You may recall a few months ago I stopped in Venice, Florida on the way back from getting the generator mounts fixed.
Fisherman’s Wharf in Venice proved to be a great spot to leave the boat for a couple of months & I got into a good routine while I was there. Farmers markets, jogs to the jetty & boat projects galore. The dockmaster, Cassie, and staff were awesome & I’d stay there again in a heartbeat. The current could get a little nasty at times, but the floating docks kept the boat safe from the tides.
After loading the boat up with all Allison’s stuff the last day or two of March, we prepped for the trip back to Pensacola for the wedding.
I had vowed that Allison’s first overnight sail would be in the best possible conditions, so we opted not to go straight from Venice to Pensacola, a 2 or 3 day run, totally out of sight of land.
Most of the coastline in the armpit of Florida is too shallow to allow a larger sailboat to find safe harbor, so there’s about a 150nm (nautical mile) run between Clearwater and Carrabelle that has to be bitten off in one go. Averaging about 6 knots, you’re looking at a 25 hour non-stop trip. (The same trip that took me 44 hours in 2004, dubbed “The night I became a sailor.”)
An aside: What on earth do I mean by 150nm and 6 knots? Well…a “nm” is a “nautical mile”, and a “knot” is a “nautical mile per hour”. Something about a “nautical mile” being 6,076 feet, while a normal statute mile is 5,820 feet. Who knows why. Ok, maybe wikipedia knows.
So, we needed to get to Clearwater before making the crossing. We got up early on Easter morning and went to the local Sunrise Service then fueled up and headed north. We stopped off in Sarasota to anchor for the night, not far from where the boat was when I bought it over 2 years ago. We even had time to get the paddle board out and give it a go.
[Video of Allison paddle boarding below. Or watch here.]
The next day we made the trip up the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) to Tampa Bay, then jumped out into the Gulf for the remaining 20 miles to Clearwater. The Gulf was very nice…we saw a few dolphins and even a sea turtle, although he disappeared before I could get a camera out.
We got to Clearwater Harbor Marina around 4pm Monday and took a dock for the week so we could make a trip back to Georgia for some golf and a wedding.
As we pulled into the marina, we met Mr. Ted. Mr. Ted is a lively character that was in the powerboat next to ours.
“Hahlooooo! Aypee ahhowwer beeegins at niiine ooohh clowwwk…okaeee?!”
We quickly learned that the first rule of Mr. Ted’s Happy Hour is that you aren’t supposed to bring your own drink. He’s got you covered. We thoroughly enjoyed a few happy hours with Mr. Ted and was joined for one of them by Mark & Judy on S/V Paraklesis.
Another aside: Don’t get too confused by the whole “S/V” thing that we put before boat names. All it means is sailing/vessel. As opposed to “M/V” for motor/vessel or “T/T” for tender/to (aka dinghy).
We learned a lot from Mr. Ted…not surprising as it seems though he’s held every possible job in the world from military ship captain to successful stock broker to harbormaster. He currently claims to be a “trophy husband”…the unfortunate consequence of marrying a 26 year old when he was in his forties. Now he’s retired at 72 & she’s in the prime of her career.
Most interestingly, however, was the presence in Downtown Clearwater of the international headquarters of the Church of Scientology. The first evening in town Allison & I had taken a jog towards the beach and noticed a number of clean cut people hustling about, smartly dressed in pants and vests, almost as though they were late to a hotel front desk job.
Tom Cruise had apparently visited the marina the week before we got there inquiring about a spot for his son who likes to fish.
In his Polish accent, Mr. Ted cleared up our questions about Scientology as best he could. It was a bizarre scene, and now we may be more confused about their beliefs and behaviors than we were to begin with. Downtown certainly had an eerie feeling about it, being practically deserted except for the Scientologists.
After saying goodbye to Mr. Ted and making a quick weekend trip to Atlanta, we pulled out of Clearwater to make the jump…stay tuned!