95 St. Petersburg, FL to NY to Cayo Costa Island, FL

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Three weeks of family visit became wonderful memories as we settled in and became boat people again. Endeavour was just finishing up the upgrades we’d requested so we played tourist in St Petersburg and wandered around their downtown area. We discovered the Smithsonian has expanded to satellite museums when we visited the Florida International Museum featuring the Kennedy years. The Kennedy exhibit and one on the Cuban Missile Crisis was virtually all the museum held. It was fascinating strolling through seeing memorabilia from an important time in our history. Things the Smithsonian saves are truly amazing, and their ability to present them is outstanding.

In exchange for a tour of Odyssey we were invited to tour “Sophisticated Lady.” When we asked her location, the captain pointed to the 85′ Broward, taking up the entire T head at the end of the dock. Sure was fun to see–sure is too big to own. This was a boat that had space for 3 crew members to live comfortably completely separate from the owners and guests aboard. We’re not quite ready for a boat that requires a professional captain.

Saturday, Jeff from Endeavour finished the shelves Ruth had designed. The once blank wall instantly became a colorful display of in-process quilts and colorful quilting supplies. Instead of storage, we’ve gained a new evolving work of art. We’ll even recover a small part of the cost when Living Aboard magazine publishes the article we submitted explaining our unique design process using masking tape, digital camera, and computer.

Lively conservation with Debbie and Gene faded away interrupted by a great sunset. We paused to enjoy the color splash and take in the view of the Caladesi Island State Park Marina now occupied only by Odyssey.

Morning rain cut short our nature trail walk on our now private island. The comfort of Odyssey’s enclosed cockpit made for a comfortable trip back to civilization in the intermittent showers and breezy conditions resulting from a front moving through the area.

Ruth’s Aunt Edna, Gerri and Stan met us in Bradenton. Their visit provided a great excuse to visit Fisherman Joe’s once again for their great fish fry lunch as we swapped stories about family activities.

Tranquility, our former sailboat, was exactly where we left her almost a year ago. We stopped by to look her over and felt good seeing she was well care for by her new owners. Palmetto, our home for 3 months, while we sold Tranquility was fun to see, but after getting our ice cream fix at a great ice cream shop, we moved on.

Florida mud and sand cushioned our unintended grounding while we were traveling at 10 knots on the Manatee River. Our speed had us stuck hard. I immediately launched the dinghy and began a self-rescue effort. Nothing seemed to work. Odyssey didn’t want to move, and we were on a falling tide. It looked like it was time to call for towing assistance. We made one last try with the dinghy pushing hard on one side while Ruth gunned engines one in forward, the other in reverse. A slight movement provided encouragement, and we continued trying in water now muddy from our prop wash. Odyssey broke free and once the dinghy was retrieved, we were on our way with no apparent damage. Later at anchor I braved 61-degree water to check for damage. Slowly I eased into the water with fins, mask and snorkel. A visual inspection confirmed the skegs and props were undamaged. I surfaced laughing and stood up. I hadn’t realized I was swimming in water I could stand up in until I saw our skegs just a foot above the sandy bottom where we’d anchored. The water was only 4-feet deep. Now used to the cold water I walked around Odyssey cleaning her waterline.

Careful picking through the shells on the beach at Venice yielded tiny sharks teeth and the beach did live up to being billed as the “Shark Tooth Capital.” We found our beach experience diminished by the bleak line of high-rise condos staring from just behind the sands edge. Even our free dock didn’t improve our opinion of Venice.

In contrast, at Boca Grande, Miller Marina charges $2.00/foot for space at the dock and $30/day for a mooring. We tied up to the dock for one day and made the most of it doing e-mail on a landline, walking and taking a long bike ride to explore the length of a very upscale lovely island. Still interested in exploring the canals we found a spot to anchor just south of the mooring field and spent the next day exploring by dinghy. We watched Hilarium go out for the afternoon. Everybody watched. Hilarium is over 100′ and the exit channel is quite tricky. Two hours later we marveled as her crew of four threaded her way back to her berth as the owners and two guests watched from the upper deck.

Cayo Costa Island, a Florida barrier island state park, treated us to its many facets. Just as the anchor went down fog rolled in and the island disappeared for a few hours. In lifting fog we went ashore and walked the park trails. Noise in the dry brush had us straining to catch a glimpse of the source. Black flashes in the sunlight-dappled underbrush were all we could spot of the islands wild pigs.

Over a leisurely breakfast morning fog slowly gave way to a bright sunny day. We lingered, studying the chart and planning how to navigate the unmarked twisting route along the island’s shore. A small trawler passed close by, tried our planned route and failed. We swapped notes by radio as they returned, but could learn little about the location of a critical narrow sharp turn shown on the charts.

An hour later we tried–and tried. Standing on the bow, I’d try to read subtle depth changes from color and bottom variations then point the direction Ruth should turn. We’d ooze to a stop, back off, turn slightly and try again. Then we’d look at our location on the electronic charts, regroup and try again. Finally we got it right, and found the key turn. Our shallow draft is a real joy. The water got deep–all of 5 feet, and we were on our way along the island edge to find the Tunnel of Love.

On the chart, the line to a small pond looked quite unremarkable. Something we wouldn’t bother investigating. However on our chart it was both circled and starred–Ruth’s notes from a discussion with Jump Up (folks we’d met back in the Okechobee) about a great place to explore by dinghy. Heading up the Tunnel of Love Finally after running the dinghy aground twice in the shallow water we found the opening. The thin line on the chart transformed itself to a narrow stream just wide enough for a dinghy. We pulled ourselves along by grabbing mangrove roots and disappeared under a canopy of green mangrove leaves and black branches. The inflowing tidal current made for an easy passage until we grounded at a curve. I got out and pulled the dinghy until the water again deepened and the swift current washed us into a pond. Our trip ashore was anticlimactic, but we walked and enjoyed the beach. We found a few more shells to add to our ever-expanding collection. Then with an assist from the motor in the deeper parts we worked our way back out of the Tunnel of Love a remarkable stream on a unique island.

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