Sunday, July 5, 2015

Closing the Blue Heron Chapter on July 2, 2015

Hello to All ---- especially to those of you who followed Blue Heron and our life aboard when we began our adventure in June of 2008.

It was a difficult decision to make, but we put Blue Heron up for sale in the latter part of May. After a few short weeks, a couple of showings and a couple of offers, the sale is final!

And, of course, when one chapter is closed another one begins --- Over the past weekend we joined Freedom Boat Club and couldn't be more excited!!! Belonging to a boat club means we have access to all kinds of boats including pontoons, deck boats, flats fishing boats, offshore fishing boats, etc. We live within walking or bicycling distance from the Fort Myers Beach location so it is very quick and easy access for us. No maintenance, no repairs, no insurance, no slip fees -- it couldn't be any easier! So far our experience with the Boat Club has been terrific and we are looking forward to many more carefree days out on the water.

 Here's to Blue Heron and to her new journey.

 Fair Winds and Following Seas,

 Captains Gale and Maureen

"Here's to tall ships, Here's to small ships, Here's to all the ships at sea. But the best ships are friendships, Here's to you and me."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thurs, Oct 27 thru Sun, Oct 30, 2011 – Vinoy Basin, St. Petersburg, GIWW mile 106

By 10:30 am both Blue Heron and Zephyr were on their way. The sky was mostly sunny, the temperature was 75 degrees and the wind was calm. Shortly after 1 pm, we pulled up to the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina fuel dock and filled the fuel and water tanks, left off the trash and got the lay of the land. From there, we headed over to the Vinoy Basin, just on the other side of the Pier and anchored.

Gale and Maureen splashed the dinghy and did a little reconnaissance work. We checked out the docks at the Pier, picked up the Trolley schedule and determined where a coin op laundry was located. We also got the schedule for the Salvador Dali Museum and picked up some $2 discount coupons to be used against the museum entrance fee.

It rained some overnight and into the morning hours on Friday. The skies were very gray and the temperature was cooler but we went ahead with our plan to pick up Roger and Dita in our big boat and motor over to the courtesy dock at the city marina. It seemed like a good day to do laundry in the morning and to visit the museum in the afternoon.

The Trolley stop was about a block from the dock, so we hauled our laundry bags up the street and hopped on the bus. Roger and Gale helped Dita and Maureen to get started at the laundry mat and then the men went out to look for a hardware store and/or a discount store. Roger even found time to get his hair cut. The ladies had their chore done by noon when we all took the bus back to the boat and dropped off the laundry. After a nice lunch at a Mexican restaurant, we hopped on another bus to take us to the museum.


We arrived at the Salvador Dali Museum in time to join the 2:30 pm guided tour. It was very interesting to see the progression of Dali’s style over the years and to marvel at how his mind worked. The art was stunning in many ways; it was sometimes puzzling, sometimes grotesque, sometimes simple, but always beautiful and thought provoking.

By the time we had finished at the museum, we were all ready to get back to our homes and relax for the night. We delivered Roger and Dita to Zephyr and then reanchored near the Vinoy Hotel. We had just experienced one of the very few days the area has without the sun peeking out at least for a short time. St. Petersburg boasts that it averages 361 days of sunshine each year.

The wind began to pick up overnight but we were still able to sleep. In the Vinoy Basin, if there is any sort of eastern component to the wind direction, it gets very rough. We were content to stay on the boat all day Saturday and simply watched the world go by.

Saturday night was not fun at all. We had east northeast winds that rocked and rolled the boat all night long. Earlier in the evening around sunset, we noticed a new sailboat coming into the anchorage. We were glad he anchored downwind of us since we are always concerned about other sailors’ anchoring skills in a blow. Sure enough, when Gale got up after midnight to check on things, he noticed the sailboat had slipped and they were attempting to re-anchor. About 2 am, he must have slipped again because we saw him actually leaving the anchorage. We hoped he had local knowledge since it is pretty risky trying to get around in bad weather in the middle of the night. At 5:30 am, Maureen heard some shouting outside and then a call to the Coast Guard was made on the marine radio. Apparently, someone had fallen into the water off the seawall at the Vinoy Park and was shouting for help. In a few minutes, the man was rescued and the paramedics were on scene. It was quite a night, indeed!

By morning, we decided we were going to find a quieter place to anchor – especially since the wind was forecasted to continue to be from the northeast and at 15 to 20 knots. We spent Sunday morning enjoying the sunshine and all the activity going on around us. The Susan G Kromen Benefit for breast cancer awareness was going on and it was a very big deal. It looked like everyone in the area had shown up for the festivities. After lunch, we brought up our anchor and motored over to the courtesy dock to see what was going on. Imagine thousands of folks dressed in pink and celebrating life. The big event was a 60-mile walk which took place over three days. Many had participated and many completed the entire walk. Wow!


At 4:30 pm, we decided we had better move on and find our spot for the night. We headed to Coffeepot Bayou, a small protected cove just about a half mile on the other side of the Vinoy. It was mid-tide, and we proceeded very slowly through the marked channel. At one point, we had only 3 feet of water under the keel. Our reward was great, however, and we rested very peacefully that night surrounded by beautiful waterfront homes and an island in the center of the cove that was home to hundreds of pelicans, seagulls, cormorants and ibises. (It was important to be upwind from the island, though!)


Monday, October 31, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 – Boca Ciega Bay / St. Pete Beach, GIWW mile 115.4

At 11 am Blue Heron and Zephyr left the anchorage in Clearwater and headed for St. Pete Beach. The trip was less than 25 miles and just before 3:30 in the afternoon we had found a protected anchorage in Boca Ciega Bay. As we were getting settled, we received an email from a lady living in the waterfront townhomes we had anchored in front of welcoming us to the neighborhood and letting us know that if we needed anything, she and her husband would love to help out. They are wannabe “Loopers” and after seeing our AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruising Assoc) flag were able to find our email on the Great Loop members’ site. Gale gave her a call and she told us a little about the area and about their cruising dreams.

Roger and Dita stayed aboard their vessel while Gale and Maureen splashed the dinghy and went to shore. The local excursion boat operators were very accommodating and encouraged us to tie up to their dock while we checked things out. We took a walk on beautiful St Pete Beach and stopped at the Publix grocery store to pick up a few items before returning to Blue Heron for a nice evening.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 – Clearwater, Mandaley Channel, GIWW mile 137.5

 We were up about 6:30 am and noticed that Zephyr was high and dry. Checking the tide tables, we saw that the morning low tide was about a foot lower than normal. At least, it didn’t look like the boat was listing to one side or the other – in fact, they didn’t even know they were aground. Zephyr drafts about 5 feet compared to Blue Heron’s 2-foot draft so we were floating quite nicely.

 We had agreed to leave at 10 am and head for Clearwater. Maureen had a bit of difficulty getting the anchor up and discovered that we were hooked on an old crab trap. No wonder our holding was so good. Gale came up to the bow and helped to free the anchor from the trap. Unfortunately, we dropped it right back in the water so another unsuspecting cruiser will probably hook it again someday. Zephyr encountered similar problems only they were snagged on the line of a crab trap rather than the wire cage which was a little easier to disengage.


We were soon on our way enjoying a beautiful 70 degree, calm and sunny morning. Once we were out of the river and out into the main channel, we experienced NNE winds from 3 to 15 knots. We put up the headsail and took advantage of the breezes.


 At 2 pm, we tied up to the dock at Frenchy’s Saltwater Café near Clearwater Beach. We had been here once before when we made our first crossing from Carabelle in 2009. At that time, we tried the grouper reuben at Frenchy’s, a sandwich we still talk about. This time, however, we had already had lunch so we ordered drinks and then went for a walk on the beach.


As evening approached, it was time to leave the dock and anchor. We rested for the night in a very peaceful and quiet place.

Sun, Oct 23 thru Mon, Oct 24 – Tarpon Springs, GIWW mile 150.7

 In the heading for this entry, the mile mark is shown on the GIWW which stands for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The waterway runs from Brownsville, TX to Flamingo, FL with an open water gap between Carabelle (near Apalachicola) on the Florida panhandle and Tarpon Springs.

Sunday morning, we spent some time with a few chores aboard the boat. Gale decided to bait up a line and his first cast brought in a beautiful flounder. He caught a few small ladyfish for fun and then put the pole away.



After lunch on Sunday, we picked up Roger and Dita in our dinghy and motored over to Spring Bayou to explore old Tarpon Springs. We were especially interested in touring St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. As luck would have it, a baptism was about to begin and the priest invited us to stay for the ceremony. A 25-year old man was being baptized that day and his sponsor was his fiancée. The ceremony was very moving and the priest did a nice job of explaining the traditions.

 After our time at the Cathedral, we walked around town a bit and visited the Chamber of Commerce office. We pulled into an area back in a canal that had been the site of a new condo development but was abandoned when the economy fell. We were able to get on shore by climbing aboard a small barge and putting a plank up to the dock. Not the safest and we were, technically, trespassing, but sometimes you need to be a little creative get your shopping done. We left Dita with the dinghy and Roger, Gale and Maureen walked across the street to Winn Dixie to pick up a few needed groceries.

Sunday evening we shared a very tasty crab-stuffed flounder with Roger and Dita aboard Blue Heron. It was late by the time dinner was prepared and enjoyed but we declared the day to have been one of the best.


Monday was a day for relaxation. In the afternoon, Gale and Maureen decided to take a dinghy ride and went into the City Dock to pick up a few more sponges. We stepped into a few of the shops and then found ourselves at Mama’s Greek Cuisine restaurant where we shared an entrée of wonderful Greek chicken on pasta. Opa!!


Fri, Oct 21 to Sat, Oct 22, 2011 – Crossing the Gulf – Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs

 The first item of business for the morning was to confirm that the weather for the next two days was going to be good for our Gulf crossing. The Captain said we were “Good to Go” so at 8 am we hauled up the anchor and set our course for Tarpon Springs. S/V Zephyr was ready to go as well, but m/v Dual Dreams held tight. Sailboats can handle the wind and waves much better than most trawlers. Dual Dreams planned to wait it out for a forecast of calmer seas and less wind.

We began our trip with a temperature of 47 degrees, sunny skies and no wind. As the day progressed, the temperature rose towards 70 degrees and the wind steadily increased out of the northeast. We had both sails up and the motor running much of the time to be able to maintain a speed of 6 or 7 knots. The forecast was for the wind to keep up and increase even more overnight.
We trolled for fish as we sailed along. Captain Gale had three lines going at once. Our first fish hit at 1:30 pm and he was a ferocious fighter! It took several minutes to boat him and it turned out to be a Little Tunny, aka Blue Bonito, False Albacore or Little Tuna. The food value is not high, but the sport was worth the battle. After a photo, he was released and the line was baited up for the next one. It wasn’t long before we caught a small mahi mahi. We took a picture of that one and let him go, too, in hopes of catching a bigger one. The third strike was a Spanish Mackerel and he put up a good fight. In fact, he kept fighting all the way to the fillet table. Before the first cut, he slipped away and jumped back in the water!! Dang it!! At sunset we brought in all the lines and did not put them back in again for the rest of the trip.

About 3 pm, the wind and waves came up enough to make the ride a bit bumpy. We didn’t mind, though, since the wind was in our favor and we were moving along quite nicely. During the night, winds blew from 15 to 25 knots and for awhile, we even turned the motor off since we didn’t need it and we didn’t want to arrive at our destination before light. We were glad that we could sail and lift the lower unit out of the water as we were getting closer to shallow water and the possibility of crab pots being present. Sure enough, as the sun began to rise, we could see there were crab pots all around us.

 At 11:30 am Saturday morning, after 27-1/2 hours and 181 statute miles, we pulled into a slip at the Tarpon Springs City Marina and went to shore for the afternoon. The Captain and the Admiral both agreed that we had just completed our most comfortable “big water” crossing to date. The wind was to our advantage and the waves were “ok” even though they were on our beam. Neither the Captain nor the Admiral got seasick at any point.

The Tarpon Springs Marina allows vessels to tie up during the day for a small ($10) fee as long as the boat is not there overnight. You can even use the water, electricity, showers, etc. Blue Heron and Zephyr both took a slip and we went for a walk. We found a charming waterfront community filled with little shops selling sponges, antiques, excursion boat operators handing out flyers, and Greek restaurants and bakeries galore. We were enchanted with the place and couldn’t believe we had passed by this way twice before without coming in to discover the town.

Tarpon Springs is hailed as the “Sponge Capital of the World” and is the oldest town in Pinellas County. It is located five miles up the Anclote River where it intersects with the Gulf of Mexico. In 1905 six Greek men started a prosperous sponge diving business there. Word of their success spread to Greece quickly and the migration of Greek people to Tarpon Springs continues to this day.

On our walk, it didn’t take Roger long to find a cigar store and select his favorite indulgence for the day. We checked out a few sponge shops, tasted some Greek wine and then chose The Parthenonas Restaurant for lunch. Gale and Maureen shared an appetizer of Spanakopita, a blend of spinach, onions and feta cheese baked in a flaky phyllo dough, that was, to put it mildly, Fabulouso! Our entrée was also “to die for” – homemade Greek spaghetti topped with lamb shank and served with Greek style potatoes and fresh bread. There were no regrets at the table whatsoever.


The four of us strolled back to the boats and made our way to an anchorage a local sailor had told us about. The anchorage was not mentioned in any of our guidebooks and we were happy to learn that we didn’t have to travel all the way out to the power plant (4 or 5 miles back down the river) and could anchor closer to the action. We settled in and watched the evening activity on the water.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011 – Apalachicola, mile 351.3

It felt like a typical fall morning – cool and dry air, leaves dry, turning and falling from the trees and a sunny sky. We met a couple of the locals who come out to fish on the pier or bring their fishing boats and launch them there on a regular basis. One lady pulled in a nice flounder and said she catches them all the time.

At 11 am, we untied the dock lines and headed east toward Apalachicola. The winds were out of the north northwest from 10-20 mph so we used our headsail to help us along. We followed Zephyr and let them set the pace. In the middle of Lake Wimico, we saw Dual Dreams coming up behind us. As we exited the lake and entered the canal, Dual Dreams passed and went on to the anchorage at Apalachicola.

At 3 pm, we were anchored and secure just before the Gorrie Memorial Bridge and planning for a crossing in the morning. Gale took the dinghy over and picked up Roger and Dita and went into town. Maureen opted to stay aboard the boat and work on the blog while Gale went in search of some extra fishing line.


When Gale returned, he had fresh shrimp and scallops with him. We combined that with the bass that was thawed and grilled a feast for our dinner.