Tarpon Springs & Clearwater

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Tarpon Springs

April 20 - 24, 2005

Marina:   N 28009.357 (approximate)

Photo: Neighbor at Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina.

After another grueling night at sea, we slipped into the Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina shortly after the noon hour. According to the cruising guides, this is a "must stop" place. With that recommendation and being too tired to check for ourselves, we signed up for a week's stay. Fortunately, they only had openings for five nights.

The marina was 1.00/ft or .54/ft by the week. It is the pits, as far as a marina goes. The bathrooms are shared by the public until 5:00 pm and they were filthy most of the time. I didn't even look at the showers. The piers are too short to be useful. We had to climb across the bow rails to get off - no easy task when the tide was out. Additionally, the slips are very narrow. We scrapped fenders along a trawler to get in.

Photo below: Sponge Docks at Tarpon Springs, FL.

This is a very, very touristy town. I don't mind being a tourist but this town could be thoroughly explored in a day - maybe a half day. It is known as the Sponge Capital of The World. The main street in front of the marina is lined on both sides with souvenir shops and restaurants. The shops all have about the same thing and so do the restaurants. We did one day of touring, including the sightseeing Trolley and that was enough.

The rest of our time in Tarpon Springs was spent on projects (it took a day to get all the salt and grime off Escapades), and eating up our entire budget at the Greek Restaurants. We liked Mamas Restaurant best. We did make a trip to BoatUS and to the grocery store. The Publix there is the largest grocery store I've ever seen or at least in years. Very nice.

Clearwater Beach

April 25 - 29, 2005

Anchorage: N 27058.128

This is our fourth visit to Clearwater Beach and it is still one of my personal favorite spots. Unfortunately, it will soon become Condo City. There are perhaps a dozen new condo constructions going on. This is the first time we've anchored out and wonder why we didn't do it before. It is great! This anchorage is in the first inlet to the left after coming off the Gulf (coordinates above). It is surrounded by condos and houses. Not much on view but calm and protected. We have read that there is a 24-72 hour limit on Florida anchorages but during our five night stay, we were never ask to move.

Photo: Clearwater Beach

From the anchorage, there are two public dinghy docks. Both are reached by going under the Causeway Bridge. The first one gives you walking access to the beautiful beaches and the touristy section. After coming under the bridge, you will see multi-level tan condos on the left. Go past these and turn left. You will see the docks on the right just before the dead end.

Coordinates 27
059.051, W082049.576.

From here you can also walk a few blocks to Cooters Grill for the best-ever blackened grouper sandwich. It is next door to Frenchy's on Poinsettia Street. Frenchy's is the popular tourist place for grouper sandwiches but we like Cooters much better.

Photo below: Peter & Bob making a get-away.

The second dinghy dock is brand new. It is large and very nice. To reach it, turn right just after coming under the bridge. Follow the causeway until the water comes to a dead end. The docks are on the left adjacent to the Island Way Restaurant. From here it is a 1-1/2 block walk to the grocery store, post office, UPS store and other shops. Sorry, but we lost the coordinates.

While in Clearwater Beach, one of our treats was to meet Peter Wiersma from the Irwin mailing list. It's always good to put a face with a name. We really enjoyed his company as well as the magnificent view from his 10th floor balcony. Peter recommended the Island Way restaurant. He says they have an early bird special during the week - $7.99-$9.99 for a very good dinner. Even though we again ate up our entire budget, we didn't get to try the Island Way.

A night from Hell on the Manatee River

April 30, 2005

Anchorage: N 27031.757

I'm often reminded of the lyrics from a 70's song, The Boxer: "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest". I still don't get real involved in charting our course. When I heard "ICW" this morning, that was all I needed to hear to set my day right.

But it was another day of pounding into the waves. We buried our nose so often it's not funny. Of course NOAA kept reporting all day 3-5ft seas, moderate chop. What a joke! We were taking waves over the bow that would roll all the way up the dodger. There was no resting or going below. The thing that made it ok was the thought that "once we turn off the Gulf we will pick up the ICW". Wrong! We picked up the even rougher Tampa Bay. I really should get more involved. Seems the ICW will be on the next leg.

After 9+ long hours (35 miles) , we dropped anchor at Desoto Point. This anchorage should give good protection from the south wind. It was rolly but not unbearable. We enjoyed one of our favorite meals- hot crusty bread with various cheeses, salami & liverwurst, along with a bottle of $4.99 wine we bought in Tarpon Springs. After a few games of You Don't Know Jack (in which Bob thoroughly beat me) and a nice shower we settled in for a good night's sleep.

My job is dropping the anchor - actually, stepping on the button and getting a good set.  I've recently started rating our anchor setting and reporting it to the captain. This one at
Desoto Point was the highest yet - 99.95%. That anchor was in there. During the night the wind suddenly shifted to the north and picked up speed. We always use our CQR knockoff and back it up if necessary with a Max. The CQR has held in rivers with strong reversing currents, in strong winds, in yucky bottoms. It has been very reliable in the past, dragging only a few times.

We don't know what happened before the anchor alarm (a must have item) went off. Bob always checks the alarm and most of the time, it's set so close that just changing direction causes an alarm. I didn't pay too much attention until I felt the wind pouring in the ports. I knew something was wrong because wind doesn't come in the ports. We were dragging down on another boat - big time.

Well, in addition to getting to push the button to drop the anchor, I get to go out and push the button to pull it back up. There is nothing I love more than going onto a rolling, pitching, bouncing anchor platform in the pitch dark, in 30knot winds, with pelting rain. To make it even more special, this time I got to wear my nightie. Bob and I both agree that in adverse conditions, his skills are more useful than mine at the wheel, so he misses lots of the fun. The Desoto Point anchorage was fairly crowded and finding a new spot in the dark was impossible. Besides, we really needed to get protection from the now north wind.

Creeping along, hoping that everyone had anchor lights of some kind on, we worked our way across the river to the Sneed Island Anchorage. I didn't do an anchor-set rating, this time. I just hoped for the best and for daylight. After some time of watching and waiting, we went back to bed.

Shortly before daybreak, we were once again awakened by wind gushing in the port. We rushed above to find that we weren't dragging anchor. It appeared that one of the other boats was dragging down on us. This was a very scary situation. The wind was on the beam - that's so wrong. Bob clocked it at one time at 47knots. It was pushing us over and I was really afraid we would be knocked down. Bob started the engine to take some of the load off the anchor and to try turning us back into the wind. My mission once again was to push the "UP" button, not because we were dragging but there was no sign of people on the boat that was dragging. I was really scared. I wasn't about to go on a sideways tilting deck without a harness and full lifesaving gear. It took me awhile to get prepared (and get the nerve) to do my job; by then Bob decided to watch the conditions awhile longer.  Things began to settle down some and the other boat stopped moving toward us. It took some time for things to really settle down. About 11:00am I went back to bed to finish my night's sleep. Weather conditions kept us at Sneed Island for that day and another night.

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