On the Bayou in Boca and a Flip Flop in Venice

We had our first visitor come to see us and go for a sailing excursion out on the Gulf of Mexico and return to Boca Grande. Boca Grande was the place where we made the night landfall and we were hit by a squall that reduced visibility and gave us a few anxious moments. You can read all about it in a earlier blog posting. The main reason we returned to Boca this time was because of a planned rendezvous of Westsail 32 sailboats and we wanted to show off our Mary Rose and get some much needed sailing time in on the gulf. We contacted Mike DeGeorge from Kansas City and invited he and his wife to join us for the trip. Carol was unable to make it but Mike made the sacrifice and left the frigid Midwest with ice and snow to join us for this four day trip in 70 and 80 degree temps. Mike happens to be the individual that got me bit by the sailing bug. He and I along with my son Shane went to the Offshore Sailing School in the British Virgin Islands. He and I also raced in the same fleet back in KC. Mike arrive at Tampa airport on February 14th, yes Valentines Day! Oh the sacrifices one makes to sail! We had a great dinner at Fish Tales in the marina district and then to bed. We planned a predawn departure with hopes of making Boca Grande in one very long day. We filed our float plan with my son Shane and departed about 7:30 instead of the planned 6:00 AM. The winds were not in our favor and we motored and motor sailed most of the day. We made the decision to stop at Venice, FL that afternoon and then continue on to Boca the next day. I received a call from Aaron, the person that had organized the event and he indicated that there was an individual that had driven to Boca Grande and would like to meet us on Friday morning to sail the last leg of the trip with us. We were happy to accommodate and we were glad we did. JJ arrived promptly at sun rise and we were ready to shove off. JJ owns a Westsail 32 and lives in the Panhandle of Florida. JJ and her husband are the second owners of the yacht and have owned her since the mid 70's. Her husband has passed but JJ still single hands the 32 and has a great deal of sailing knowledge. So the three of us set a course to Boca Grande from Venice, FL. The marina is the Crows Nest and it is very convenient as it sits at the mouth of the inlet to the Gulf. So in less than 10 minutes from casting off dock lines you are sailing in the Gulf. The winds were great and we were able to set all three sails for most of this leg. Later in the day we had to start Mr Perkins as the winds died off a bit and the direction was not in our favor. We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy a nice lunch at a local restaurant with Aaron, his father Gary, JJ and get back to the Mary Rose to share some stories and get to know one another better. We tied up to Aaron's dock for the night in a well protected finger of a local bayou. It was mostly quiet, except for the occasional rattling of the trees by a rather large iguana. We planned another early departure the next day so we could try to make the entire passage in one day. Captain and crew were up and ready to go but we were on the bayou. Literally on the bayou. Low tide was about 4:30 AM and our keel was resting on the bottom The winds were quite strong and were keeping the tides from flowing back in through Boca Grande into Charlotte Harbor and then to our lil bayou. We tried to kedge off the dock with lines and finally decided to just wait and watch the water as it slowly made it's way up the dock pilings that were encrusted with barnacles. We would try to watch one specific barnacle to measure the progress of the incoming tide. Finally we were off and near center channel of the tiny finger and we manged to turn Mary Rose around to head back to the inlet. Then she gave a slight lurch and we were aground again. Aaron's father said, "guess there is a little hump there we did not know about." So we waited a bit and after about a 90 minute delay we were off. Mike and Lana were doing there best to watch for shallows as the tide was still not up to where it should have been for our departure. We made it out of the finger of the bayou and into the main channel of the small bay that we were in off of Charlotte harbor. We had one more known tight spot to navigate and then we would be in good deep water. We were told to take a certain red flashing marker wide to miss the shoaling. The captain (that be me) made a slight misinterpretation of wide and yes we went aground again. Mind you these were all soft groundings in soft muddy bottoms so there was no damage to Mary Rose. Captain spied a couple charter fishing boats coming and radioed them to ask if they would make a fast pass with a large wake to attempt to float us off so we could continue without the aide of a tow vessel. The first wake did nothing but the second captain got close and had a larger wake and I had Mary in reverse and when he passed we broke free. I backed to a known safe position and then cut the turn around the flashing red a bit closer as suggested by crew and we were in the channel and on our way. By this time it was clear that we would not make home port this day and set a course for Venice once we were clear of the Boca Grande channel. We arrive in Venice early enough to take a nice walk on the beach before dinner. The Crow's Nest has fine dining and a tavern type seating as well. Obviously we took the tavern seating. After dinner we headed out for showers. This where we had our Man (person) over board exercise. Called an MOB. I will not disclose the identity of the crew member. But one of the three slipped while departing Mary Rose and went into the water right between Mary Rose and the dock. It was a classic one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat, the wind blows the boat from the dock, person does splits and kerplunk they go. Well the captain sprang into action and rescued the victim. Other than a lost shoe, wet cloths, some rather minor bangs, sprangs, bruises and a damaged ego. All is well! We all got a good nights sleep and we set sail at first light for Tampa Bay. We decided to duck in and take the Intercoastal Water Way (ICW) at Long Boat Pass on Long Boat Key. This was a good idea and saved us about two hours of sailing time if we had stayed in the Gulf until we hit the mullet channel into the bay. We had to clear three draw bridges and then we were on our way in Tampa Bay. Once we were in Tampa Bay we could see the wind line of an approaching cold front. We donned our foul weather gear and reduced sail area. As we were reducing sail the headsail sheets became fouled. Mike sprang into action and went to the forepeak and went to work to clear the sheets. He performed the procedure perfectly executing the solution to the problem in high winds, rough seas, with one hand for him and one hand for the boat. I was proud of both crew members on this trip and it was and honor to sail with them. The winds doubled and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees as soon as the front passed us. We arrived back at home port and had a great time. Mike spent a great deal of time on the tiller and Lana got to know the new GPS system rather well. She also mastered the setting of the staysail and took a turn as watch captain while The Captain took a much needed nap in the V-Birth. We really enjoyed the trip and it was great to have Mike aboard. I know he really missed the ice and snow and below freezing temps. Mike stuck around one more day and we went sailing on the bay with my daughter Shannon and her two children, Alex and LeeAnn. The Boca Grande total voyage consisted of four days, three nights, about 180 nautical miles. Stay tuned for much more to come..........................................

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