Flying Up FL West Coast

Friday, Jan 14 we once again headed out from South Beach, bound for Sarasota. We planned to make it a four day trip; weather was looking good- maybe a few days would be “sailable” and we were itchin’ to get our sailing lesson. Isn’t that how you would do it? Travel 3,000 miles, then get the lesson?? Captain Tracey Dell owns Tracey Sailing School and operates Maine Cat 41s in his business as well as owning one in charter.
So we decided to move along and just get it done. The fact that Sarasota is a bit north and the temps would barely reach low 70s ( ok, we want more) kept us thinking that unless there was a heat wave, we’d get there fast and take our time coming back down the west coast. We’d ultimately land in Boot Key once again for an extended visit and chill time.
The forecasts, as much we curse them, have been very accurate lately and that has enabled us to plan our travel days so that we sail (saving fuel $) as much as possible. The ride is almost always smoother when the white Pentex triangles are showing off. Friday was such a day; we sailed 48 of 55 miles, getting past that awful grass bottomed Tarpon Basin and anchoring in Buttonwood Sound in the lee of Key Largo.  The engines ran an hour in the morning, making hot water, so I had a nice underway shower. Later on I was able to relax with a good e-book and enjoy the pleasant weather as we made our way toward Buttonwood- now familiar territory.
Saturday afternoon brought us officially into the Gulf of Mexico. The morning was a tough ride; the water was shallow and the pots were everywhere. Of course we’d set out at near low tide; thank goodness we only draw 3 feet. As we left the Keys behind and crossed Florida Bay toward the west coast, the wind picked up, the water deepened and pot quantity dropped dramatically- phew- we could relax. Minutes before sunset, we arrived at (not sure where exactly) but just south of the mouth of the Shark River on Florida’s southern west coast.
Sunday was filled with variety but very little sailing time- about 7 miles out of the 67 we traveled. Port tack, starboard tack, two sails, three sails, one engine, you name it; every combo but dead still.  Oh and our first Gulf dolphin sighting – was able to get a semi-decent picture of one pair.  We anchored in Marco Island’s Factory Bay; a very small anchorage that maybe could hold 7 boats.  No time to poke around here now; perhaps on our trip back down.
Departed Marco Island early, all sails up by 8:30 and were tacking toward Cayo Costa, just north of Captiva Island. Slowed to allow a T-storm to pass ahead of us. Were lucky that day as areas to the south and north of us had nasty lightning and thunder. Had rain, and not much wind after noon time, but better that than too much wind. Lucky too that sunset is around 6pm, with “mariners’ sunset” a bit later; we anchored as the sun was setting. A bit too close for my comfort zone!
We will definitely spend time in this area on our trip back down. Buffet fans may know the significance of Cabbage Key; if not- stay tuned.
Fog delayed our trip to Sarasota, but as soon as we could see 1/2 mile off we went by 10:30. Hit fog on and off up thru Venice and motor-sailing was the best we could manage and still arrive before sunset.
From the Gulf, Sarasota has two entrances, one worse than the other, but we obtained local updated knowledge and made it in OK. Fuel and a pump out at Marina Jack, then anchored in the anchorage nearby (just past the fountain in this picture).

sarasota anchorage

Looking toward anchorage from Marina Jack's

Wed- guess what? more fog- is this a theme or what? This day it mattered not; we had a slip at the marina- got in by 11- nice and easy and set about accomplishing our long list chores. In addition to the basics like laundry, we washed the boat inside and out and scrubbed the mildew off the Sunbrella  and corners of cockpit roof. Took the marina shuttle to Publix and a nearby gas station for propane refills. Filled up the water tanks- so nice to not be lugging water jugs and THEN we had a lovely dinner at the marina restaurant overlooking the dock and our boat.
Thurs was a huge success- and yes, we had early morning fog. A 10 minute walk to the nicest Whole Foods, then we began our sailing lesson day. Got all kinds of tips, plus Capt Tracey checked the sails, rigging and lines and gave us a thumbs up that all was good. Advised that we have the rigging checked by a rigger familiar with multihulls as one side seems a little loose. We now better understand how and when to use the daggerboards and that if they are ALL the way down, we draw 7 feet. Won’t do that in shallow water.
Russ got to try out his new wet suit purchased in Key West. After leaving the fuel dock on Tues we felt an awful vibration, which got better but not entirely. Russ managed to dislodge whatever it was from the hinge in the prop; seems to be acting fine now.  The water was not very clear – so not a lovely swim.
Friday Jan 21: ANOTHER foggy day and it lasted most of the day, having been preceded by rain early in the morning. A perfect day to be boat bound and catch up on internet stuff.  Good wi-fi was available for $5/ 2 days so we took advantage of that. Strong winds forecasted for the next  36 hours; if it blows too much we plan to move, otherwise half of Sarasota Bay comes rolling into us from the north. Not pleasant.

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