Saturday had arrived. It was time for us to go-boat.
The weather conditions were ideal. The wind was to be no greater than five knots and the water was calm to a light chop. The sun was bright in the sky with a high temperature in the low 70s. Perfect.
Our broker buddy Charlie Pendergrass was able to get up there to be our guest for the day’s cruise. (Call him if you want to buy or sell a boat, or if you need a Captain. American Marine – 941-412-6808. He’s a good man.) Gordon Burgess, the president of American Marine, and his son Anthony, drove him up rather early. We of course welcomed them on board for the five cent tour. This was the first time Gordon had seen the boat as the transaction for us the buy her was all done on the east coast of the state. Charlie had been following our adventure via the blog and some phone calls and had posted some of our entries around the office. Gordon said that they were all interested in what we were doing. As far as they knew we were the first loopers that they provided a boat for.
|Laura, Ross and Charlie Pendergrass|
As the time for our departure approached (9:30 ish) it was fun to see many of our looper buddies come by the boat to wish us well and to help us cast off. We even ended up with more able dockhands than lines to handle. It was a rising tide but the channel behind all the boats in the transient area was still a little skinny so the extra help was welcome. Why Knot behaved exactly like I hoped and we were able to drive out without a hitch or hiccup.
Leaving Tarpon Springs the cruising conditions were indeed ideal with only the slightest chop. As soon as we found our way on the marked ICW route, heading south was pretty much a straight forward affair cruising between the mainland and the shelter islands. There was other boat traffic out but not too much. There were ports on Lake Michigan much more congested. (Like, the Holland Turnpike!)
The towns lining the channel passed by: Dunedin, Clearwater, Madeira Beach, and St. Petersburg. The course alternated between wider open bays, lagoons and lakes, to narrow little channels where the mainland and islands almost meet, one such appropriately called “The Narrows”. No matter what stretch of water we were in though the rule for the day was to STAY IN THE MARKED CHANNEL! Inside the channel = good depths. Outside the channel = veeeery shallow. There was one stretch where a SeaTow boat was at anchor waiting for some unfortunate captain to miss a mark and end up on a shoal. But we piloted through it all without incidence. Charlie, of course, took the helm whenever he could, which was fine with me. I don’t get to be a passenger too often. There were several drawbridges along the way but none were so low that we had to call or wait for an opening.
|Charlie with the best seat in the house.|
|Heading towards the bridge|
|That's a good looking bridge|
|The crew of Why Knot|
Crossing Tampa Bay was interesting by uneventful. The conditions were good but knowing that there are marked channels for a reason is a must, at least on the north side of the main channel entering Tampa Bay. Coming out of the aforementioned south bound ICW channel out of St. Petersburg you have to make a turn to the east (left) to a point not far from the cross-bay causeway that eventually goes across the bay over the beautiful Sunshine Skyview Bridge. Just before the cause way you come to a four way intersection of channels, kind of like a road intersection. At this point we made a right turn which parallels the causeway on down to the main channel of the bay. But like before STAY IN THE MARKED CHANNEL. No kidding! Just a short distance out of the channel on either side the water disappears into just a facade of water that covers shoal after shoal. At the end of this channel, not too far above the main in-out channel there is one little surprise – the marked channel ends at a place that at least on our chart plotter charts showed three feet of water, and even a bump of zero. You kind of want to steer around that. At this point we saw 4.9 feet under our keel in the channel. Fortunately after that the depths of the bay open up nicely so we could cut a diagonal course southwest to the entrance of Manatee River. Regatta Point Marina, our stopping point, is just a couple of miles into the river. (Navigation Note: For the first half of navigating the river pay close attention to the markers on the water and obey, especially the greens. On our chart plotter the marker placement is not accurate. After the last green marker G15 the water opens up for the rest of the way to the marina – aim for the two high rise condo buildings above the left end of the causeway bridge (which you do not need to go through) and you’ll go straight into the marina’s channel where you need to pay attention to the private red-right markets which keep you close to the marina.)
We backed into our slip and having an extra hand on deck was very helpful. These are typical high fixed docks, most likely stern in only. The finger docks are kind of short and are a little down closer to water level. All in all, a good place to tie up. The marina itself is great place to be. The clubhouse at the end of the dock is very large with a very nice restaurant and clean modern facilities. There is a shore-side strip center with some offices and a more casual restaurant. If you’re going to be here a while you will probably going to want to rent a car as we will. Everything you need is south of the marina in Bradenton and points south on towards Sarasota. For us, personally, this is kind of a homecoming as we have been to this marina a lot as this is where Charlie’s office is. (One more note: Charlie says that getting a dockhand to help you get into your slip is hit or miss. Call ahead to get your slip assignment and be ready to do it yourself.)
Early Sunday morning the dew settled heavily on the roof and decks of Why Knot. The sun has risen with the promise of a great day. We’re looking forward to spending a week here before we travel to St. Louis for our shore leave.