Day 7: Seven Bridges Day

This morning we arose and cast off the dock lines at Palm Island Marina shortly after 9 am. This was a day to be spent primarily making our way up the GICW to reach our next destination in Sarasota. Our day’s trip took approximately six hours and took us through seven bridges – five bascule (draw) bridges and two swing bridges. A few of these opened on demand and all, but two, we timed well. Two of the bridges we had to wait around for 15 minutes or so for them to open.

One of seven bridges

One of seven bridges

Another Bascule Bridge

Another Bascule Bridge

Yet another bridge

Yet another bridge

Swing Bridge

Swing Bridge

Cindy at the helm making our way through a bridge

Cindy at the helm making our way through a bridge

Other than the fact that traveling on the Intracoastal Waterway requires constant vigilance to make sure one stays in the channel, I always enjoy the ICW. The scenery is beautiful, consisting primarily of undeveloped land with lots of wildlife or huge million dollar-plus homes. Tracy mentioned how she was pleasantly surprised, as she expected the ICW to be more commercialized and industrialized. It truly is an enjoyable trip.

Julie and Tracy sunning on the port stern, tucked away and hidden from the cold wind.

Julie and Tracy sunning on the port stern, tucked away and hidden from the cold wind.

A Modern Home on the ICW

A Modern Home on the ICW

So…. Pelicans grow on trees?

So…. Pelicans grow on trees?

Staying Warm

Staying Warm

Julie doing what Julie loves to do while underway.

Julie doing what Julie loves to do while underway.

The highlight of our day was in catching fish. I decided to try one of those artificial lures that looks like a multi-colored squid. Apparently blue fish like them. We trolled one behind Beatitude most of the way up to Sarasota. Tracy enjoyed the fight of both fish that were caught on the day, each an 18-20 inch Blue Fish. I had caught a blue fish previously, but did not eat it because of the negative comments about its food quality. Others, though, have stated how much they enjoyed blue fish cooked properly. So, I decided to give it a whirl. We caught our first as we were about to have lunch. So, we had blue fish for lunch! It was quite good cooked on the grill. This is fresh fish at its best – less than 30 minutes from water to plate. We took the fish from the net, I cut the gills to bleed it, quickly filleted it and put it on the grill with some salt, pepper and bay seasoning. Mmmm!

The line in the water as we motor up the GICW

The line in the water as we motor up the GICW

First Blue Fish Aboard

First Blue Fish Aboard

Second Blue Fish on the Line

Second Blue Fish on the Line

A Blue Fish Filet

A Blue Fish Filet

Uber-fresh Blue Fish, Grilled Green Beans and Pasta

Uber-fresh Blue Fish, Grilled Green Beans and Pasta

Around 3:30, we picked up a mooring ball at Marina Jack’s. This was a seamless process. It is nice that some skills which are required of cruisers are becoming second nature. We lowered the dinghy and got ready to head to dry land, taking the short dinghy ride to the dinghy dock at Marina Jack’s. From the Marina, we walked into downtown Sarasota and had dinner at an lovely Italian restaurant, Garagiulo’s. After an excellent bottle of wine, bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, pasta, and pizza, we walked the 0.4 miles to the convenience store for some bread and eggs. Finally, we walked back to the marina and made our way through the mooring field to Beatitude for the night.

Tied up to mooring #3 in Sarasota

Tied up to mooring #3 in Sarasota

Close-up of the kiss of the sculpture "Unconditional Surrender" in Sarasota

Close-up of the kiss of the sculpture “Unconditional Surrender” in Sarasota

Salud!

Salud!

Once we were back on board, we had an evening of relaxation and had time for one game, golf, which was handily won by Cindy (who complained prior to the game starting that she wasn’t any good at this game, obviously a bluff). This is the last night away from Regatta Pointe. Tomorrow, we’ll make our way home to Palmetto where we will need to give Beatitude a good cleaning.

Day 6: Palm Island and the Whiny Captain

Leaving Pelican Bay.  The beach to port as we leave is an extremely popular place for locals to beach their boats and swim.

Leaving Pelican Bay. The beach to port as we leave is an extremely popular place for locals to beach their boats and swim.

We awoke this morning to another cold blustery day with northerly winds at 20 knots and a high expected in the 50s. But, the sun was shining brightly and all was better after our anchor fiasco. There is no pleasure in sharing my ineptitude and mistakes, but I do so in order to paint a true picture of this lifestyle and so that others may benefit from my miscues. At any rate, we were able to weigh anchor this morning with no difficulty, and after another pancake breakfast, we eased our way out of Pelican Bay at low tide. The depth meter alarm continually squawked as it read as low as 3.2 feet. We made it out, however, without touching bottom and turned northward for a 3-hour trip to our next overnight destination.

A group of small shells among the many harvested from the beach.

A group of small shells among the many harvested from the beach.

The trip up the ICW across Charlotte Harbor was uneventful. We fought wind and current on the nose for most of the trip, but it was actually enjoyable. Our newly redone bimini/dodger windows kept the wind from directly blowing across our faces. Numerous dolphins and pelicans served as pleasant distractions along the way. We did encounter one bridge today, the Boca Grande Swing Bridge. In order to make the opening on the hour, we had to rev the engines a little higher than normal, and we made it with just a moment to spare. Shortly thereafter, we turned into Palm Island Marina, a gem of a Marina just south of Lemon Bay that we had visited once before.

A Swing Bridge

A Swing Bridge

Gliding Pelican

Gliding Pelican

The staff at Palm Island Marina was exceptional. As we entered through the marina channel, 3 young men stood ready to assist with the lines. But first came the death-defying maneuvering of a 42 x 25 foot sailboat in narrow confines. This marina is quite small. We had to pass our slip and progress to a small open spot in which to spin Beatitude around, and then we had to come back into a side-tie on a dock with the wind blowing us off the dock. All of this was not without challenge, but thankfully we executed the necessary acrobatics without a flaw. They guys quickly grabbed the lines and tied us securely to the dock. They then connected our shore power, filled our water tanks, and pumped out the black-water. I must say, that after 5 days and nights off the grid, it was nice to be plugged in to the mainland again. Even more nice was to have wifi once more!

The helpful staff at Palm Island Marina assist in securing lines

The helpful staff at Palm Island Marina assist in securing lines

Beatitude at the dock

Beatitude at the dock

After tying up, the ladies did 2 or 3 loads of laundry at the free (yes, I said free) laundry facilities. We also unloaded the 3-4 bags of garbage we had accumulated since leaving Palmetto. Several folks walked by who had been eating at the marina restaurant and commented that the whole restaurant had been attentively watching me enter the marina and maneuver Beatitude in tight quarters. It was nice to hear them say that there was applause at the end. Receiving compliments for a task well-done are appreciated, especially as minor compensation for the foolishness one feels over his blunders (e.g., last evening). There is no better entertainment for other cruisers and onlookers sitting in an anchorage or marina than to watch another boat come in to dock, anchor, or pick up a mooring. Often, these maneuvers provide high comedy! Fortunately, not this time.

Palm Island Marina has an excellent restaurant across the ICW on Palm Island called Rum Bay Restaurant. We were all eager to make our way over on the marina water taxi. What we didn’t expect to encounter upon arriving at the taxi dock was a whiny captain who didn’t want to take us to the restaurant. He said he was closing down early today due to the extreme cold (upper 40s at the time with a brisk northerly wind). We (especially Cindy and Tracy; I’m easier to push around) would not take no for an answer. Against his wishes and in spite of his whininess, he eventually relented and agree to take us the 2 miles or so up the ICW to the restaurant. You would have thought we were asking him to take us out into the perfect storm. And, he was a Massachusetts guy as well, complaining incessantly about the cold! After he realized he had to take us over and come back to pick us up, he had a change of countenance and attitude. He actually was quite friendly and seemed like a nice guy (I hope I’m not being too skeptical in wondering if he knew that this tactic was his only hope for a tip, since he had to be out in the frigid temperatures anyway.)

On the frigid ride to Rum Bay Marina (not shown is whiny captain)

On the frigid ride to Rum Bay Marina (not shown is whiny captain)

Barry, Cindy, Julie at Rum Bay Restaurant

Barry, Cindy, Julie at Rum Bay Restaurant

Tracy and Julie enjoying the view and the food

Tracy and Julie enjoying the view and the food

The restaurant served delicious food and drinks. From Rum Bay Smashes to hot peel-and-eat shrimp with drawn butter, to potato, bacon and cheese appetizers, to caesar salads, to fish and chips and coconut shrimp – all was excellent. After dinner, we walked over to the gulf beach and watched a gorgeous sun dipping into the ocean and collected scores of shells as we walked along. The tide was going out leaving behind generous deposits of shells behind it. Our now-jolly water taxi captain was there to transport us back to the marina (and, yes, I did tip him).

Kid's Shoes on Railing

Kid’s Shoes on Railing

The waves break beneath the setting sun

The waves break beneath the setting sun

The Mother-lode of Shells

The Mother-lode of Shells

Another day draws to a close

Another day draws to a close

Blue

Blue

We ended the day aboard the boat, enjoying our shore-power and wi-fi. What a great day!

Cindy on the ride back to the marina (with a not-so-whiny captain)

Cindy on the ride back to the marina (with a not-so-whiny captain)

Night 5: Oops!

I normally don’t submit a blog post concerned with night time events. That might clue you in that something unusual happened this night:

When is the right time to reef your sails? Every sailor knows as soon as you even think about it. You don’t want to try to reef when the wind is blowing 30 knots. It is better to do so before the wind kicks up to an uncomfortable level. Well, I have a new one. When is the right time to increase the scope of your anchor rode? Preferably, put out enough when you anchor. If not, as soon as you think about it!

[Definitions and Explanations for Non-Sailors: You may skip this if uninterested. Anchor rode is the rope and/or chain which attaches your anchor to your boat. Scope, in reference to anchoring refers to the ratio of the length of your anchor rode which has been let out to the depth of the water where you are anchored plus the distance from the top of the water to where your anchor rode comes off the boat (approximately 4 feet on Beatitude). So, if we are in 6 feet of water, the second half of the scope ratio is 10 feet. If we let out 70 feet of chain in this 6 feet of water we have a scope of 70:10, or 7:1. The higher your scope, the more securely your anchor holds because of the decreased angle of the rode relatively to the sea bottom. You must also take other factors into account such as tides and how much swinging room you have when figuring scope.]

The wind started gusting to 30+ knots just before bedtime. I had been aware that the wind was forecast to be strong overnight and to shift to a more northerly direction. Early on, I thought that perhaps I should let out a little more anchor chain to increase our scope so that I’ll sleep better through the night. We had about 4-5:1 which had served us fine the previous night and probably would have served us fine this night. But, around 11 pm, I heard the blustery wind and felt Beatitude sway and creak and thought that perhaps I should increase our scope. So, I started up the engine so that I could operate our electric windlass. Cindy brought in the anchor chain to the point where I could release the snubber/bridle. So far, so good.

Then, I instructed Cindy to let out more chain. When we had let out another 20 feet I would attach the bridle to the chain and that would be that. Suddenly, Beatitude began to lurch left and right in the wind when the tension from the anchor rode was released. When she swung to the left the anchor chain suddenly became taut. It was then, that we watched our bow roller bend, our gelcoat snap beneath it, and the anchor chain pop out of the roller and drape over our starboard trampoline. My wife awoke Tracy for assistance as I attached the bridle to the chain. I, then, returned to the helm and eased the boat forward as Tracy carefully returned the chain to the bow roller. The chaos was over and we returned to the salon.

Note the distal flange on the right is bent outwards.  The chain popped off the bow roller in this direction.  I'm fortunate that there does not appear to be any damage to the trampoline which bore the brunt of the weight.

Note the distal flange on the right is bent outwards. The chain popped off the bow roller in this direction. I’m fortunate that there does not appear to be any damage to the trampoline which bore the brunt of the weight.

Back inside, Cindy and I discussed what we did wrong which resulted in damage to the boat. First of all, we need to let out the proper scope before the bad weather arrives. In retrospect, I would have been better off leaving the 4-5:1 scope, which probably would have been sufficient since the rode is all chain and we have the massive 85 lb Mantus anchor. In fact, this was a pretty good test for the holding power of our new anchor. By pulling in the chain to release the snubber, I probably had a scope of 3:1 at that point. If the sudden jerk of 18 tons of boat could not uproot the anchor at such a low scope, we are probably pretty good from an anchor standpoint. Looking back, I wish my anchor would have given way and not my bow roller.

The gelcoat ripped apart on the starboard side of the bow roller.

The gelcoat ripped apart on the starboard side of the bow roller.

A closer view of the damage

A closer view of the damage

If I was, in fact, going to increase the scope, I should have done it earlier. Regarding our actual technique, at first, we could not come up with anything we did wrong. Now that I’ve had a little more time to think about it, perhaps I should not have had Cindy let out the chain as rapidly as we did. At the time, I thought this would keep pressure off the bow roller and that I could attach the bridle before the chain tensioned on the windlass. This gave the chain enough slack to suddenly straighten up and violently jerk the bow roller to the right. Perhaps, we should have let it out more slowly, given the conditions. Mainly, what we did right was not to panic (too much) and to work together to resolve the problem without injuries or more significant damage.

After these few moments of adrenaline-pumping madness, we went to bed and slept pretty well during the windy night. We awoke the next morning to discover that our anchor held fine and we had no further problems, including when it was time to weigh anchor.

The opposite side of the bow roller.  You can see how it pulled away.

The opposite side of the bow roller. You can see how it pulled away.