Sunday: One final day in Tarpon Springs before moving on. We want to see the Cathedral of St Nicholas so since it’s Sunday, we’ll have to wait until after 1:30pm and the Sunday services are over.
We ride our bikes down to the cathedral, visit the interior and study the stained glass windows with Greek writings.
Once were done there, we ride a few blocks over to Craig Park on Spring Bayou looking for Manatee’s. It’s a beautiful park surrounded with Victorian era homes, but the Manatee’s are not around. So its just a nice ride thru some beautiful greenery and scenery.
The rest of the afternoon is spent cleaning up some of the stuff we’ve unloaded off the boat after being here for 5 days. In the evening we are able to hear the roars of the bar crowds that are watching the Super Bowl and later we find out that watching the game must’ve been the equivalent of watching paint dry as the score ended up 13-3 with the Patriots beating the Rams.
Monday: Today we plan out our cruise day for a trip to Clearwater Beach Marina. It’s a short 18 mile cruise on the intracoastal waterway and the seas and winds will cooperate very nicely for the duration of the cruise. We confirm our reservation and Kailani and Wild Goose prepare for a mid morning departure.
All our lines are doubled back to the boat cleats and I clear our bill with the marina. Its actually a very nice day so we open all windows on the bridge and sunroom for the first time in a very long time. This is a nice break for us as it signals much better weather. By 10:50am Kailani and Wild Goose are pulling away from the docks and headed out the Anclote Creek towards the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). This is a quite long no wake area before we’re out into the bay but its very comfortable today and again, we only have 18 miles to go today.
Once were out into the channel of the GIWW, we decide to open her up for a little scheduled blow-by on the engines. And soon, we’re about a mile ahead of Wild Goose. As we are approaching the waters of Dunedin, we must verify the air draft (overhead clearance) of the Honeymoon Island Bascule Bridge, so I call the bridge tender on VHF 09 and he verifies that there is 24 feet below the bridge in the center. So I tell him that that’s plenty of air draft for us and we’ll just go slowly thru the span, but we will not need an opening. He thanks us for the info and we pass under with room to spare.
As usual, we have some nice runs with dolphins as they seem to be in great spirits for playing today. The boat traffic on the GIWW is not great with a few fishing boats, some trawlers, and a few go-fast boats, but not a lot of congestion in any spot of the trip. We try to slow down for most of the vessels as we are passing by them so our wake will not be problematic to the other vessels. Each vessel that realizes what we’ve done by slowing down gives us a wave of appreciation in return. Some of them actually slow down in kind.
By 1:00pm we are passing under the Clearwater Beach Bridge and turning to starboard to enter the channel for the marina. We negotiate the entire marina channel in idle speed even though we do not see any signs indicating ‘no wake zone’.
Once we are looking at our assigned slip, we seem to be being influenced by the local winds and current. It takes me four turns (see Nebo report) to get Kailani’s tail lined up with the pilings of our slip, but the 2 dock hands wait patiently for our 4 attempts at backing in straight in the wind. After we’re all tied up and utilities attached, I spend about 30 minutes on the line with Larry O and he says that stopping to meet them at St Pete Beach would work for them on Wednesday, So we’ll stay here until Wednesday morning, then cruise down to St Pete Beach to spend the day with Larry and Carol. This is running into very dear friends that we met on the loop and here, nearly a year later, we’ll get a chance to catch up again in person at Larry’s American Legion Hall.
We make sure the boat is secure and suddenly, Barry and Carol are approaching our vessel in their dinghy. We wait for them to arrive, help them tie up and unload their bikes. They go out for a bike ride and we take a walk to the beautiful Clearwater Beach and Pier 60 for some sightseeing. The pier has street vendors and a bait and tackle shop while the beach and park area are loaded with sun worshipers and street entertainers. The show we watch is a father and son where the son is a double jointed contortionist who can climb completely thru a tennis racket frame! Then for his final act, he is put into a straight jacket, then wrapped in 50 feet of chain then the chain is double locked. Then his father describes that he will get out of this restraint in less than 3 minutes and Nick, the son precedes to wriggle and thrash about working himself free of the chain, then the straightjacket and he completes it all in 2 minutes and 45 seconds!
Afterwards we meet Barry and Carol aboard Kailani and get ready for dinner. We walk up to the Salt Cracker Restaurant right here at the marina and have a delicious meal with Cuban Pork, Jumbalaya, Ribeye and double stuffed bacon cheeseburger. After this late dinner, Barry and Carol dinghy back to Wild Goose to get a good night’s sleep for their departure tomorrow towards Bradenton. We will stay one more day in port to get tons of laundry done before Nick & Dede show up on Thursday.
Tuesday: Barry & Carol depart in a mild fog headed for Bradenton while Rick & Kris aboard Eagle One depart for an outside run down the coast avoiding ‘no wake zones’. By the afternoon, Barry & Carol aboard Wild Goose are at their destination while Eagle One has returned to our marina because the fog was too thick over the ocean.
We stay in port today to get all our laundry done and with the condition of the machines at the marina laundromat, it will take all day to get it done. After getting the first loads in, Tracy spends much of the day trying to nurse her shoulder while I return to the wash numerous times to get it all washed and dried. By dark we have all our laundry washed, dried, folded and put away!
In the afternoon two looper vessels show up, Sea Jamm with Alan and Sherry, who we first met last year in Utsch’s Marina, and Ron and Debbie aboard Carpe Diem who we first met in Demopolis last month. Both made an overnight crossing from Carabelle to Clearwater and both couples were anxious for a nap to catch up on much needed sleep. The Gulf weather is spectacular all week and our friends aboard the Journey and Red Pearl are leaving Carabelle this afternoon for the overnight crossing into Tarpon Springs on Wednesday afternoon.
We spend a nice relaxing evening preparing for our cruise tomorrow where our goal will be to meet up with Larry and Carol of Sea Life for lunch in their homeport of St Pete Beach, then continue on around to the east side of St Petersburg in Tampa Bay to spend the evening at St Petersburg Municipal Marina.
Wednesday: We fully expect there to be some fog this morning, but the temperature rises so quickly that there isn’t a chance for fog to drop in. This is a good thing because it means we will be able to leave exactly when we want to make our lunch meeting with Larry & Carol. Larry lets us know that it should take between 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get there, so we leave at exactly 10:00am and soon we are pulling into the American Legion docks in St Pete’s Beach with Larry waiting on the dock to grab the lines from Tracy. We find out that Carol will not be able to make it because she volunteers at tax time helping AARP members with their taxes. So Larry, Tracy and I enjoy a nice lunch, spend 2 hours together, then we cast our lines and head for the east side of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg Municipal Marina. We have changed our strategy to go a bit longer today, then tomorrow, we’ll be closer to our destination where we must be at the fixed bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide in order to fit under it. With low tide scheduled for 10:05am tomorrow, we feel the closer we are to the bridge, the better chance we have of timing it correctly.
So we cruise around the southern tip of St Petersburg and up into Tampa Bay to our destination. Many of the sites we see during this cruise are familiar to us as this is where we stayed four years ago when we were shopping for Kailani.
At 4:30pm we are pulling into the marina and we go to the pump out dock to be completely empty for tomorrow’s guests, then we fill the tanks so Kailani will sit just a bit lower in the water when going under the bridge we mentioned. And at 5:20pm we are all tied up at our slip assignment for the night. We spend the evening doing some chores in preparation for Nick, Dede and the girl’s arrival tomorrow afternoon. We are looking forward to a great time with them.
Thursday: I start my day a bit early today because we must leave the slip by 8am so we can make the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide which today, is at 10:09am. So I’m walking Frankie at 6:30am to get his business out of the way before we start our pre-departure preparations. We’re getting real good at this because Kailani is pulling out of the slip at exactly 8am and heading east out of St Petersburg headed towards the Tampa Bay shipping channel.
The bay is extremely quiet today and we do not see any other vessels until we are turning to due north and heading up into downtown Tampa. There two miles ahead of us is a large freighter with a tug behind and another tug on the starboard side accompanying the freighter out of the harbor. As we approach the freighter we are both giving up the port side for the pass, so with the Tampa skyline in the backdrop, we pass this freighter port to port and continue on our opposite courses. After that freighter passes, there are no other large commercial ships in the channel so we have a completely clean path towards downtown Tampa and the Tampa Marriott Waterside.
Now to get into the marina area of the complex we must pass under a fixed bridge called the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge. The charts all state that this bridge has a vertical clearance of 10 feet and Kailani is 16’-9”! However, the charts are incorrect and the bridge is actually 16 feet at high tide and 18 feet at low tide. Hence our strategy to arrive at dead low tide for the most headroom possible. As we are coming due north up the channel before we turn to starboard to face the bridge, Tracy takes over the helm and I don a PFD and climb up on the roof to watch for our actual clearance because they do not have elevation boards on this bridge. Our planning is spot on and actually, I’m able to stand up on the secondary roof, so we actually have more than 19 feet of clearance today.
Once we’re under the bridge, we are turning Kailani around to back into our assigned slip #14. While we are securing our lines, a couple walks by on the Riverwalk and speaks to Tracy about how they envy our lifestyle and Tracy invites them down to come aboard and see our ‘home’. Turns out they are in town for an Orthopedic Surgeons Convention and the husband is exactly that. So we mention the soreness Tracy has been dealing with in her shoulder and he takes a look at it for her and confirms her suspicions that its all in the muscle tissue and will eventually subside and she will be better. The couple is from Odessa Texas and we have a real nice time with them aboard.
After Kailani is all secured and they get back to walking the Riverwalk, we go up to the front desk for the check-in process. If any of you following us remember the issues we had staying last April at the Savannah Westin, today, here at the Tampa Marriott Waterside is the exact opposite as they really have there plan worked out for handling guests at the marina. We are assigned a room number (#114, the 1 for the marina and the 14 for our slip number) and issued three room keys for access to the pools, gyms, etc. and we can make purchases throughout the hotel and charge them to our room number. This is spectacular and we feel impelled to check it out right away as we are leaving the front desk, we walk over to the Starbucks and buy some hot sandwiches which we charge to our ‘room’ and it works perfectly!!! Now isn’t that simple.
After we return to Kailani, Tracy decides to rest her shoulder and I take the cart over to the local Publix Market and re-stock some of our galley. The rest of the galley will be filled with the Amazon Now order this afternoon that Nick & Dede ordered yesterday. They found out that the service was available to the marina and wanted to try it out, so before leaving CT, they placed a food order of foods that the girls like and had it delivered to us at the marina prior to their arrival.
At 3:45pm I receive an email from Nick saying that the food order has been delivered, so I walk up to the Front Desk and ask for my food delivery. Absolutely everyone says that there has not been a delivery for Nick from Amazon Now. They suggest that I check with the UPS Business Center upstairs so I walk up there and they have the same answer. So I walk back to the boat frustrated and food less!
Tracy steps in and makes a call to Amazon in Seattle and she talks to a guy who apologizes for any inconvenience and offers to credit the cost of the food plus an extra $10 for the inconvenience. So with a credit applied, I tried one more time to find the food and at the front desk, they were able to determine that the food they thought was for ‘Drew’ was actually the food for ‘Nick” and I walked out of the hotel and back to the boat with three bags of free food.
After we unpacked all the food from Publix and Amazon. Now, we got ready to go up to the front entrance and greet the arrivals from the airport. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction around the area of the Tampa Marriott, so Nick had a hard time actually getting to the hotel. They were trying to find a road that would get them to our location almost as long as they were in the air from Baltimore to Tampa. Once they arrived they were very tired, but also very hungry, so we went right into the Waterside Grill and had the buffet so we could get food right away.
After the buffet, we had the bags delivered to the boat and we all walked down to the marina slips to get the kids set up in their beds. Soon the girls were tucked in for the night and we were able to relax and enjoy Nick & Dede arriving safely for their vacation. We decided on our strategy of activities for tomorrow and all turned in early-early-is for the night.
Friday: Today we have decided to spend the day at the pool with its heated water and hot tub. We rent a cabana type chaises lounge and that gives us a chance to sit poolside without anyone getting sunburnt.
In the afternoon, we take a dolphin cruise on a boat right next to the marina and we end up sighting a few dolphins so everyone is excited that they got to see some dolphins. On the way back to the dock, the Captain takes us by Derek Jeter’s House. 32,000 square feet and mostly empty since Derek bought the Miami team and spends most of his time there.
After the dolphin cruise, the kids got in a bit more swimming and we ordered pizza delivery to the boat for a nice dinner. We chose Eddy and Sal’s Pizza and when we went up to the front to wait for the delivery, all the valet drivers told us that it’s the best pizza in Tampa, so I guess we can still pick out a good pizza!
Saturday: Today we head to the Tampa Fun Zone-Grand Prix. We spend the morning riding go-karts and playing miniature golf. Brianna and Natalie also show off their skills on the trampoline. Luckily there’s a 125 pound limit so we don’t have to talk Nick out of going on!
In the afternoon, we head out to Big Bend Power Station on Apollo Beach and visit the Manatee Viewing Center. This is a popular spot for Manatees in the colder water winter months because the manatees will all congregate near the outflow of the power plant where the water is extremely comfortable for them. We don’t have much luck viewing any manatees, but there are more dolphins, possibly some sharks and later the facility has a manta ray petting tank and the girls get a chance to pet a ray.
After returning to the marina, we take another dip in the rooftop pool to refresh.