Thursday, March 24, 2016

Oh my Darling, Ding Darling...

Leaving St Pete was once again bitter sweet.  We gave up a nice and snug harbor and found ourselves heading south toward new horizons.  Our ambitions wanted to take us offshore for a quick jump to Dry Tortugas, but the weather was driving us slowly down the intercoastal waterway.  The daily 15-20 morning SE winds would turn SW and build to 20-25+ after lunch when the seabreeze kicked in, making it too rough on the gulf, so we chose to move slowly down the ICW.  Between the bridges and shallow water everywhere, I think a few more hairs turned grey that week.

Leaving Tampa Bay, passing under the Sunshine Bridge

Our first night was on the Manatee River, near Bradenton.  No, we didn't see any manatee.  We did see a whole bunch of other anchored boats, and learned a lesson or two about anchoring with reversing currents with company.  The lesson is that you should not expect a good night's rest in these conditions.  After the Manatee River, we ended up in Sarasota, where we picked up a mooring ball for a few nights.  We got to meet up with more friends in Sarasota and explore this pretty city.

After Sarasota, we landed in Venice after a short but very blustery day.  With little anchoring options in Venice, we chose to tie up at a marina.  While expensive, the early stop did allow us the afternoon to walk to the beach where we heard some fun live music there.  On the way back, we impressed ourselves with our self restraint to pass up all 14 options for ice cream along the main street in Venice...except for the first one.  Nothing like finishing off a perfect day on the beach with some pizza and a malt!

Tied up in Venice in the early morning light, next to Hatchett Creek Bridge

We left Venice, and were headed toward Charlotte Harbor.  We had discovered Cayo Costa several years back via sea kayaks, and again with a charter boat, and we hoped we could find refuge in Pelican Bay on this trip.  However, the tide and wind would need to cooperate to get us in, and today, the wind did not.  We ended up at Useppa Island, across from Cabbage Key, where we were rocked and rolled all afternoon to the wakes from boats passing us on the ICW.  The wakes finally subsided in the evening, and we landed the dinghy at Cabbage Key and had a fabulous dinner.

Still looking for refuge from the strong south winds, we finally moved to the north side of Sanibel Island, where the Ding Darling Refuge is located.  Here we found the wind protection, but were still rocking and rolling with wakes from the ICW, but thankfully, that calmed at night.  While here, we took the dinghy and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the mangroves in the refuge.  We saw lots of great wildlife including our first manatee of the trip.

Not a manatee, but an equally unusual sighting

Our plans from here were changing quickly, and we need to make the Keys before it gets too hot.  Wait a minute...did I just say that?  We have been running from winter so long, and now we are running from summer in March?  Such is the life of a vagabond.    


  1. Thanks for the nice post. I'm enjoying your trip. 😊

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  3. Glad to see you guys are still heading South. Love the updates! Good luck and keep the post coming.

    1. Great to hear from you, Chuck! I hope you and Amy's plans are coming together so we can see you down this way, too!