I left Carrabelle at 5:45 a.m., fifteen minutes sooner than the deadline I set for myself. I had 85 miles to go, and the only way to get in before dark was by leaving in the dark. I had set a track on my Ipad to help me with navigation. There was just a slight glimmer from the sliver of a moon on the horizon. The channel marker lights reflected off my windows, making it difficult to keep track of which of the many lights I was supposed to be heading towards or between. I was grateful to get out of the immediate town of Carrabelle, but still had a few miles to get out into the Gulf and away from the shallow coastal waters. Outside the channels, the waters can be less than a foot deep. It took almost a couple hours, going slowly and carefully, to get out into the open waters. I was very relieved. I don't like being out at night, when visibility is so diminished.
|The sun coming up on my way out to the Gulf from Carrabelle|
The first crossing went better than expected, with glassy, smooth waters. At one point, I noticed dead fish floating in the water. I found out later, there was a red tide in the area, which had killed the fish. For a few days, people would ask me, "Did you see the red tide?" I only saw the dead fish...red tides scare me!
|Remnants of a Red Tide|
From Carrabelle, I went to Steinhatchee. I arrived just before the weather started to change. I had planned on staying at Sea Hag, which had been recommended by other people who have done the loop. As soon as I was in cell phone range, I called them, and they said they didn't have a transient slip available. I went further up river to River Haven Marina. At River Haven, I had one of my worst docking experiences, naturally, with the audience of a group of fisherman. The current got my boat and I headed sideways into the propellers of center console fishing boats. I am not sure how I managed to pull myself out, except the dock master was there to help me. I was sure I was going to find a big scrape alongside my boat and possibly a damaged prop on someone else's boat. I was fortunate, and the only damage was a hole in my dinghy, where it scraped against the propeller of the other boat. Dinghy damage is very manageable with a patch kit. During the time I spent at River Haven, everyone there made me feel like I was at home. They kept joking that if I stayed a little longer, I would be staying forever. Steinhatchee is a little fishing village, smaller than Southport and just as friendly.
I arrived as scallop season was ending. Dan, one of the fisherman, who had fallen in love with the little town, was planning on buying a house. I headed off with him to go house-hunting. We did well, as the first and only house we went to see, was perfect. He made an offer and it was accepted within an hour. The following morning, after I left to head south, Dan came out and made a loop around my boat, that he might bring me the good luck he felt I had brought him. He had planned to be up and around when I left, but he had slept in. I was heading to Cedar Key, about halfway between Steinhatchee and Tarpon Springs.
|At Cedar Key, the water looks deeper than it really is.|
I was looking forward to getting into Cedar Key and tying up on their municipal marina. I read about a low bridge, but I thought to myself it wasn't a problem, I can manage 13 ft of clearance. Well, as I approached, I realized I could get in there with my dinghy, but not come close with my boat. I anchored out. There were 15 knot winds and higher, along with storms in the night. I initially anchored in 7 ft of water, but when I checked out the tidal flow, and realized it was high tide, with almost 4 ft tidal range, I moved to deeper water. It was a choppy night, but the morning made it all worthwhile. I left at sunrise, and was accompanied by dolphin for over 30 minutes as I headed back out into the open Gulf waters.
I arrived at Anclote Village Marina, just before it started pouring. Every day, there have been afternoon showers, usually starting around 5 p.m. or so. The marina was a little disappointing. As much as I was looking forward to Tarpon Springs, the marina was not where I wanted to be. The bathrooms were on the far side of the restaurant/bar. They did not have any shower facilities. My plan was to stay there for a couple days until my reservation was available in Clearwater on Monday. Clearwater municipal marina is one of the only ones in Clearwater with floating docks, but they were booked solid because of boat races. When I arrived in Anclote Village Marina, I called Clearwater Municipal Marina and asked if they could notify me if there were any cancellations. Sure enough, the following morning, I was called and told to head on down to Clearwater! I can drive to Tarpon Springs!
I arrived in Clearwater yesterday, late morning. When they said there was a boat race, I had no idea what they meant. These are fast boats... the Nascar of boating... the races are today. This is the Brighthouse Clearwater Superboat National Championship! Raceboats with support boats, support trucks and trailers, and t-shirts! Enclosed hulls, where helmets are warn, and it must feel like 150 degrees in this heat and humidity!
These boats are put into the water with a big crane, down the waterway. Then, they head out into the Gulf for the actual races. Here are some pics of a few of the raceboats:
|The crane lifts the raceboat into the water... a busy weekend!|