Both Cindy and I agree perhaps the hardest part about going sailing is leaving good friends behind. And, I mean good friends. Friends who show up at our boat and bring a bottle of wine for everyone on board. Yes. Very good friends!
We have talked to our friends, whom by now I’m sure are sick of hearing about it, regarding our upcoming sailing adventure. Our December departure date for the Bahamas is just around the corner and our land life is swiftly dissolving. Before we set sail over the horizon, we wanted our friends to have a small taste of our future life at sea. They are landlubbers who have never sailed, until now.
So here we are, it’s September in the Sunshine State; otherwise known as the monsoon season. St. Petersburg experiences about 7” of rain each month for July, August and September. This is about 1” more than Portland OR or Seattle WA experience in their rainiest months. Yep! Who would have thought it rains more in the Sunshine State than cities renowned for their rainy weather. The big advantage of the St. Petersburg area is when it rains, it rains hard. So, it’s over and done with pretty quickly. You know what I mean: thunder, lighting, high gusty winds, no visibility. Yes, the perfect weather for sailing.
Our weather pattern has been the same for the past few weeks. High in the low 90’s, beautiful mornings with no wind and about an 80% chance of afternoon thunder storms. This was not going to stop us from having a good time. Our friends arrived at the boat Thursday night, with wine. Did I mention that already? We all got hammered. They treated Cindy and myself to a fabulous meal at our favorite St. Petersburg restaurant, Gratzzi’s. Did I mention these are good friends?
Our weather Friday did not disappoint. We were treated to light southeast winds and afternoon storms. To ensure we could take full advantage of the sailing time before the impending storms, we got an early start. We cast off the dock lines at 10am ~ish. I’m pretty sure I do not need to mention wine anymore. Unbeknownst to us at the time, what lay ahead was one of our best sailing days ever!
We motored out of the marina. I remember well the very first time I was on a large sailboat, the crew set the sails and the Captain killed the engine. I remember the feeling of awe as the sails filled and the boat glided gently across the water using only the power of the wind. Whenever, I have someone on the boat who hasn’t experience this, I watch their face as I kill the engine. I’m never disappointed…
We set a course for and uninhabited island called Pine Key but locally known as Beer Can Island. It just dawned on me, there is a theme developing here. We enjoyed a perfectly upright sail to the island, ideal for newbie’s. We set the anchor and fired up the BBQ for a late lunch.
We picked the perfect spot. We anchored on the lee side of the island to protect us from waves that could build up with the afternoon storms. We watch the weather closely. Our plan was to stay there until the storms passed and then head back to St. Pete in the early evening. We thought we might get a soaking. However, it rained everywhere except over us. At one point the coastguard was warning small craft to take cover due to a line of fierce storms. These were just south of us and moving to the east. We watched from a safe distance as Bradenton was inundated with lightning. We saw St.Peterburg disappear in rain on the far horizon. That rain moved to Tampa. We stayed dry. Well, most of us did. The water was too inviting on a hot afternoon.
About twenty dolphins came along side of the boat and began to feed. Dolphins feed by working as a group to shoal up small fish and then eat from the outside in. The little fish, in this case probably mackerel, panic and jump out of the water. This gives the effect that it is raining on the water. This attracts birds. We enjoyed the show about 15 feet off the side of Cream Puff. Sorry, very limited pictures of this as we were all caught up in the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom moment (you need to be over 50 to get the reference). Cindy told our friends it was difficult to arrange the dolphin show for that particular afternoon. However, the Dolphins signed on once the mackerel committed.
On our return sail back to St. Petersburg, we had tail winds. We sailed with a sail winged out on each side of the boat. The wind picked up nicely and we pushed about 5 knots on calm waters. We decided to slow the boat by lowering all but one sail so we could enjoy the sunset from the water. Oh boy! We were not disappointed.
Saturday was the calmest we have experience in ages. No wind at all. But this did not deter us from having a blast. We sailed, and I use that term loosely, out of the marina and bobbed for a while. As the day heated up it just seemed that the best idea was to go over the side and into the water. This is where we spent the most of the day. We got our float toys out and cooled off in the bay. The only ripples on the water are the ones made by us.
I have joked here about all the wine and our trip to Beer Can Island. I assure you, we do not drink and sail. But, we sure as heck make up for it when we get back to the dock. Cindy mixed up a batch of her secret recipe margaritas and we found yet more wine chilling in the fridge. Our sundowners came a little early this day. We ended our evening at a British pub, The Moon Under Water. They have the best cornish pastries and fish & chips anywhere in the world, except England. They also have draught Guinness, a Skipper’s favorite. We all slept well that night.
Cindy and I would both like to throw some joy and happiness to our dear friends: Cindy, Doreen, Sandy and Mona. We had an awesome time and hope one day you track us down in “the islands” to do it again. Thanks for sharing your pictures so we can hang onto a favorite memory. Good times.