St. Petersburg Museum Day

February 27, Tuesday – St. Petersburg

The mooring area of the marina where we spent the first night back from our travels to Marathon  looked beautiful in the morning. Note the opening to the bay in one of the photos, which will become an issue later on (when winds come in from that direction).

After breakfast (still ginger, cinnamon, banana oatmeal) we took the dingy to shore and walked to the Salvador Dali museum – a work of art in itself.  It contains the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Spain thanks to the Morses’ who were passionate collectors, and decided that their museum should be located in St. Petersburg. The collection contains works from his traditional beginnings, through his very surreal phase and then his grand religious works later in life. But I was amazed at the complex details in all he painted – tiny figures that actually made up a face from a distance for example. Thanks to  a number of docents describing the painting we also learned of the deep symbolism in the images – most of which I would have missed.

We had lunch at The Hanger – a cafe located at the local private Albert Whitted Airport next door to the museum.  The airport will also soon be hosting the Grand Prix –  grand stands were already being set up on the field. We hear that the the downtown will be very busy and noisy for that weekend (glad we won’t be there).

Dirk headed back to the marina but I was excited to see the Chihuly Collection – a master glass artisan whose work is astonishing. There was a exhibit in Boston a few years ago that I missed (but there was an example for us to see during the Lake Boon Boat Parade that year! (Lots of colorful balloons in a boat!))  I digress…

Again there was a  docent to provide background to what we were seeing including how the glass is illuminated (always from the outside) and moved to each site (individual pieces that all need to be reassembled according to details directions). And to describe how something that looks rather simple is quite challenging (glass balls).

The Glass Garden Room was about 40 feet long and contained so many glass shapes…

We were also able to view a lengthy example of glass blowing with many layers of glass to produce the multi-colored effects inside and out. It takes a lot of strength and patience from what I could see.

As I walked back to the marina I saw more examples of wall murals and building art. It’s quite the artsy city!

We joined our friends Jane and Bryce for dinner on their sailboat, also in the mooring field. It was a great last day and evening in St. Pete.

Driving to Marathon and Back

February 24, 25, 26  (Saturday, Sunday, Monday from St. Petersburg to Marathon in the Keys and back.

Our friends from Brick, NJ who helped us when we grounded our boat a few times in New Jersey and also helped me see a doctor when I was pretty sick there, were having a party in Marathon, FL (a 6 hours drive away) on Sunday and we didn’t want to miss it since it would likely be the last large gathering of fellow loopers we’d be able to attend. On Saturday we wandered around two nearby parks in St. Petersburg and enjoyed an amazing display of art for sale ( maybe 50 booths) and then a very huge farmers market with many temptations. Later we rented a car, moved our boat to a mooring ball vs the slip to save money ($15 vs $80 /night) and then drove to Homestead FL at the top of the Keys for the night as we headed toward the Sunday party in Marathon.

Sunday morning we stopped at our boat’s home port in Islamorada and visited with the owner, Pam Anderson, telling that we hoped she’d have a place for us in April, and then continued south. We almost made to the party spot, Banana Bay Marina, when we saw the Air Museum that had been closed last time we tried to visit. In we went, only to find out that a number of the antique planes blew away or were destroyed in hurricane Irma last year. Very sad. But Dirk talked with the manager,  looked at what was there and enjoyed the stop.

We reached the marina where Pat and George Hospedar, authors of two Great Loop books, greeted everyone, gave us name tags (very useful!) and we immediately spotted our friends Jan and Ron.

We chatted with friends we had met along the way, Loopers that finished their trips years ago and a couple that was just started to plan their journey. Pat H. had hired a wonderful band and even sang with them at one point (she was a music and choral teacher) and many people gathered for a sunset photo.

We stayed overnight in a lovely place – Coconut Bay Resort – which has gorgeous grounds and lovely cabins. It felt like we were in a botanical garden! In addition the owner makes delicious multi-flavor scones every morning for the guests. I’d love to spend more time there if I ever get the chance.

We traveled back to St Petersburg most of Monday. We returned our car, Ubered back to the marina and found our dingy still at the dingy dock  (yea) and took it to the boat for a quiet night.

Forward to St. Petersburg

February 22, 23 Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg FL

We had planned to leave for St. Petersburg on Thursday, but Dirk was up most of the night Wednesday with a stomach bug so we quietly recovered instead. I walked around the Sponge Docks again, chatted with boat neighbors and we went to bed early.

Yesterday (Friday) we were up and out by 8am, and although it was windy (6-8 knots) on the larger waters in the GIWW (Gulf Intracostal Waterway) the swell was only about a foot so no drama for us. (Yea!)

We enjoyed our final views of Tarpon Springs as we traveled through the Anclote River to the waterway.

Initially we encountered both waterfront homes as well as beaches and southern “woods” along the way, but after Dunedin and our first Florida bascule bridge, both sides of the rivers, bays,etc were just solid with homes, condos and high-rises of all sorts. I guess that is what we will be seeing for a while.

We also needed to slow down for no wake zones and people fishing along the way. This is normal in Florida but it was the first time it had been required quite so often since we were on canals in Canada.

We found the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina on the second try (there are three marinas in the same area) and settled in. It is fairly large and has very nice facilities (clean shower room!) and is 2 blocks from the downtown of the very large city. We immediately saw Jane Johnson, a friend from the Mobile, AL marina, and we joined her and another couple for dinner.

We stopped to listen to a band near the restaurant and then left for the short walk back to the boat. See our boat with the lights of the city beyond? Pretty cool.


Ukulele Fun and Good Friends

February 20 & 21, Tuesday and Wednesday; Tarpon Springs, FL

In the last two days I’ve traveled south to the town of Dunedin – by car and bus – not boat. And why? So I could play ukulele along with Jan Mutaska’s dulcimer; Jan being the boating friend that we ate dinner with the other night. Yesterday she drove 1/2 hour north from Dunedin to pick me up so I could enjoy their Dulcimer Club meeting at the Dunedin Senior Center. I was amazed at the number of players –  25 or more- all playing lovely dulcimer music. Jan had told me to join in with my ukulele and people were very welcoming. Of course there were 3 women there originally from Massachusetts and we chatted a bit.

We had a quiet evening and I took a walk around the marina at sunset.

Today (Wednesday) Jan and I had more musical plans. We joined a groups of blue grass musicians that play together for a few hours each week next to the Rail trail in Dunedin. There were 3 fiddlers, a banjo, a bass and 3 guitars, a hammered dulcimer, Jan with her dulcimer and myself and another woman with our ukuleles. It was fun and challenging in that we had no music and had to figure out when to play which chords by ear. I’m not sure the ukes added much but it was fun.

To get to Dunedin I decided to figure out the public transportation in this tourist area – which is the Jolly Trolley! It involved going online, downloading an app (of course) to get a schedule and then walking about 5 minutes to the local stop. But I forgot about the “exact change” part and ended up “borrowing” a quarter each from two nice young men on the trolley!

Since it was our last night in Tarpon Springs we planned to go out with our friends Chris and Roger to the famous Rusty Bellies seafood restaurant. (They had non-seafood options as well). To  organize our outing I downloaded yet another app – “Nowait” because the restaurant always has long wait times.  The app lets you get your name on the wait list before you leave your abode (aboat?).  We had a good meal and a very good time. We will miss our new friends.



More time in Tarpon Springs

February 18, 19 – Sunday, Monday in Tarpon Springs

Although we have places to go and people to see, we are really enjoying Tarpon Springs and decided to stay the rest of the week (through Thursday)  since we get 2 days free after paying for one more day.

On Sunday morning I found another Unitarian Universalist church to visit – only about 8 blocks from the marina. Unfortunately the church is undergoing massive repairs right now due a sink hole that caused major issues and the need for rebuilding a portion of their buildings. I walked about 1.5 miles to their temporary space and who did I see? Helen Ham from our church in Stow!! She and her husband Ron live in the area for about three months each year. This church has quite a thriving congregation –  the largest I’ve seen in my travels thus far. Here is photos of the historic church…

In the last few days I’ve roamed the area a bit. Here are photos of the Sponge Docks (tourist shops and Greek restaurants on the harbor)


In the downtown area there is an amazing mosaic mural honoring a woman (Mother Meres) that helped beautify the town in the late 1800’s with her gardens. Also a large Greek church.

There is an upscale area not far from the marina ….

Monday evening we joined Chris and Roger to watch the sunset at a small beach in Tarpon Springs


Tarpon Springs – Warm Florida!

February 16 & 17; Friday/Saturday Tarpon Springs, Florida

It’s warm!!!  Today I wore shorts for the first time since we arrived on the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast (where I thought it would be warm, but it was not to be this year).  Yesterday and today were sunny and in the 70’s – how very nice.

So about Tarpon Springs… This small city has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. It is also home to the Florida sponge industry, which grew rapidly when Greek sponge diving was introduced to Tarpon Springs by recruiting divers and crew members from Greek islands.  The sponge industry was once one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and is still the focus of the tourist industry here. Guess which type of restaurant is most prevalent here? Hint: Thursday night we went to Costas Restaurant and Friday night it was Mykonos. Lots of lamb and feta cheese. Both restaurants were very good and flexible enough to have at least one vegan option on the menu.

Friday morning Dirk and I walked into town to a popular breakfast cafe (Tula’s) which is along side of a 35 mile bike trail and explored a little of the main town.  To get there we walked about 1/2 mile on  tree-lined and brick paved streets where we found the  banks, antique shops and eateries. The separate tourist area is by the harbor and called the Sponge Docks. It has the normal shops with t-shirts and jewelry, and most stores also have a large selection of the natural sponges of different varieties.


On Friday we needed to find a dentist since Dirk had lost a filling a few days earlier. We were lucky on two counts – he found a dentist that would see him in the afternoon, and boating friends Chris and Roger loaned us their car so we could drive him 15 miles to the appointment. He got a temp cap and I took a walk and saw two ducks with about 30 little ducklings following them – too cute!


In the evening we ate with three other looper couples at a Greek restaurant of course.


Note: Left front to right front: Tom and Lili Hudson, Dirk and I, Roger Kay and Kris Martinsek, and Kim and Tom from Sweet Liberty.

Today I did some shopping in the morning, boat cleaning up for a while in the afternoon, and Dirk had a much needed hair cut and beard trim. Around 4pm our friends Ron and Jan Matuska from Dunedin came for a visit.

We met Ron and Jan first on their boat Adagio in Brick, New Jersey and then we met again when the Champlain canal flooded in Whitehall, NY. A number of boaters had to wait 3 or 4 days for the water levels to go down to a safe traveling level to allow us to go through the last lock on the canal.  Jan plays beautiful dulcimer and I played along with the ukulele, and then we made music again today on our boat. We enjoyed catching up and trying a new Italian restaurant in town.  (We are living it up these last three days – pretty unusual for us, but all good).

The Crossing: Part III

February 15, Thursday –  Cedar Key to Tarpon Springs

We made it across the Big Bend! The crossing of the open water in Florida called the Big Bend that I worried would be hard and scary is done, and wasn’t that bad after all. Not to say there weren’t a few challenges in the last twenty-four hours of it, but we have arrived in Tarpon Springs. Yeah! Here’s a drawing of the Big Bend showing our 3 legs versus the overnight option. (Note: Our Great Loop adventure is still not complete – we need to get to Islamorada in the Florida Keys for that “crossing the wake” milestone. Maybe another month or more).


Yesterday in Cedar Key we decided to save some time  by anchoring in a calm bay vs going down a windy path to the town so we could shorten our “commute” to our next stop 65+miles away. The anchorage  was fine,  had a beautiful view of the Milky Way, all was calm. But – after we were in bed some large swells disrupted our peace for a few hours- tossing us back and forth for a few seconds, dying down and then starting again. Pretty hard to sleep. I finally took 2 ibuprofen and sang songs from musicals in my head until I got to sleep. Dirk was awake until the bay calmed down about midnight or one. Whew. Lesson learned.

This morning it was very foggy but we left anyway since we could follow our course on our GPS Chartplotter and the fog was predicted to be gone by 9 am. Well, it was thick and difficult to see more than 100 yards ahead for more than 3 1/2 hours! We have the radar and the navigation lights were on in case other vessels were near.  Since I was enjoying the fresh air of the fly bridge, I piloted most of the morning. It wouldn’t have been bad but I couldn’t take my eyes off the water and relax because of the crab pots we can’t float over – their thin anchor wires could tangle up our propellers.  I saw hundreds of them today and cruised this way and that to avoid them. Finally the fog lifted around noon, making it easier to slalom around the crab pots.

Foggy ride and can you spot the crab pot?

The rest of the day (8 1/2 hours in total) was beautiful again, with sun, warmth and calm seas. As we came closer to Tarpon Springs we started to see some of the character we will explore in the next day or two.

We are staying at the Turtle Cove Marina and so are our friends we left in Apalachicola. Tom and Lili, and Roger and Kris just finished the overnight trip direct from Apalachicola so they are very weary.  (They had a near miss by a tug boat in the the middle of the night in the fog!)

We’ll all sleep well tonight!






The Crossing: Part I and II

February 13 and 14, Monday and Tuesday; to Steinhatchee and Cedar Key FL

Yesterday we traveled about 70 miles across the Gulf of Mexico to Steinhatchee Florida. We had anchored out in Alligator Bay overnight to save about 10 miles and were glad we did. Although we thought wind and waves wouldn’t be too much for us, the swells were just high enough from the wrong direction to cause me some queasiness. I took a 1/2 Bonine  (like Dramamine) and sat comfortably down outside on the bow. I enjoyed the ride, sitting on our comfy chair cushion, eyes closed, half snoozing while the boat rocked me. Worked for me but Dirk had a long day.

At one point he shouted and there were dolphins all around us and they stayed with us for about 5 minutes. His photos are here. I was on the bow so could see them swimming under as well as on top of the water.


We stayed at a marina after all. We were going to anchor out, but the likely spots were already full of sailboats and there was an opening at an easy-to-reach marina, called Sea Hag Marine!  Dirk treated us to pizza down the road; an early valentine-day treat.

Here are our leaving shots in the morning.

Today is the miracle day on the Gulf;  barely any waves, just feeling small  bounces with little swells and then the sun came out. It is gorgeous. Still not hot mind you, I’m wearing two layers of long sleeves, but am comfortable. (It was 4 layers at the start of the day).

After lunch I relaxed on the bow seat again, and then moved up to the flybridge with my Uke so Dirk could rest. We saw more dolphins, and now jellyfish too as we get close to our next stop, Cedar Key. The shot of me below was taken on my bow seat, being lazy on this lovely day. About an hour after we anchored near the town of Cedar Key we saw a nice sunset – the first in a while.


Lovin’ Apalachicola

February 6 – 10, Tuesday through Saturday nights, Apalachicola, FL

We had been looking forward to visiting Apalachicola by boat since our fellow loopers, Dodie and John, have moved here after finishing the loop. We are staying in the Scipio Marina (silent C) which is on a creek off of the Apalachicola River. It is only about 8 blocks from our friend’s house in one direction and from the downtown in another.

The first night we ate at the Up the Creek Restaurant near by – good place.  We passed it on the way in, along with houseboats that are AirBNB or VRBO rentals – how fun would that be?

I loved visiting Apalachicola.  The town center is about 4 blocks deep and 8 blocks long, mostly one or two story buildings, and people like to chat and are friendly. There are  plenty of coffee and breakfast places, a couple of bookstores,  many interesting shops and a number of art and pottery studios. Although we didn’t take advantage of all the seafood restaurants or the bars with live music, we heard good things about them from the other boaters.

Which is another reason this was so much fun – when we got to the marina we found two sets of loopers we knew from Mobile: Lili and Tom Hudson and Kris and Roger, and we started getting together most days for docktails around around 5:30 to share boating stories, sites to see in the area, etc. Two other boats joined us after a few days, and there are 3 more anchored in the harbor that we’ve met as well. What is  the main topic? When are we going to cross the Big Bend?

The Intracostal protected waters stop about 20 boating miles from here (west of Lighthouse Point on the left of the map) and don’t pick up again until after Florida’s Big Bend ends in Tarpon Springs, FL (bottom right).  The direct trip across the gulf is an 18 to 23 hour overnight trip, and boaters must wait until the Gulf of Mexico is unusually calm before taking off on this journey. The alternative to cruising overnight is to do the trip in 2 or 3 legs, which is our preference, anchoring out in the few safe harbors along the way. We will stop in Steinhatchee and Cedar Key areas before getting to Tarpon Springs.  This route still is highly dependent on calm winds and waves over a 3 day period so we discuss the weather, the approach, etc, every day!big bend

Here we are one evening have dock-tails on our sundeck…

I did a lot of walking around town, and one day I rented a bike as well. The trip to the only grocery store (Piggily Wiggily) was a decent workout on a regular basis.

Looking at the map, our marina is on the creek near the Orman House, the downtown is where Commerce and Water street are labeled, and you can see Piggily Wiggily up about about another 10 blocks. Here are more scenes from the area.

Today (Saturday), our last day here, was busy. Lili, Dodie and I joined the local Yoga class and I had quite a workout and then I headed to the Farmers Market near another area along the creek that I hadn’t explored. John and Dodie were there and after some shopping, Dodie took me to Wildlife Preserve boardwalk that provides a view of the natural look of the area.

I don’t want to leave out the Vietnam War Memorial located in front of the historic Orman House which I also toured.

Enough! It was a great visit and we very much enjoyed being with our best boat buddies, John and Dodie, as well as new boat buddies we will hopefully continue to meet up with as we travel the west coast of Florida.

White City Free Dock

Monday, February 5 & 6, White City Florida

We left Panama City without first getting a pump out because there were a few boats already waiting for fuel and a pump-out at the dock, and we figured we’d be in the next marina soon. However after about 15 minutes travel we had to go back – guess who had left their phone in the bathroom in the Marina office!! So back we went, and it turned out to be a good thing because the next marina’s pump-out is broken and it will be a while before we have another opportunity.

We had a easy but fairly long day, partially because the second part of it was in a long, windy, narrow canal with few anchoring spots. Around 3:30 we came to the small White City free docks next to a park and a fishing pier, and tied up there for the night, getting some help and advise from some the local fisherman. After walking a ways to a General Store for ice-cream, as we returned to the boat we saw a sign on the dock, facing the park, not the water, that says “No overnight docking”.  We checked with the locals who advised us to ignore it, because boats like ours stay there all the time, so  that’s what we did.  It was a peaceful night with a great view of stars, and since we had a short day planned we took our time leaving.