Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #31 Beach Bummin’

After spending a couple of weeks in Indy, we left Mom feeling much better and ready for another 92 years. Between Mom’s doctor appointments, helping her out around her apartment, and celebrating her birthday, we didn’t have much time for visiting with friends. So we missed seeing many of you.

We’re still in St. Petersburg docked behind the home of our friends, Cathy and Carl of s/v Persuasion. Jim has been working on an extensive dinghy repair. First he and Carl located the numerous cracks in the fiberglass hull. Then he’s had to clean all the bottom paint off, apply fiberglass patches to the thin or leaking areas, and then redo the paint. He also has to repair a separation between the hull bottom and the floor, and repatch the hypalon fabric in a couple of places. Once it’s all finished the dinghy shouldn’t be letting any more water in, and we should be able to keep our feet dry!

The dinghy finally went back in the water! We took it out for a spin, and—wait for it—no leaks!! Repairing the separation between the floor and the hull was determined to be out of the realm of possibility for now, so we may still have an issue with rain water. And you’d think that by now we’d know that every project takes at least 3 times as long as we first project. The patching and painting has taken almost a week. But at least now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel for when we can get back to cruising—hopefully this week.

Well, we finally untied the dock lines and headed out. The dinghy wasn’t the only project that took longer than expected. So did changing the impeller for the water pump and changing the zinc for the refrigeration condenser. They were both “routine” maintenance projects that, never having done them before, took on a life of their own. But the long and short of it is that they got done, everything is working (at the moment) and we’re back to cruising. Cathy and Carl of s/v Persuasion finally got their refrigeration working (after four—count ‘em: four) service calls, so they headed out with us. Tonight we’re at anchor off Longboat Key, getting ready to go ashore for dinner. We’ll be here for a few days to really get to know the place, especially the delightful white-sand, soft-as-sugar beach. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it!

The Town of Longboat Key (or Longbeach, whichever source you ascribe to), situated at the northern end of Longboat Key, is one of the most charming and delightful places we’ve found here on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The village is a real throw-back with regard to activity level. It’s probably a little more vibrant in the winter, but we don’t mind the tortoise-race pace. Many of the homes are still small cottage-like affairs, although many are also quite spacious and rambling. All are surrounded by lush, tropical landscaping, including many large trees. A lovely gulf-side beach (where we whiled away a couple of hours) is within walking distance of the anchorage, and two top-notch restaurants have dockage. We also visited an Arts Center and toured several galleries, viewing a sample of the work of local artists.

Longboat Key resident

The most striking and unique attraction of the town is the profusion of peacocks. Yes, peacocks—as in large, incredibly colorful birds with bridal-train tails. They strut around the village streets wild, raucously calling for a mate. Every now and then one will fan his tail, but never ever when a camera is ready. When I encountered one after another along the street, I pleaded and cajoled for a display to no avail. Beautiful they are; cooperative they’re not. But what a treat just to see these magnificent examples of Creation living a relatively natural life. God must have been especially inspired the day peacocks came out of the mold.

Peacock on Longboat Key

Another treat for us about this anchorage is the memories. We’ve only stayed in this anchorage a couple of previous times—only overnight, and never going ashore. But one morning, upon viewing the logo on one of the nearby restaurants through our binoculars, I had a revelation. About eighteen years ago we trailered Phantasie II, our Catalina 25, to Sarasota, launched the boat there, and cruised up Sarasota Bay to a marina on Longboat Key. We used to collect stir sticks from the various restaurants we visited on vacation, and for many years we had a couple on board Phantasie II with the logo of “Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant.” But after twenty years I didn’t remember where they came from, so I disposed of them. Lo and behold, one of the restaurants in this anchorage is Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant. When we stayed in the marina on Phantasie II those many years ago, we (including our two kids, aged 12 and 10) took our dinghy to a restaurant a mile or so away from the marina. Sure enough, that restaurant was Moore’s. So yesterday we took the dinghy to retrace our path from the anchorage to the marina’s location. The marina is still there, although now it accompanies a condo community. Tonight we dinghied to the Moore’s for dinner, but, sadly, they no longer give out special stir sticks. I got a glass instead. Sweet memories of fun family times.

Return to Moore's Restaurant

There seems to be an axiom of sailing that says that whatever direction one wishes to sail is always the direction from which the wind will blow. With the exception of a month of passages running before the Caribbean trades a year ago, that has often been our experience. Today was a glorious sailing day for making the southeasterly passage from Longboat Key to Boca Grande—puffy white clouds and sunny skies, lazy 1-2 ft. seas, 15-20 knots of steady, fresh breeze—straight out of the east-southeast. So once more we motor-sailed the entire distance—all 50+ miles and eleven hours of it. We’re back in Pine Island Sound anchored off Useppa—one of our favorite anchorages. We’ll spend a couple of days here before heading further south. Persuasion will be catching up with us soon, we hope. They developed some fuel-tank sediment problems soon after we left Longboat Key, so they headed back to clean their fuel filters and get the problem taken care of.

A lazy day—lazier than this same day 28 years ago. It’s Lauri’s birthday, so we sang “Happy Birthday” over the phone to her. She’s in Michigan for another wedding—a regular pass-time for her.

We scouted out the anchorage at Pelican Bay, sounding the depths from our dinghy. Pelican Bay was a favorite anchorage on visits to Pine Island Sound in earlier years in other boats, but we’ve been hesitant to attempt its skinny-water entrance in Caloosa Spirit. We did find some sufficient depths, but we also found a profusion of bugs. So we think we’ll pass it up once again.

We dinghied again over to Pelican Bay to visit Cayo Costa State Park. The island of Cayo Costa has been left in its natural state and is accessible only by water. The walk across the island through vegetation as old as time leads to a Gulf beach protected by shoals. Unfortunately, too many primeval flies cut our beach visit short. Persuasion caught up with us this afternoon. Carl and Cathy are fuel-quality richer, but several boat-bucks poorer. Tomorrow we head south.

My idea of successful cruising has been greatly simplified over the last year. Now my take on it is that any day that the boat floats, the engine runs, and the head flushes is another day in paradise. Today wasn’t another day in paradise. On our way south through Pine Island Sound headed for Ft. Myers Beach, the engine stopped running. Jim discovered that the batteries appeared not to be charging from the alternator, so he decided to shut down the engine to see if the alternator would re-group. Bad choice. The engine refused to restart. Fortunately, we were able to put out the headsail to safely get to an area where we could drop an anchor off the channel. Jim performed some wizardry on the starter and brrm!...the engine was running again! Was I ever impressed! The batteries still weren’t charging, but at least we could get to a proper anchorage. Due to the lost time and some threatening clouds, we stopped at York Island near St. James City. It’s not a protected anchorage, but it’s safe. Keeping the electrical usage to a minimum, we watched the stars rather than the TV—a much better choice. Tomorrow we hope to head on down to Ft. Myers Beach, and try to resolve the alternator problem.

We made it to Ft. Myers Beach, but the alternator issue is still a question mark. We should be able to get a replacement without a lot of hassle—but then, this is cruising, after all. Thank heaven for the solar panels! They’re keeping us from being without any electricity in the meantime. While we wait for an alternator and a wind shift we’ll do some more exploring of this area. And there’s always the beach.

Fair winds and calm seas until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Monday May 17, 2004

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