Friday, January 24, 2014

The Lynx in Tampa Bay ...

Seems like almost every year, the Lynx, a recreated privateer from the days of yore in America, comes to the Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Saw her their last year, and here's a nice look at her:

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Sailing Recap IV: short cruise to St. James City ...

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)

2013 Sailing Recap III: bringing Alizee south ...

At last, moved into our new house and having found a reliable cat sitter, we drove up to St. Petersburg to bring Alizee south to her new berth at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club (CHYC) in Port Charlotte.  We dropped off my car at the yacht club and drove north on 30 October.  We spent an afternoon getting Alizee cleaned inside, retrieving the dinghy from "Hi & Dry" storage and doing the necessary grocery shopping.  We were exhausted by 17:00 and just had enough energy to fix a sundowner and dinner.

In the morning, I made a quick run to the market and to a marine supply store (for water tank treatment), filled the water tanks, changed out the Genoa sheets with new Sampson sheets and turned in the gate keys to the harbor master.  We
cast off at 11:30, and within ten minutes were sailing southward on a close reach in 11 knots of wind.  Between 13:00 and 13:30 we watched coast guard helicopters working with rescue divers.  They would throw a market out, lower the diver to retrieve the marker, sometimes having the divers swim to it for

recovery, sometimes not.  We were easily within a
1,000 meters of the training which was being done with two or three helicopters and several divers.

By 16:00 hours, we had passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and on course to the Manatee River channel.  Winds had died out for a while in the mid afternoon, but  now picked again to 10 knots for another hours or so.  We were anchored by 17:30 on the west end of the Manatee River anchorage, a location which for the past two years had been made most unpleasant by a transient sailboat that had a heavy-duty and extremely loud, un-muffled generator which its captain ran twice a day.  As a result, we'd studiously avoided the west end of the this very large anchorage, but we were happy to be the only boat there this day.  So, we settled in to watch a beautiful (and very red) sunset and have a nice egg plant Parmesan dinner.

The night sky plainly told us that the next day would be a "sailor's delight," but we also knew we'd be sailing directly into the wind all day, so we elected to spend the day on the hook, reading, napping, munching, whipping the ends of our new Genoa sheets and, eventually, supping on lamb chops, baked potatoes and Napa cabbage salad.  The next morning brought a red sky sunrise -- "sailor's take warning" -- and a front out of the northeast passed over us somewhere around 0900.  Some boats from our Dolphin Sailing Club had been anchored across the river on the south side, and just before the squall, one of them weighted anchor and came across to our north-side anchorage -- I don't think they saw us, but we recognized Gene and Jo Weatherup's ketch.  After the front passed, we saw two or three of them sail out toward St. Petersburg, while the Weatherups went up river, we think to the Twin Dolphin marina.  We could imagine that the boats headed out had a rough time of it across south Tampa Bay, sailing a close reach in 20 knot winds in waters that certainly were roily as could be.  But, we sat tight, enjoyed being on the hook, reading and relaxing.  And, we had to run the engine for a couple of hours to charge the batteries.  Despite a functioning wind generator, we still had the electrical problem.

At 06:30 on 3 November, we awakened to try and see the lunar eclipse that was predicted, but it was too far east and probably below the horizon, not to mention being right in the path of the rising sun.  Since we were up early and the conditions were great, we sailed out to Egmont Key, thence south along the Gulf coast to Venice.  Crossing south Tampa Bay we got more wind than anticipated, and we had to stop and reef the main and Genoa -- the new electric winches made the task so much easier.  Worth their weight in gold, as far as I'm concerned.  Once we were south of Tampa Bay on the coast, the chop disappeared, the winds moderated and we let the reefs out.  I called ahead to the Venice Yacht Club and reserved a slip, which would be free for the night, thanks to our now being members of the CHYC and to reciprocal privileges between yacht clubs in the Florida Yacht Club Council.  All in all, it was a good sail: 42 nautical miles in 8 hours averaging about 5.3 knots speed over ground, but mostly 6 knots when we were sailing along the Gulf coast.  At 15:30, we slid into slip C-8, headed for the showers and then for drinks and an early dinner at the club's Tiki Bar.

Lately it seems that electrical bugaboos have visited us.  Trying to hook up shore power we discovered that the 30 amp breaker seemed not to be functioning.  Very odd, as the shore power was charging to batteries, but the internal A.C. power was inoperable.  Then we discovered that by flipping on the 50 amp breaker, the outlets worked.  A real head scratcher!  

The next morning, we fixed breakfast and then borrowed a couple of bicycles to fetch more bread.  Alas, the mini-mart had just sold out of bread, so we returned empty handed.  We decided to go down the ICW rather than spend another day along the coast ... the winds were building and we want to relax.  So we finally left at 10:30, went out the yacht club channel to the ICW, turned south and I almost instantly went aground.  Unbelievable!  I'd mixed up the channel markers somehow.  But, because the wind was building (already 17 knots out of the east), I raised the mainsail, heeled us over, and we slipped off the bar and back into the ICW channel.  We had five bridges to go through, the last three opening on-demand, so we waited only about ten minutes at the other two for openings.  A nice motor south and, with our stay sail out, occasionally helped by the 22 knot wind from the east.  After five hours we anchored off the ICW at red marker #24, just north of the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge; a very peaceful spot.

On 5 November, we awakened at low tide, and we had to wait on a rising tide until 1330 before we could leave the anchorage.  So, we spend a quiet morning watching hawks, blue herons, pelicans, osprey and flights of ducks, while occasionally reading and fixing a nice veggie omelet.  Once under way, we just made the 14:00 opening of the causeway bridge, and thence sailed south to Useppa Island, where we anchored again at 16:15.  This was the last night out on the hook, and we enjoyed a steak and potato dinner.  At 08:30 the next morning, we weighed anchor and sailed virtually all the way up Charlotte Harbor to the Peace River, motoring only the last five nautical miles.  We arrived at our new permanent berth at the CHYC at 16:15, where Joe Malat, the dockmaster helped us into our new slip.  After washing down the boat, we sat in the cockpit and had a cocktail while observing the club's monthly "sundowner" ceremony, this one particularly honoring vets.  At 18:15, we packed up and got in my car and drove home.  A day later, the boat transfer complete, we drove back up to St. Pete, picked up Penelope's car and drove home.