|Foggy morning on Tampa Bay when we left St. Pete.|
As I write this, we are sitting quietly in our slip in Burnt Store Marina, about 10 miles south of Punta Gorda and about 1/3 the way up Charlotte Harbor. We’ve pretty much recovered from our trip down from Pensacola, the laundry is done, we have managed to reprovision, and we’ve found the sailor’s library in the laundry room. All in all, not bad. Although I must tell you, winter in Florida is not the kind of warmth I was expecting. The temperature climbs to the low 80s in the afternoon, but the breeze is downright cold. I find myself wearing long sleeves and sweaters in 78-80 degree weather and scratching my head. No one else has commented on it, which leads me to believe they are all from Buffalo, NY.
Our trip from St. Petersburg took us down the InterCoastal Waterway (ICW) in the hopes of beating the huge winter storm that stretched from Pennsylvania to Cuba at one point. We didn’t quite make it, due to our decision to come in at St. Petersburg, which lost us two days. However, we did manage to tuck into a wonderfully protected anchorage between Lido and Otter Keys, and that is where we waited out the high winds.
|Our anchorage at Otter Key, with the cold front looming behind us. The first day we were there, it was 80 and I luxuriated in the cockpit. The second day...eeep. Cold.|
You have to bump over a sand bar at high water to get into this anchorage, which meant we had to time our exit to the tide. We actually used this Google Earth app to navigate the bar (to the bottom right of Otter Key above you can see the bar and the narrow channel). The blue dot moved as we did and we could see where the sand was. Now, that was novel!
When we left the anchorage, the winds were down, but so was the temperature (40). We were really, really cold in our open cockpit, bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, and grateful for the relatively calm air. Every detail of the scenery was in sharp relief as the cold front swept all traces of moisture from the atmosphere.
|Me peering over the dodger as we chug down the ICW. I'm too short by about 4".|
The ICW is a protected “trail” for boats, with barrier islands between you and the open sea. That cuts way down on chop and wind. In some places the waterway is very wide, but you have to navigate by instruments to stay on the “path” - that part of the waterway that is deep enough for passage. Otherwise, you risk going aground. In other places, the waterway is very narrow, like a canal. You have to hand steer, as well, because of the twists and turns. It’s not particularly difficult, just a lot of motoring which jiggles my insides and makes me tired.
In Florida the ICW is littered with bridges, all of which we have to pass under. Having a 49 foot mast, that means we have to call most of the bridges to request passage. The bridge operators are almost all quick to respond to a hail and very helpful, but the sheer number of bridges can really slow you down. One day we passed under nine of them!
|Approaching a bridge on the ICW.|
I truly enjoy passage on the ICW because there is so much to see. I particularly like looking at all the birds. We saw brown pelicans, white pelicans, gulls, terns, little shore birds, ospreys, buzzards, ibis, herons, etc. Some of the birds were roosting in the mangroves, which made the mangroves look like decorated Christmas trees. Some stood on the sand bars, sunning themselves and stretching their wings. Some stood or waded on sand bars in the shallow, glittering water, enjoying the returning warmth as the sun rose.
A large flock of ibis gathered in the mud flats at the base of the mangroves, goozling in the mud for their breakfast. So glad I don’t have to dig my breakfast out of the mud. The gray-white branches of a dead tree on the bank were draped in huge, black roosting buzzards. Below the tree, another 20 or so were shambling around, flapping their wings and nudging each other out of the way. Above, in the clear sky, another group of buzzards rode the thermals, gliding up and around in the air enjoying the day. I have no idea why there were so many.
Ospreys are everywhere, roosting on the ICW channel markers and here at the marina on sailboat masts. They fly by with the unfortunate fish they have caught for their dinner. Ospreys make the prettiest calls, not screaming as so many raptors do, but instead making a flute-like call that is almost a song.
I apologize for no photos of the birds, but I was freezing and wearing thick gloves I was not interested in removing to take pictures!
After one more day at anchor we chugged up Charlotte Harbor to the marina. The harbor is a perfect place to sail if you have the wind at the right angle, but it was right on our nose and we were too tired to tack back and forth. Arriving about 1 p.m., we tucked into our slip, sighed over yet another short finger pier, and hooked up the heat! Oh, luxury!
|Entrance to Burnt Store Marina|
|View from our slip. More of the dreaded finger piers.|