Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #68 Easy Go, Easy Come…Or Not

Our summer plans now have more shape, and we now have more of a schedule. We’ve decided to occupy the slip we’ve reserved in Clearwater on 6/15 and leave Caloosa Spirit there through September. There are several projects we’d like to complete before leaving for Indy in mid-July, so we can well use the time in the slip. Gail and Paul on Puffin live in Belleaire, and they want us to occupy their house while they are on vacation in France for a month. So once Caloosa Spirit is comfortably nestled in her slip, we’ll begin house-sitting, driving back and forth to the marina on a daily basis. The air conditioning and cable TV will be pleasant luxuries.

Some days you’re the windshield, and some days you’re the bug. Today was a bug day. We had planned to go to breakfast ashore, then borrow Mike’s car to run some errands. When we were ready to leave the boat, however, the outboard first refused to start, then refused to keep running. Jim tried to work his usual magic, but nothing seemed to cajole the usually dependable outboard out of its malaise. Three hours later after a cursory spark plug cleaning the outboard apparently decided it had sufficiently delayed and aggravated us, and it coughed to life.

With several hours of our day already spent, we finally headed to shore for an abbreviated shopping excursion, breakfast ashore already long forgotten. The day was about to go from bad to abysmal. After locking the dinghy at the designated dinghy beach (our religious habit), we approached the bike rack where we’ve been leaving our bikes locked up rather than hauling them back to the boat each day. Both bikes were gone. As we sputtered in disbelief and looked aghast at each other, we realized this wasn’t just a bad dream. Some low-life had actually stolen our bikes. The sick feeling in my stomach intensified when we concluded that someone must have been watching and planning for the heist, since the average opportunistic thief would probably not be carrying heavy-duty cable cutters as a matter of course. We filed a police report and scoured the surrounding park in the hope that they had just been “misplaced”, but we fully expect that the bikes are history. We’re greatly saddened by the loss of these good friends that took us places we couldn’t have gone otherwise.

Perhaps for every bug day there’s a windshield day in the offing. No, we didn’t get our bikes back, but we did finally sell our Catalina 25 sailboat that’s been sitting idle in Indiana for the last 4½ years. After the thorough cleaning and refurbishment we gave it and its trailer last summer, the season was too far gone to attract a serious buyer. This year, however, we decided to advertise it in the spring, knowing that it was still in tow-away condition. The timing seemed to be right. This time we had so many inquiries the scheduling of appointments for our daughter Lauri to show it was becoming problematic. With the number of potential out-of-state buyers we’ve heard from, it seems ironic that the lucky sailor who drove the boat away today plans to put it back at the Lake Monroe Sailing Association—its previous home of some twenty years. Lauri said a teary good-bye as she watched the stern round the corner of the storage facility, at the same time knowing that we all have a lifetime of warm memories aboard Phantasie II that are ours forever. Tonight we raised our glasses in a toast to a wonderful 25-ft. boat, happy to now be one-boat owners again.

Alberto. The name conjures up images of a mysterious, swarthy Latino sporting multiple gold neck chains dripping above a sensuous hair-covered chest, who promises a torrid night of reckless but tasteful abandon through the by-ways and watering holes of a place with “Rio” in its name. How sadistic are the honchos charged with choosing names for tropical storms and hurricanes. At this moment Alberto is headed for western Florida, but not with any amorous or seductive intentions. The first tropical storm of the season—which may be strengthening to a hurricane as I write—has found us while we’re still in Sarasota. After setting a second anchor, still feeling too close to another boat, and learning that tropical depression #1 had become Tropical Storm Alberto, we decided to head for the nearby marina. Transient space was available, the anchors came up with minimal hassle, and we got securely tucked in yesterday afternoon before the downpours started. So far the rains have been heavy—there was a depth of about eight inches in the dinghy this morning—but the wind has just started to blow. We’re glad to be sitting here rather than in the unprotected anchorage with the somewhat soupy bottom.

Dolphin sculpture at Marina Jacks
Dolphin fountain across from Marina Jack’s

Alberto came calling last night, and he would not be rebuffed. During the night the rains abated somewhat, but the winds howled at a steady 25-30 knots with gusts up to 40+. Tied securely into a slip at Marina Jack’s our only real concern was the noise level of the rigging. That and wondering if our flag would survive the night. Even as the cacophony kept me awake I was enormously relieved that we weren’t dealing with the tempest at anchor.

This morning we could see rollers and whitecaps in the bay and in the anchorage. As I looked astern beyond Bayfront Park (the strip of land protecting the marina) I could see the anchored boats bouncing and hobby-horsing and…wait—that looks like a boat on the shore of the park! And there’s another that’s definitely aground! As we walked through the park after breakfast ashore (the one delayed since last week), we counted about a dozen boats that had dragged anchor last night. Most of them had eventually ended up on the rocky shore. Swamped and beached dinghies were too numerous to count. Several of the boats on the rocks looked as though this may not be the first time they’ve been there. On one of them we could easily see that the anchor “rode” was equivalent to a shoestring for the boat’s size. The owner seemed mystified that he had lost his anchor.

Alberto damage
Alberto’s handiwork

One of the last grounded boats we encountered was a fairly nice 34’ Pearson which had been anchored a short distance from us. We had even gotten some minor assistance from the owner the day our dinghy wouldn’t start. Today he was grimly trying to protect his boat with only two fenders as the wind continued to rock it against another grounded boat. He also said he’d lost his one and only anchor.

More Alberto damage
Glad it’s not us!

Had there been any previous doubt about our wisdom in coming into the marina (which there really wasn’t—on my part, anyway), the doubts were totally erased by the spectacle we observed on the shoreline surrounding the anchorage. It was patently clear that even if we had been well-hooked in the poor-to-fair holding, we could have been a target for any of the unattended and ill-prepared boats as the winds overtook them. A semi-sleepless night and the close-to-reasonable dockage rate were a small price to pay for the security that would have been totally absent in the anchorage.

We have to wonder, though, about what’s to become of these anchored boats in the coming months. While it was suspected that Tropical Storm Alberto would strengthen to hurricane force prior to landfall, that didn’t happen. Sarasota didn’t even experience the full brunt of the storm. It appears that a direct hit by a major storm would certainly spell disaster for virtually all of the boats permanently moored and anchored in Bayfront anchorage. We hope Alberto has provided a wake-up call about storm preparation to many of the negligent boat owners, but we’re not holding our breath. We know that we intend to keep Caloosa Spirit out of harm’s way by avoiding that anchorage whenever a storm should threaten Sarasota.

We’re not in Sarasota any more. Although we managed to bring some of it with us. We were able to schedule a diver for bottom-cleaning this morning prior to leaving the marina, but Jim will have to take care of the dinghy bottom. Sarasota waters seem to provide a smorgasbord of nutrition for barnacles, and our dinghy bottom now looks like crustacean central. Unfortunately, the diver told us that Clearwater will be just as bad.

We’re anchored for the night in the Manatee River, a quiet, pleasant anchorage without the bustle of downtown Sarasota. We’re sorry to leave Mike, but we’re sure we’ll be able to see him again while we docked in Clearwater. A hitch-hiker caught a ride with us for a short time on our way here. He/She sat on the dinghy in the davits just long enough for me to snap a shot.

Egret passenger
Gone fishin‘?

By the way, our flag did survive, and it has flown proudly on this Flag Day.

We’re finally at our summer destination. Very little wind meant motoring to Clearwater, but at least we got to avoid all the bridges by traveling on the Gulf rather than the ICW. Island Estates is a man-made island/canal complex in between Clearwater and Clearwater Beach, and Island Yacht Club is a “dockominium” on one of the islands. We are renting a slip from someone who owns it at the Island Yacht Club marina. It’s hard to imagine owning a 40’ x 15’ piece of submerged land bounded only by some docks and pilings, but that’s the concept. The marina is nice if not luxurious, but we didn’t want to pay a luxury price, either. The boat seems secure and we have neighbors. This will be Caloosa Spirit’s home for the next few months.

Well, I didn’t say that Island Yacht Club would be our home for the next few months. This afternoon we got a ride to Gail and Paul’s house in Belleair and moved in with overnight bags. We still plan to spend each day on the boat, but staying overnight at the house means we don’t have to keep our refrigeration running. The engine is definitely due for a rest from the daily charging—and so are we.

We’ve decided to make Sundays our weekly day off from boat work. This morning we went to church at Faith UCC in Clearwater. We got a warm reception from several members, and we’ll probably return while we’re here.

We had planned to do some minor touring of the Clearwater area with the rest of the day, but our plans took a detour with a stop at West Marine. We only went in for a needed bolt, but there on the floor were a couple of folding bikes on sale. Not just like our dearly departed bikes, but seemingly a lighter weight upgrade. We spent the rest of the afternoon researching the bikes on the web, while trying to decide whether or not we should grab them on this last day of the sale. After a return to the store and a test ride (along with more research), we decided to give them a try. The salesman graciously offered to let us pick them up tomorrow when someone who can locate the paperwork on them will be there. It would still be wonderful to get our missing bikes back, but we don’t expect that to ever happen. So we’ll just have to muddle through and move on to new two-wheeled relationships.

It took us a full day of more research to determine that the bikes on sale will be as equally rust resistant as our first ones were, but we finally went to pick them up this afternoon. They’ll probably wait silently in the garage until a suitable mourning period has passed—and until we give up on any recovery of our others and the 30-day return period has expired—but the sale price was too good to pass up.

Caloosa Spirit is now safely tucked in with sufficient lines and fenders to weather any storms, we hope. It took us several days to accomplish that task. Also, a few projects—cleaning the dinghy bottom, a head hose fix, and teak oil on the hatch boards—have been completed. While we initially felt as though we were deserting Caloosa Spirit each steamy afternoon to eat and sleep in an air-conditioned house, we’ve adjusted to the change. It’s really quite pleasant to be able to escape the chaos of the projects. There are more to come before we head north to Indianapolis on July 18, so stay tuned.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Thursday June 22, 2006

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