Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Visitors On Board

Day 140-141
Miles today:    48   Total miles: 2,744
Hours today:    5.9
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

It has definitely not been "business as usual" on our boat. For nearly two weeks we have had company staying with us. Last week our younger son, daughter-in-law, 9 month-old grandson, and our daughter were with us. We had fun visiting Manatee Park, Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, the rookery near Venice, and Cayo Costa, all while consuming as much sea food as possible- and a fair amount of ice cream. Little Thomas loved cruising with us, as did his parents and auntie. The dolphins put in several appearances, to the delight of our guests.

5 adults and a baby on board for a week- and it worked out very well!

This group left Sunday, and Mark's sister and brother-in-law arrived later that night. We cruised out to Cayo Costa and anchored in Pelican Bay overnight. We took the dinghy over to the state park and went to the beach on the Gulf side of the island. It was gorgeous!

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Day With Friends

Today was one of those completely unplanned days that was full of unexpected adventures and fun. Friends Randy and Annette (who are from home but have a house here as well) picked us up and took us on a unique outing. We headed south on I-75 toward Fort Myers. Our first stop was at Manatee Park, a spot where manatees like to hang out in the winter. They are attracted to the warmer water discharged by the power plant. There were plenty of these strange-looking animals s-l-o-w-l-y swimming around. An adult manatee eats about 100 pounds of vegetation, like mangrove leaves and sea grass, in a day. That is a lot of green stuff!

Our next stop was Fleamasters Flea Market. It was quite a place- 900 stores! We prowled around for awhile and moved on.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve was next.These 2,500 acres are home to a diverse array of plant and animal communities. A boardwalk trail winds through about 80 acres.

Cypress trees
Strap Fern and a tree with lichens growing on it

We weren't finished yet- we moved on to Sun Harvest Citrus to buy fresh juice and ice cream. Orange juice and also Strawberry Orange juice- fresh and delicious. Our ice cream cones were a chocolate/key lime twist and and orange/vanilla twist- perfect after a hike in the swamp.

We returned to the boat for pizza. Having friends show us the sights was wonderful!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Singing to the Dolphins

Day 129
Miles today:  65      Total miles: 2,647.9
Hours today:    5.9
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

Today we had a glorious cruise from Venice to Punta Gorda, with a stop at Burnt Store Marina for fuel. We are pleased with our fuel economy, 2.75 miles/gallon, or 2.5 gallons/hour. Pretty impressive!

Dolphins were plentiful today! I read somewhere that if you knock on the side of the boat or sing, the dolphins like it and might put on a show. I stood on the bow for a good 25 minutes singing to the dolphins that swam right along with us. They were so close, they splashed me several times! The 2 of them really liked "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells", which I sang ad nauseam. They kept pace with us the whole time- but one song was clearly their favorite. You won't believe this- but when I sang the theme song from the 60's TV show "Flipper" they actually turned on their sides and looked at me! I am not making this up! I have the pictures to prove it!

For those of you who are too young to know about "Flipper", here's a link to help you out:  These dolphins are the second audience to appreciate my singing voice- the first being the residents of my Dad's nursing home. (Alzheimers Unit)

Here's the more typical shot:

And, just to illustrate Mark's often repeated advice to "not drive where the birds are walking", I offer this:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bradenton to Venice

Day 128
Miles today:  45.4   Total miles: 2,582.9
Hours today:    5.5
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

Today we untied our lines and headed south. After spending four weeks in Bradenton, it felt great to be on the move again as we made our way down the Manatee River to the ICW. We had a few beam waves off Anna Maria Island, but they were not a problem. It took us about three hours to reach Sarasota- a mere 14 miles by car. The bay was gorgeous. This was one of the widest spots in the water on today's trip.

The waterway is lined with beautiful houses- just amazing!

We had to go under several bridges today- only two of them had to open for us. This was the smallest. The bridge operator had to walk out to the middle of the bridge to open it- which was whenever a boat asked for it to open. Cars just have to wait on boats.

We caught occasional glimpses of the open water of the Gulf.

The difference in water color was impossible to miss!

Know what happens when you leave your boat unattended for too long??

We tied up at our marina in Venice and went for a walk across the bridge over Hatchet Creek into downtown Venice. Lucky for us the Gentlemen of Jazz were playing in the park- every Wednesday afternoon!

Speaking of lucky coincidences, we found fellow Loopers Ken and Anne on Charis. Venice is their homeport, so they were able to join us for cocktails. We also connected with friends from home, Bob and Gail, for dinner- making for a spontaneous, fun evening.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Riverwalk Regatta

Day 124
Miles today:  0    Total miles: 2,537.5
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

This was the day for which all of Bradenton has been preparing for ages- the very first Riverwalk Regatta! Events included a kids fishing contest, a 5K run, jet ski races at 80 mph, HydroCross, concerts, x-pogo, frisbee-catching dogs, local bands, Formula 2 race boats, and fireworks. Our friends Bruce and Anne joined us to take in all the day offered. We battled the huge crowds (50,000 plus) for a awhile, but soon decided we could watch most of the interesting events from our own fly bridge in comfort.

This bridge was closed to traffic all day.

These SST/120 Superstock speedsters hit speeds of up to 125 mph


The flyboard, invented in 2011, is powered by a jet ski.
Fireworks produced by Zambezi
The fireworks started promptly at 6:40 pm and were the most spectacular that any of us had ever witnessed. It was a 15-minute  non-stop, heart pounding performance of pyrotechnic wizardry and wonder, fired off from 3 separate locations simultaneously. Simply incredible!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

DaVinci the Mariner

Day 122
Miles today:  0    Total miles: 2,537.5
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

Today, among other things, we walked across the street to see the DaVinci/Michelangelo exhibit at the local auditorium. This was not a collection of priceless paintings and sculptures, but rather an assortment of machines that DaVinci designed and a group of copies of the most famous art works of both men. We were primarily interested in the machine models that were constructed using DaVinci's designs from over 500 years ago. He drew plans for war machines, flying machines, building machines, and other useful devices. Unfortunately he was ahead of his time, and very few people could understand the brilliance of his ideas. I had no idea he was into boating!

Mark demonstrates a whatchamacallit

DaVinci's idea for a paddleboat

A flotation ring
Underwater breathing apparatus
Today's activity was a lot more enjoyable than yesterday's- we spent most of the day compounding, buffing, washing and waxing parts of Mara Beel. We even took the dinghy off and lowered the mast to clean those hard to reach places. Not fun, but necessary. I saw this comment on Facebook today, and thought it very accurate:

 A boat owner was asked,"Is there ever a time when you have this zen moment when everything is working perfectly on the boat?" and the answer was, "You have to understand that the natural state of all the systems on the boat is BROKEN. Anything else is just temporary."

The hubbub around downtown Bradenton continues to build as the town prepares for Saturday's big event- the first ever Riverwalk Regatta. The day includes everything from a 5K run to 120 mph speed boat races on the Manatee River; live music; food vendors; kids' activities, etc. etc. topped off with a huge fireworks display. 50-75,000 people are expected to take part in the festivities. I can't even imagine how it will all work. I wonder if city officials have it figured out. Where will they all park?? It will be interesting!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Back at Myakka

Day 120
Miles today:  0    Total miles: 2,537.5
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

We didn't see all that Myakka River Park has to offer last week, so we returned today. This visit we did the Birdwalk and the Canopy Walk. I preferred the Birdwalk, since I am rather fond of the earth. This boardwalk extends into the marshy area along the edge of the river. We saw several Glossy Ibises, White Ibises, Egrets, and Mottled Ducks. 

The Canopy Walk is a walkway suspended between two wooden towers. It swings back and forth (mainly thanks to Mark). It's only about 25 feet off the ground, but the tower is 76 feet high. We had a great view of the park and the treetops. I was only a tiny bit queasy.

The walkway

View from the tower

It was cool in the morning, but warmed up nicely by afternoon. Another beautiful day!