After getting Shelby strapped into place we left Boca Ciega Bay and Gulfport City Marina and cruised into Tampa Bay heading up to the Endeavour boatyard for a few days to get a window leak fixed and a few other items looked at from the manufacturer of our powercat.
As always cruising along and watching dolphins is a favorite. Check out our video above to see a mother and baby together which was the highlight of our morning.
Soon we could see the Tampa skyline and Harley enjoyed soaking up the sun while the engines were running. She is such a sucker for an engine running and the warm sun shining down on her black coat. We were able to get tied up and docked before sunset and enjoyed the evening tied to the dock excited about getting some work done and having some new areas to explore.
We spent the next five days at the boatyard. Along with the work that was done we were able to explore the areas back in the mangroves, where we saw pink flamingos and enjoyed the local wildlife. Much of that was the comings and goings at the Getaway Bar next door. The weekend was packed and we just sat on the deck and watched. Finally, we ventured over one week night to enjoy happy hour and get some great photos of Journey at the dock.
Valentine’s Day we headed back out into Tampa Bay and then under the Skyway Bridge, Harley once again was in her happy place and we were finally free from the dock and looking for some white sand.
We anchored out along Egmont Key just before the sun went down and the next day we enjoyed some warm beach time! Harley was happy to run along the beach and explore. We tucked in the Manatee River for the night in order to catch up with Allie’s parents the next day before heading further south.
After lunch with Allie’s parents in Palmetto at the Riverside Cafe, (the link actually takes you to same area but a favorite restaurant of ours in Palmetto) we picked up some supplies they had brought and headed back out to Journey. Trying to get a jump start south we pulled anchored and headed down to Longboat Key just outside of the Mar Vista restaurant. We didn’t get a chance to eat there but have heard it is the best! We had a nice evening and were able to get out again early so we could get in early to Sarasota and secure our first mooring ball for the night.
The wind was picking up as we headed into the Sarasota Mooring field and Allie soon learned that she was not the one to pick up a mooring ball. After finally securing ourselves to the mooring ball we were able drop Shelby and ready ourselves to head in to check in with Marina Jacks. Next order of business was for Harley to enjoy some time off the boat. She enjoyed the Bayfront park and stretching her legs and her ears enjoyed the wind. The winds were up while in Sarasota and Journey did some swinging but the evening skyline around Sarasota was spectacular. With all the winds we chose a window and left the mooring ball after a few days to head further south tucking in for the night around Siesta Key. Dee has just finished replacing the shower pump in the guest head and was ready to use it for the first time when the generator cut off by itself. We spent the evening figuring that one out. Impeller was shot and would need to be replaced. Thankfully we had that part on board.
The next day we headed down toward Venice with Dee tucked into the garage changing the impeller. Other than have to work while we moved he was able to make the change and the generator was happy again. We headed around Venice and into Port Charlotte. Finding a little hurricane hole in Caya Costa for the night. This was a quiet no rocking spot and we enjoyed exploring Caya Costa and sleeping well.
After securing their Uber and waving by to Eddie and Joan as they headed back to NC. We set out down toward Marco Island with our first experience out in the Gulf since crossing in January. Now we were south and warmer and looking forward to enjoying some time in Naples with friends.
We tucked into Gordon Pass for the night in among some very expensive homes and anchored with 3 other boats near by. The next morning we headed down toward Marco Island and the gulf was beautiful. We had been looking for an affordable marina in the area and stumbled across the Port of the Islands. We didn’t know then that this would become a safe haven for Journey during the coming Hurricane season.
Before heading in to Port of the Islands which takes about an hour something we did not really know at the time. We spend a night along Panther Key. Panther Key is among the Ten Thousand Islands area in the Everglades. This was a place totally different from anywhere we had been and the quiet and lack of light pollution at night made the stars reach down and almost touch you. We enjoyed the evening here and a beautiful sunset.
Three Weeks after taking possession and plenty of mental prep, we decided to take a day trip out of the St. Pete marina. We headed out of Tampa Bay along Egmont Key. We even discussed a possible overnight if everything continued to look smooth with the weather. As we were planning our trip down, the weather for the weekend was looking wet and we were unsure of making it out for the day.
Saturday morning we woke to blue skies and bright sunshine with possible afternoon storms, so we prepared for departure and left the dock around 10:30 am. We were super excited as we completed our first leg under the Skyway Bridge.
As the afternoon progressed, we watched the storms building inland, but was still trying to decide whether to weather the storm and stay the night or head back in. We finally decided to pull anchor and head into the storm. We tracked along Fort De Soto to miss some of the worst before crossing back under the Skyway towards St. Petersburg, Florida.
The wind was strong and waves were hitting our starboard side when we turned toward St. Pete with one wave even crashing over the bow on the starboard side. The best part was the dolphins that were cruising and jumping off our bow. The violent waves prevented me from taking photos so I could share this awesome first time dolphin experience on our boat!
The final challenge was docking back at St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Our dock is located on Pier 5 along the outside where there is little protection from the wind. Our boat is a little small for the slip so we have some extra poles to maneuver through that are for bigger boats. These poles make docking a challenge along with the fact we have not docked before. Now, throw in some wind. We actually lost count after 5 attempts were made to dock before we successfully got her unharmed into the slip.
Big Thanks! to Steve who came out to help us. Steve and his wife Robin invited us to lunch the next day followed by a tour of downtown St. Petersburg. We enjoyed learning all the great places, bars, and restaurants in the area. This day was another adventure. After waking Sunday with even stronger winds and rain, we were thankful to be safely in our slip. Check out the video of our adventure below
I have so much more to share about how D and I got here, but I just needed to share this first journey so look for me to back up and share our story in the coming months. We are SolMates and are just getting our Journey started.
June 29, 2018
Journey is ready for her first cruise with D and I as the new owners. We have done all we could to get her ready for what we believed would be a four day trip. Yes, we are newbies at cruising and probably set an unrealistic time frame we learned. We departed St. Petersburg, Florida at 8am on June 29th on a Hot! Hot! morning.
By the time we cleared the Skyway Bridge storms were building in the Gulf of Mexico which was the path we chose to take for the morning. After fighting the waves up to John’s Pass we turned into the inter-coastal for some calm waters. The trip was nice and easy and I enjoyed some good cruising behind the wheel. Oh, I can’t forget the morning excitement around Egmont Key were we lost a cooler off the boat. The cooler has some gear stored in it (yep, we forgot to secure it!) it floated upright and then fell over lid side down. Nothing came out and we were able to recover everything. (Ok, Chris recovered the cooler).
Chris and Michele some neighbors from back home in North Carolina joined us on this first passage and we could not have done it without them! Back to the inter-coastal which was a slow easy ride up to Anclote Key. It was awesome getting to see so many different types of homes, boats, and wildlife along the route. A glimpse into a different world
Our stop for our first night was along this key and more specifically Dutchman Key. I highly recommend this anchorage. It was a beautiful quiet evening with friends. We enjoyed our first sunset from the boat and listened to the waves on the other side of the key. Michele and I watched dolphins and fish play which included circling the boat to check us out. The evening ended perfectly with steaks off the grill and a fresh salad.
We were awaken by a storm around midnight and closed up the hatches followed by some winds, but the anchor held – little did we know how much this anchor could and would hold. We completed our first full night on the boat at anchor!
I am writing this pen to paper on the boat as we travel in my journal – many thanks to Rudy and Shari for a great gift. Sitting on the forward deck somewhere in the gulf listening to the water roll. A beautiful peace. Maybe now as I type these words I can say the calm before the storm. Day two began by monitoring a unique low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico effecting most of the mainland of Florida. We made 8am and 9am checks. The weather seemed to be worsening soon in our anchorage so we made the call to pull out and head to Cedar Key.
We enjoyed an awesome morning on the forward deck drinking our coffee, watching the dolphins feed as well as a nurse shark around the boat. The storms continued to build out to sea, but a rainbow was also present as the sun rose. Our 6 hour trip provided calm waters and we pulled into Cedar Key happy mates. Did I mention all the dolphins enjoying the bow and wake of our boat. Life is Good!
We made it and chose an anchorage for early departure. The easy day made it easy for us to not prepare properly and let the excitement of the trip win out. We had an awesome Happy Hour with margaritas, fruit and cheese. We grilled Tenderloin and veggies on the grill and the evening was perfect.
Three mistakes we made at this point:
Never anchor to leave easy, anchor for protection
Never anchor near a channel marker
Check the weather more than you need to and then check it again.
That night we survived strong winds and storms from about 11pm to 11am. Around midnight our snubber line broke, but the anchor held on. With Chris’s help the snubber line was rigged for the night and a few more anchors were thrown out but our main anchor still held all night.
We woke to more winds and rain and lots of anchors to pull – 3 to be exact. Fighting the storms around us we prepared for a window to move further into Cedar Key. We finally were able to make our move as the day turned hot and sunny with still waters. We knew in front of us were bad storms and we needed some rest and a day to recharge from the long night. So we slowed down our day. After the snubber lines were replaced we jumped into our dingy for a trip into Cedar Key for a good meal and some AC! While in Cedar Key we secured more water, ice, and had a great meal at Steamers. The view of our boat from the restaurant was the best.
It seemed appropriate to do the renaming ceremony after the previous night. We chilled the champagne, opened the wine, and began. We gracious entertained the gods and thanked the previous owners before naming her ours. We used the Bluewater Sailing Renaming Ceremony to rename her Journey.
We all slept well and woke early to calm waters so we headed across the Gulf to Carrabelle.
July 2nd – The Crossing
We left early and just in time to keep the storms at our back all day. Perfect weather and blue, blue seas. Chris did some fishing but we only were able to reel in a big catch around the Horn (that is what Chris called it). Chris reeled in a large Benita and although we would not have eaten this fish, Chris only reeled in half as a barracuda enjoyed the other half after he was hooked. From the Horn, Carrabelle quickly came into site and we had celebratory beers with Michele as she made it across not seeing land and not getting sea sick! Rain seemed to be following us as the sunset and we made anchor off St. George island near Apalachicola.
We woke early again to enter the inter-coastal through the swampy lands from Apalachicola to Port St. Joe. It felt like we were in a different world. Port St. Joe and the St. Joseph Bay were beautiful and we saw our first sea turtle in the bay. We look forward to returning here for a few nights stay in our future. Then back into the blue waters of Gulf up the Emerald Coast to Destin.
The pass at Destin was a challenge but D brought her into the Choctawatchee Bay for anchorage along the national seashore area on the Fort Walton side of the bay. We saw the infamous Crab Island preparing for the July 4th holiday. After a swim in the bay, hot dogs on the deck, we enjoyed fireworks all around before bed. Yes, we are down to hot dogs because we did not plan adequately for the length of this trip, so provision are beginning to run a little low.
July 4th – Happy Independence Day
The morning of July 4th we headed up the inter-coastal to Pensacola. The day before we were able to secure a marina slip in downtown Pensacola for the July 4th night. We are happy to know we will not be anchored for the crazy 4th and a bed awaits at Chris and Michele’s Pensacola home. After a smooth ride we arrived early into the Pensacola Bay and were docked before lunch. The afternoon became even better after a shower, sandwich, and a few margaritas and some needed down time after two hard days. We were almost done!
That evening were enjoyed watching some fireworks with friends from our boat even though the storms worked hard to win. Oh, I can not forget the delicious char-grilled hamburgers provided by Chris and Michele for dinner before the fireworks. What a perfect July 4th. Last Leg Coming!
July 5th - Mobile Bay
D and I began the last leg of the journey alone. We left Pensacola Bay and headed into the inter-coastal to Mobile Bay. The trip was busier than we expected with the 4th on a Wednesday.
Lots of boaters, barges, dolphin sight-seeing cruises, and just craziness on the water. The radio was active with a missing kayakers and a sinking pontoon. As we got deeper into the inter-coastal everything seemed to settle down and we finally made our way into Mobile bay. Seven hours later we arrived to our final destination up the Dog River.
D and I celebrated our 440 nautical miles over seven days with a celebratory beer and a an awesome meal! Now to explore a little of the Dog River before heading home. WE DID IT!
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