Crossing Over To The Fabulous Gulf Coast

For weeks leading up to it, I dreaded the nighttime Gulf crossing from Apalachicola to Clearwater Beach. To identify a good weather window (with few to no waves and little wind!) for a full 24 hour period is tricky. And running at night is risky, even though my experienced sailor-captain and instrument-rated pilot enjoys it. But we were blessed! The seas were calm, we enjoyed a glorious sunset and then even a moon-set as it followed sun’s path across the Gulf. Craig was a doll and took most of the night watch while I snoozed. We had a couple hours of two foot waves during the 18 hour run, but nothing terribly uncomfortable. The kitties and Joy Girl did great!

After the crossing we spent a full week relaxing in spectacular Clearwater Beach. To quote a local resident, Clearwater “is so beautiful it looks fake”. They groom the white, quartz-sand beaches daily and the town is clean with immaculate landscaping. We visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where they filmed Dolphin Tale and we saw Winter, the dolphin who lost part of her tail and received a prosthetic to replace it. We also took the trolley up north to Tarpon Springs where they still harvest sponge.

We made a quick stop in St. Petersburg to attend a boat show and meet another friend from Colorado, and I slipped into a gorgeous Chihuly exhibit and glass blowing demo (sans Craig, not his thing!) The marina/hotel had a fabulous pool, a hot tub, and even shuffleboard for the aging Kozaks.

In Sarasota we saw more friends! Boaters Tom & Julie who we met in Canada last year, our sister-in-law Linda who came down to move her aunt to an assisted living facility (we helped her with that sad and stressful project), AND our fabulous Colorado friends Kent and Sue who winter in Siesta Key, just south of Sarasota. We had a blast with them and are so glad we were able to get together!

I also spent one glorious afternoon in Italy – oops, I mean the Ringling Mansion (Ca’ d’ZanHouse of John in the Venetian dialect) and his Art Museum. John Ringling (yes, the circus man), built this incredible Italian palazzo in the 1920’s and donated it and his exquisite personal art collection to the state of Florida upon his death. Indoor photos were not allowed but I caught a few outside. If you are in the area, don’t miss this amazing place! I was so inspired that I insisted our next stop be Venice (well, Venice, Florida, that is….)

On the trek down the ICW from Sarasota to Fort Myers we saw sooooo many dolphins and I was able to capture a few fun antics on video. Need to smile? Go ahead 🙂

We are now in Fort Myers for a month of relaxation. Well, that was the plan until Roswell contracted a case of pancreatitis the day after we arrived. We hope to break him out of the hospital tonight since he’s now keeping food down. Prognosis for the future is good, we just need to keep him unstressed, so that may tip our hand on what to do with Joy Girl after we complete the Loop. We’ll see…

Merry Christmas! We miss all our family and friends! Hope your holidays are wonderful.