Start: Manatee River Anchorage, mm93, Tampa Bay, 0854
End: Marina Jacks mooring field (ball T1), Sarasota, FL, 1305
Total Distance: 21.1 nm
Time: 4:11
Average Speed: 5.0 kts
Number of bascule bridges: 3 1

While we were sitting in our boat musing about the day, Jan said, “if you asked me before we started the trip what I thought of Sarasota, I would have said ‘retirement community, old people.’ Not money!”

Who knew?

But I jump ahead.

We started our day at our semi-private anchorage on the Manatee river. We did not see any Manatees at this particular place, but we knew they were out there watching us in our boat. Lucky got a run in the park as I dodged the park ranger. The park officially didn’t open until 8am, but we landed the dinghy at 7:15 and spent the next 30 minutes running away from the noise of his/her four wheeler. Back to the boat for a cup of coffee, to load up the dinghy, drop the engines and get underway once again.

Really short trip this morning. Just over 21 miles, but this will be back on the waterway. Three bridges that we have to get through. According to my outdated information, two of them open every 20 minutes. We slow our approach to the first one to time our arrival for 10:20, but when I call for the lift, the bridge tender tells me they have switched the time to 15/45. No problem–we got this. Goose the engines and we make the bridges. The channel today was a bit of open water at the beginning and the ending, but the middle was a very narrow, very congested channel. Filled with a mixture of boats from mega yachts to trawlers moving faster than they should (in our humble opinion), fishing boats and run abouts. It was crazy. Fortunately I gave up the wheel to teach AJ math then milked it for a good hour or longer while Jan had to deal with the crazies! She gets us back by yelling “Manatee!!” every 15 minutes, then pointing to a ripple in the water where she swears we “just missed seeing one!” Hmm She, at last count as seen 15 manatees while AJ and I have seen one grey-ish thing rolling in the water that may or may not have been a manatee. Or may or may not have been a floating tire. We have no pictures of manatees.

Our destination is Sarasota, specifically the morning field at Marina Jacks in downtown. The morning field sits just outside of the marina itself. A mooring field is a bunch of balls that are firmly attached to the bottom of the bay that have lines with a ring that a boat grabs and attaches to the boat. As secure (or more so) as being at anchorage. And we get use of the marina facilities. All we have to do is take our dinghy back and forth to the marina and park at a very crowded dinghy dock.

First we have to get settled. We haven’t caught a morning ball since March/April. And it didn’t go well back then, but we didn’t have an audience. That won’t be the case here…there are a ton of boats in the morning field and most people appear to be sunning themselves on the deck. The challenge is that Jan has to reach down with a boat hook, catch the line and bring it up to the deck, attach our bridle. But the reach down from the front is about three feet. We pull up to the ball and there was absolutely nothing to worry about. Jan nabbed it first try, got it on the boat, hooked up and gave a Tiger Woods fist pump. We were in.

We drop the dinghy and go to check in. Our primary reason for staying in the morning field is that it is cheap. Like $25 a night vs. $2.75 a foot (or $99 a night for our 36 foot cat). And as we putter into the dinghy dock2 we realize that Marina Jack is nice–probably the nicest, or at least swankiest, that we have been to on the trip. It was voted the number one marina in 2015. It has HUGE yachts at their docks. There is valet parking for the cars and we figured out why valet in a marina when we saw Lamborghinis, Porsches and other exotic cars in the lot.3 It had pristine docks and facilities. One world class restaurant. Three other restaurants on site. And three smelly, long haired, shaggy dressed individuals roaming their facilities. And yet, they treated us well! We decided (after watering Lucky) to head into Sarasota and get an appetizer at Dos Senoritas, recommended by one of the dock hands. And it was good. Then we walked up to the closest grocery store (Whole Paycheck) and got a small bag of groceries for way too much money. Then back to the boat. And on the way back we noticed that there seems to be a lot of people with some way disposable income in Sarasota. There were a ton of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis. AND big gun cars like Maseriti, Lamborghini and Porches. Like everywhere! We asked the dock master what people did in Sarasota that generated all the money and she said they were visitors–had condos, come for the winter. But she also said we should keep asking and if we figured out where they got their money, let her know!

Our plan was to spend one night at the mooring ball and continue on down to an anchorage by Sanibel Island. But we looked around and figured that at the price for a mooring ball, we could stay another day, relax a bit, get some laundry done, perhaps take a shower.

So Friday morning we rolled out of bed at the crack of 8am. AJ is left on the boat to catch up on school work. Jan and I head to shore and walk the mile to a better grocery store to get some additional junk food and, most importantly, hair dye. Because **cough cough** the DOG **cough cough** has some grey hair showing.

Rest of the day was doing boat errands, talking to people at the marina and lunch on the beach at the tiki bar. While we were sitting at the tiki bar in the 70 degree weather, I perused the weather back home and noticed that the lows were in the 30s and the highs were in the 50s. I sent a couple of text messages back to our friends the Mish’s in Maryland and now we are former friends. Guess cold weather makes people cranky. Or getting snarky text messages from a jack wagon makes people cranky. Either or.

It is Friday night, normally pizza and movie night, but no pizza aboard, so we go with fajitas and a movie (Arrival). Tomorrow we depart again; heading further south to see if we can find a beach to lay on for a day or two.

1Bascule bridges. Bane of our existence. They either open ‘on demand’ (i.e. when we call them) or open on a schedule. Which is fluid based on the ever changing laws of Florida. I have to give Jan the big props. I hit the first bridge, and then she took one for the team and worked the next bridges. Still nice bridge tenders.

Dinghy Dock!

2The dinghy dock. A floating dock with a sign that says ‘for short term use only.’ Right above an inflatable dinghy that is in desperate need of air, has standing water in the bottom, and basically looks as if it has been there for a couple of months. Getting into the dock requires shoving the other dinghy to the left or right and wedging ourself into the mess. We learned to leave a little slack to that our dinghy can be shoved out of the way…

3It has been brought to my attention that perhaps there are some comments on social media that say that perhaps a good career for me in my next life, after the loop, would be as a valet. I would bring up two points. One. A quick examination of the outside of our boat would lead an objective person to think “that furry bastard ain’t driving my car.” And second is that the valets appear to actually run back to the valet station to get to the next customer quickly. My running, of late, has been to the toilet. Three quick steps from the bedroom. The thought of me ‘running’ across a parking lot brings about thoughts of ‘heart attack.’