The time to go sailing is a far too precious commodity. While I really enjoy living on the boat and hanging out in the marina, a boat is intended to move from one place to another. It had been over a month since Cindy and I had taken Beatitude out on the bay. It was with delight, then, that we were able to take her out over the past two days. Around noon on Monday, we left the dock without misadventure. (Our return to the dock had plenty of adventure! Surprised?) We had gorgeous weather for the two days – highs in the low to mid 80s and lows in the low to mid 60s and low humidity.
We had a number of new experiences as sailors. Up until now (more for the sake of time and convenience than anything else), we have stayed out on Tampa Bay west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Eager for something different, we decided to cross beneath the bridge and head into St. Petersburg for an overnight stay. We had a nice steady breeze at around 15 knots allowing us to raise the sails and maneuver under wind power. When the winds increased to a steady 19-20 knots, we were able to get Beatitude up to a steady 8.5 knots of speed pointing 60° off the wind… a new record for us. In the mid afternoon, the wind picked up to a steady 25 knots of wind. That is a little strong for full sails on our yacht. It was time to reef (actually a little past time). To reef the sails is to reduce the amount of sail area exposed to the wind. Unfortunately, I have never reefed these sails and didn’t feel especially comfortable trying to figure it out while under pressure. So, I decided to turn her up into the wind and lower the sails completely. This worked well and was not a bad choice seeing that we were actually close to the point where I needed to drop the sails and head into the harbor.
I had called ahead to the St. Pete Municipal Marina to request permission to pick up one of their mooring balls for the night. Permission granted, we rounded the St. Pete Pier and headed into the North Yacht Basin. Fortunately, the mooring area was not very crowded (2 other boats), so we had a little room for practice in picking up the mooring ball. This was a first for us on Beatitude as well. We did this once or twice when we took sailing lessons 16 months ago. To the uninitiated, this might not seem like an incredible difficult proposition. And it is not, once one becomes proficient at such a task. Proficient, however, we were not. We didn’t do badly however. It took us three passes at the ball to pick it up and secure it. No one or thing lost overboard and no one or thing injured = success!
Here is a 2-minute video of passing under the Skyway Bridge. I will eventually learn to edit video for a more slick presentation. For now, you get the raw, unedited version.
We lowered our dinghy from its davits and headed into town for dinner. Before dinner, we took a chance on visiting a good friend who lives aboard in the St. Pete Marina, a pharmacist, Deb Larison. She was “home” and offered us some wonderful hors d’oeuvres – smoked salmon and a variety of cheeses. After a nice visit, we were off to dinner. We had eaten at a wonderful restaurant during our week of sailing lessons and thought we’d return there. At 400 Beach Street (the name of the restaurant), we had a delicious wedge salad, crab cakes, and fish tacos. Mmmm. We returned to the boat to watch “Anna Karenina” on our Blu-ray player. I loved the book and found the movie enjoyable – an exploration of sin and guilt, selfish “love” and true love. Then, I thought I’d fire up the generator to top off the batteries and give the generator some use (If you don’t use something regularly on a boat, there seems to be a higher likelihood that it won’t work when you need it). It ran for about 1/2 hour and then konked out. Fortunately, we didn’t really need it at the time, but now we have something new to repair.
The next morning, we arose, had breakfast, dinghied into shore, and took our daily 3 mile walk. We then returned to the ship, released the mooring ball and Cindy guided us out into the bay. On the return trip, I finally placed a fishing line in the water and trolled for 2-3 hours. Nothing! My wife didn’t believe me when I said fishing is not always about catching fish; it is about the experience. We motorsailed most of the way back to Regatta Pointe as the wind was quite light all day (Of course, until we got back to the dock and had to put the boat in the slip). We have now had two consecutive dockings in which we have provided excellent entertainment to bystanders. After our last fiasco, we were careful to make sure our lines were clear of our slip so that we didn’t wrap one around the prop. This time, however, Cindy decided to take a dip in the marina water. As I was backing the boat into the slip, Cindy stepped off the back and onto the dock. Unfortunately, her foot slipped and after bouncing off the steps she splashed into the water. Thankfully, she held onto the stern line which she held in her hand. Also, thankfully, she fell in right at the swim ladder which I was able to flip down into the water. In a matter of seconds, she was back on board, albeit, with a pretty sore tailbone. Our kind neighbor on E-dock, Karen, on Largo, saw our plight and ran all the way down E-dock, down the pier, and down C-dock so that we could throw the line to her from the boat. Thank you, Karen! And, thank you, God!
And so continues the adventures of the crazy couple who took six days of sailing lessons, bought a 42′ catamaran, moved aboard and are making plans to cruise the world, with little prior experience… And having a great time doing so!