Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sailing in Thunderstorm Alley

Greetings from Sarasota FLA. We left Clearwater on Saturday July 1 and sailed to Egmont Key which sits right in the mouth of Tampa Bay. There is anchoring on the east side of the key. This makes the key a lee shore but it has been so deadly calm at night I figured this wouldn't be a problem. I said the same thing about "helping out" in Vietnam. While it didn't storm directly on us, those were visible to our south, it did become very rolly. We bounced up and down all night. At times the boat would bounce and spray would come in through the forward port and THAT AIN'T RIGHT! A long night indeed.

Above is the lighthouse on Egmont Key.
At the right is a sampling of the waves we hobby-horsed with all night. Gracie, are you still alive?

We got away early on Sunday heading for Longboat Key. There is an inlet there and opportunities for protected anchorage. Wind was ok at first then turned to our nose (how many times have I typed those words?) and we motor sailed into the inlet. When you make the drawbridge you are about a quarter mile from the anchorage but you can't get there from there (!). You have to go all the way around an island to avoid a large sand bar. More on that later. We negotiated the buoys ok and found the anchorage that had about 5 other sailboats in it. Always room for one more though. This is a very nice anchorage. There are two resturants 100 yards away, tons of dolphins, and that sand bar attracts hundreds of boats and families to enjoy the shallow water, look for sand dollars, be lazy, swim, and so forth. Very laid back.

We found in the cruising guide that if you follow a channel called Bishop Bayou it will lead to a little market and liquor store. This is a nice little dingy ride past some very impressive homes and equally impressive wildlife. We pulled up to the cement wall and thought we were in someone's back yard. It was the back end of the mini mall. On our way back we spied a huge crane that let us creep up slowly to get several photos. Fun.

After the dingy ride we relaxed on board reading in the shade when suddenly 4 ultra light planes came flying overhead. Hey, it looks like they are going to land on the water right by us! How spectacular.

You can tell when it's 4 o'clock because that's when the evening storms arrive. It's also validates cocktail hour or hours. Last night (July 4th) however as we watched the dark clouds and lightening moving our way we heard NOAA weather radio's 'beep beep beep' distress sound.
A water spout had been spotted 15 miles east of Clearwater Beach heading southwest. Guess where we were? Of course southwest. We quickly decided to set a second anchor and kept a close eye on the low dark clouds near by. Yes that does look like a dropping cloud that could be the shape of a funnel. Oh but look, it went back up. Then a second funnel shaped cloud appeared but it too dissipated. Whew! It rained very hard for about 10 minutes with some wind but not too crazy. Sue was ready to run the dingy ashore and head for someone's basement. This wouldn't have worked since there are no basements in Florida!

The storm passed and it turned out to be a beautiful evening. We had a great cool breeze all night. Who needs airconditioning? Well, not counting the hours between 9 am and 6 pm. We had spaghetti dinner and watched firework shows from many locations on the horizon. Quite a show.

We originally decided to head to Venice back out on the ocean but the winds were predicted to be 5-10 k from the southeast, in other words, in our face. So we decided to take the scenic route inside and stop at Sarasota instead. We did sail Sarasota Bay until reaching the highway bridge then manouvered our way to the anchorage just outside Marina Jacks.

And here we are in town at a local bookstore/cafe. The whole city has wifi so you can be just about anywhere and get connected. Can't wait until the whole planet is a hot spot! Sweet. We'll head back to the boat soon since it's already past 4 o'clock and some kind of storm is bound to be heading our way. Tomorrow we may head down to Venice also on the inside. No good inlet to take from Sarasota. But maybe we'll stay another day. Too soon to tell. More later.


Rich P said...

Great updates! Sailors have always had to be carpenters, too, haven't they? Another aspect of the sailing life I could not do! We spent 6/28 thru 7/4 in Traverse City. Got to view the air show from the water--our best vantage point ever--Blue Angels doing tight, low circles right above us! Heading for Peru and Ecuador in 7 days! Can't wait!

Keep blogging! (We've spent some time on Longboat Key--great location).

Zen said...

Great blog stuff you guys. Living the ggod life , sweet!

I just came acrosss your blog, now I can catch up on your adventures. I added a link to mine so I can tap in easy.