We entered the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GICW) about 4:30PM on Saturday February 7th. Just after passing the first channel marker we were met by a pod of dolphins that swam and rode the wake of our boat. As usual this made Cynthia’s day, mine also. We get a special feeling every time we see these beautiful animals. First thing I think of is the old TV show “Flipper”. Then the size. They are big.
After our initial dolphin visit, what next caught my senses was the amount of traffic on the water. We have come through a mainly rural area. Even with the population of Mobile it did not seem as, for the lack of another word, “busy”. We did arrive on a weekend and people are trying to cram as much fun in 2 days as possible. The amount of boat traffic and sheer numbers of people are overwhelming.
We came to our first bascule bridge on the GICW and after talking to the bridge tender, waited for the bridge to open and pass through. I thought we could make it under, however, the tender opened the bridge. “Better safe than sorry” was his reply to our hail on the radio.
Shortly after we arrived at Marker-1 Marina and had plenty of help getting the boat alongside the dock. Again we were offered suggestions by locals of how to tie the boat so as not to have any problems with the tide and its 2-3 foot changes in a 24 hour period. Most of the time it is an easy walk off the boat, but in the afternoons we use the step-ladder to get on an off.
After the initial excitement of crossing the Gulf of Mexico and a small meal shared between boaters our adrenaline high was tanking and we all settled in for an early evening. Sunday brought us a beautiful day with high in the 70’s and blue sky’s. First priority on board Bright Angel was to repair my helm chair. With help from Marker-1 employees we gathered the appropriate hardware and were able to complete our repair in a short time. Which left the rest of the beautiful day for rest and relaxation. I lowered the dinghy and went for a sail. Out across the flats, crossing the GICW and around a small island and back. That morning we saw kayaks, canoes, and flats boats. As the day progressed more and larger boats were common and traveling the GICW and different speeds, some really kicking up a wake. It was exciting crossing the canal in a 10 foot sailing dinghy. While in the channel on Bright Angel I am conscious of how narrow the channel is, but trying to cross in the dinghy it can’t be small enough. I can see that most of our travels will be during mid-week while traffic is at a minimum.
Later that evening we celebrated our arrival on the Florida peninsula with a dinner out. With the crew of “Crazzy Nufff along we headed the short walk to “Frenchy’s Outpost Bar and Grill.” A mostly open air restaurant that specializes in the local fish and tropical based foods. I had a grouper Ruben, “Grouben”, that was very good. With full stomachs we walked back to our prospective boats and again an early bed time. Seems like when the sun goes down so do my eye lids. Robby and Brenda from “Crazzy Nufff” have been having problems with the pronunciation of Dunedin, but now after our meal Robby has got it right. “He’s Done Eatin” works for the town name also.
Monday brought us a rainy day and another day of cleaning and putting the boat back together. Bringing out what had been stored for safety during the crossing. Plants were put back in place, pictures rehung, and netting taken down off the book and chart shelf. The boat is now a home again. For the most part we will be travelling in protected waters so barring large wakes for other boats we shouldn’t be pushed around too much.
We have been warned of the wakes from boaters in Florida and will need to keep a “weather eye” alert for wakes.
We had thought about taking the boat back north the 10 miles to Tarpon Springs and staying at the City docks for a day or so while looking around, but decided it was easier and less costly to stay at Marker-1, that has a great weekly rate, and rent a car and drive the short distance to Tarpon. With our rental vehicle we were able to head to the box stores for provisions, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart. We got our running done and decided Tuesday would be better for Tarpon Springs.
Known for the Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs, has a large Greek community with plenty of heritage. We found a free parking space for our rental at the City informational center and began our tourist adventures. With the crew of “Crazzy Nufff, Brenda and Robby, along with myself, Cynthia, and Toots we headed out and found the Sponge Factory and museum our first stop.
Being a cool windy day we were glad we dressed warmer but did see many people, probably northerners, wearing shorts and Tees. They had to be cold. Tarpon Springs once made its money from sponges now the tourist trade is what keeps the local economy going.
We are getting ready to move on south but at a leisurely pace. We plan to move only about 30 miles down the coast to Gulfport, Florida on Sunday. (Yes, I remember saying that travelling mid-week would be better, but we are paid up here at Marker-1 until then)
Gulfport has been advertised as a quaint, eclectic village. We will see how it turns out.
Let you know later.