About three weeks after Alizee's
arrival to Charlotte Harbor, we set off on a short cruise to St. James City at the south end of Pine Island. We had planned this a bit ahead, so that we could join up with some of the Dolphins Cruising Club
, which we'd joined when we were sailing out of St. Petersburg. The highlight of the trip was a book signing for Robert MacComber's new book, Honors Rendered
. MacComber is a local author who has written quite a good series of naval maritime novels that locate the home of its main character on Patricio Island
at the north end of Pine Island Sound, bordering the south edge of Charlotte Harbor. It is a sister to Useppa Island, right on the ICW and very near Pelican Bay to the west.
On 20 November, a Wednesday, we arrived at the boat in the late afternoon, stowed all our provisions with plans laid to have dinner at the CHYC that evening. At a little after 17:00, we walked up to the club and ... oops, the doors were locked. Nobody home! So much for the club's calendar, which announced happy hour and dinner. Oh well, we had cocktails on the boat and my hero, Penelope, prepared salad and our own spaghetti and meatball dinner. I was pretty peeved about the club being closed, and the next day I called and talked to the GM, noting that, if there was a chance the club would be closed on a Wednesday night, then that should be published in the calendar. He agreed, and subsequently it was.
The next morning we backed off the dock, using a spring line to pull our stern around the pier's end, went out the channel and by 0830 had raised the Spinnaker in light air. By 09:30, we'd sailed down even with Burnt Store Marina (which is a mile south of our house on Burnt Store Road), making good speed at 6 to 6.5 knots SOG in 10 knots of wind on the beam. The Spinnaker makes all the difference in the world on a downwind to beam reach. At the bottom of Charlotte Harbor, however, when we changed our course from south to west, toward Pelican Bay where we would meet up with the Dolphins group, the wind dropped to 8 knots and our speed to 3.3 knots SOG. We dropped the main, which was now blocking the Spinnaker, but by 10:30 there was virtually no wind. We were ghosting slowly toward our destination, with a Crealock 37 ghosting along behind us. After two hours, the Crealock's captain fired up his engine and as he caught up and finally passed us (just a couple of meters off our port side), said with a grand smile: "I give up. You win."
We actually arrived at Pelican Bay the same time three or four of the Dolphins group arrived, and shortly after we'd dropped anchor, Gene Weatherup dinghied over for a chat. Then I put the dinghy down and went
over to chat the Crealock captain, who was anchored just in front of us. Nick said said he keeps his boat permanently in
Burnt Store Marina and often sails single hand, and we agreed to keep in touch. I returned to Alizee
to make up some crab-avocado-cucumber sushi rolls for the Dolphins' potluck, to be held on Mark and Jill Bridge's catamaran. It was a great gathering, and my sushi was a real hit. Mark and Jill squeezed 22 people aboard for the potluck and we had a great time renewing acquaintances with folks like Joe and Kathy Mansir, and I was flattered that Chris McDonnell complimented this very blog -- we hadn't seen him in almost two years. Alas, it started to rain at 19:00, just as we finished eating, so we made an escape early to close the hatches on Alizee
, finishing off the night by watching the original "Flight of the Phoenix" film on our laptop.
22 November found us up by 08:30. We fixed breakfast, Penelope cleaned the head and repacked our foul weather gear/life vest storage back, and, by 11:30, we'd hoisted the dinghy and were ready to weigh anchor. Once outside Pelican Bay and turned south down the ICW and Pine Island Sound, we hoisted the Spinnaker, which initially provided a really nice sail. But, after passing Useppa Island and Cabbage Key, the winds picked up and we decided to douse the Spinnaker. In doing so, I foolishly let one of the sheets slip through my hand, getting a pretty bad rope burn -- I felt the effects of it for a good week. Once the sail was down and stowed, we rolled out the Genoa and had a good sail the rest of the way down Pine Island Sound. At marker #18, we turned eastward, into the wind, and took the sails down, motoring into the anchorage off St. James City. We dropped anchor between the Mansir's Island Packet 37, Halcyon
, and a ketch named Bridgette O'Toole
, whose captain climbed out at 17:00 and serenaded the anchorage for a half-hour with the bag pipes -- she was pretty good, too.
Bill Cullen, who had hosted our first cruise with the Dophins back in 2011 (I think), came by in his dinghy and joined us aboard Alizee
for a beer and some reminiscing. Later, after our bag-pipe serenade and as the sun set, our commodore, Mark Bridges, sounded his conch horn. It had been a long time since I'd blown my own; so, although I got one good blow, I was not very successful overall, which left Penelope in stitches. Perhaps my sundowner had a greater effect on me than I would have imagined. Oh well, steak and potatoes for dinner.
On the 23rd, we relaxed in the morning with coffee. We'd initially planned to anchor over near Sanibel Island and dinghy in to meet some new friends we'd made because of my searching for musicians on Craig's List. Edgar-Joachim Beyn, a trombone player whose advertisement I'd answered and talked to several times on the telephone and who is also a long-time sailor, and his wife Kate have winter home on Sanibel. The timing wasn't quite right, however, so they said they'd motor over to our St. James City anchorage in their small power boat. Initially they were coming over around 13:00, but they called ahead and arrived at 11:00. Once they rafted up to Alizee
, we sat and chatted for a half-hour or so, and agreed to get together after Thanksgiving (indeed, we drove down for an afternoon a couple of weeks later, and Edgar and I played dixieland, while Kate and Penelope got to know each other a bit better).
This was the day of the book signing, so at noon, we dinghied in to Woody's Waterside
restaurant and bar. We tied up next to Gene and Jo's ketch, Shenandoah
, which has only a 3 foot draft and easily could navigate up the channel. We were hungry, so we got a round table in the bar and ordered lunch. Soon we were joined by the Mansirs, they Mark Bridges, Bill and Penny Schlenker and new Dolphin members, Eileen and Pete. Lots of good conversation, but we had already decided to leave early so we could sail back up to Useppa Island, thereby shortening what would be a very long trip all the way back to the CHYC the next day. We got back to the dock to find that our dinghy, Bertha
(for "Bertha's Mussels", the best place in Baltimore to get mussels), had been pushed by later arriving dinghies under the dock. The tide had gone up, and she was stuck. As we puzzled about this problem, Dolphin member Steve Cardiff reminded me that we could deflate her, because her hard bottom would keep her afloat. So, I crawled under the dock, removed Bertha's
seat and deflated the tubes sufficiently to muscle her out. After re-inflating the tubes, we were off and back to Alizee
by 15:00. I predicted an 18:15 arrival at Useppa, about the tail end of sunset. Our motor-sail northward went well, until the primary shackle on the traveler came lose. It was bent and could not be re-attached, but I found a spare and replaced it. Fortunately, this didn't slow us down, and with our running lights on in the fading twilight, we anchored at 18:10.
The next day, we arose at 08:00, made coffee and got underway quickly. We sailed, with an occasional assist from the motor, up the ICW to Charlotte Harbor, turned east and made it across the southern part of the harbor toward Burnt Store Marina in two tacks. We turned north and made it to the CHYC channel entrance in two more tacks. On our way up, we saw an enormous number of dead fish, discovering later that this was the result of a severe "red tide" over the previous week. We hadn't seen them coming south, so it must have just effected the fish. Unfortunately, our arrival time at the CHYC was near to low tide, so we elected to anchor out for the night, and go closer to high tide at 07:30 on the 25th. We made it, but scraped the bottom going down the channel, which is dredged to five-feet mean-low water. We've had some really major lunar tides here during late fall and winter, and this couple with a NE wind that blows the water out of Charlotte Harbor, means we are always at the mercy of the tides. Anyway, we got in, washed down the boat, flaked and covered the sail and had breakfast. I was meeting an electrician to try and solve Alizee's
electrical mysteries at 09:00, and he arrived on time (see Alizee's maintenance log for the results
, posted under 25 November 2013)