Start: Welch Causeway Bridge Anchorage, MM 122.1, 0830
End: Manatee River Anchorage, mm93, Tampa Bay, 1243
Total Distance: 25.0 nm
Average Speed: 5.9 kts
The night was not a peaceful night at anchor. We had a bustling town in front of the boat. We had more people/buildings behind us. There were lots of sirens. The bascule bridge got a customer at 0030 whose radio obviously didn’t work, so the boat had to use horn signals (one long blast followed by one short blast from an extremely loud air horn) to signal the bridge tender. Who was asleep. Let me be clear…I don’t KNOW the tender was asleep. I can only surmise he was either sleeping or going to the bathroom in Georgia. Because we heard the blasts repeated for at least 30 minutes, punctuated by a spot light shining on the bridge tenders tower and yelling. Eventually the bridge went up and the boat went on its way. But not before our night of sleep was *ahem* disrupted.
So the sun couldn’t come up fast enough. It did, and Lucky and I headed back to the McDonalds1 (I scored a cup of very hot, very bad coffee!) and then back to the boat. Our destination is an anchorage we found that is outside a state park and surrounded by green, not people. It is off the Manatee river which is off of Tampa Bay. There are four bascule bridges between us and our anchorage (three of them open on a schedule) AND 25+ miles of this waterway with wakes and buildings. We weren’t looking forward to the trip.
But, we took a look at the charts and the weather and decided it would be easier to go through our bridge, take a right and head through another (on demand) bascule bridge and into the Gulf. Then head 20 miles South, take a left, come back in at Tampa Bay and five miles later we would be at our anchorage. No dealing with narrow channels, jerks in fast boats or bridges. The wind was coming from the east, so we could put at least one sail out, and seas close to the shore were only in the 1-2 foot range. We got this.
So at 0830 I called the Welsh Causeway bridge tender who answered the radio right away. Up went the bridge, we took a right, requested another lift at the John’s pass bridge, were let through with no waiting and we were back in the Gulf!
And it was beautiful. Sunny, blue skies. Virtually no boats around us, few crab pots.2 Our path takes us 6-7 miles off shore, because the shore curves into the east before coming back out to the pass we intend to use to get into Tampa Bay. The wind is at first around 6-7 knots but picks up to 10-12 knots by the time we get to Tampa Bay. It is a fast, stress free trip and we love it. AJ does his school. Jan and I fiddle with sails, Lucky sleeps and Sid thinks evil cat thoughts and plots to overthrow the world.
By 1100 we are making the turn into Tampa Bay. It is actually rougher in Tampa Bay then it was in the Gulf. The wind from the East has a good long way to blow, so when we enter the bay, we start getting bounced around. By 1230 we are pulling into our anchorage. It is radically different from last night. There is civilization close by, but in the bay in which we are anchored, we are looking at a nature preserve; lots of trees, wildlife and the sounds are of nature. The anchorage has six boats already at anchor and a quick examination shows that four of them ain’t moving anywhere anytime soon. Plenty of room for us; we drop the hook, then the dinghy and head into shore.
The preserve is really nice. They have a dock that we can use to access the park. It has crushed shell trails mixed with paved roads. It has groves of palm trees, swamp land, and is sandwiched between the Manatee river and the Tampa Bay. We walk through the park and realize quickly that we have forgotten to bring water. It is in the low 80s, humid and we are walking mostly in the sun. Some of us started to wilt a bit at the edges. But we pressed on. We saw a TON of wildlife. And, of course, we NONE of us brought a camera to capture the moment. After a couple of hours of nature, we head back to the boat for dinner.
Dinner tonight is spaghetti squash with a tomato sauce and sautéed chicken breasts. We have not made spaghetti squash in our instapot before and it turns out you can actually over cook a spaghetti squash! Who knew! I turned the instapot on for (way) too long, but Jan rescued the dish by pressing out all the water. We will have to adjust the recipe.
1Stuff I learn. So I walk up to the counter to order my coffee. It isn’t crowded. There are a couple of tables with some senior citizens holding court. And as I waited for the nice lady behind the counter to acknowledge me, a dude stepped in front of me, ordered a cup of senior coffee (his words, not mine). The lady behind the counter got his coffee, took his money and as I stepped forward to order, ANOTHER dude of the grey haired variety stepped in front of me and ordered the same thing. Obviously this is their territory.
2Let’s talk about crab pots. For those not in the know, or not from a place where crabs are collected, a crab pot is a basket with bait, placed on the bottom of the water, attached to a line leading to a float. The float is so fisherman can see where his trap is at in the water, pull up the traps and collect the crabs. The floats are also nuisances to other boaters. If you run over a float, you can catch the line in a prop or a rudder or someplace else that lines aren’t supposed to go. So when you see the floats, there is usually a sense of dread/slight panic and a frantic steerage of the boat from left to right.
While we were preparing for this trip, we were told that when we traveled from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs we had to watch for the crab traps. Arrive after sunlight so you can see the traps. There was ‘DOOM’ associated with this advice. Jan drove through the traps and they were a nuisance. But we both agree that they are nothing compared to the Chesapeake Bay.