August 8th, 2015 was a day of foul weather. Another front came through while my father and I sat at Marker One marina. Around 7:45 AM on the 9th we were back on the ICW southbound. The stretch gets narrow and shallow, as we pass Clearwater, Indian Rocks Beach, St. Pete, etc. A lot of boat traffic and draw bridges.
Hailing the bridge tenders on VHF 09 I usually let them know when we are 2 miles out, and again when they are within visibility off the bow about 1/4 mile. Most of the time they open on command, some are on 20 minute schedules. The cars stop, and we scoot on through.
Coming out into the opening of Tampa Bay the channel turns to run parralel with Hwy 275. We pass through the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge and on toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Running about 4.1 miles across with a clearance of 174 feet for passing vessels. Continuing on, we have no need to pass beneath. Now on the more open waters of the Bay’s entrance, Egmont Key off our starboard side. We spot our channel markers through the binoculars, beyond them, the Manatee Bridge.
Tucking behind Anna Maria Island, we pass through the Manatee drawbridge, and pull into the basin at Hamlin’s Seafood Shack. Cortez, Florida was founded by settlers from North Carolina in the 1880’s. It is one of Florida’s oldest, yet still active, commercial fishing communities.
After a few days of getting situated at the Seafood Shack, my father and I needed to go get our cars from Panama City! Plane seemed too complicated and expensive, buses were over 14 hours with stops, so we figured we would just get a cheap rental car. For $99 we were back at the Panama City Marina in 6 hours! Put that into perspective. Another 6 hours back in each of our vehicles. Once again La Sancha and Splendid Isolation were reunited in a new area.
When Claire and I left Texas, we had our minds set on arriving in Longboat Key, Florida. We thought the area fitting- having family connections, good hurricane protection, and a busy winter work season. Originally planning to anchor beyond Moore’s Stonecrab Restaurant. My father was a bartender there back in the 1970’s. The area stuck in my mind, from visiting as a child. Well, with that mishap of running aground and destroying the bow of the boat; I think we are just fine tied off to the docks of the Seafood Shack.
August 16th Claire flew down from North Carolina. It’s been quite some weeks that we have been apart. We both held our own. She was extremely busy waiting tables and making us some money to survive. While I received help from some great crew, sailing our home another few hundred miles.
Claire can be quite picky about where we stop to “live”, and I don’t blame her. With white sand beaches and clear water running along the coast of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, it’s safe to say she will be pretty happy here.
Cortez, Florida will be our new stepping stone until further notice. As we take the damage to our vessel as a sign to do a lot of top-side work we have been holding off. New jobs will come as soon as the snowbirds take flight southward, refilling our savings.