Thursday, April 26, 2012

On a Mission - through the Keys to St. Petersburg, FL

April 21 to April 26, 2012

See FinallyFun in the middle of these storms & lightening
Gray and overcast
After an uneventful cruise from No Name Harbor south of Miami to Boot Harbor, Marathon, in the Florida Keys, we were forced to sit out another few days of bad weather before being able to cross under the 7 Mile Bridge dividing the North Atlantic

from Florida Bay and the Gulf 
of Mexico and continue on to St. Petersburg.  Too windy and too stormy to get off the boat for two of the three days, we just piddled around.   The high winds finally stopped and with the sun shining, we lowered the dingy so we could stretch our legs on shore and look around.  

Tumble down boat slips in Boot Cay
On Marathon Key
First thing out of Andy’s mouth....”Let’s walk to West Marine”.....the man needed His Fix....I left him salivating in the aisles for a bit of time before finally dragging him out to a hot dog stand for a late lunch.  Ah, a real hot dog with spicy mustard and sauerkraut.  

Onlookers must have thought we were pigs or deprived or depraved....smacking our lips, mustard and juice running down our arms, grinning from ear to ear as we inhaled the first hot dogs we've had in over a year....lordie that was GOOD.  What a welcome back to the USA!!!!

Sunrise out of Boot Cay

The weather cleared a day sooner than predicted, but still marginal.  We left anyway, with Marco Island as our destination, some 80+ miles and approximately 11 hours away.  

Oops, not too long after departure, the port engine continued it’s upward temperature creep.  We’ve been watching this phenomena for a few days and Andy’s troubleshooting has turned up Nothing, Nadda.    The temp doesn’t exceed the ‘normal’ range, but the port engine temp is higher than the starboard engine.  We suspect the heat exchanger is giving us the problem, clogged with perhaps parts of old zincs or the mushy stuff left over from decaying seaweed, etc. 

We had this problem before after spending 4 months in Key West a couple of years ago.   Mushy decayed stuff turned out to be the problem.   We had a metal rod made to ‘bore’ out that yuck one little hole at a time, whixh takes a  LOT of patience and a great deal of time.   Andy is not willing to take any more things apart to get at that exchanger until we are settled in a marina in St. Pete.   We’ll simply keep the RPMS lower and just go big deal.
See Finally Fun headed for Little Shark River
Entrance into Little Shark River - muddy!
Quick calculations confirmed our the slower speeds, we were not going to make Naples before dark.  Love the Just in Time mentality and the Boy Scout/Girl Scout mantra of “Be Prepared”.  

 We reset our course for the Little Shark River, off Ponce de Leon Bay.   Located at the tip of the Florida peninsula, the river is a gateway into the primitive and remote mangrove islands of the Florida Everglades.  I was excited that we were going to be there after all!    
Fish Pot 
Camera doesn't capture the color of Poo Water
Bouncing along for 7 hours, with cold winds keeping us in jackets (this is APRIL 24 in SOUTH FLORIDA......what is this!)  I felt as though I was riding a galloping horse all day.  Up, down, same cadence -- only my butt didn’t end up hurting, thanks to the helm chair vs a saddle.   
There were hundreds of fish pots, in strings of 15-20+ each, forcing us to be more than alert constantly and forcing us to move left or right more often than not.  Unlike the beautiful aqua water we’ve grown so accustom to cruising in, the water here, due to several days of high winds, is a strange shade of yellow brown, reminding me of  new born baby poo.  Disgusting, actually. 
Little Shark River 
Dropping the anchor at the mouth of Little Shark River, we lowered the dingy and took off to explore, being very careful to pay close attention to where we were and how to get back!  One does NOT want to be lost in the Everglades!  

Up into the Little Shark River
This River is full of channels off the main channel and channels off the little channels.  We only took left turns in the dingy, so we could have some sense of how to get back!!
Mangroves galore!

I was disappointed to see virtually no wildlife after two 

hours in the dingy cruising up 
and down and around in the scenic twisting and turning River.   I was so hoping to spot an alligator, which having lived in Florida for many years, I’m pretty good at spotting and co-existing with.  Crocs live here too, a bit of trivia I'd not known 

until reading the Guidebooks a couple of years ago.  No matter, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a gator and a croc  and have no desire to get close enough to even try!  Our Grand Total:  1 Pelican; 2 Herons; 1 Hawk with Fish in Mouth; One boat with 2 Fishermen. 

 At least we didn’t get eaten alive with mosquitoes and big black flies.  The cold front and high winds are keeping those critters away!! 

Note bent metal rod holding anchor roller
Now what!??  Pulling the anchor at first light in Shark River, the anchor suddenly did not seem to be coming up correctly at the last 35 feet, squealing and moving up too slowly.   How in the world the large steel pin holding the anchor roller bent, coming apart out of the housing is beyond us.  We always use a bridle and have not experienced any hard pounding, etc. that would put additional strain on the parts.   Heart in my mouth, I finally got the anchor all the way up, tying it up with line to the railing in an attempt to keep some of the weight off the housing.  
Note the hole where the rod holding the anchor rollers should be and is not!
With an inability now to anchor, we decided to pull another all nighter and just keep going until we reached the marina in St. Pete.  The bouncing horsey ride continued until about noon before the wave action settled down into a pretty calm, gentle up down.     This Gulf Coast, however, has more pots than does the Chesapeake Bay.  It is also very shallow, with numerous shoals extending nearly ten miles out (Romano Shoals for instance).  When we finally reached water 50 feet deep beneath our keel, we stopped seeing the pots - 15 miles offshore.  No matter, we did not want to cruise in the black of night, hooking pots all along the way!
Another uneventful night passage, seeing nothing but the occasional shooting star and hearing virtually nothing on theVHF all night long.  

Wrapped in a blanket, wearing fleece shoes and a fleece jacket, nodding off was not a problem.  I stayed too busy trying to keep warm.  These long night passages might be the only time Andy’s thrilled I’m the night owl.....he gets to sleep more than I do.  We are both quite content with the arrangement.
No Green Flash with this sunset in the Gulf of Mexico
Going, Going, Gone is the sun & our light
In the channel, off Egmont Key

Cruising into Egmont Channel, after a few circles, waiting for first light so visibility would be better, I truly felt as though we’d really arrived HOME.  

Sharing Egmont Channel with the big boys
Coming up to and under the huge Skyway Bridge brought back memories of cruising these waters 35+ years ago when I lived here before.  

Huge Skyway Bridge btween St. Pete & Sarasota  
A troubling memory from the late 70‘s that still makes me shudder, came alive in my 

head as I watched cars and trucks traverse the bridge above us. 

I lived not far from this Bridge, in Pinellas Point, and remember vividly an early morning squall that darkened the sky and pelted our house with high winds & rain.  

That squall pushed a barge off its course, into a bridge piling, knocking the bridge down in seconds.   Many died that morning, falling a long way into the water, still strapped in their cars.   A Greyhound bus filled with people also went over and down.   

The rocks are also around the pilings nearest to the Channel
Traversing under the new bridge, I noticed a large number of impressive reinforcements around the pilings the entire length of the bridge.  In the 70’s, the pilings simply had little wooden fenders around match for a heavy barge.
We pulled into Harborage Marina at Bayboro, in South St. Pete, past a US Coast Guard station and past University of South Florida buildings and boats.  Tossing our lines to Bart Franey, who was standing on the dock to welcome us in, we settled into our slip next to his DeFever 49 - Dewlap.  Frank said, "I know you!  I've been following your blog and your travels!"   Wow.

                          Ah, it’s good to be home!  


  1. Sharon-- I apologize for interrupting your blog, but believe we have some background together and just checking to see if that is the case. I ran across a listing of a Jack Larrison, deceased, so continued to do some searching and found your wonderful travel blog. If I'm correct, and you did live for a short time with Donnice in Satellite Beach, please drop us a message at Best wishes, John Cochenour.

  2. Did you know that you can create short links with AdFly and make money from every visit to your short urls.