Sunday: Beach Day!!! We head to Clearwater Beach for the day and enjoy spectacular sunshine and beautiful temperatures as Natalie and Brianna romp in the powdery white sands. The water temperature is still a bit cool, but both girls do get wet and enjoy some fun time on the beachside water slides. After we’re done with the water slides, we get a bite to eat, then go to the Clearwater Marina Aquarium to see all the rescued sea creatures including Winter the tail-less dolphin from movie fame. Everyone has a great time and its not hard to get everyone to sleep when we return to Kailani.
Monday: Mickey Day. We all get ready for the early morning drive to Orlando and DisneyWorld.
The temperatures are a bit hot and the sun is high and bright, so sunscreen is applied liberally on all exposed skin and off we go. Once at the park and thru the entire process of having bags inspected and ferry boat rides to the Magic Kingdom, we are finally entering the park one hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the parking lot. Net we rent a scooter for Tracy so she’ll be able to make it thru the entire day, then we head into the park for rides. Long story but all is well, I just did not want to hold anybody up. -tc Tracy try to get used to the scooter, but realizes that she has to spend so much effort watching for pedestrians, that she’s missing the sights, so we return to the rental area and switch from a scooter to a wheelchair and that makes all the difference as now she’s able to enjoy herself.
Nick and Dede had pre-arranged for certain times to get into certain rides, so our wait times were not that bad even though there were around 55,000 visitors on a school day! All six of us, from 6 to 66 have a wonderful time and it’s a great way to spend their last full day here in Tampa.
After the Main Street Parade in the afternoon, everyone’s pretty tired from all the sun and walking, so we make our way towards the shops and finish the day in the park with some moments of the trip to Disney World. The 90 minute drive back to the marina is not entirely quiet as nobody falls asleep, but while we are driving, Nick and Dede start trying to decide about pushing up their departure tomorrow to try and beat a snow and sleet storm predicted for Connecticut tomorrow afternoon. Their present tickets will get them into CT right in the middle of the storm when the snow changes to sleet and freezing rain. So they end up deciding to try and get out early in the morning on a direct flight that will get them back into CT before the storm starts. If they kept their original tickets, there is a strong possibility they would get stranded in Baltimore later in the day. So once we’re back aboard Kailani, Nick calls Southwest and confirms tickets for the 7am direct flight to Bradley and now they must make sure everything is packed tonight because they will have to leave the hotel by 5am tomorrow so they can return the rental car and make their new flight.
Tracy and I help and stay out of their way all at the same time while the girls go to sleep and Nick & Dede complete the packing. I spend a bit of time setting up our cruise plan for tomorrow as we will be departing also for Gulfport Municipal Marina. The low tide window for the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge is 12:30 pm on Tuesday, so our departure will not conflict with getting the family out first. We all agree to wake up at 4:20 am and go to bed.
Tuesday: The entire Kailani crew is awake and moving by 4:20am as planned and by 5am the flyers are outside the valet station waiting for the Ford Expedition to come out of the parking garage for their trip to the airport. After they are all packed up and we say our goodbyes, they drive towards the airport and Tracy & I return to Kailani for the morning. We will be leaving today so I work on preparing for the 11:30 am departure that will get us thru the fixed bridge at low tide.
While we are preparing Kailani for departure, we get a text from Nick & Dede at 9:30am saying that they have safely landed at Bradley International and it isn’t even snowing yet! In fact the snow doesn’t start until they are pulling into their driveway and safely home. Amazing, they get back into their warm home in CT before we leave the marina today. Also, their fears of being stranded in Baltimore are realized as reality because when they landed in CT they checked the flight board and all flights from Baltimore to Bradley on Southwest were cancelled for today.
We continue our procedures for departure and at 11:30am Tracy is taking us off the dock and thru the bridge.
Again, I am up on the roof verifying that we will clear the structure because today, the low tide is relatively high. In fact we clear the bridge with about 4” to spare this time and Tracy draws clapping and compliments from boat captains on shore getting their touring boats ready for the day’s customers.
We expect today’s cruise to be 4 hours and in fact, we are pulling into Gulfport Marina after 3 hours and 50 minutes of cruise time. We stop at the fuel dock for a pump out because we haven’t had one since before the family arrived. Tracy does her usual great job and soon, we are storing towards our slip on the transient dock with 2 empty black water holding tanks. We are anxious in anticipation of hooking up to the marina’s shore power and getting good power with no tripping of the circuits.
As hoped, once we are all secured and utilities are connected, we see that the power service has returned to our normal configuration and without the newer 3 milliamp ground fault breakers, our power stays good and active for the entire time we stay at this marina. It appears that our entire power issue at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Marina was a direct result of the 3 milliamp ground fault connections and the one cord we have that showed 4 milliamps was the tripper for the circuits there. It’s a welcome relief to be back to our normal. We will still have to have an electrician locate and correct our power leakage, but for now, as long as we stay at marinas with the 10 milliamp ground faults, we should be fine.
As soon as we are all settled in, we make contact with our Mississippi River friend(s) Bill Ackerman and Jim Tholen. Bill and his wife, Valerie meet us at the marina and we drive to O’Maddys on the water where Jim has met us and the five of us have a great time sharing stories and enjoying some great food.
Once back aboard Kailani, we turn in for some well earned shut-eye.
Wednesday: Bill meets us at the marina and we head out to the Imagination Museum in St Petersburg. Here there is two floors of displays of glass artwork done by some of the most famous glasswork artists of the last fifty years. Its amazing what they can do with glass.
Afterwards after Valerie has met up with us, we go out for a quick lunch, then we bring Tracy back to the marina while Bill & I run some needed errands to West Marine, Home Depot and AutoZone. In the evening, Bill and Valerie return and pick me up and the three of us go to Boyd Nature Preserve to hear a free lecture on the origin and geology of Florida. I learn that the land known as Florida, was originally a piece of the western African coast and when the continents collided in the Pre-Cambrian era, the limestone peninsula of Florida attached itself to North America and when Africa receded, a bit of it was left attached to the continental United States. So again, Tracy has always loved Africa and has wanted to go to someplace like Morocco for the longest time. Now I can tell her that she’s been there! The lecture is over before long and we return to the marina.
Thursday: Valentines Day and Tracy and I spend a nice quiet day aboard Kailani in the morning, then we take an Uber to do some shopping. While we are out we decide to have a late lunch at a TGI Fridays that we are walking past. This will be our Valentine Dinner to each other, then we’ll have a light dinner later aboard Kailani.
Friday: This morning, Bill and Valerie are back picking us up at 9am for breakfast and we go to downtown Gulfport to Stella’s and enjoy a nice breakfast on the sidewalk seating area. After breakfast, Tracy and Valerie do some shopping at the adjacent store and Tracy is able to find a dress that she likes and she will wear the new dress to Kim’s wedding.
Soon, we are back at the marina where we say our good-bye’s to Bill and Valerie and return to Kailani to prepare for departure. I re-load the bikes aboard Kailani and we prepare the lines for departure. Again, we depart at 11:30am for a scheduled 4 hour cruise.
We cross the Boca Ciega Bay and it’s shallow waters, then cruise out into Tampa Bay. There is a shortcut that is a narrow channel adjacent to the Sunshine Skyway Causeway that saves 10 miles on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, but we want to go the extra 10 miles and have an opportunity to pass under the span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. That’s exactly what we do and I’m able to get some great video of Tracy at the helm driving Kailani under the span right after a large commercial tanker has passed under the span coming from sea into the bay.
Exactly 4 hours after departure, we are pulling into Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto, Florida. We have been assigned slip E52 and it’s a wide and deep slip obviously designed for a much larger vessel, but Paul says he doesn’t have any other more appropriate slips for us, so we’ll just have to get used to their southern hospitality. We are all tied up and meet some of our dock neighbors who are very friendly and anxious to hear about our adventures on America’s Great Loop. We always appreciate the opportunities to relate our adventure to others.
Soon, Dennis and Terry Foley are approaching the dock and we must meet them at the security gate to let them in. After a few hours visiting on board, they leave to return home and Tracy & I look to get some dinner before the crowds get too large. We miss the opportunity to avoid crowds and after a sorta long wait, we are seated in theft marina restaurant facing out into the Manatee River. It turns out to be a spectacular view across to Bradenton.
We share a calamari appetizer, then Tracy has a shrimp with Linguini and I get a Hawaiian Chicken. Afterwards, we take the short walk back to the dock and relax for a nice quiet evening and turn in early for the evening.
Saturday: Our good friends Dennis and Terry will spend the day with us. First they pick us up and we tour the tip of Snead Island by car. Emerson Point Preserve occupies the entire northwest tip of Snead Island and there is beautiful scenery with some beach area, bird watching, botany, butterflies and oyster shell mounds.
We walk nearly the entire park except we save the observation tower for another day as we want to get back to their house for lunch.
Dennis and Terry have put out a nice cold cut sandwich bar for everyone to make their own sandwich and we have a great time chatting and learning about retirement life in the Palmetto Florida community. After lunch and a lit of socializing, Dennis drives us back to the marina via the local Publix Market and we take the opportunity to restock our galley.
Back on Kailani for the evening, we watch a DVD called ‘Now You See Me” and its very entertaining. Sleep comes easily after a full day in the Florida sunshine. Dennis has already gotten back to me with two activities for the week. First, he and I will go to George M Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday for opening day of spring training. Its the first day of training for the New York Yankees and there is no charge for admission. Also, he got me hooked up with a bunch of other residents of his Tropic Isles Community that are playing golf on Wednesday. He will pick me up, get me to the golf course, then one of the golfers will drive me back at the end of the round, so that will be fun. We go to bed looking forward to enjoying a week in this area.