Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Our Return to the US .....and the Big Bang!

 Return Trip

I will keep the story of our return trip brief as we have visited many of the spots we hit previously either on our way to the Bahamas or on previous trips.

We had an uneventful crossing - which is always a good thing.  Very calm but not a lot of wind.  We arrived in the Miami area and secured a mooring ball at the Coconut Grove Sailing Center.

Midnight Sun III at CGSC

Moorings are "tight" but they seem to work, and once again the staff at CGSC were great!  We spent several nights here and managed to catch up with old friends Tom and Michelle who were able to spend a night with us.

We are not "big city" people, but Coconut Grove has a small town feel within an obviously large city and many friendly bars and restaurants - most of which are pet friendly.

Night views from CGSC.

We continued the journey south headed towards Marathon.  We found a nice little anchorage for the night at Dod Island located on the west side of Card Sound (Biscayne Bay)..  After that we spent a night at an anchorage we discovered on the outward journey at Ocean View Inn, located near Snake Creek; and then moved on to Boot Cay in Marathon.  Boot Cay is almost and obligatory stop......well you either love the place or hate it in my opinion.  For a City run facility it is great, with good location for provisioning etc.  There is also a seemingly good community spirit from those that seem to have got stuck there.  Personally - I see no reason to stay more than a couple of nights.  After that, it kind of has the feeling of a "trailer park" for boats.  Now that's just my opinion, and I may get shot down for voicing it.  But take a close look at our Boot Cay neighbor's boat and make your own decision.

Anyway - enough of that.  We moved on and spent a night at Cape Sable, once again anchoring off the beach in very calm conditions.  We were able to excercize Salty on the beach with no crocodiles! (yes, we have seen them in the past- -see some early blog posts)

Now we were trecking North and getting onto the "Yacht Club" run.  As I know I have mentioned before, being a member of a FCYC or GYA club has a fantastic perk of reciprocity, and each member club provides a free night of dockage.  This in itself makes our Pensacola YC membership worthwhile.  Now moving north up the FL West coast, our journey took us to Marco Island (anchoring in Factory Bay for the night); Naples YC,  then a night on a mooring at Ft. Myers, a night at St. Charles YC.

Then we spent a night in a new-to-us anchorage at Cayo Costa known as Pelican Bay.  It was a nice anchorage - except for the Bugs!  OMG, the boat was bug graveyard the following morning!

Onwards again for a night at Venice YC, then anchorage at Desoto State Park, and a night at Bradenton YC.

Once again, great staff and a wonderful welcome from all the FCYC yacht clubs.  At Bradenton, we took advantage of the local Publix store and their "insta-cart" delivery service.  It worked well, we grocery shopped online and our goods arrived at the boat within a couple of hours.  Wow!  I'm not an Uber fan but use it, but now my Uber usage will decline when on future sailing trips!  This is the way to grocery shop on a boat!

From Bradenton another short hop and nice sail up Tampa Bay to- - yes, you guessed it St. Pete's YC.  Usually one of the nicer and more affluent FCYC yacht clubs......but they had a problem  - seemingly a big problem as the health Department closed down the club as we arrived.  Hmmmm.....maybe we didn't want dinner there afterall!  Anyway, other than, another great stay.

A good friend Jeff joined us in St. Pete's.  This was Jeff's first sailing experience and little did he know that we were about to give him the full experience!  We enjoyed two great evenings in St. Pete's before heading out to start our longest individual leg of our return journey.

The following day we sailed across Tampa Bay and out of the pass at Pass-a-grille and north up to Anclotte Key ready to stage for our Gulf Crossing.  We had a great sail with about 18 kts and a nice broad reach.

After a quiet night at Anclotte Key, we made a run for the Gulf crossing, headed for Dog Island and ultimately Apalachicola.  

Sunrise over the Big Bend
We were blessed with good weather, but very light wind making for a motor-sail across.  Still, although purists may disagree, I will take a fast motor-sail in preference to a hard beat-into-it crossing for the Big Bend.  Based on my experience, this can be a tough piece of water with weather often changing fast and unpredictably.  We made the crossing in about 21 hours although I don't think I made a note of our finishing time.

After a brief potty stop for Salty at the end of St. George Island, we continued on for a couple of hours to get into Apalachicola.  Another successful crossing - we were tired and ready for a couple of 

If you have read our blog from previous trips, you will no doubt have seen that Apalachicola and the surrounding area has consistently been one of our favorite areas.  In fact, after some time in the Bahamas and not really wanting to head home, I probably look forward to visiting the Forgotten Coast area more than anywhere else on the trip.  Hmmm......funny how one of your favorite spots can be right in your backyard!

We spent 2 nights in Apalachicola - but lesson learned, it was Sunday and Monday.  Many places, including restaurants close on Sunday and Monday - even though it was Memorial Day weekend.  Nonetheless, we had a great stay.

There are some great restaurants in Apalachicola and some unusual spts to visit such as the Tin Shed where you can find no end of nautical and land-lubber junk!

After 2 nights we took the ICW route towards port. St. Joe and St. Joe's Bay.  We took the ICW route as there is always plenty of wildlife and spectacular scenery along the way.  The ICW uses the Apalachicola River  and Jackson River for most of the way to Port St. Joe. followed by a short stretch of man-made canal.

The Tin Shed has a new location!

Well, if you are reading this in near real time, I am going to keep you in suspense for a day or two until I can write the next chapter.  I titled this ......the Big Bang, and yes there was one on our return, but I need to take a break before I can bring myself to writing about it.

As the Coast Guard Says, "......break, more to follow"

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