Anclote Key to Sarasota Florida

The drive down from Anclote Key is a very pleasant one, well except for the small boats running up and down at full throttle. What is up with that? We can attest that the high price of fuel is NOT keeping anyone off the water in Western Florida. This is an old style beach community all along this coast. The glitzy high rise hotels have not yet taken over this area. The old style mom and pop hotels and motels make for a laid back ambience reminiscent of yesterday. The channel is deep enough but very narrow and there is NO water outside in most areas. We transited 5 bridges that needed to open for us, and all did on arrival, and 1 high rise 65 foot bridge. The bridge at Treasure Island was still not working so our plan was to go south on the waterway to Madeira Beach and anchor in a wide spot in the waterway. There are not many options for anchoring along this area so we needed to plan it accordingly. We left Anclote at 8 AM and after a leisurely pace, arrived at our anchor spot at 12:40 PM. The anchorage is just north of the Welch Bridge in Madeira Beach and a McDonald’s and an American Legion post are right here on the waterway. McDonald’s even has a dinghy dock in case you need to visit. Most of the day was very pleasant.
Then about 5 PM, things changed in a hurry. We had been spared the afternoon thunderstorms so far but this was to come to an abrupt end. We watched as the dark clouds continued to build to the east and appeared to be moving in our direction. A quick look at the local radar confirmed our fears so we began tracking them on our own radar. As soon as the storm was 2 miles out we began our preparations. All ports and hatches were closed and secured. Any loose items on deck were also secured. As the storm approached it began looking more and more menacing. Once it reached 1 mile out we started the engine. This is typical practice for us in these conditions, not that we are concerned with the anchor holding but as we know all too well things can go wrong in these conditions in a hurry.
The wind front and rains hit us right on cue and the winds hit hard. At first the winds were 20 to 25 knots with driving rains. This makes sitting at the helm a lot of fun. Within minutes the winds were at 30 to 34 knots and stayed there for some time. Once the winds are over 25 knots we “drive” the boat at anchor, that is to say we put it in gear and throttle up just enough to relieve pressure on the anchor rode but being careful not to over ride the anchor. As the center of the storm hit us with the downdraft, which can be the most dangerous, the winds increased to 40+ knots and the rain was blowing sideways. At that point we were “driving” the boat hard against the brunt of it. And then just as quickly as it started, it was over, the clouds passed and the sun came out. On the plus side it sent all of the little power boats scurrying home for the day. And all of this time the deck party at the American Legion went on without missing a beat. So I had a few Jimmy Buffet renditions as I drove at anchor through the storm. It was kind of surreal.
Monday morning our plan was to start out at 7 AM and make Sarasota by afternoon. At about 7:30 AM we found the Treasure Island Bridge was still broken and no one had a clue when the repairs would happen. This is a 2 year old, 54 million dollar replacement bridge that, as one local Captain told us, “They forgot to get a warranty”. Obviously this happens often. Our plan B would take us out the St. Johns Pass and into the Gulf for a short period and then we would enter Tampa Bay and get back on the waterway. At 7:35 AM we discovered that the St. Johns Pass Bridge was having some repairs done and would not be opening until 11 AM - so much for plans. Around 10:30 we upped the anchor and headed for the pass. We arrived at the bridge a little after 11 AM and the bridge opened for us immediately. But since we lost 4 hours we had to go to plan C. We did not want to be in the middle of Tampa Bay in the afternoon due our encounter with the storm the previous night. These storms are forecast every afternoon for more than the next week. How they work is rather simple. If the east coast sea breeze is strong, the storms begin to form in the center of the state and move to the west coast where they are very strong in the afternoon. If the west coast sea breeze is strong the opposite happens and the storms show up on the east coast. Lucky for us the east coast sea breeze is expected to be strong for a week or more so storms for us EVERY afternoon.
We exited St. Johns Pass, which is a narrow but well marked channel with plenty of water. Once out beyond the shoals we turned south into the south winds, which were pretty light, and made for the outer marker at Pass-A-Grille, another well marked easy entrance channel only 6 miles south. Once inside, the Boca Ciega Bay is wide and deep and we chose an anchorage in a wide spot with 10 to 12 feet of water near the Pinellas Bayway E Bridge. The anchor was down and set by 1 PM and we had some lunch and did some chores we have been putting off. The outboard has been giving us problems so I pulled the carburetor off, pulled it apart, cleaned it well, put it back together, re-installed it and changed the plugs. We will have to see the next time we use it if that solved the problem, but there was some serious gunk in it when I pulled it apart. Susan installed the new soap dispenser on the head counter and we worked on a few other minor things.
Right on schedule at 5 PM the storm front hit us. A carbon copy of the day before. Winds at 25 knots when it hit and built to over 40 knots as it blew through with heavy, heavy rain. At one time we had no idea if the anchor was holding since we could not even see the foredeck it was raining so hard. And of course our preparations and so forth was the exact same as the day before. This is going to get old really fast but what are you going to do? The difference this time though was that the storm moved through but the rain stayed behind for hours. Not heavy rain, but just enough to keep us from opening the ports and hatches. We did enjoy the coolness the passing storm brought. The plan for tomorrow is to head down the waterway to Sarasota and maybe do a marina stop. We have packages that have come to our mail forwarding service that will be delivered to the boat. The folks at NATO in Sarasota have been handling our mail for over 10 years and are wonderful. We will most definitely want to fuel up there although we probably could make it all the way to Marathon with what fuel we have on board.
The rest of our evening was very quiet, thank goodness, and the next morning we were out early. The run down Tampa Bay was very nice with a light breeze on the nose and flat seas. Once out of Tampa Bay and back on the waterway south we found some of the thinnest water yet on this trip. Many spots in the channel were only 8 feet and we did go over one 6 foot spot although we did not touch. Even boat traffic was light today but it usually is on Tampa bay, with only a couple of ships. Also, they are sandblasting the Skyway Bridge. It seems like every bridge in Florida is under repair or being replaced.
We reached Sarasota and re-anchored by 1:30 PM among the long term live-a-boards that have been here for a long time. These folks are the reason Florida is passing so many anchoring laws, to get rid of them, and making it hard for all of us. Most were in the same spots when we came through 2 years ago. There is supposed to be a city mooring field here now but we sure could not see one. We decided to anchor out instead of taking a slip at Marina Jack, first because they charge $2.00 per foot per day, and second because our packages are here and we can get them today and move on tomorrow. We will keep our fingers crossed for this afternoon and hope we get a break today from Mother Nature. Our packages had arrived at our mail forwarding service and the owner Ron was kind enough to drive it over to one of the local restaurants on the waterfront and drop it off to us. We can not say enough about the wonderful service we have received from NATO over the years and as always they have gone over and above in service. We have included a link to their web site if anyone is interested. We are hopeful for some relief from these daily storms but will have to wait and see.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, but it's John's Pass, not St. John's Pass.

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