Friday, June 15, 2012

The learning process.

June 7th 2012

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

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 

Tarpon Fishing
Recently we took a three day trip from our
Marina in Sarasota Bay to Charlotte Harbour and in particular Useppa Island and Cabbage Key. We have been there before several times and know the journey well. I am not an ICW boater and the confinement doesn’t suit me so the transit was made on the ‘outside’ in the Gulf of Mexico. Heading South the weather was beautiful and seas were calm we were able to relax into cruising mode and enjoy the journey. We sat for quite some time on the seat in front of the pilothouse spotting dolphins and hoping they would come to our bow and do their thing jumping and weaving occasionally rolling under the water and cruising just in front of the bow upside down. Sitting there is mesmerizing, watching the gentle rise and fall of the bow is transcending to thinking happy thoughts and making us visualize our future more graphically; we can’t wait to enjoy more cruising days in more unfamiliar waters on our way to new exciting destinations. Arriving in late afternoon we proceeded along the channel leading to the Boca Grande inlet we passed all the tarpon fishing boats going around in circles; just on the north side of the channel is a ‘hole’ and all the boats continually go around and around trolling their lines. The tarpon congregate in the ‘hole’ at certain times of the year and now is one of those times. In fact in just over a week the famous Boca Grande tarpon tournament takes place and the venue will be jammed! A sharp turn to starboard took us along the ICW to Useppa Island where we dropped anchor for the weekend. We were among six other boats, three from the ‘dark side’ and three sailing boats, we were the only trawler. We spent Saturday evening relaxing and being happy that we had a great trip and being away from the dock anchored in an idyllic spot that one can only reach by boat...we felt very lucky. We enjoyed a great dinner together all washed down with some inexpensive but good enough wine, of course after the first glass the wine just got better and better!

On Sunday morning I cooked a full English breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast. Lavinia had coffee and orange juice; I had strong English tea and grapefruit juice. With all this on board we figured that we had enough fuel to last until an early dinner...

Cabbage Key Docks
Cheeseburger in Paradise!
Straight across the ICW channel is Cabbage Key, a charming island famous for its claim that it inspired Jimmy Buffet to write ‘Cheesburger in Paradise’. At about 16:00 we lowered our dinghy and made the trip across. It is a fun experience, the place wus hoppin’ with a wait at the bar and a wait for a table. We didn’t care, we were happy just being there, the atmosphere was great and everybody was friendly and of course they were all boaters as that is the only means of transport enabling one to be there! It was again good to see the walls lined with multiple layers of dollar bills most with a personal message written on them by their original owners. We enjoyed a very pleasant meal with great service all washed down with several coronas. The island has a walking path which we decided to explore, it winds its way through completely natural non manicured landscape passing old Indian burial sites and many unusual indigenous plants which had signs erected on pedestals telling all about them for the uninitiated such as the likes of us. After our trek it was time to board the dinghy for the trip back to the boat. Before heading back we detoured for about half an hour to explore the mangroves that line shoreline, all in all what a wonderful day.

Money everywhere!
Sunday started early, we hauled the anchor at 06:00 and began our trip back to Sarasota. What a change from Saturday and our cruise down, the winds were blowing and the sea was building. The strong west winds were being caused by the presence of tropical storm Beryl which was in the Jacksonville, FL area swirling anticlockwise causing the west winds we were experiencing some 300 miles south. As we travelled west exiting Boca Grande we endured the short seas associated with a west wind accelerating the rising tide which was rushing into Charlotte Harbour; our speed at 1350 rpm normally 6 knots was reduced to 3! The induced pitching was bearable but as soon as we turned north towards Longboat Key pass we received the waves and sloppy seas right onto our beam. I turned on the stabilizers which help enormously but the seas were confused so it was still uncomfortable. With at least 9 hours ahead of us, until we would find calm waters on the inside of Longboat Key pass, we settled in. Lavinia was experiencing these conditions for the first time aboard ‘Partners’ and she realized that she had not prepared her well enough to ensure that no items ‘moved’. Well, we lost two wine glasses and a few other items ‘moved’ but fortunately didn’t break or cause any damage. The learning process continues!

The journey home was a long one although the seas were never rough enough for ‘Partners’ to take water over her bow. A couple of faster boats pounded their way through the seas to overtake us. If the seas had been any larger than the 3 – 6 ft waves we were getting, the faster boats would probably be slower than us. We can maintain 6 – 7 knots through almost anything without hull slap or excessive spray. Spray is caused by the spray rails on the bows of most planning or semi displacement boats, and with our wineglass stern we get very little lift from the waves compared to the hard chine on planing and semi-displacement hulls, thus eliminating hull slap. The downside, if it bothers anyone, is the inability to go any faster; our theoretical top speed is approximately 8.4 (Waterline length, 39’ 6” *sqrt*1.34). The big upside is the fuel consumption which at 6 knots is 1 - 1.4 gals per hour depending on sea conditions.

The list of items that we would like to add or do to ‘Partner’ before we start cruising has grown; some new canvas, a new dinghy, a redundant autopilot, AIS and a paint job! The promise that we made to ourselves that any expenditure made on ‘Partners’ would be from income, as opposed to tapping into our retirement funds, is holding and therefore we have decided to delay our departure to places unknown for at least six months. I spoke to our friend Larry whose slip we are renting and received the okay to the extension. Lavinia is going to use the time to take a navigation course which will help her understand the pilot house a little better. Right now she constantly refers to it as ‘your’ pilot house and I keep reminding her that it is all ours! The galley is still hers though, except on Sundays when I cook a full English breakfast.

What are you planning for the weekend?