|Approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge|
|Plenty of clearance at 191 feet!|
|Bradenton Beach Anchorage...need to come back here for a couple of nights.|
|The Admiral at Big Sarasota Pass|
|Almost to Sarasota.|
|The Admiral liked the Green Roof of this structure at the marina|
|South Lido Key Beach along the Big Sarasota Pass|
|Looking back at Sarasota from South Lido Key Beach|
|Not sure if he ever got this one down|
|They are careful with the turtles just like South Padre|
|He just wanted some left over fries|
|Excellant Mangrooves at South Lido Key|
|Gulf side of south Lido Key|
|We keep trying to find a Banyon Tree..this is not one|
|The dingy beach at O'leary's|
|Sarasota Bay Anchorage looking toward the Gulf at Big Sarasota Pass and South Lido Key on the right|
|Wond'rin Star pointed every direction in this anchorage.|
|A night herring makeing good use of a mooring ball.|
|The Spoonbills just keep getting more color as you go south|
|The entrance to siesta Key Beach|
|The beach sand is finely ground quartz. It never gets hot to walk on!|
|Fill in the Blank|
|These Life guards have a great gig|
|Couldn't say it better.|
Days 181-184 May 22-25 Trip to Sarasota
Underway 6:45 hrs, 40.5Km, avg speed 6.0kts. WNW 0-10 sunny 85 RPM 1750
Return: Underway 6:53hrs 40.3Km avg speed 5.8Kts ENE 0-10 Sunny 85 RPM 1800
The Admiral knew she would be returning to Texas soon to assist her parents again so she checked out the weather for the week of May 21 and she made the call to go to Sarasota before she had to go back to Texas. The weather looked good all week, the only concern was Memorial Day weekend. Tampa Bay is full of recreational boaters and we were concerned about being in some narrow channels with hundreds of other boaters. We decided to go Tuesday May 22 and make the return no later than Friday the 25th to avoid any heavy traffic. The only other concern were the tides, we were just hoping for an ebb tide to depart on since it can make a huge difference in getting out of Tampa Bay. We just had to get up and depart by 0700 to take advantage of the ebb but that is normal for us anyway to get up at 0530 and be gone early. The Garmin estimated 7 hours and by using the autopilot the trip was cut 15 minutes. It took about 3 hours to get to the Tampa Bay sunshine Skyway Bridge and by then the tide was slack so another hour to the ICW entrance from the bay south bound to Sarasota.
Anna Maria Island
Here the scenery begins to drastically change as you are surrounded by land small bays and anchorages. Anna Maria Island is immediately off to Starboard and although it was indistinguishable to us somewhere to port was the Manatee River. As we entered the narrow ICW I turned off the autopilot and took the helm. As the autopilot makes corrections it sometimes takes longer than the width of a narrow channel to correct the course at 6 knots. The water depth on either side of the channel was often 2 feet or less so you have to pay attention especially when you are sharing the space with all sizes of vessels. Our first bridge to get through was the Anna Maria Island Bascule Bridge. The bridges along this part of the ICW open up every twenty minutes so it is best to time your arrival so you do not have to tread water in a small area avoiding other boats doing the same. This is where the Garmin comes in Handy, I just set a course waypoint right at the bridge location, this way the Garmin reports a ETA to the waypoint and you can easily either speed up or slow down to time your arrival. About 4-5 minutes out I call the bridge tender on the VHF to let them know who we are, the direction we are heading and request a bridge opening. This works well and provides the bridge tender with sufficient time to manage the traffic, both on the road and in the water. The bridge tenders appreciate your being close to the bridge at it’s opening so the traffic will not have to wait to long for you to pass. The water and scenery continues to improve as we approach the Cortez Bridge almost exactly 20 minutes away.
Bradenton Beach Anchorage
Just past the Cortez Bridge is the anchorage at Bradenton Beach. Just seeing this makes you want to come back here and stay a couple of nights in this beautiful spot.
Longboat Pass/Bascule Bridge
Longboat Pass is just a narrow inlet from the Gulf, I am sure all of these small inlets would require some local knowledge before transiting them. They look kinda scary on the charts and Google Earth, but just like the East Pass at Destin with the proper knowledge and timing with the tides I am sure a sailboat can make the pass. I just wonder though if you were coming in on an incoming tide and you had to wait for the bridge to open?
Just after Longboat Pass is another great looking anchorage at Longbeach. Really cool spot! Then you come to New Pass/Bascule Bridge. Here I actually got to see a couple of fishing boats come in from the Gulf and watched as they waited for a short time for the bridge to open, I wondered what the current was doing in the pass just then.
When you get to Lido Key you are almost to Sarasota, you can see the skyline across the bay.. Lido Key is where the Admirals Grandparents would make an annual pilgrimage to every summer when she was a kid. She remembered the name of the resort where they stayed, “Azure Tides”. I thought it would be cool if somehow we could get over there somehow on this trip to see it.
The Ringling Bridge
As you approach the 65’ fixed Ringling Bridge you hope the tide is not at full flood. With a 61’ mast these bridges are always a concern. Just before we arrives at the bridge a 60’+ motor yacht had just cleared going the opposite direction at around 20 knots. The water was quite choppy on our approach to the bridge, the Admiral requested that I stop and wait for the waves to calm before we committed to the bridge and this again was another great call as after the water became flat again and I looked up as passed under it seemed as we had 2 feet or less clearance.
The Sarasota Bay anchorage is just 5 minutes from the bridge. I had read several reviews of the anchorage on Active Captain and one review suggested to work your way in close and find an open spot near O’Leary’s bar so you have a short dingy ride to the dingy beach and you are away from the chop that develops from the transiting vessels in the ICW. Well we did just that and the Admiral has become an expert in driving us in to the best spot to drop the hook. We used to do a drive by around check it all out first, but know she just takes the wheel, I go up front to deal with the ground tackle and with just a few hand signals we get the task done easily. Even though the weather forecast was great for light winds and only a 10% chance of rain I decided to go ahead and set a second anchor since in the next two days we would see winds from W, N, E, and S. in the next two days. We had boats on all four sides of us and most of them just had 1 anchor out so I set the second one relatively close at a 30 degree angle since you want your boat to swing like all the other boats to keep a consistent distance away. The Admiral suggested I use the Kayak instead of the dingy to set the other anchor since getting the kayak down is quick. Well handling a heavy anchor and its chain on a Kayak is an interesting endeavour. I learned here the dingy is best suited for the job. This is a technique that I still need to develop, as we have not anchored with so many boats around us except one other time at the Navy Regatta in Corpus.
Big Sarasota PassAfter we got all that done we relaxed in the cockpit and enjoyed the view, to our Southwest we could see the Big Sarasota Pass and Siesta Key. We could also see Bird Key but we could not figure it out since it just looked like part of Lido Key.
Since the kayak was down we spent the afternoon kayaking around the shoreline to the Municipal marina and back to O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill. You pay O’Leary’s $2 to leave your dingy or kayak on their beach. They have convenient metal post spaced out so you can lock it up for the day. The next day I got the dingy down and we made the 75 yard ride to O’Leary’s to leave the dingy. You are already in downtown Sarasota so you just walk across the street so what we would describe as Florida’s Palo Alto. Zero trash, not even a cigarette butt on the street. 5 star restaurants, shops hotels, etc. every step. There is a Whole Foods about 5 blocks distance so we went there for lunch and we discovered a bus transit center right across the street. We went over there and found we could get a bus over to Lido Key, a wonderful local woman told us about South Lido Beach and highly recommended visiting this park for the day. So we took the next bus over the Ringling bridge, about a 15 minute ride and found this great park with four different environments to discover. There is a wonderful beach on the Gulf side, and then the Big Sarasota Pass runs along the South end. This is a very wide pass but I think only a small unmarked channel is navigable by boat and I would not even think of it without a local sailor on board. In the interior part of the park is a huge area of mangroves and a big attraction for kayakers. Of course lots of birds and wildlife, some of the trails looked like alligator habitat so we avoided that whole part. There were two large raccoons that came right out within feet of us to check out the garbage cans looking for some McDonalds I guess. They were cautious of the people around but they cruised by several people. One guy that must have been from Louisiana screamed COONS! I could not help but laugh out loud. I do not know if the man was trying to warn everyone or if he was hungry? Anyway this is a must do park if you ever come to Sarasota. The Admiral googled Azure Tides resort and found out that it had been leveled 5 years ago and the Ritz rebuilt a resort there. I tried to convince her to go have a drink at their Tiki bar that was preserved but she declined, we saw it as we drove by.
When we got back to the Bay we decided to take in the Happy Hour at O’Learys Tiki Bar. Again a wonderful local woman explained to us that we needed to definitely see Siesta Key Beach as it was rated America’s #1 Beach. So we made plans to go back to the little bus stop and use our second day on Siesta Key. We spent a second great evening in the anchorage with a great breeze funneled down the hatches keeping us cool all night.
Siesta Key Beach was another great beach and the amazing thing here is the sand is ground quartz. Super White and very cool to the feet, it never gets hot. You absolutely must have sunglasses here due to the incredible reflection from the sand and you are in a literal UV oven since you get it from above and below and from every direction. Two hours and we were done on this beach, we walked to the shopping district just down about a mile from the beach and enjoyed seeing the area shops. We decided to do happy hour on the boat so we stopped at Whole Foods on the way back for snacks and drinks, my favorite Pale Ale was on sale and I could not wait to enjoy another evening here before we departed back for Tampa. We dingyed back to the boat & I tried to convince the Admiral to get a drink and go for a dingy ride around the anchorage. She declined so I grabbed a beer and did a little tour, as I as getting back to the boat the Admiral encouraged me to quickly get the dingy up since there were some clouds building in the area. Sure enough just as I got it all up and put away it started sprinkling. The clouds that went over us to Lido Key seemed to have returned looking a bit meaner. I stayed out in the light rain getting everything in order as the Admiral was down below checking the weather on the IPOD. It was 2100 and almost dark now, the winds picked up and the rain very hard. Lots of red, and yellows, with some purple to the south of us. I decided to stay in the cockpit to make sure the anchor did not drag. It started getting crazy, I stayed under the dodger as the rain was coming in through the cockpit horizontal full force. The boat swung and healed over enough that stuff on the Galley counter fell off. The lightening and was insane and neither of us had ever heard such cracking thunder ever.The boat just ahead if us seemed to have dragged back even with us. As the winds turned from the south our stern was just 10-15 feet from his bow. I knew he was on board but I could not see him in his cockpit. I went down below to get the key so I could start the engine if I need to hold our position. The storm lasted two hours. what we learned later is that a 10% chance of rain in Florida means 10% will get a friggen Storm, in Texas it means a sprinkle maybe. After the rain died down I shortened the anchor rode a bit to keep us away from the boat that drug down. I saw him come up and check his gear but it was over so we could get some sleep and prepare to depart early am.
I knew our anchors would be well dug in the next morning so after I got my first cup of coffee I took it up with me to start retrieving the anchors. I could not believe it, the anchor windless was dead, it would not work. I had prepared a line to use just in case this ever happened with a chain hook on the end so I could use the Mast winches to winch in 20' links of anchor rode at a time. The second anchor was a bear, it took me 45 minutes to get it to the surface, and then I realized why, it had become entangled with some abandoned mooring lines. I had to get the kayak down and get the mooring lines off the anchor. 1st anchor was up and secure. The primary anchor came up without any fuss but I had to manhandle the last few feet by hand and I was just hoping I had not put to much strain on the old back.
The Admiral thought I was goofing off and when she came up she wondered what I had been doing, I tried to be nice. She took the helm and we motored out to the ICW so I could have time to clean up the deck and put all the stuff away in the anchor locker. It was another beautiful day and I would get tested a bit as the traffic was a bit heavier but most of it was going the opposite direction for Memorial Day. As soon as we got back to Tampa Bay I turned on the Autopilot and used it the entire 4 hours back to our home at Westshore. It seemed to work even better than ever, I think I have finally gotton all the cobwebs off.