Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One of our favourite spots.

August 21st 2012

Position N 27° 34.535’,
               W 82° 45.280’.

Egmont Key, Tampa Bay, FL

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Last weekend we decided to travel up to Tampa Bay and spend the night at Egmont Key. It was Friday evening and I had prepared Partners to go to sea, the weather forecast was perfect with light breezes and only a 30% chance of a thunderstorm. All we needed was for Lavinia (HT) to get home from work after a brief shopping detour for the weekends supplies. She arrived at 17:15 and as soon as she had her work clothes off and her comfy boating clothes on we set sail. It is a slow business leaving the dock as we don’t have acres of room behind us before the next dock and its occupants become too close! ‘Partners’ has a single engine and an electric bow thruster. The significance of the ‘electric’ is that unlike a hydraulic bow thruster an electric one is not continuous duty which in layman’s term means one can’t just ‘lean’ on it indefinitely, in fact not more than 30 seconds at a time. The operation therefore is best carried out slowly, occasionally, if the wind is blowing, a little ‘goose’ of the main engine is necessary in order to correct a drift in the direction of the sterns travel, the bow thruster takes care of the bow. We reverse out slowly and bring the bow round to starboard in the direction of the main channel which is in the centre of the marina. Depth is not a problem, we have 16’ feet at our dock and no less than 10’ until we get to the entrance channel leading out to Sarasota Bay; at low tide there is about 7’, we draw 5’. Dredging is done about every two years which has caused sand banks to build each side of the marked channel which become exposed at low tide. Once clear of the marked channel we were finally free, on went the auto pilot and Partners was steaming towards the ICW channel in the centre of Sarasota Bay. From the ICW we head north and eventually, just a few miles, arrive at Longboat Key pass and bridge. One could continue on north up the ICW straight into Tampa Bay but we usually choose to enter the Gulf of Mexico through Longboat Pass; it is so much nicer getting to deeper water and not having to worry about the two bridges at Cortez and Manatee, both of which have to open for us. Once adjacent to Tampa Bay we turn to enter using Southwest Channel and head for the marker buoy G “3”. When the southern tip of Egmont Key is bearing approx 355° we turn, staying in about 20’ of water, and approach the half moon bay at the southern end of Egmont Key. This is where we like to anchor; the bay provides good protection from winds and seas from South through North. The anchorage is open to the East and would be uncomfortable in winds from that direction. Egmont Key is a National Park and bird sanctuary. If you find the tweeting and squawking of bird offensive this is not a place for you, it can be loud at times although one does become oblivious to it and we frequently eat dinner on our back deck without any ‘visitors’ and without having to raise our voices to communicate. On the Island is the Tampa Bay Pilots station, where they have supplied service to the shipping traffic of the busy port of Tampa for over 70 years, a lighthouse and the ruins of the Spanish-American War era Fort Dade.

Fort Dade
The Skyway Bridge in the background
Egmont key was surveyed by Spanish explorers in 1757. In 1761, the English named the island Egmont Key for the Earl of Egmont. With the rest of Florida, it passed back and forth between Spain and England and finally to the United States in 1827. In 1847, concerns with hazardous navigation at the mouth of Tampa Bay led to the construction of the first lighthouse. The Great Gale of 1848 swamped the island and all but destroyed the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper reportedly rode out the storm in a rowboat tied to a palmetto. After the storm had passed, he rowed to nearby Fort Brooke and tendered his resignation. In 1858, the lighthouse was replaced with the one we all see today.

We spent Friday night anchored in Sarasota Bay staging ourselves for an early cruise up to Egmont. We arrive at Egmont late morning and immediately lowered the dinghy and proceeded to motor round to the west side of the island where the Saturday merrymakers’ gather and anchor their boats for the afternoon. We had packed some snacks and cold beverages and proceeded to enjoy the music and party atmosphere that prevailed through 5 o’clock; we returned to ‘Partners’ hoisted the dinghy and spent the rest of Saturday just relaxing onboard. We ate a wonderful poached haddock dinner with a lemon sauce, rice and fresh carrots accompanied by a nice pinot grigio to wash it down. The birds had all found their roost and the quiet of the evening was complimented with coffee and a little tipple of Patron XO CafĂ©…we slept well! On Sunday after a full, yes you guessed it, English breakfast we weighed anchor and cruised back to Sarasota Bay. We were tied up in our slip by mid afternoon. A great weekend, healthy, simple pleasures and a time spent in a different world…I wonder where we will cruise to next.

Lavinia has been practicing chart work and course plotting and appears to be gaining a good understanding. As she becomes more comfortable with the process her knowledge is now enabling her to ask more relevant questions as she continues to hone her skills and her competence is exponential. For someone to go from no knowledge of navigation and the use of all the instruments and electronics is an awesome task and is not accomplished quickly, things I do ‘in automatic pilot’ such as calling on the VHF radio for a bridge opening is frightening to someone who has never done it before. I have also found out that I am not the greatest teacher, I am told I am not ‘global’ enough and get into the details before HT has a concept of what we are trying to achieve…I’m trying to remember that and change!

That is enough drivel for this episode…

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Steamy days of Summer.

August 10th 2012

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.
Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 

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This is where we are! Longboat Key Moorings is a wonderful marina with most facilities available; it does not have a travel lift however.

This weekend we are having our first overnight visitors...my favourite youngest daughter (FYD) and her significant other David. A word on my reference to FYD, I have four Children, two daughters and two sons and from the time they could all talk and understand I have used the ‘Favourite’ description when appropriate; it has always got me through. I truly do not have any favourites; I do have the moments of pride that any parent has which will focus me on one particular child but only because of that event or achievement etc. As a group they are all special, there is the independent self sufficient one, there is the kind energetic fun loving one, there is the clever lazy one who since a baby everyone has loved and there is the warm hearted academic achiever with the great sense of humour. It has always amazed me that four children could be so different. Wow, what a tough job being a parent that is. I think that if all young couples knew how much work and heartache they would be experiencing they would not have children, but wait the joy that comes later is all worth it. I must admit, to have a large family (we think four is a large number of children, especially nowadays) has its rewards, my children range 28 – 37 and amazingly they seem to like me! I like them too; we talk frequently although they are all busy with their own lives. My eldest daughter (FED) is married to a Norwegian and lives just south of Oslo and has three children, my eldest son (FES) is an engineer, single and lives in Jacksonville, FL. (FYS) Lives just 30 minutes north of us in Parrish, FL, is married with two children and is a helicopter mechanic/technician and finally there is FYD who lives in Miami and is single and a newly qualified perfusionist.

HT (Honky Tonk) has been busy preparing for the visit, vacuuming and dusting and buying too much food, we parents always seem to want to feed the offspring for some reason! They are arriving this evening, Friday and will stay until Sunday afternoon. When we moved from our large home I have mentioned before that we either sold or donated much ‘stuff’ one of the items was a painting that depicted an idyllic cove. Well, it was sold with many others and we didn’t know that FYD was really attached to it! He boyfriend of 2½ years is Spanish and comes from Majorca an island in the Balearics. Apparently his family home looks over a cove just like the painting! So, when for some reason, I don’t recall why, the subject of the painting no longer being in our possession came up, FYD had a ‘sad moment’, she wanted it! A day later Lavinia and I were talking and Lavinia said “I wonder if the man she sold it to, he was a dealer, still had it. Off she went and a little later I received a phone call saying he did! “How much” was my question, the answer $75? I agreed we should buy it back and give it to Georgina (FYD) as a surprise. After a bit of negotiation HT bought it for $65. I telephoned David (boyfriend) and explained what we had done. We conspired to get FYD to come up from Miami for the weekend where he could give it to her, we are letting him have the gloryJ, and this is the weekend. The other thing is that it has pride of place in the pilothouse and renders the seat unusable, it is a big picture and the pilothouse seat is the only place where it would fit, so we will be happy when it is gone and we can ‘use’ the boat again!

Monday...A success, the picture has travelled south! David and Georgina were great; we had a fun weekend doing very little, dinner al fresco on the back deck on Friday night which finished at 1 AM!, some swimming in the pool at the marina, out to FOJ and Carols house for dinner on Saturday night. A drive around on a sightseeing trip and that was about it. Oh! We did watch a few hours of the Olympics on the TV.

Monday 13th.  A weekend in the engine room, contorting, twisting and dodging sharp hose clamps with my knees, it was time to clean the sea strainers. I hadn’t done the engine, generator and the Watermaker filter for about a month and there has been much news about the excess of Sargasso weed in the area. Over 200 tons of it has been removed from area beaches so far. We have been using the air conditioning quite a bit lately; the dog days of summer have arrived, much less breeze and heavy humidity. The A/C strainer was clear a month ago when I looked at it. Alarm! This time the sight glass was totally obscured with barnacles which were firmly adhered to the inside of the bowl, I do mean totally covered! I proceeded to close the sea cocks for both the generator and main engine and used the key to undo the tops of the strainers, a few minutes later I had the small amount of weed removed and they were back in good order. The A/C strainer was a different story and wouldn’t you know it, it is the one that is least accessible way over on the starboard side of the engine. Once I had myself in the best possible position (one leg behind my head etc.) I began to remove the top of the strainer and take out the actual basket...well it wouldn’t come out, over time the basket handle had broken and putting my fingers in to pull it up from the inside was a mistake as all I did there was cut the tips of my fingers on the barnacles, ouch! It was apparent that the whole bowl assembly had to come off, very easy if it were on a work bench but not easy in its location. Some 30 minutes later the bowl was off and only one of the nuts and bolts fell into the bilge which I was able to retrieve after 5 minutes of repositioning and the use of the ‘grabber’, a must have in the engine room by the way, in fact I have four different sized ones. Once I had the bowl off it was up to the galley sink to begin the clean, if I could! In the bottom of the bowl is a drain hole with a removable threaded stopper which I removed during the cleaning process, once clean, not an easy job, back down into the ‘holy place’ I went to reinstall. After much contortion and manoeuvring everything was back together with only the threaded drain plug remaining. Well, unfortunately I tightened it too much and would you know it split the bowl and a big chunk of the bowl fell off! Here I am now having visions of being without A/C until I could buy another new bowl and having to explain my over zealousness to you know who! My first call was to the local West Marine store where I expected to hear “we can order it for you”, but no “we have one in stock” was the reply, hurrah! I spoke with Tom there and asked him to put it aside for me and that I would be there to pick it up in 30 minutes. Off I went from Longboat Key to Sarasota. Lavinia was already out shopping so I phoned her to explain and say “don’t come home” as all the floor panels were up in the salon for access to the engine room and I didn’t want her there in case of accident. When I arrived at West Marine I suddenly realized I had left my wallet at home, I was in so much of a hurry and was so happy they had the part that in my excitement I had left without it. Not to worry, a call to HT and she drove over and all was well. An hour later the A/C was on and I had jumped in the shower, cleaned up and, feeling pleased with myself, had made a cup of tea and sat down to relax...phew an easy job that turned out to be much harder than it should have been, I learnt something though! From now on cleaning the strainer will be a weekly job!