The Route South

Saturday, April 26, 2008


We rented a car and drove down to Marathon from Clearwater, hit the grocery store for supplies and returned the rental car before having dinner with our friends (and fellow Manatee owners), Tim & Sue. Over dinner we speculated that it might be a day or two before we got away because of the wind that the Weather Service was forecasting. But, as it turned out, we both agreed that this was one of the easiest trips we have ever had between Clearwater and the Keys!

Saturday April 26, 2008
This morning we had a leisurely breakfast. Cindy looked around and said, “You know, it doesn’t look too bad. Maybe we should make a break for it.” And with that, we cranked up, unplugged and untied. Shortly after 7:30 AM we were backing out of the slip…the first time in over four months. By 8:30 we had passed through Moser Channel and under the Seven-Mile Bridge. An hour later Ballard Bank was behind us and we set a new course to Cape Sable. The wind started to build from the east and it got a bit sporty for an hour or so but by the time we were abeam Cape Sable we were in the lee of the land and the seas were quite comfortable. We decided to pass by our usual anchorage at Little Shark River and go on to Everglades City. By 6:45 PM we entered Indian Key Pass and a half-hour later the anchor was down and set in Russell Pass on the Barron River.

Sunday April 27, 2008
Today will be a long day but if we do it right we will be back in the ICW tonight and then we are less vulnerable to the weather. We are-up-and-at-‘em early and the engine is warmed up by 5:45. Ten minutes later the anchor is up, the running lights and radar are on and we are passing Indian Key, entering the Gulf of Mexico once again. By 8 AM we have ducked behind Cape Romano Shoals and entered Coon Key Pass, passing behind Goodland and Marco Island, re-entering the Gulf at Capri Pass. The weather was beautiful and the autopilot did all the hard work as we passed Naples and Fort Myers Beach on our way into San Carlos Pass. The lighthouse at beautiful Sanibel Island slid by our port side and we passed under the Sanibel Bridge Causeway on our way to anchor at St. James City on the bottom tip of Pine Island. By our log we have traveled over 5000 miles since leaving Clearwater two years ago! We are meeting our friends Gloria and Norb for dinner so we dinghied ashore. After dinner we moved across the ICW to a quieter anchorage by the Ding Darling Wildlife National Preserve. Much better…no boat wakes.

Monday April 28, 2008
Today we are under no pressure to move very far or do so very fast. We have now rejoined the ICW and that means that we can travel at a much more leisurely pace since we can run “inside”, in the protection of the barrier islands to the west and mainland Florida to the east. Consequently, we didn’t pull the anchor up until almost 9:30! An hour later we were abeam Redfish Pass, home of the now-rebuilt South Seas Plantation. South Seas was almost completely devastated by Hurricane Charley in August of 2004 and they took two years to reopen the resort. Just a bit before noon I looked up our route for the entrance channel into Pelican Bay on Cayo Costa Island. We have been here a thousand times but some folks say that the entrance was changed by Charley. We’ve been here once since then and didn’t find a significant change and today will be no different. But the wind is starting to build so we anchored behind “the hook” where we were “snug as a bug” while the wind blew 25 kts. from the south.

Tuesday April 29, 2008
Sometime during the night the front passed. Our wind speed indicator recorded as high as 26 kts. but now its north at 10-15. We will have an easy morning - breakfast, reading, computer work and a few business phone calls. About quarter-to-lunch we warmed up the engine and picked our way back out the same way we entered, rejoined the ICW and headed up to Boca Grande. By 1 PM the anchor was set and we had the stern tied into the mangroves. Its hot and breezy and we set the Fortress anchor to give as some insurance in the soft mud. Dinner ashore tonight at “Temptation”…just maybe our favorite restaurant in the whole world. We both had Crab Florentine. Bad-boy chef, author and travel show host Anthony Bourdaine (“No Reservations”) says that when he dies he wants to be dipped in clarified butter and cremated. I feel the same way about the Crab Florentine at “The Temp”!

Wednesday April 30, 2008
Bringing up both anchors and cleaning the mud from the chains was a huge pain. It was all over the deck and me before it was done but by 7:45 we had rejoined the ICW, heading north toward Venice. We were lucky and timed the bridge at the north end of Gasparilla Island perfectly. It is the only bridge that we have to open today which makes an easy day easier. By lunchtime we were tied up alongside the free dock at Higel Park in Venice. We took the bikes down and pumped up the tires, intending to ride out to the jetty at the inlet and then do a bit of exploring. However, Cindy’s bike refuses to hold air. I pumped it up and we took off but had to stop ten minutes into the trip and pump it up again. After the third time, we walked back to the boat. Her little folding bile was inexpensive, less than $100 at Wal Mart. We knew that the day would come when it would rust out and we would have to give it away. One of the shift cables is frozen up, the frame is rusted in several places and sun has rotted the cover off the seat. Its not worth fixing so Cindy put a FREE BIKE sign on the handle bars and wheeled it up to the bathroom/picnic shelter in the park. It was gone by morning. I hope she went to a good home and I hope she will be able to tell stories about all the places she’s been.

Thursday May 1, 2008
It’s chilly today! 64°! What happened to summer? We are away from the dock and out the inlet into the Gulf by 8AM. Don’t know exactly where we will end up tonight but the weather is great and we are looking forward to making good time. We pass Sarasota’s New Pass by 11 AM and are abeam Longboat Pass by lunch. That was one of our possible stops but its just to early. Hmmm, maybe Gulfport. We heard our friend Miles from “Europa” on the VHF so we hailed him, somewhere in the middle of Tampa Bay. They left this morning, on their way to the Chesapeake. He has followed our log on our website and we’ve gotten together to talk about their trip a few times and we’d like to think that we have had some sort of positive influence on their decision to go cruising. We both hope that they have as much fun as we did. As we passed Southwest Pass, Egmont Key and Egmont Channel it was a bit lumpy. The current was in opposition to the wind and the waves, although small, were coming from everywhere, but mostly on our beam. That really makes us roll. Fortunately it didn’t last long. We are abeam John’s Pass by 2:30 and it still too early to stop so we decided to continue on to Caladesi Island and tie up in the marina for one last night. By 5 PM we are entering Hurricane Pass and a half-hour later are tied along side the floating dock.

Friday May 2, 2008
We had a leisurely breakfast (I’ve been saying that a lot lately) and gave the boat a fresh water wash down since we are at a floating dock. We can’t put it off any longer and a bit after 10 we untie the strings one final time and pull away from the dock. At noon we pass through the bridge at Belleair Causeway and ten minutes later we are tied up behind Mom’s house. The trip we’ve dreamed about for so many years is over.

Statistics for the trip:

We were gone for two years and three weeks.
During that time we traveled 5,138 nautical miles or 5,908 statute miles.
During that time we put 896.4 hours on the engine and did eight oil and filter changes.
We put approximately 200 hours on the generator
We burned 1600 gallons of diesel fuel, which calculated out to 1.6 gallons per hour after making an allowance for the generator.
Total spent on fuel was $4,000.
The only major repair issues were replacing the air conditioner unit in St. Augustine and replacing the refrigerator in Baltimore.

We see no point in totaling up the expenses.
The trip was priceless.


I’m counting up what I’ve got to show
for all these years afloat.
A dog-eared passport, a weathered face,
a tired old boat.
A yarn or two that might be true
and a couple of battle scars
Days of sparkling waters
nights of falling stars

I’ve got seashells, I’ve got souvenirs
I’ve got songs I’ve penned
I’ve got photographs, I’ve got memories

But mostly…
I’ve got friends.
Eileen Quinn - 2003