Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Weekend in the Life...

April 5th 2012

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 

Last weekend Lavinia and I carried out another excursion away from the dock, this time we wanted to make sure that I could, single handed, leave the dock and return. Lavinia will eventually do the same so that if either of us is incapacitated in any way the other will be able to step into the breach and sail ‘Partner’ single handed. The weather was a little overcast on Saturday morning when we left the marina at 07:20 but it was not windy and the chance of rain was minimal according to the forecast. Seas were forecast to be 2–4ft which ‘Partners’ handles just fine. My plan was to cruise to Tampa Bay and to St. Petersburg and then spend Saturday night anchored off the East side of Egmont Key returning to Sarasota on Sunday afternoon.  

I was able to leave the slip without any problem and we sailed north through Sarasota Bay towards Longboat Key Pass Bridge which would lead us out to the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the whole trip I was teaching the Admiral the ‘ropes’; explaining every course change and or decision being made in the pilothouse, how to use all the instruments and equipment, not in fine detail at this stage but more a general overview, the fine tuning will come as we put miles under the keel. The goal here is to have two fully capable boat handlers and navigators on board. Once in the Gulf we headed north towards the channel, south of Egmont Key, leading into Tampa bay. After heading SW clearing the sand bar which sweeps in an arc SW from the north side of the pass, I steered ‘Partner’ NW to approximately 30’ of water. We would stay in these depths all the way to Tampa Bay. 'Partners' performed flawlessly as we approached and passed under the Skyway Bridge at around midday. The skies began to look ominous and it seemed that we were in position to be amongst the 30% that the weather forecaster warned would receive some rain. Actually the right place at the right time, it is always nice to get the boat wet and give her a fresh water wash down, for the next hour it rained and ‘Partners’ bathed in a nice steady refreshing rain. We continued to follow the marked channel north to the St. Pete pier using the radar and electronic chart to monitor our progress in the greatly reduced visibility. We were just cruising and St. Pete would not be a destination; when we were off the pier and could see the well filled marina at the Vinoy Hotel we turned and started our way back across the Bay. The Vinoy is a famous St. Petersburg Hotel and I have taken some information from Wikipedia for those who may be interested: -  

The Vinoy was built in 1925 by Aymer Vinoy Laughner. Construction began on February 5 and took 10 months to complete. The hotel was a seasonal hotel open from around December to March. Rates were $20.00 a night, the highest in the area at that time. The hotel was a popular destination for celebrities ranging from Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge and James Stewart. During World War II the hotel was taken over by the U.S. Army and used for a training school. The hotel was sold to Charles Alberding after the war for $700,000. The hotel continued to prosper for the next couple decades. In 1974 the Vinoy closed its doors and sold most of its contents. The hotel became a haven for vagrants until the early 1990s when it was bought by a partnership between Renaissance Hotels and Resorts and the Vinoy Development Corporation. A $93-million renovation was undertaken, and in two years the Vinoy reopened as an almost perfect replica of its former self. In 2005, the Vinoy earned AAA Four-Diamond status. Over the years, there have been numerous reports of allegedly supernatural events occurring at the hotel, especially from visiting major league baseball players and staff, who often stay at the Vinoy when in town to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
On previous visits to St. Petersburg in our last boat we frequently anchored in the protected and walled anchorage to the south of the Vinoy Hotel Marina. It is well protected although the holding is not good, the bottom here is soft mud and in a blow it is likely that one may drag the anchor. We did, in a squall once and just managed to start the engine and save ourselves from making contact with the harbour wall! This has not and will not deter us from another visit. The anchorage is popular and the number of boats restricts the amount of scope one can use so in future if the harbour is crowded we would probably opt to anchor off the north side of the pier which is in protected water anyway and would only add 10 extra minutes to the dinghy ride. The advantage of the Vinoy anchorages is that it is very close to the town and one can walk to a variety of shops and restaurants. 

The rain passed and the sun reappeared as we passed west under the Skyway on our way to Egmont and our anchorage for the night. By 18:00 engine off and we were anchored in 12’ of beautiful clear water. To anyone who is reading this and perhaps planning a trip to this area, one word of warning, Egmont is a bird sanctuary/roost, at least at the moment; I say this as the last time we made this trip the birds were somewhere else? The noise of birds squabbling over the best roosting perch is rather loud at times. As with most noise one does become accustomed to it however, we were no exception on this occasion. Dinner was served outside on our back deck and we became oblivious to the birds and their dusk chorus.
Where did you have your Sunday breakfast?
We ate breakfast shortly after sunrise at 07:30, what a sight; we watched the sun draped in colours of gold, orange and red slowly rising behind the silhouette of the Skyway Bridge, a pretty impressive way to start our Sunday. To boaters sunrises and sunsets never lose their fascination. The event is almost captivating and one is compelled to set aside the time to be fascinated over and over again. We find ourselves hurrying to complete whatever we happen to be doing to be ready for the sunset; it is the significant ‘period’ to the end of the day and the beginning of relaxing evening life aboard...sunrises are equally welcomed, after a long black night cruising, to have light is welcome and eagerly awaited so one can, again, be able to see. At night in a moderate to rough seaway waves are sensed not seen it is difficult to know the size etc., in daylight they can be seen and anticipated, get the picture?

After breakfast on Sunday I decided to make water with our water maker, only to find that the feed pump, which primes the system, did not work. It’s a boat right! That task shelved and another job added to the list, my mind redirected to other things.   

We hauled the anchor at 12:00 and headed out towards the Gulf retracing our steps back to Sarasota and the reality of our working lives; ah! ha! though, soon to end however! Full time cruising looms...