4/15 – 25/2015 Summary: We returned to the boat on tax day, ready to explore the Clearwater area. While there, the Sugar Sand Festival was underway, just minutes from our boat, with some beautiful sand sculptures. We met friends in Clearwater and Tarpon Springs, a Greek Community known for its Sponge Docks where boats go out to harvest the “worlds finest sponges.” Tarpon Springs is also known for some of the finest Greek restaurants and bakeries in the country.
We visited as far south as St. Petersburg, where we found a fun craft festival. We also visited the Clearwater Aquarium and saw Winter, the rescued dolphin of movie fame Dolphin Tail. And of course we made our way around to some of the restaurants in the area, including an amazing Sunday brunch!
The trip, as usual, included some work time. We replaced one of the AC units and installed (and removed) the custom mirror headboard in the main stateroom. We also bought a scooter and mounted it on the dinghy deck (above).
The last day, we moved the boat 46 miles south to Longboat Key near Sarasota. Along the way we saw lots of dolphins, a couple of manatees, and some beautiful homes along the waterway. Hopefully we will be back around the middle of May.
This is where you quit, unless you want more details!
4/15 – For the first time since buying the boat, we were able to take a direct flight from Phoenix to the boat in Tampa, enabling us to bring some homemade frozen foods with us – like Tom’s Terrific Turkey Soup! Everything was still frozen hard after the 4-hour flight plus the 25 mile drive to the Clearwater Beach Marina. We had a late lunch at Smokey Bones restaurant on the way to the boat. Flack (our boat neighbor on Blue Ghost II with whom we did the crossing) and his lovely wife, Kathleen, had arrived at their boat the previous day and we got to catch up with them before settling in for an early night.
We had fun (Paula, especially, being a dolphin-lover) finding some of the more than 90 6′ tall fiberglass dolphins on Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail. Launched in 2012, the trail showcases dolphins designed by a local artist and sponsored by local businesses, each named and painted differently.
4/16 – Our friends Al and Dee Marks came to visit at 10:00. After a boat tour and visit on the aft deck, they took us to lunch at Frenchy’s where we had tasty she-crab soup (Paula), clam chowder (Tom) and split a grouper sandwich.
Flack had found an air conditioning guy, Ed Thomas (www.biminimarineair.com), to work on his boat so we got him to look at our salon AC, which Tom figured out the previous trip was not working. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the compressor. We could spend a lot of money replacing it with a rebuilt compressor (with no warranty and a 2-week wait) or spend a lot more money for a brand new air conditioner (available the next day, with warranty).
For dinner, we walked to Post Corner Pizza (431 Gulfview Blvd) and split a delicious half-and-half meat lovers and Philly cheesesteak pizza (different and good) and a “small” salad, which was huge. Very good restaurant (and wonderfully smoothing lime salt scrub in the restrooms). On the walk home, we wandered on Pier 60 where music and vendors were selling wares. The Sugar Sand Festival (www.sugarsandfestival.com) had just started with professional sand sculptures in a big tent.
4/17 – After morning shopping errands, air conditioner repairman, Ed and his wife, Monica, arrived to replace our AC. Paula visited with Monica on the aft deck intermittently while doing laundry at the marina, while Tom helped Ed install the new AC.
It was finished just in time to clean up and join Flack and Kathleen for dinner at the Clearwater Yacht Club. We had a beautiful corner table overlooking the water, and all ordered the special – prime rib with crab and asparagus (and all had leftovers to be enjoyed later).
4/18 – We began the day with a beach visit (about a 8-minute walk to Pier 60). Paula swam a mile while Tom lifeguarded and walked alongside on the beach. Great place to swim from pier to rock jetty and back. Then it was off to look at a scooter in Tampa which we had been eyeing for a couple of months, a 150 CC Piaggio. Though a 2007, it was in excellent shape, and Tom turned it over to 4,000 miles as he drove it back to the boat. On the way home, we stopped at IKEA to purchase mirrors for our stateroom headboard, also something we had long-awaited until we got to Tampa so we didn’t have to transport the mirrors from home.
While lounging in the salon that evening, we heard loud noises outside and Paula went out to see if a storm was rolling in. Nope…we got to watch the Sugar Sand Festival fireworks show from the comfort of our dinghy deck! Fun!
Just before bed, Flack and Kathleen joined us for homemade ice cream.
4/19 – We drove 20 minutes north to Dunedin to attend Kirk Church (2686 Bayshore Blvd) with Ed and Monica. It was a 50-year old church of about 200 people with a contemporary service at 9:30AM and traditional service at 11:00 AM. Though it was not used at the early service, Ed gave us a tour of the 2 back rooms housing the massive pipe organ’s workings. The pastor, Jerry Rittenhouse, doing a series addressing some of the topics brought up by the TV series “A.D.”, spoke on the jobs of the Holy Spirit. Excellent service and afterward, Tom offered his GC teaching to Jerry, who was very receptive. Maybe we’ll be back to Kirk Church one day.
We splurged on a buffet brunch at Shepherd’s Beach Resort (619 S Gulfview Blvd) – an extravagant layout complete with prime rib, crab legs (of which Paula tried to eat her weight), shrimp, sushi, breakfast items (including cinnamon bun French toast with bananas, in which Tom indulged), oriental dishes, salads, desserts, and lots more.
After lunch, we decided to go car exploring. We headed south along Shoreline 699 all the way to St. Pete Beach. Along the way we saw Sand Key Park and the shops at John’s Pass. Paula was thrilled when we found the St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival, and we walked the 2 blocks of craft booths. It is so interesting to visit craft fairs around the country, as each area has its own regional specialties. Though we didn’t spend a penny, Paula got a great idea on how to remake a sarong into a versatile sundress (www.beachhutclothing.com).
4/20 – We lunched at the Brown Boxer (several locations around town) on their local’s $5 meal, which Ed had told us about. (It’s not on the menu so you have to know to ask.) Monday was wraps, which included the best-ever tater tots. What a deal! Wish we had more time for their other $5 lunches, different every day of the week.
Having cut a paper pattern and figured out proper length and placement of the wave mirror over the bed, we took them to be cut and holes drilled for the lights, and then it was on to a boat salvage yard for parts to mount the scooter. Though we had hoped to have time to get to the Clearwater Aquarium in the afternoon, we didn’t get back in time. We are looking forward to when the major work on the boat is complete and we can spend more time sightseeing!
We got back to the boat just in time to get drenched by the huge storm blowing in. After high winds and rain for about an hour, it was all over.
4/21 – After Paula took a run on the beach, we went to the Clearwater Aquarium. It is a rescue aquarium and we listened to presentations on how they rescue dolphins, small whales, turtles, and birds and rehab them, some to be rereleased and the unreleasable ones to be given a life at the aquarium. The aquarium is home to Winter, star of the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale II. She was entangled in a crab trap rope and ultimately her tail had to be amputated. She learned how to swim without a tail, but now also has a prosthetic tail. Hope is another dolphin rescued at about 3 months old when she and her mom were found on shore.
We finished the day by viewing the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival sand sculptures, all designed along the “fairy tale” theme. They were amazingly complex carvings using only sand, water, and hands (no molds or forms). A last walk along the pier netted a beautiful cross, adorned with sea shells.
4/22 – Tom’s job for the day was mounting the scooter. While he began to work, Paula did another swim, but due to the earlier storm, the water was much choppier and visibility nil. Three quarters of a mile was all she could manage.
Marina neighbor, Nelson, helped Tom some with the scooter mounting. Although it took several trips to the fabrication shop, the aluminum brackets Tom designed to hold the scooter did the job. Paula, the winch operator, praised God when at first full lifting, the scooter stayed balanced and everything worked as designed! By day’s end LC, or “Elsie” (short for Life’s Cycle) was ready for the high seas.
We had moved the boat to a work dock to get the scooter mounted, and as we were returning to our slip, our helper cracked the 3-foot square window with his rear while leveraging off one of the pilings. One more item on the list to repair.
4/23 – We drove up to Tarpon Springs, home of the historic Sponge Docks, with more Greek Americans than any other US city. We took in many of the shops along main street before meeting Wayne and Charlotte Slabaugh for lunch at Mama’s Greek Restaurant. Afterward we stopped by one of the many sponge shops and got the story of the Greeks’ January 6th Epiphany celebration, which can triple the size of the town! The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church hosts the event that includes as many as several hundred boys, ages 16 – 18, diving for a cross tossed into the water by the Archbishop. The one coming up with it is blessed (and is a town celebrity for a year)! It is symbolic of Christ’s baptism, casting the bread of truth into the world, the blessings we receive from the Lord and ultimately the laying of our crowns at Jesus’ feet. Our clerk had gotten the cross many years earlier. We bought a sponge from him (which Tom later made into a lotion bottle sleeve). Then it was on to Hellas Bakery for desert, a chocolate-dipped chocolate éclair, with fruit on top…disgusting.
We picked up the mirrors from the glass shop on the way home and Tom went to work installing them. Because of the curvature of the stern of the boat, this project was not one that went as planned. One of them broke during installation (but we had a spare) and, the curve of the mirrors caused a distortion. We thought we would just live with them until we could go to Plan B, but Plan B was hastened when the next morning while Paula was out on a run, another mirror snapped. So we measured for a couple of new brackets and put Plan C on the list, which is getting shorter.
4/24 – Time to move! Our target was Longboat Key Moorings Yacht Club in Sarasota, 46 nautical miles south, where friends had a boat and an extra slip. Along the way, we wound through narrow passages of the ICW with beautiful homes and lush green lawns, across open bays, and had to have 7 drawbridges raised for us. We saw 24 dolphins (most of which played in our bow wave) and 2 manatees! Seven hours later, we arrived at what will likely be the nicest marina at which will stay in along our Great Loop. Beautiful docks (and boats), 2 pools, golf course, tennis courts, 8 restaurants, spa, etc, right off Sarasota Bay. Most of them are off-limits to us because we are not members, but that’s OK – we were there to see Sarasota! The staff was both friendly and helpful. Thanks Bud!
After we were docked, we looked across the marina and on the next dock was Sojourner, a 44-foot DeFever like ours. Tom went over and met Slade & Susan and talked “DeFever” a bit. They live in New York and invited us to visit when we get up that way.
We decided to head home a day early, so started prepping the boat for our departure, and at noon the next morning, caught a cab to the airport for the Sarasota-Charlotte-Phoenix flight home. Lord willing, we will be back in about 3 weeks.
Thanks for stopping by!