters were wrong (GASP!) again. Our night of sleep in forecasted 2-4 knot winds turned out to be a night of almost no sleep in gusty 15 - 20 knot winds. The sound of the snubber line stretching over and over just took away any chance of a good nights sleep.

We slept in a bit the following morning after the wind and waves settled before having breakfast and deciding upon a new plan. Brenda researched a few local marinas before deciding that $85+ per night was out of the question. Then she found that Marina Jacks manages a mooring field right by downtown Sarasota and charges $25 per night with full marina services included. A pumpout, hot showers and a tiki bar won us over very quickly.

We motor sailed over and picked up a mooring ball which was a first for this trip. We learned some tricks to picking up mooring balls when we chartered with Karen and Peter in the BVI last summer. Brenda expertly snagged the pennant and had us tied up in no time at all even in the windy conditions.

We enjoyed a late lunch and a few drinks at O'Leary's Tiki Bar with our dinghy tied up right in front. The wind and waves settled nicely that night which allowed us to catch up on our sleep.

O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill


The next day we took The Ernie T in to go grocery shopping at Publix. Once the groceries were back aboard we loaded up 10 days worth of laundry and went back ashore at noon to wash and dry the huge pile. When we were in Clearwater, Don and Gail aboard Island Tyme were famous for perfecting the art of laundry day. They would fill the laundry machines and then walk around the corner to The Bait House bar and grill to enjoy several cocktails while their laundry went round and round. Don always came back from doing laundry with a big grin on his face. Don loved laundry day!

Brenda and I are sometimes quick learners and took Don and Gail's lessons to heart. We completed laundry 7 hours later when we left the local tiki bar with clean laundry and big grins on our faces.

We met a fun couple at the tiki bar and mentioned to them that we hoarded our quarters for laundry day like college kids. After they paid their tab the woman handed Brenda a small stack of quarters for her laundry kitty. We all had a good laugh over that.

The end of another fun laundry day.



Monday, May 2, 2016

Desoto Point to Bishop's Point, Sarasota Bay

Locals going for a ride under a bridge.

Leaving our anchorage at Desoto Point we headed out the Manatee River to the ICW just a couple of miles away. Our plan was for a short run southeast to an overnight anchorage by Bishop's Point in Sarasota Bay. Although it is only a 16 mile route there are two bascule bridges we needed to have opened for us. Both the Anna Maria and Cortez Bridges open on the hour and every half hour, so we had to time our passage.

We followed another sailboat down the ICW route as it appeared to be going slowly to arrive at the 10:30 a.m. opening like us. Well before the bridge the other sailboat started speeding up which we thought was a mistake according to our calculations. We sped up a bit for a while thinking maybe we were wrong and would miss our opening. When the sailboat hailed the bridge on VHF requesting they hold the 10:00 a.m. opening for them we realized he'd never make it. We slowed way down to arrive near 10:30 a.m. as planned.

We arrived at the bridge a few minutes early which is perfect, as we wouldn't have to do many circles in the channel like the sailboat that tried to make the earlier opening was doing. We putted through the bridge and figured we would need to average just 3.6 knots to make the Cortez Bridge 11:00 a.m. opening. This time the other sailboat kept pace and arrived just before the opening. Two birds decided to ride under the bridge on our bow pulpit and lifelines. That was pretty cool.

Bishop's Point anchorage

We motor sailed when we could after the bridges and finally had some wind to go sailing once we entered Sarasota Bay. After a nice sail we dropped our anchor a couple hundred yards from shore and tidied up the boat. In a day or two we will be headed out again. It has been 9 days since we were in a marina to fill the water tanks, empty the holding tank, get groceries and do laundry. We'll need to take care of those things pretty soon.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Desoto Point on the Manatee River

Desoto Point anchorage in the distance
Sailing out the Pass-A-Grille Channel we turned south toward Tampa Bay. Our destination today was Desoto Point on the Manatee River off Tampa Bay. Although the wind wasn't great for sailing we did have some fun trying to sail out in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of going all the way out to the west end of the Egmont Channel (Tampa Bay) we threaded our way though a small cut that showed at least 6 feet of water at low tide.
As soon as we made it through the cut we needed to cross the main shipping channel without getting in the way of the big dogs. We slowed way down and sidetracked a bit to allow this big fella and his pilot boat all the room they wanted.
Once we crossed Tampa Bay we entered the Manatee River and finally rounded Desoto Point into a nice little anchorage.
Desoto National Memorial Park offers a glimpse into Conquistador Hernando Desoto's landing here in 1593. There is a small museum, a neat 15 minute history movie and some beautiful scenic trails around the grounds. In the museum they had replica helmets and chainmail for us to pick up and try on. The chainmail was at best a "medium", so Mike passed on trying it on. It weighed a ton! Between the helmet, chainmail, padding, etc. they had to carry 80 to 100 pounds of gear not including their water and weapons. Wow, they were tough buggers.
You think of these explorers landing on a beach and spending some time gathering supplies, treasures and interacting with the locals. Yet we learned that Desoto spent 4 years traveling both on horseback and foot for 4000 miles from this spot. He never did find the gold he was so urgently seeking. The Indians just kept telling him, "Yes there is lots of gold, just keep going a little further north"
Mike trying on a new sailing hat

We spent the night aboard Wrinkles and then hopped back into The Ernie T to dinghy across the Manatee River to Snead Island. There we had a wonderful day of hiking all over the Emerson Point Preserve. The trails go by huge Indian burial mounds, house ruins, ponds, streams and amazing trees. The trails are a mixture of blacktop bike paths, crushed seashell footpaths and simple sand/dirt paths. Walking along the paths with just the sounds of birds calling, dried leaves crunching underfoot and the gentle wind rustling the wide variety of vegetation made for a memorable experience.

One trail featured a Lookout Tower, which Mike found humorous. He commented, "A lookout tower in Florida only needs about one hundred feet of elevation." Once we ascended the tiny structure we were rewarded with a magnificent view. We could see the very pretty Tampa Bay Skyway bridge, Terra Ceia Bay and most of the Emerson Park land.

Terra Ceia Bay and the TB bridge
Mike with one of the amazing trees.
Mike with one of the amazing trees.
Footpath trails
Sunset over Desoto Point
Sunset over Desoto Point