Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tampa Bay Skyway and Southward Bound

Hello all-
OK here we go traveling further down the Gulf coast of Florida! We've had a more relaxed schedule, hanging around Clearwater for a few days. Loopers from various boats and hailing ports were there with us.

Here are fellow Loop cruisers Claire & Chuck
(Odyssee), and Al & Marilyn (Siris). They
left in company the morning before we did.

The Winnie W. left Clearwater and headed into the open Gulf rather than down the GICW. We reasoned that it was a calm day (and it remained calm) and we could make better time, plus we had already seen the sights. This route brought us back in at the entrance to Tampa Bay with the tidal current helping us along. The route was slightly longer but we did not have to wait for bridges, slow for manatee/no wake zones, and we probably gained about an hour.

You can see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in distance, behind the island. The freighter MOBILE heads out to sea as the Winnie W. enters Tampa Bay via Egmont Pass.

From here, we turned right (south) behind Egmont Key and into the GICW to Longboat Key.

Bob & Sue on Tom-Kat also left Clearwater and reached their wintering-over destination on the Manatee River, near Bradenton. This is their winter home because Sue's sister has wintered here for years! They all drove (by car) over to Longboat Key and treated us to a great seafood dinner. We have had a great time cruising in company with Tom-Kat and it is sad to say farewell (for now) to them.

Here is where we stayed (link to Google Map).

Bob & Sue, Doris Jean & Bill; in the background you can see Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant where we all feasted.

The west coast of Florida is low & sandy; before it was developed it was all marsh & mangrove. The GICW channels are artificially dredged, although the churning propellors of constant traffic also help keep them open. Cruisers have to navigate carefully to avoid the shallows.

This photo is looking back at a sandbar along the north edge of Sarasota Bay, with mangroves down to the water's edge. At right you can see the heavily built-up mainland.

There are lots & lots & lots of boats here in Florida. Everyone says "Don't try to make any miles on the week-end" but we saw plenty of traffic on a sunny Wednesday... kayaks, jetskis, pontoon boats, center-consoles... lots of people fishing. The traffic, combined with the narrow channels, tidal current, and bridges, makes for a challenging day for the cruising skipper.

Sunset over the beach-front skyscrapers, with
a pelican seeming to muse on another day... or
perhaps planning ahead for tomorrow.

Hope you all are well & happy-
Doug & Kathie

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