Sunday, May 4, 2008

Carolyn Ann - the Cruise begins (Gulf Breeze to Useppa Island)

At 1100hrs today, Sunday 05-04-2008, we left our dock in Gulf Breeze to begin our journey. This will be up the east coast ???? with many stops along the way. Our first stop was to anchor s/e of the Choctawhatchee Bridge at mile 250. The weather was good and the bay, while frisky, was a following sea. Getting reacquainted with all the sounds and motions and learning not to stress out. Only bumped into each other a couple of times ... once resulted in an explosive spill of balsamic vinegar (generic so it's ok). The first of many I'm sure. Such is the beginning of good, great, sad and frightening times - all will be a great adventure for us.
Monday night we tied up to a marginal pier that the Army Corp of Engineers had abandoned at the Port St. Joe end of the Gulf County Canal. Visited with some boaters who'd been tied up there for some time. We left from Port St. Joe and started our 25 hour trip across the gulf. We had a beautiful day - mostly on the flybridge.
The night went well but was tiring as we each napped alternately for a couple hours at a time. After sunrise the waves picked up and we were happy to reach Clearwater about noon.
We docked at the Clearwater Municipal Marina and spent the afternoon washing off all the salt the gulf had deposited everywhere on the boat.
Thursday night we anchored in an anchorage area at Madeira Beach where there were several "boat people" living aboard their boats. The boats appeared to have had long hard lives, as did Harry, who came over in his dinghy to chat. I (Punk) was describing him as an old man to someone when Joe told me he was only 59. Harry and his wife live on social security on a 30' Tolleycraft (thought of you Jim and Judi!) that he purchased for $400. He drove it there but is currently working on the engines. He runs his generator about an hour a day to get five hours of TV, but uses ice instead of a refrigerator. He takes care of an 83 year old man that lives on a trimaran nearby. In the past he'd sailed around the world on it. His only family is a daughter who lives in San Diego where he says it is too cold, so he stays in FL - using his heater if it dips below 75.
Friday morning Joe fixed a bad connection that he'd found the night before on the inverter. There are some pictures on the picasa website if you're into that kind of thing. Friday afternon as we neared Sarasota Joe called our friends Wink and Wilma (John Henry - GH47) who we had been expecting to be at their condo in Sarasota. As it turned out, they were arriving from the south as we were arriving from the north! Photo op!!

John Henry coming into Sarasota
Wilma's picture of Joe taking a picture of Wilma
 We anchored near their marina and Wink treated us to his famous taxi service so we could visit on John Henry and then walk to a restaurant in Sarasota for dinner. It was great to see them and hear about their time in the Bahamas over the winter. We're planning a trip there next winter so it was good to hear the details of their time there.
Rocky seems to be adjusting to his new home. He sleeps in his bed on a shelf next to our bed. When Punk gets up in the morning he moves over onto the bed and sleeps til someone makes him get up - same old Rocky.
He's gotten the idea about where the bathroom is - Joe says he made the transition easier than many dogs because he wasn't that particular to begin with - grass, floor, deck - it really doesn't matter.

 He does enjoy all the time in close contact with us, as his regular perch is on the navigator seat next to Punk.

We arrived at Cabbage Key restaurant, near Pine Island, Saturday afternoon and were allowed to tie up at their dock until dinner time. There was an option to spend the night there, but as the afternoon wore on it appeared that it would be a pretty big party night. Being the old folks that we are we decided to anchor across the channel off Useppa Island.
Cabbage Key is a small island with a restaurant and some cottages for rent and is only accessible by water. The restaurant is somewhat famous because of the d├ęcor. The story goes that sailors would stop for a beer and leave a dollar on the wall to assure that they could get a beer on their way back. The walls and ceiling are now covered with dollar bills – they estimate $50,000. They give you a marker to write on your dollar and some masking tape to put it up. Every year about $12,000. falls off – masking tape being what it is and the restaurant being pretty much open-air. They donate whatever falls to a children’s charity. The dining room we sat in is on the back side of the restaurant, not facing the water. The vegetation on the island is thick and it felt like being in a tree- house – all around a pleasant experience except for our server. That’s two restaurants in a row – we may have to quit eating out. At least Joe doesn’t have to tip the surly waitress at home!
If you know Joe you know he has to take those sunset pictures. Sunset at our anchorage off Useppa Island.
If you'd like to see more pictures, follow the link to our picasa albums:

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