We are finally back on the water after what seemed like an eternity on land. We had left the boat in Carrabelle and went home for the Thanksgiving holiday hoping to return the following week to cross the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had her own plans and decided that when we were available, she would kick up some high seas cancelling our plans for the 150 mile journey. Again we had to postpone the departure, working around Mark’s two business trips to clients. Finally, the planets aligned and we got a good weather window that coincided with available time.
Of course we were not idle when we were home. We were able to visit with family in Tallahassee and Orlando, and we had a nice Thanksgiving meal with Mark’s family in Oviedo. We also got some Christmas lights and decorations put up at the house, Christmas cards created & mailed, and we tended to weeds and bushes in the yard that needed attention. Denise completed the Space Coast Half Marathon (3rd year in a series of 5), managed to get some holiday baking done, and get in several fun runs with her running buddies. Not only was this good for the waistline, it was good for her mental state.
We had much to be thankful for this year as we have safely traveled over 4100 nm with very few issues. We are also thankful for the many family members and friends who have helped us make this adventure possible. Whether it was getting and processing mail (Mom), watching over our house (Kim & Mark), transporting us to and from the boat (Claire – double thank you!), or just calling to check on us. We really do appreciate all that you have done for us.
Here is our latest on our adventures:
Friday, (12/11) – Carrabelle, FL – It was a beautiful morning leaving Carrabelle and we pulled away from the dock as the sky began to shed the darkness of night revealing a glorious sunrise. Right as we left the Carrabelle channel to the GICW, we were greeted by a dolphin who frolicked in front of the boat for a while. We took this as a sign for a good day on the water.
We rounded Dog Island and headed into the Gulf of Mexico just before 7:00 am to a spectacular morning. As forecasted, there was little wind and the water was pretty flat. Within the first thirty minutes we passed the only visual sighting of anything we would have for most of the day – a radio tower that stands about 100’ high.
Yes, Jeanne, we spent most of the day looking at the sea as there was no land in sight; not even another boat until sometime after 1:30 pm.
Eventually we spotted more boats and the power plant stack on land in Tarpon Springs.
We entered the cut to the South of Anclote Key and turned to enter the now re-started GICW along with a charter fishing boat. The water was pretty and we were once again greeted by a few dolphins as we made our way south.
In no time at all we were through the Dunedin Causeway Bridge and tied up to our slip at Marker 1 Marina. It took us 9 hours and we could not have asked for better conditions to go the distance. This was the longest mileage we traveled in a single day since this Loop adventure began on April 13th.
The marina was full of other Looper boats, most of whom we had previously met. These included friends on “Something Special”, “Corkscrew”, “Elizabear”, “Chasing 80”, “Manana”, and “Sunny Daze”. Also in the marina were several new Back Cove and Sabre Yacht cruising boats for sale, as there is a dealer here for these boats. In fact, we had visited this marina and almost purchased a Back Cove three years ago by this very broker. As luck would have it we ran into him at the marina office when checking in.
In the evening we decided to watch a DVD we had borrowed from friends at home. We have been trying to play catch-up on the Hunger Games series and had watched the first while home at Thanksgiving. We then borrowed the DVD of the second in the series (“Catching Fire”) to close out a very busy and long day.
Saturday, (12/12) – Dunedin, FL – As we left Carrabelle with little food on the boat, we needed to pick up a few things to get us through the week. Denise rode her bike to Publix located a quarter mile from the marina. It was a little bit of a challenge to carry the three bags of groceries on the bike, but the cooler tote we got at the AGLCA Rendezvous in May came in handy and kept everything cool as well.
While at the store, Mark fixed the starboard side navigation light that went out as we left Carrabelle. Initially we thought it was a burnt-out bulb, but come to find out some contacts were corroded and once cleaned, the light worked without issue. The problem is little things like this don’t come with an owner’s manual on how to take the thing apart, so most of the time is spent figuring that out. The goal is to do the repair without breaking anything else in the process. However, what should be a 5 minute job ends up taking an hour. Hey, it’s a boat!
We also took around the marina property, exploring the pool area and the nice community room where they had put up some decorations for Christmas. They also had a few fun things and we clowned around a bit. Here are some pictures of the marina area:
In the afternoon we spent time planning the rest of the week and making reservations at marinas further south. We had been in touch with our niece Jeanette who lives in Tampa. We planned to move the boat to St. Petersburg on Sunday so we could visit with her and her family at a venue that was closer to them. However we were having difficulty squeezing in their available time on Sunday, while allowing for us to move the boat to St. Pete, as well as finding a place to go to church either here in Dunedin, or in St. Pete that would fit these timeframes. When all was said and done, we made the decision to stay in Dunedin for one more night, and they would to come up and visit us on Sunday.
Also in the afternoon we met Russell and Karen who had just taken possession of a brand new Back Cove 37 like ours. We spent a lot of time showing them our boat and what we had added to it and why. They took pictures and asked lots of questions, but we were happy to share what we have learned. They were going to name their boat “Southern Comfort” and were preparing to leave on Monday to take it through the Okeechobee waterway and up the east coast to their home in North Carolina.
In the evening we met up with our now Gold Looper friends Bill & Donna Nielsen (“Renegade”) who completed their Loop in November. They live near Crystal River and made the drive down to have dinner with us. They took us to Ozona Blue Grilling Company in Palm Harbor which is at the marina where they keep their boat (now up for sale). The food was really good and we had a great time talking about our mutual adventures since Canada. We had traveled the entire TSW with them, and separated in Georgian Bay, so we had lots of catching up to do. It was so great to see them and we felt honored that they would make the drive to see us.
It was late by the time we got back to the boat and we were tired so we called it a day and went to bed.
Sunday, (12/13) – Dunedin, FL – Since our plans had changed to stay in Dunedin one more night, we now had flexibility as to which mass to attend. So, we slept in a little this morning, and then used our bikes to ride the 2.5 miles along the Pinellas Trail to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
This is a big parish and was quite crowded for the 9:30 mass, which was also presenting the new Candidates and Catechumens who were embarking on the journey to become Catholic. The mass lasted well over an hour and it was a bit warm when we finally left. The good news is most of the ride was tree-covered and offered shade.
The Pinellas Trail is a bike and pedestrian path that runs through Pinellas County and stretches from Tarpon Springs in the north, to St. Petersburg in the south. It passes through the towns of Palm Harbor Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, South Pasadena, and Gulfport for a total of just over 38 miles. You can learn more about this linear parkland here. It is really pretty and a great way to get around this area.
Along the way in Dunedin, the trail passes behind homes that line both sides of the path (very similar to parts of the Cady Way trail in Winter Park). One home in particular caught our attention as it had a very fun looking backyard with pool, outdoor sofas, and a terrific Tiki bar. On our way back from church the owner, Tom was setting up for the usual NFL Sunday so we stopped to talk with him and a few of his friends. This is a first class Tiki bar equipped with two flat panel TVs, high-end bar stools, a surfboard for a stand-up bar table, and all the decorations – including those on the roof he put up for Christmas. Every Sunday that Tampa Bay is playing they gather to cheer on their team and have fun. This is not open to the public, but if you showed up with wings in hand, and a Buccaneer shirt on, we are sure he would invite you to stay.
We were not back at the boat very long before niece Jeanette, her husband Reed, and their adorable three girls showed up to visit. We all went to lunch at Frenchy’s Outpost – a local restaurant that has several locations in the Bay area.
Then we all went back to our Island Office. We were hoping to be able to take them out on the boat, but it was too windy and we didn’t think the girls would like the rocking they would encounter. So we allowed the girls to explore all the nooks and crannies of the boat, play with our flashlights, gave them some paper to draw things, and took some pictures. Before long it was time for them to leave. We really enjoyed the visit and appreciated them making the drive up from Tampa as we probably will not get to see them at Christmas.
In the evening the Loopers got together for the usual Docktail hour – organized this time by Mark. The marina has a covered patio area near the office that has two big tables and lots of chairs. It is perfect for such a gathering and there were many of us there. It was fun to talk to new and old friends alike and learn from each other.
One thing that we learned was that the Tampa airport was the same distance from the marina, as it was from St. Pete Municipal Marina where we were going to move the boat on Monday. As the reason for going there was to see Jeanette and her family and that was no longer a factor, we made the decision not to go to St. Petersburg Muni Marina. In fact, if Marker 1 had sufficient space, we were happy to stay here while Mark traveled to Ohio to see a client. The rate was cheaper and there is easy access to many things from the marina. We agreed to find out if this was possible from the office first thing in the morning.
After docktails, we are a quick pizza dinner on the boat and then began to watch the third Hunger Games (“Mockingjay – Part I) movie. Unfortunately, about half way through the movie, we both were falling asleep and we decided to stop it and go to bed.
Monday, (12/14) – Dunedin, FL – In the morning Denise was able to get in a nice run to and down the Pinellas Trail and back. It was a little spooky at first because it was still dark, but there were enough other runners and cyclists that she felt safe and eventually it became daylight.
Today, we opted to do a deep cleaning our floating home. Mark scrubbed all the salt off the exterior of the boat (from the Gulf crossing) while Denise dusted, vacuumed, polished stainless steel, and cleaned the floors. It is amazing how fast the boat gets dirty; after all we had only been on it for 3 days.
In the morning we were also able to secure our slip here in the marina for the rest of the week, so we cancelled our St. Pete reservations. This means that Friday we will have further to move the boat in order to stay on our schedule to have it in Sarasota for next Monday, but we are sure we can do this without sacrificing desired stopping points.
After lunch Mark had a conference call and some work to do for clients. Denise began cataloging pictures and started this blog update, which always seems to take longer than planned.
At 4:00 the Loopers got together for an earlier-than-usual Docktail hour and a “White Elephant” Christmas gift exchange. The rule was to bring something from your boat that you no longer wanted to keep or haul. We had replaced a potable water hose before Thanksgiving and we were still carrying the old one, so this was our contribution. It was lots of fun and we ended up getting a bottle of Margarita Mix – unfortunately, we don’t have the tequila onboard to mix it with!
During this time, Mark was picked up by Enterprise as we had rented a car to use to take him to the Tampa airport in the morning, and for Denise to use the rest of the day.
We had a light dinner aboard the boat and then finished watching “Mockingjay Part I”; we are now ready to see the last movie in the series (“Mockingjay Part II) at the theater when we are home for Christmas.
Tuesday, (12/15) – Dunedin, FL – Mark had a 6:20 a.m. flight out of Tampa airport, so we were up very early to make the 20 mile drive south. Denise returned to the boat for breakfast and some morning emails, and then headed out to explore. She took advantage of the rental car to do several errands, including shopping for a few Christmas gifts, and some sightseeing.
She headed first to downtown Dunedin to walk through the shops and explore the marina there. It is a very cute town with lots of restaurants and interesting shops, and it was all dressed up with beautiful Christmas decorations. Denise was sorry Mark wasn’t there to see it. The Pinellas Trail runs right through the heart of town, and it looked like a great place to stop for lunch on a full day of cycling.
Here are some other pictures from downtown Dunedin:
After running some errands in the Dunedin area, she drove up to Tarpon Springs, where it is really like two towns in one. The first area to see were the Sponge docks which run along the waterfront near the marina. This is a very touristy area with lots of ticky-tacky souvenir shops and a plethora of Greek restaurants (there is a huge Greek community here). She was glad we made the decision to stay in Dunedin not here after Carrabelle.
The second part of Tarpon Springs is the downtown area, loaded almost exclusively with antique shops, a few bars, and a Historical Museum in the old Train Depot. It is quite small and there is not much to see during the week. Here are some pictures of these sights:
However, the more interesting area is just west of the main street. Here there are two beautiful connected parks (Craig & Coburn parks) surrounding the water and are bordered by streets with old Victorian and quaint homes. Several of the streets have some pretty large houses, many which are on the Tarpon Bayou or branches from that. This is also where the Tarpon Springs Yacht club is located. The water eventually leads to the GICW. It was a really pretty part of Tarpon Springs and worth the short drive to see it all. Here are some pictures from this area:
Eventually, Denise had to return the rental car, and it took forever for Enterprise to get her back to the marina; despite showing up when they told her it was “slow”. One thing we will not miss when we are done the Loop is the transportation challenges we have faced.
A note for other Loopers who read this blog: There is a trolley that runs in this area and will take you to and from downtown Dunedin and/or Tarpon Springs, however, they only run on the weekends. If you wish to travel on the weekdays, you will need to use the city bus, get a car, or bike the trail.
The evening was quiet and most of the Loopers kept to themselves, as did Denise. She ate leftovers for dinner and started to watch the Republican debate on TV until she was too tired and eventually called it a day.
That is our update for now – stay tuned for more adventures soon!