The Trip South

April 21, 2020

I struggled with the title to this very boring post.  Getting from Cedar Key back to Fort Myers wasn’t a cruise, which implies something relaxing.  It wasn’t a “dash”, since I had plenty of time to get back and make my haulout and plane reservations.  It wasn’t a journey, which implies exploration in getting from one place to another.  It was just a trip.

I anchored first in Kings Bay at Crystal River, enjoying the run up the river a lot more than the first time, since I had scoped out all the tricky spots.  Then I stopped at Twin Rivers for gas and a shower.  Then back to the Anclote Keys near Tarpon Springs.  Gorgeous weather all the way, as it was the whole trip.

Next was Clearwater Municipal Marina.  It is a terrific marina with new floating docks sitting under a highway bridge that goes over to Clearwater Beach.  But it is so huge and high that you don’t hear the traffic at all.  Clearwater itself was dissappointing.  On the map you see this big Main Street and town stretching clear down to the water, but at night it seems to close completely down — just your usual empty banks and office buildings.  St. Petersburg was totally the opposite, but I’m not sure why, since they can’t be more than 20 miles apart.

The best thing about Clearwater was a Publix a short Uber from town — THAT EVEN HAD TOILET PAPER!!  I provisioned for the whole rest of the trip.

Then a big run across Tampa Bay to Bradenton and Regatta Point Marina.  Friends from the Loop had once been based there and praised both the marina and town, but by then I just wanted to get south and was becoming increasingly leary of people and crowds.  This was the third week of March, but Florida seemed pretty indifferent to Covid 19  (parts of it still are, it seems).  I had my last restaurant meal at the huge, very good restaurant on the waterfront right at the marina after scoping it out and making sure that the management was spacing everyone out, etc.

Next an overnight in Blackburn Bay near Venice, one of those really nice wide spots off the ICW, where you couldn’t get into trouble if you tried.  Then onto the huge marina at Burnt Store near Punta Gorda.  I can’t figure this out.  Burnt Store is on Pine Island Sound a long way from Punta Gorda and a long way from Fort Myers.  But there it is, 500 slips or so surrounded by condos out in the boonies.

Then I just went out to Cayo Costa State Park on Captiva to wait things out in the wonderful anchorage at Pelican Bay.  It was as full of boats as I had every seen it — big cruising boats with nowhere to go with the Bahamas and Caribbean pretty much locked up tight.  My neighbors in a Whitby 42 with all the bells and whistles buzzed over in their dinghy for a look at Tardis.  They had come all the way from GUAM, stopped to visit their daughter who had just given birth to twins, and couldn’t get into the Bahamas.  For all I know they are still there.

As I have mentioned, this was all pretty strange:  anchored in one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen on a boat I poured three years of my life into building — “living the dream” — when not brought crashing back to reality by my phone and computer.

Anyway, once last stop at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, then up the Caloosahatchee River to an extremely busy Sweetwater Landing Marina to store the boat, overnight at a deserted Hampton Inn, then a full flight home with my fellow escapees.

Boats at Cayo Costa.

More boats at Cayo Costa

Blackburn Bay. Come on out for a cocktail! On second thought, stay there.

Spending four days at anchor, I really needed to set up the sunshower. Worked pretty nicely.

Neighboring boat at Burnt Store

Maybe not, given the price of gas.


3 comments on “The Trip South

  1. scotth777
    April 21, 2020 at 8:15 pm #

    heck of a season…cruising, eh? crazy crazy craziness! dropped by your boat before you headed to tarpon and crystal river…no one was home in the St. Pete end dock! maybe next time…shes a beaut from the outside! later gator.


  2. Ton Schoenmakers
    April 21, 2020 at 9:13 pm #

    Thanks for your life-telling stories, Paul. I still follow them, trying to get every detail about the Olga design and your suggestions for improvement.
    My work assisting Sytse to build his own Olga has stopped, as our state is more strict than the sunshine state you are cruising in. I do get updated, though, and by now the cedar planking that will make the ceiling of the fore-deck is in. The planks are made of the wood of a few trees that had to make way for the building the Olga is being built. It rests on small strips of steam-bent douglas fir that are glued to both sides of the laminated beams that support the deck.
    From your blog we learned that condensation is a big issue, and Sytse decided to have the roof and deck insulated with a sandwich construction of cedar and plywood, with foam in between.
    Btw, did you know that just 3 miles upstream from your Sweetwater Landing Marina, there is this little town of Olga, FL.?
    Stay safe. . .


  3. Ray Gaulke
    April 22, 2020 at 8:08 am #

    Can’t wait for the Summer postings from Robin hood Marina Best Ray Ray


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