End of Story

End of Story:

We landed safely in St. Petersburg/Tampa. In the first few weeks there, we bought a Toyota Corolla with remarkable fuel efficiency, got a new GSM mobile phone from ATT with terrible coverage, and we found a slip in Ruskin, a tiny town 30 min south of Tampa, most well known for its tomatoes. Since tides are not very large here, the docks are not floating like in Seattle, which means that at high tide, climbing down the deck of Temptress onto the dock is not fun. Especially in high heels, going out for an interview! We lived on the boat until August, using the free internet access at the local library to search for a job. We visited our friends Peter and Diane in Orlando frequently.

In August, without immediate prospect for a job, we moved to Mt Dora, in the winter house of Clark’s parents. It was very nice to stay in a real house, fully furnished and with plenty of space. Birgitta’s mom came to visit us there for a week, and we explored the town and the Ocala forest. We started getting involved in house maintenance and gardening with surprising pleasure. We also went kayaking on the Alexander river in the Ocala forest.

So this is the end of cruising for now. Hope you have enjoyed reading our logs. The rest of our lives is another adventure.

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Venice, Florida

May 25, 2003. Venice, Florida.

We are still in Venice although it rained only one day heavily. Since it is Memorial Day weekend (a big American holiday), there is a fair amount of pleasure boat traffic and we were worried that it might be difficult to find an anchorage space in Tampa Bay. So, weather permitting, we will sail to Tampa Monday.

In the mean time, we have enjoyed some of the pleasure of being back in the USA: reading interesting newspapers in English (the New York Times), visiting the beautiful public library of Venice where we have free internet access, shopping in well-stocked supermarkets, eating tender meat, and walking on wide smooth sidewalks on large avenues shaded with trees. Venice is a well-to-do city (at least in our neighborhood) and everything is clean and well maintained if not always of inspired architecture.

We have been researching cars through the consumer’s reports at the library and on the internet, and it looks like I might try to buy a 2-year old Toyota Echo, once we land in Tampa. We also have been looking at cell-phone plans and just need to get an address to have it shipped to us. Not having an address is a severe handicap at this time.

Unfortunately, the US civilization also has its drawbacks. Saturday, we were given a ticket by the Florida police because Temptress is not registered in the State of Florida (or any other state) currently. The fact that we have been out of the country for 3 years and just got back did not matter, nor the fact that we don’t yet have an address (which would be required to register the boat). The official thought that we should have had a relative keep up the registration in the state of Washington while we were gone! For us to investigate and find out the letter of the law would be too expensive and time consuming, so we will just pay the fine and register Tuesday, probably with Clark’s parents address in Mont Dora. It was upsetting to get what we thought was an unfair fine and it will be a hassle to deal with it before we have established ourselves anywhere permanently, but we certainly do not want to keep paying fines and we have heard from many people that the Florida police is very active in enforcement.

Still in Venice

Still in Venice Florida.

It seems like every time we travel north we find we have run into winter. I guess it is spring this time. I think I like not having all these seasons. On the way to Venice we saw quite a lot of thunderstorms forming on the Florida coast and heading out into the Golf. I did a bit of dodging to miss the worst of them. It is nice that they showed up so well on radar so I could figure a course that would miss the densest parts of them.

Last night the thunderstorms started again. We had to re-anchor at the beginning of the storm as the wind came from a new direction for us here and we were uncomfortably close to a neighboring boat. You wouldn’t believe how boats are anchored here. There are so few places deep enough for a boat they are right on top of each other. And we are so big by the local standards it was particularly hard to find a place for Temptress. Well we moved the anchor about 15 feet to the side and got back below before the rain really started. It pounded down and has been raining hard off and on all night and morning. It shows no sign of stopping. I hope this weather pattern only lasts a little while as we are feeling trapped on the boat. We would like to explore Venice some more or we would like to head north again to St. Petersburg so we can get a mail box then a cell phone and a car and really start our new land life. Well I guess today, and maybe the weekend, we will just read books.

I put the TV antenna up yesterday but the offerings were so stupid I didn’t really enjoy the experience. I will probably build up an immunity to TV again and be able to tolerate it but for now I can only handle it in small doses. It seems like the only show on is “Will and Grace” and “Friends”. Seriously last night there were at least 4 episodes of “Will and Grace” and I don’t know how many “Friends”. Beside that it seems American TV is filled out with a lot of talent contest type shows and really faked reality shows. I know TV was always stupid by it has really slipped while we were away.

Venice

Wednesday May 21, 2003. Venice, Florida.

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In the Dry Tortugas, which is a national park, we visited Fort Jefferson, the largest 19th century American coastal fort. It was built to protect a large deep anchorage (the only deep anchorage between the Chesapeake and the Rio Grande) and to control the main entrance to the Gulf of Mexico in the time of sailing vessels. The architecture of the fort was quite ambitious but the Corps of Engineer of the time had no experience building heavy structures over a tiny sand island. As a result the weight of the fort made it sink in the sand, cracking walls and the precious cisterns. The Dry Tortugas have no fresh water and no local building materials. Everything (14 million bricks) had to be imported by sailing ships.

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The fort was never finished (to reduce the weight) and never fully armed but there were some impressive cannons to be seen, including a 15-inch smooth bore Rodman, one of the biggest cannon ever built, capable of throwing a 15 inch diamamter cannon ball 3 miles away, but with little accuracy.

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In the evening, the park ranger gave a slide show on American coastal forts which was interesting. Only cruisers boaters from Florida attended as other tourists come only on a day trip from Key West. There are no hotel or camping facilities at the site.

The next day, we went snorkeling at one of the site recommended by the site brochure. We found only a handful of coral head but each was like a pretty flower arrangement in a large crystal bowl. The bowl was a round piece of hard coral, inside which delicate soft coral was growing and many fish were gathered. We also saw many big lobsters which were unafraid of us. Fishing is prohibited within park boundaries and they knew it!

We had been warned that the Florida water police would be picky about such things as having life-jackets and navigation lights on the dinghy and sure enough we received a friendly warning from them because we were not flying a dive flag on the dinghy while snorkeling. It seems to us that an empty, anchored dinghy is pretty obvious warning in itself.

Since the weather was threatening to change, we did not stay to explore other snorkeling locations, but left Tuesday on an overnight trip to Venice, Florida. Dolphins accompanied us for a while and the evening brought a spectacular display of thunderstorms. After a windy night, we arrived in Venice at around 10 AM. The town is called Venice due to many canals and some Italian-style architecture. It was difficult to find a place to anchor as there is very little space and many boats but we did finally drop anchor. After Clark replaced the bathroom sump pump which had failed during the night, we both went to sleep.

We will likely check-in back in the US tomorrow and explore the city a bit. Then we will make our last sail of this trip to St-Petersburg/Tampa, which will take only one day.

Dry Tortugas

 

5-17-03 1:00 pm Dry Tortugas (USA).

N 24 37 55 Sunny 90 degrees F
W 82 52 38 Anchored

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We are here! Temptress’ anchor has touched US soil (or sand) for the first time in 3 years. We arrived about noon and it was a pleasure to see all the buoys marking every shoal and channel. It was also great to see that the chart is exactly accurate with the GPS. Most of the time in Mexico we seem to have to anchor up on a hill according to the chart plotter.

Last night we had quite a bit more wind and waves then the start of the trip that made the last part of the trip very bumpy. Birgitta was unable to sleep last night so she dropped into bed once we anchored after a shower and some food. There is no check in here and since we are both US citizens we can just anchor and relax. It is always a pain to do check-in when you arrive in a new country (or any new harbor in Mexico). We are usually quite tired and the last thing we want to do is assemble the dingy and meet with officials. Today the dingy stays on deck!

For this trip I planned a course with a big curve to the north of the direct line between Isla Mujeres and the Dry Tortugas. I allowed the golf stream to push me north while I crossed it expecting another leg of it to push me back south. No sense fighting nature I figure. Well we didn’t see the second leg until much later then I expected. And by that part of the trip the wind moved around to the east so it looked like I screwed up and we were going to have to motor into the wind for about 30 miles to make up. About 60 miles out the current started and the wind built. We were pushed south like I had planned and the increased wind allowed us to sail again at speed without the engine. All told we used 17 gallons of diesel motorsailing to make the 300 mile trip. We were able to hold up a head sail the whole time though the wind was often too light to keep us at full speed. It looks like my planning paid off as we just talked to another boat that left with us. They are about 5 or 6 hours behind us. I understand they motored with the same logic we did, but fought the current more. Of course they might have held back on the engine more then we did allowing their boat so sail slower. One never knows. It was kind of fun working out a fast course based on wind, expected wind, and lots of current. Felt sort of like racing.