We had started a number of projects during our stay at Riviera Dunes Marina in Bradenton. During our last week, we put the finishing touches on many of them. Before we had been back in town a full hour, Dave had installed a replacement inverter under the companionway stairs, to enable us to generate AC power from the batteries for things like charging the computer and, equally important, running the blender, which we brought back to the boat from storage in anticipation.
Since we had to drill a new hole for the power plug, we decided to use this opportunity to move the remote mike to a more centrally-located position and higher on the transom. Dave took over its original location to install the socket for the tiller pilot. He then wired it for power and made the NEMA connections to the chartplotter to allow it to receive route information. With the wiring done, he then needed to mount the control arm, which required a hole for the pin on the side wall and installing a pin on the tiller to connect to the driving rod. After some careful measurements, Dave got some help from his brother-in-law (and his garage full of tools) to drill a hole in the starboard aft cleat and a hole to receive the pin in the tiller. With the holes drilled, Dave epoxied the pin in place in the tiller and fitted the control arm in place. It fit perfectly and responded as designed to the control buttons, extending or contracting as directed. Now we just had to get underway to put it to the test. As we sailed across Sarasota Bay our first day out, the tiller pilot took the helm and took over the driving. We've used for many hours since.
We picked a less than stellar day to leave Bradenton, but our month was up. After a week of beautiful weather while we sat at the dock, it was our luck that on our first travel day the skies were threatening rain and the northeast wind was blowing strong even in the marina's protected basin. It was going to be a chilly trip. With Sarasota as our destination, we headed out shortly after sun up. However, before the first hour was out, we had turned around and were headed back to the marina. Why? Immediately downriver from the marina were 3 bridges –- a fixed 40 ft bridge, an opening RR bridge and a fixed 41 ft bridge. As we approached the 3 bridges, we were shocked to see the RR bridge down. We had heard no train whistles, and there were no trains in sight. We tried hailing the bridge on several channels, but got no response. Finally, we called the Coast Guard, who responded that the bridge had reported electrical problems and they didn't know when it would re-open. So, were we stuck for hours? Days? Weeks? Who knew. We called the marina and told them we were headed back to our slip. But before we made it to the channel, Dave turned around to see the RR bridge opening. We turned around quickly and made a beeline for the bridge to clear it before it might close again. Once through, we breathed a sigh of relief. We used the Northeast winds to sail down the river into Tampa Bay before turning into the ICW. As we approached the narrow entrance which crossed the shoal before the ICW, we were surfing down the waves which had built across the long fetch across Tampa Bay. By mid-afternoon however, the winds had mellowed enough that we pulled out the headsail, turned off the motor and had a leisurely sail across Sarasota Bay to Marina Jack under the now sunny skies. The day that had started so poorly ended far better as we joined Dave's sister Wendy and her in-laws at Two Senoritas in downtown Sarasota for a delicious Mexican meal.
We managed to pick up a mooring around 1pm, snagging the closest one to the dinghy dock. Alright! Once secured, we headed in to check-in and get some fuel. However, we ran into a stumbling block when we checked in. The mooring we had was supposed to have been marked as unavailable, but wasn't. The irritating thing was that Cathy had called in to see which moorings were available and was told to “take any one”. So, we went back to the boat and moved to the farthest ball in the east field, which was now a long dinghy ride in. After a run to Publix that took over 2 hours because of much-delayed bus, we made another round trip to the boat to drop off the food and get stuff for showers. By 9pm, we were back on board and Cathy made a quick dinner before we crashed. Tomorrow was going to be another pre-dawn wake-up call to get underway at first light.
From Goodland, we headed into the Everglades, trying to make longer hops that would put us in position to jump to the Keys further east than Marathon. Since the closest anchorage east of Marathon was Matecumbe Bight, that would make for a run that might be too long to make in daylight, especially if the winds took our speed down. We had 3 options to choose from for the first night. Russell Pass, off Everglades City was not far enough away. Little Shark River was too far for us to make with the conditions. That left New Turkey Key, which was about 30 miles from Goodland. The only caution in the write-up was a 4 ft shoal at the entrance. That wasn't a problem for us. As we headed into the anchorage, we were 2 feet up on the tide and saw nothing less than 5 ft. We pulled up between Turkey Key and New Turkey Key (clever names) and dropped the anchor. We thought we were going to spend the night all by ourselves, but found shortly before sunset we had a neighbor. A couple motored up to the nearby beach and set up their tent. This turned out to be a pleasant stop. There was enough wind that the bugs stayed away long enough to grill out. And when the sun began to set, we put the new screen in place and the bugs seemed to be held at bay. BUT then we started getting bit. We looked at the screen, but could find no gaps. Where were they coming from? It turned out the wind had blown off the screen on the forward hatch. They were pouring in through the wide opening. It looked like Cathy would be back at the sewing machine.
So, as we rounded the bottom of Florida to head toward Miami, the southeast winds would vanish and be replaced by – what else – north to northeast winds. Because that was the direction we needed to go.
Family and Friends
New Year's Day was our first day back in Bradenton and was a busy one as we ended our travel and put the boat back in order. So, we were surprised in the midst of our settling in to be greeted on the dock by what turned out to be a fellow sailboater, Julie, who lived in the condos that overlooked the marina. She said she had been enjoying our Christmas lights all season and wanted to come say hello. She invited us up to meet her husband, Rick. We learned that their sailboat, Believe, is in Scotland, where they sailed to it a few years ago. They return each summer to explore new cruising grounds throughout Europe, planning to eventually end up in the Mediterranean. We had a wonderful evening learning of their adventures and hoped to see them again if we make it back to Bradenton in coming years.
January is a busy month for the extended family, starting with Dave's sister Wendy's birthday and ending with Dave's birthday. Being in Bradenton where Wendy's family was gathered, we had the rare opportunity to celebrate both events with family at our niece's house.