We made it from Rodriguez Key to just south of sister rock with a following wind by 4pm. For hours we had a bright spinnaker slowly gaining on us. Eventually the silhouette of an Island Packet came to be seen. As we passed sister rock I hailed them on channel 16 to instigate a conversation about Sister Creek and possibly taking it this time into Boot Key Harbor. They had never used it either. They were going to the outside anchorage for an early start the next morning. We decided to take the safe route and go around like we normally do. Then as we were due south of Sister Creek we couldn't resist and turned to take the short cut. As we went over the sandbar stretching across the entrance our depth sounder said "0" feet several times and only "0.2" most of the time. We radioed the Island Packet and gave them the info after we were safely within the creek and had several feet under the keel.
This was our shortest stop ever in Boot Key. We filled the water and fuel before sunset. Grabbed a bite to eat and crashed for the evening. The next morning we hit Publix for a couple items to get us across Florida Bay. Then we were off heading toward 7 mile bridge in less than 24 hours. This was our best day, afternoon actually, of sailing all season.
The next morning the wind had clocked around slightly and we were dead down wind, wing and wing. By mid afternoon the calculations put us arriving at San Carlos Bay anchorage right at sunset and exposed to 20 knts. The seas were building over six feet as the wind continued to increase. With 25 miles to go we bailed out and entered Gordon Pass for the first time. After reading the reviews on Active Captain we chose Naples-3. Once there our now 25 knots was a slight breeze after being filtered by the multimillion dollar homes. By midnight the anchorage was dead calm and the bugs found us. Our first and only bug screen night of the season.
The next day was an easy, peaceful (midweek), trip through the Miserable Mile and beyond. We anchored for the night at Useppa Island.
Best fish. Mahi-Mahi after leaving Morgans Bluff
Hardest picture to get, this year and last year, oh my to try next year
Best smiles and laughs
We pulled anchor before sunrise and headed north only thinking for a moment about going offshore for this leg. The once again 15-20 kept us inside which worked out rather well. As we rushed to make the Boca Grande bridge opening we blew by (with sails up) another 30 foot sail boat waiting patiently for the opening. As we entered Placidia Harbour we allowed them to motor past us as we de-sailed. Our speeds were matched as we continued on North keeping us rather close. We followed their lead and released the roller furling. We both were able to keep the foresails flying for over 17 miles on the ICW. Yes it would have been rough outside. As we passed Venice they stopped at the Crow's Nest for the night. We on the other hand fell to our weakness of "we must press on". We made Longboat Key with daylight remaining but not very much. For the first time we could not connect to any internet here.
The next morning was a little foggy, seams to be so in this area often. While waiting on the Cortez bridge we did our normal check of the anchorage to see if the local Vega is still anchored here. It was but so was John's Warrem Cat that was anchored in Mad Beach when we left. No time to stay and talk. On to Anna Maria we go.
As we waited the 5 minutes for the bridge to open I started to re-evaluated the weather. Over and over we thought about turning back for the day. We thought about going into Anna Maria or even the Manatee River. The dismal gray skies we very, very dark toward St Pete. So impending in the doom were they that I called in an reinitialized my phone so we could use the radar. Seeing the incoming red line of the front we still decided to cross Tampa Bay anyway. We should be near the Maximo Park anchorage by the time the brunt of it hits.
About 2.5 miles from Maximo the horizontal rain hit as we motored up the sunshine channel. Already soaked by the rain, even with a jacket, we decided to turn left as we crossed the ICW. As we approached structure E bridge they opened for a barge. We tried to sneak through before they closed it (yes we radioed in and they knew) but at the moment we came even to the bridge fenders the outboard lost drive!
Best conch day, North Bimini flats
Ayrton's best lobster
Best snapper, schoolmaster
Best cave, Thunderball Grotto
We quickly found out the over engineered safety precautions on the Honda meant we had no drive with a broken throttle cable. Looking over the situation in the cold rain provided no immediate "alternate engineering options". Plan B meant swapping the main motor for the dinghy motor to continue on. Somewhere during this I was reminded I was a little short on the fingers. The little dinghy motor puttered on making it to Mad Beach around 3pm.
Gemini Dreams spent two nights tied to the floating dock at McDonalds while we caught up with the other half of our family. Ayrton spending time with his mom and sister while I returned to the boat each night. When I went to anchor out the little mercury wouldn't start so she spent a third night at the dock. The next morning I drained the fuel and changed the spark plug with success.
I motored Gemini Dreams over to the anchorage setting only the Fortress. Then it was time to get back up on the horse again. Yes this was the third time the dinghy was lowered into the water from the foredeck since the accident but it was the first time by myself. All went well even transferring the motor from Gemini Dreams onto the dinghy while favoring my hand. Now the only problem was the motor wouldn't start. Seems the water was in the one gallon container not the motor, at least not until I poured it in there repeatedly. Time to repeat the procedure once again.
Now we sit here in Boca Ciega trying to decide if we are clicking our heals 3 times to return to the Emerald City or staying here in Mad Beach. Seems like we have been cursed since that night under the Blood Red Moon.