- Dockmasters were great at all, but were exceptional at Naples Sailing and Yacht, Venice, Bradenton, St. Charles and Clearwater;
- Friendliest YC members - St. Charles and Clearwater without a doubt;
- Fanciest YC - Sarasota of course, but a bit stuffy (only beaten on the trip by Royal Palm on the east coast - but the members there were really stuffy);
- Best Food - Clearwater was a clear winner on this front. Their food, wait staff, and chef were amazing.
Although this is yacht club etiquette/tradition, it seems to have sadly fallen off the radar at many clubs.
|Sunset - Big Bend|
Crossing the Big Bend of Florida is one of the longest hops when we go or return from the Bahamas. Most people are surprised by this, assuming that the jump to the Bahamas from Florida is longer. We typically try to minimize the distance in open sea, especially when we have Salty with us. Although he has been brought up on the boat, he will not use the bathroom on the boat. We have tried all the trick - grass, artificial grass - you name it. He chooses to hold it until dry land. He has held it for well over 24 hours in the past, but we try not to do this to him. I guess if he really has to go, he will go. So our Big Bend crossing was timed with a stop at Anclote Key (just north of Clearwater) and a stop at Dog Island, making the rhumb line about 130 miles.
There is always a little anticipation before setting off - weather checks, boat checks etc. And of course, the forecast was not as advertised. Wind on the beam quickly changed to 15 on the nose making progress slow and bumpy in the shallow Gulf waters. The forecast was right in that the wind died down overnight - in fact to about 3-4 kts from behind.....which is essentially no use at all in terms of sailing. The result was that we motored for 98% of the way. Bummer - but at least it was an uneventful crossing. Except for a VHF call from Witchy Woman and Sea-Esta, two boats that we know from the Pensacola area. They saw our signature on AIS and passed us at about 2 am headed for the Bahamas. What are the chances of that! Two boats that we knew from home were about the only vessels we came across other than some small fishing boats when we approached Carrabelle/Dog island. We had a good conversation and gave them a few suggestions on places to stop along their way.
After making a potty stop for Salty at Dog Island, we continued on to Apalachicola. Always one of my favorite stops and this time was no exception. No YCs in Apalach, so we got a slip at Apalachicola marina - well a dock on the river just inside the bridge. In the past, we have used the "municipal dock" which is the sea wall near the fishing boats. There are no facilities or power there, but they used to charge $20 per night, which the local cop collected - if he remembered. However, the local marinas have apparently pressured City Hall to increase the rate to the same as the marinas, so now nobody stays on the sea wall. - why would you when you can get a marina with power and bathrooms at the same price!
Anyway, Apalachicola is a wonderful little town and it was the Plein Air painting festival. During this festival, artists from across the country congregate to compare their work and compete in a number of contests. We were there for the "Blessing of the Easles", and got to see several artists in action.
From Apalachicola, we moved on to port St. Joe. We stayed in the marina a couple of nights and had a couple of nights off the boat on Cape San Blas.
Once again we were reminded that this IS one of our favorite places in the world. and that is no exaggeration. The tranquility, beauty, beaches, and wildlife around St. Joe's Bay and Cape San Blas are in my mind second to none in the US and rank way up there in all of the places we have visited throughout the world. We did note however that the area was busier than we have seen it in past years, and while this is great for the local economy, I sure hope it does not spoil things!
|Beaches near Ft. McRee - Salty enjoys a swim!|
After this stop we were truly on the last legs of the trip. An overnight stop in St. Andrews (yes another yacht club!), then a full day back to Pensacola. As we arrived in the Pensacola inlet, shortly after sunset, we were surprised at the amount of shipping in the channel so late - it turned out that dredging operations were in progress and also some commercial fishing. Thankfully I have been in and out of the pass enough times to know where the hazards are and we were able to avoid the traffic. Some friends of ours heard us talking to the ships on VHF and told us that they were at anchor in Ft. McRee adjacent to the pass. Since it was now dark, we accepted their kind offer to raft up for the night. It was great to see Kristen, Cliff and family and exchange some stories about our trip. We were also ready for a rest. The next morning, we made our way home - just a couple hours away. It was nice to be home, nice to see friends and neighbors. Relief that the trip had gone well with remarkably few and only very minor maintenance/repairs. But also a sense of sadness that this was the end of another fantastic trip on Midnight Sun II.
What next? Stay tuned......we do have some news to share soon!