Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tampa Bay

From Tarpon Springs, we traveled a short distance down to Clearwater. We fueled, pumped out, and both “C-Life” and “Bella Luna” miraculously got into their very narrow slips as the wind was howling. We enjoyed a great—but late—outside lunch at the nearby local hangout (Crabby Bill’s) just around the corner from the marina. We did more laundry and Louis lowered our mast—as we will be going under several bridges (that we don’t want to wait to open for us) on our way to Ft. Meyers. Late in the afternoon, we walked over to the pier where there were sunset activities—a la Mallory Square in Key West. We saw several men with metal detectors combing the beach and we witnessed two weddings on the wide, pretty and populated sandy shore—it was a perfect, but cool, evening and the sunset was spectacular. The pier was lined on both sides with local vendors, artists and picture takers—like us!

We wound up spending six nights on Tampa Bay—three at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina (right on the Bay) and three with Peggy and Guy in Apollo Beach. Our first two nights were in St. Pete—we did laundry, ate out one night, gave our boat a much needed bath and window polishing, took a red trolley tour of downtown, went out on the famous (but very touristy) pier—complete with a pirate ship no less, took a beautiful nighttime horse carriage ride under a full “bella luna” and enjoyed the pretty sunny days that we had. Brantley and Brenda on “Reel Estate” joined us on our first day in St. Pete—they brought the boat over from Fort Pierce through Lake Okeechobee—and both of them are friends from home. We’re delighted and so glad they’re along for the journey—but Brantley is having a really hard time going slowly with his 1700 horsepower engines!

On Monday, the three boats crossed Tampa Bay (11 miles) and went over to Apollo Beach for a three nights’ visit with Peggy and Guy Leverett. We were able to tie our boat and “C-Life” behind their house, but “Reel Estate” had to go to the near-by marina. (Not a problem.) Our first night there Peggy cooked a delicious lasagna for us all and we had a relaxing and fun evening being in their beautiful home. Tuesday, the four of us girls went shopping and the boys went flying in Guy’s airplane—a Piper Cherokee 160. Guy showed Louis and Robert several anchorages we’ll be hopefully using on our way to Marathon and the men all had a great day “up in the air”. We four girls also had our own super days’ fix of retail therapy! We wound up that night at the marina restaurant, Circle’s Bar and Grille, and all eight of us had a delicious outside dinner—Kay surprising Louis with his own tiny toy octopus to keep as a reminder of his favorite meal in Tarpon Springs!

Wednesday, the girls decided to go to the movies (“The Reader”) and with so many good ones out now (it was hard to pick one)—but that one was especially good. The guys worked on the boats, did errands and everyone was happy. On our way back from shopping, we stopped at the local meat market and bought steaks for the night and wound up grilling for dinner back at the house. Guy and Peggy made our three nights with them so special and easy, and we all are deeply appreciative of their time, energy and efforts—especially since Peggy was not feeling her best. Get well soon, Peg!!

After breakfast Thursday, we crossed back over Tampa Bay to the same municipal marina in St. Pete. The Creeches picked up a friend of theirs who flew in from Southport—Buddy—who will be traveling with them until we reach Marathon—his wife will fly in next week. Once we all got our boats secured, Brantley and Brenda took off to run errands, Robert and Kay waited for Buddy to get to the marina, and Louis and I took off to go see another movie (“Gran Torino”) with Clint Eastwood—another good one—color Diane happy—two days in a row! Since the temperatures have taken a dive here and everywhere else on the east coast, Brantley cooked a big pot of delicious chili for us all and we ate on his boat—yum! Thanks B & BG!

So now it’s Friday and we’re leaving a rough and white-capped Tampa Bay—headed to Bradenton for the night—Twin Dolphin Marina. This afternoon, the guys are being picked up by a rep and are going to see a boat that is built in Bradenton that Buddy is very interested in—a Marlow—and “us girls” are going to enjoy a few hours of just being on our boats in solitude—something that we rarely get. (If it were a decent temperature outside, I think we would be poolside—but not this week—it’s record lows here too.) Twin Dolphin Marina is a great place with all the amenities—with Charlie Price as the Harbor Master making us all feel so welcomed. With his generosity, all three boats were able to stay two nights, rent two cars (7 of us!) and spend most of the day in Sarasota visiting the Ringling Brothers Museums (think circus!), and at the end of the day we enjoyed Charlie’s annual marina appreciation party. We thank you greatly, Charlie!!

From Twin Dolphins, we head to Sarasota for Sunday night, an anchorage Monday and then we hope to be in Ft. Meyers on Tuesday—weather permitting— a cold front is coming in with high winds. In Ft. Meyer’s, we’ll join Margie and Larry on “Wanderin’ L & M” and be in the home port/marina of Bonnie and Bruce Dailey—“Phantom of the Aqua”.

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