The trip north from Venice was pretty easy and mostly uneventful. The only hiccup was some confusion on the bridge opening schedules, which both Active Captain and Skipper Bob had wrong. That's pretty unusual. At any rate, shortly after clearing the 2nd bridge, we entered Sarasota Bay, and had a decision to make. Do we anchor near the barrier island at Otter Key anchorage or stay near Marina Jack on the mainland side. We decided to check out the Otter Key anchorage first, which required us to head toward the Gulf as if we were going to head out the inlet before turning into the channel to the anchorage. The marks for the inlet are no longer charted, since the Coast Guard stopped maintaining them several years ago due to shoaling. The Sarasota Yacht Club stepped into the void and has placed and maintained the existing marks for the inlet. Dave had used their waypoints for the marks' current locations, but it was still pretty confusing as we headed “out” the inlet toward the anchorage. As we approached the entrance for Otter Key, the depths dropped considerably, but we made it through OK. Otter Key was a pretty anchorage, protected and surrounded by expensive homes, but there appeared to be no “official” place to tie up your dinghy. We wouldn't be comfortable going ashore here, which made this a less interesting place to stay. So, we headed back out to go across to Marina Jack. On our return trip, we discovered we had gone way to the wrong side of one of the marks on our original approach, having actually crossed right over the shoal that the marks were trying to help us avoid. Thank heavens for our shallow draft! We stayed in the channel on the return trip.
We didn't have many miles to cover between Sarasota and Bradenton and we still had 3 days before we were supposed to pull into our marina for the holidays. So, we looked for a place to stop en route, deciding on an anchorage on the Manatee River near DeSoto Nation Memorial. Since the marina was further up the same river, this would be on the way and would be interesting to explore.
After just a few hours on the dock, we were already getting a rental car to head across the state to Melbourne. We had a dual purpose – one was to see our nephew Jeff in his new house. The other was to attend the Waterway Radio Cruising Club picnic. We arrived early Saturday afternoon and met our nephew at his house in a new subdivision in West Melbourne. After taking a tour and catching up, we headed out to the Eau Gallie Convention Center to the Seven Seas Cruising Association GAM being held there. We toured the vendor fair, where Dave found some replacement line for our stern anchor. We caught up with Dorothy and Glenn from Dot's Way who were helping man one of the booths before they began to head south. That night we stumbled across a holiday lighted parade.
Being in Bradenton (or technically Palmetto), we were now close to our niece Janelle and her husband, Mike. We also were not that far from Val and Graham from Bonnie Lass, who had found a new spot to spend their off-season in Palm Harbor near Tarpon Springs. On Tuesday, Val and Graham came to see Jr and have a lunch together at the marina. The next Saturday found us sailing (in very light winds) with Janelle and Mike on board down the Manatee River on a pleasant Florida afternoon.
While in one place for the month, we began planning out our projects. Dave wanted more solar charging capacity, since our aging flexible panels are performing below their peak. So, he purchased a 2nd fixed solar panel, which he mounted next to the existing one on our PVC “arch” over the cockpit. Since Cathy needed to do some sewing while in port, we began discussing some alternatives for doing this, which led to Dave building a table prototype that would fit the existing mounts in the Main Saloon and the cockpit. Cobbling together a board from the “shelving” section, some 1 1/4” PVC pipes and some end caps screwed to the bottom of the board, we had now had a table. Initially, it was very unstable, which led to some fiberglass work on the floor under the forward fitting that held the table leg to give it a more solid mount. With this done, the table sat solid enough to use for light duty – meals, computer work, etc. although not strong enough to support the sewing machine.
We spent the rest of the time getting things together for our projects that we needed to get done while here. Cathy was to make new cushions. Dave wanted to install a tiller pilot. The windex had fallen off in a thunderstorm shortly after our arrival. The cleat for our port headsail sheet needed replacing. And so on. Then there was Christmas shopping to do. We would have plenty to keep us busy and out of trouble.