Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Saturdays are laid back and relaxing. Others are full speed ahead. This was the latter.

On land

As we’re slowly getting moved into our new, smaller, already furnished home, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all the furniture from our old home. I love the beachy feel of the furniture the former owner left behind. It looks like it belongs on the water.

All of it.

Including the shabby/beachy kitchen table and chairs. . .

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Pam loves most of the furniture too, but the kitchen furniture? “Shabby/shabby.”

Women.

But I digress.

On Wednesday night, Pam put a bunch of the furniture from our old house on Craigslist. She also put our horse trailer and round pen up for sale. And her e-mail box lit up. The response was amazing.

Pam set up a number of appointments for Saturday morning, so it was off to the old house bright and early. And the people showed up. Trailer: gone. Round pen: gone. Beds from both kids rooms: gone. Desk: gone. This was so much better than a garage sale. The stuff we don’t sell? We’re going to donate it to a charity.

We celebrated by going to Bob Evans for lunch. Kind of a shabby/rural kind of restaurant.

We’re into shabby these days.

Finally made it home around 4:00. Still plenty of light for a boating adventure.

On sea

I grabbed my boat bag (GPS, boat keys, flashlight, charts, fish ID book, etc), fishing pole, kissed Pam bye and headed out.

First order of business: gas.

My skiff is a shabby little 17’ center console. The gas tank sits inside the console, and I don’t have a funnel that will reach the opening, so I couldn’t use any of the gas from the jerry cans I have.

Good enough. I’ll go fill up at Shell Point Marina down at the mouth of the river.

Got to the marina, putted around looking for the fuel dock but couldn’t see one. I asked a guy who was unloading his boat. . . he said the nearest fuel was in Apollo Beach. About 10 miles north by water.

So I check my chart and off I go.

Shell Point marina to Apollo Beach. . .     

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The bay was relatively calm, and I cruised my way northeast in warm sunshine and light breezes. About halfway there I checked my watch: already 5:00 — and realized that there was a good chance there wouldn’t be anyone there to run the fuel pump. I had plenty of gas to get back home, so no worries, I’d just continue my boating adventure another day.

But as I pulled around the corner to the fuel dock, I saw I was lucky: there was a monster of a boat fueling up. I pulled in right beside him and got my 10 gallons of unleaded. My tank holds 18. The other guy’s? I asked him. His tank holds 1,000 gallons of diesel. Three fill ups and could pay for my boat, brand new. It burns 60 gallons per hour at cruising speed.

Now that’s some serious money.

I check my watch, look at the sun, and figure I have about 3 hours of light (including twilight) left. Time to head across the bay to Healy’s. Not going to call him. Just going to show up. If he’s home I’ll say Hi. If he’s not home, no worries. Still an adventure.

So I check my charts again, and set my GPS toward his place.

Apollo Beach to Riviera Bay. . .

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It’s a bit of a hike to Joes’ place, but the wind was very light, and I had a full tank of gas. Off I go.

As I make my way around the south end of Apollo Beach, I see a cruise ship off to my north, heading south down the ship canal, with Tampa in the background. Awesome! If I hurry I’ll be able to take some cool pics.

Cruise ship to the north. . .

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I race across the bay to a spot just to the west of the ship canal, near where it’s going to turn the head due south again.

She looks kinda small compared to my awesome skiff, doesn’t it?   

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Turns out she was the Radiance of the Seas, heading out on a 15-day Panama Canal cruise, winding up in San Diego in 2 weeks. . .

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Bon voyage!!!

Anyway, back to my (much more modest) cruising adventure.

I turn back to the west towards Riviera Bay and floor it. The bay has glassed out by now, and I’m able to go full throttle. Which is a good thing, because it’s going to be a horse race getting back home before dark.

The passage into Healy’s neck of the woods is a bit twisty-turny. Luckily I’ve made the trip a few times, and have the GPS tracks from previous runs up the inlet. At one point there’s a sharp right-hand turn (almost a U-turn), and then it gets really narrow and shallow. I’m making my way through OK, then

WHUMP!

The boat bogs down.

What the?

I’m on course, in the marked channel. What’s up with that?

But the tide is ebbing, and the shallows had shifted. So I raise the engine to almost complete out of the water and try to find some deeper water. Found it way off to the right. And start putting along cautiously. . . and thinking about the time, because this was supposed to be a fast stretch, and there was a long stretch of idle-speed-only still to go.

Ah well, going to cut it even closer getting home before it’s completely dark, but my running lights work and I know the way home thanks to the GPS.

And the sinking sun doesn’t stop me from snapping a picture. Still another hour and a half till sunset.

Pelican grooming itself off Wheedon Island. . .     

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As I’m slowly approaching Healy’s place I decide to give him a call. Of course, he’s not home, so I snap a photo as evidence that I’d made it across the bay.

Dock’s looking good, Joe!

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And then I turn to make the long run home. . .     

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Of course, I can’t just race my way along and ignore the pretty scenery.

St. Pete skyline . . .      

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And then the sun was gone. And I was still at the mouth of the Little Manatee River with about a mile of upriver travel remaining.

Typically I make my way along this path below. I’ve never really looked at the charts, just followed some other boats and paid a little attention to the markers. But at the stretch indicated by the arrow, it’s a bit shallow. And by now I was at low tide. This is a 25-knot section of the river, and I was cruising along about at 20.

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And the water was gone.

WHUMP! (That’s two for the day.)

Another What the. . .???

I’ve been through this area a couple of times before, at pretty low tide. But . . . I’m grounded. And it’s really shallow.

Luckily the bottom is very soft – no rocks or oyster shells – so no damage to the engine.

So I hop out of the boat, start pulling and tugging, trying to figure out which way to deeper water. I manage to find it after a few minutes, but by now I’m spooked. Have I been flying over very shallow water each time I’ve come down river?

Putt, putt, putt, I go.

And I bottom out a few more times. (Total? about 6 for the day. I started to lose count.)

By now the twilight is gone. It’s dark. But I see another boat heading upriver, and I drop in behind it. And I limp my way back home. Tired, ego a bit bruised, but safe and sound.

Looking at the chart this morning, it looks like the safer and deeper (but slower because it’s so narrow), route is to the north around a little island.

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Lesson learned.

I’ll probably check it out later today. But first, we’re off to buy a lounge chair (or two) for the pool.

To be continued. . .

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