After 3 evenings in Dunedin, we continued south on Monday, Feb 27 to Egmont Key, passing Clearwater Beach along the way. We were back in familiar territory, at least for a while, as Clearwater was our arrival point after our overnight Gulf crossing on our first Great Loop. Though we loved Clearwater, this time we did not stop but continued on to Egmont Key. This was one of Paula’s favorite stretches along the Gulf Coast, oogling over mansions alongside the channel. It was a very easy day, with 19 dolphins accompanying us. Two dolphins played in our port wave and one jumped out of the water before he left as if to say, “See ya!”
As we entered Tampa Bay, there were 2 cargo ships passing under the bridge at the same time. It seemed a bit tight to us, but likely a daily event for them.
Egmont Key is an anchorage that must be chosen with an eye on the weather. Though protected with westerly winds, it is very open from the east. Fortunately, we had suitable conditions and had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, we both had achy knees and passed on the opportunity to dinghy to the island to explore…a foreboding of things to come.
The next day our friend, Tom Smitherman, had an appointment with a heart surgeon in Tampa. It seemed God had timed our arrival perfectly so we could be with Tom and wife Glenda for the day. Though we couldn’t motor across Tampa Bay early due to morning fog, we were able to get to an anchorage in Bradenton by 11:15 AM. Tom even caught 2 fish along the short 10-mile trip to our De Soto Point anchorage. It was a bumper crop when it came to dolphins, with 21 escorting us during the 90-minute run.
We couldn’t find a public dock after anchoring and dinghied to a private dock. Paula bravely walked through a large private back yard to the front door of a large house and knocked. Explaining our predicament and plans for the day, Lisa Budslick kindly gave us permission to leave our dinghy at their dock for the day (arrow). Sitting out at the curb in front of the house, Enterprise picked us up a little later and we made our way to Tampa General Hospital, about an hour north. As we drove across Tampa Bay, we saw lots of sailboats and later found out it was the Tampa-to-Cuba Regatta.
We were thankful for time to sit with Tom and Glenda as they waited in-between doctors’ appointments. Hopefully it passed their time more easily and we lightened their spirits a bit. Finally leaving the hospital around 6:45 PM, we enjoyed delicious sushi with them inside a beautiful old building with inside brick walls 3 stories tall!
Returning to the Budslick’s house that evening, we had a very pleasant visit with Lisa and her husband, John. They were so kind and gracious.
On the way to shore to return the rental car the next morning, we stopped at Shaw’s Point, part of the De Soto Point Park, which sheltered our anchorage. A short walk (which was all Paula could do) took us to the very large cross that was a memorial to the Spanish priests who traveled there in 1539.
When we got back to the boat, Lisa saw us off with 2 bottles of cold water, 2 large lemons, and an invitation to stop by when we looped around again. Her family said they’d be reading our blog and sharing vicariously in our journey.
We had hoped to see our friend Bud in Sarasota, but he was in the Keys. However, that meant his slip was empty at Longboat Key Moorings Yacht Club, one of the nicest marinas on the whole Great Loop! And, gentleman that he always is, he offered it to us as he did on our first Loop. We took the afternoon to clean and brighten the aft deck.
We made the decision that evening that Paula’s knee wasn’t getting any better…in fact it was getting worse…and we needed to return to Phoenix to find out why. It was preventing us from being able to walk and sightsee, the main reason for our Great Loop trip. We started making plans for our return.
The next day, we had a nice visit with Slade and Susan Cargill, previous DeFever owners who wintered in Sarasota and summered in Athens, NY, where we visited with them the previous year. That evening, we were able to catch the movie, Is Genesis History?, moderated by good friend Del Tackett. It was so well done and we were grateful we got a chance to see it, as it was only shown 3 nights.
Sunday, we attended church at Christian Family Church in a small theater downtown. Afterward we met our new boat neighbors, Mark and Lisa Carruthers, who kindly took us to the airport for our flight back to Phoenix on Tuesday and agreed to keep an eye on our boat while we were gone.
Monday was a “get the boat ready” day as we delayed our departure to make sure we could get the flights we needed for our return to Phoenix. Tom busied himself with boat projects, finally getting a coat of primer on the toerail where it had been damaged almost a year earlier. Paula cleaned the inside of the boat and got things ready to be away for an unknown period of time.
It looks like this delay will prevent us from continuing on down to the Keys this season or even complete the Loop in one year…again. It will likely have to be another 2-year Loop for us, as the delay has put us behind. Boating has certainly taught us patience and flexibility, though we do not always take to it too happily. But we know God is in control and He works all things together for our good! We have to remember that no matter how much we think our plans are the best, His plan is always better.
PS: We left the boat on March 7th, have been home for 5 weeks and we still do not know when we will be able to return.