Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hurricane Isaac should find a home at Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Wand'rin Star with double lines everywhere, headsail and bimini stripped and stowed.
The Mainsail is a Fracnor roller furling system so it is always safely stowed in a aluminum housing on the aft side of the mast.

Ripley's Believe it ir Not

This sculpture of John Lennon is cut from the New York City white pages.

The sign says it all.

Edith Ann?

The tallest guy ever

This is all Goodyear had that was the biggest, they didn't have any of the smallest.

Cool Aquariums everywhere, this one at the Rain Forest Cafe, Downtown Disney

These elephants move and are pretty loud, not sure if I could enjoy eating under them.

Mickey and Minnie of course!

Not sure what this plant is but this kind of flora is everywhere Florida.

1st show was the Blue Horizons at the Dolphin Theatre

This show was non stop action


I think every little kid in the audience was ready to try this.

They had a whole flock or these Macaws that flew through the audience

Then this version appeared and flew around

Then the guy riding the dolphins around got a lift.

Shamu Stadium was the best.

This mom and baby performed together, the little one was learning.

Mom and baby again

Here you can feed the dolphins, this is first thing in the morning breakfast.

This is the Dolphin nursery, the mom is teaching her pup.

The pup is trying to figure out how to do this?

Here you can see the manatees up close, they are huge. Shanu Stadium seats 6,000 people, there are only 5,000 Manatees in the world. There are no natural predators of the Manatees, only man has nearly forced the species to extinction. Florida is very active in protecting and nurishing the manatee habitats.

Turtle Trek was a neat exhibit 3-D journey

Lots of shore birds gather around the seal and sea lion area since many buy food to toss in, the bireds get their share.

The Shark tanks is really cool, here is a saw-tooth shark..This is where we ate at Sharks underwater Grill, the resturant scene in Jaws was shot here.

If you are ever near Plant City

Best Deal in the United States...only $1.99 for fresh peaches and home made cream!

Search for a Safe Haven during the Storm
The first NOAA Hurricane Center reports tracked Isaac near or right over Tampa. We still had several days to watch the storm and make our final Hurricane plan as he was still approaching Cuba and the local stations reported that a reliable track could not be made till after he cleared Cuba to see if the land mass changed any of Isaac’s characteristics. At this point we were way more concerned than the natives here in Tampa. We began to search local hotels in the Tampa area to see what was available. Since there were over 50,000 about to arrive in Tampa for the Republican National Convention we knew finding a safe place to stay during the storm would be difficult in the Tampa Bay area. The only thing available were 1-star hotels over $150 per night and they were not in the best locations for a storm so we knew we would have to get out of Tampa. Orlando is just 80 miles down I-4 so we decided we would try and find a hotel near I-4 in the Orlando area that had a kitchen in case we had to have an extended stay and was large enough to have the resources to take care of their guest in the event of a storm. Turns out that all the rates in Orlando were dropping to off-season rates since school has started so we had several good options. The theme parks were in the back of our minds as possible things to do while waiting out the storm but the only thing that we cared about at this point was safe shelter and way to take care of our own food needs. The Residence Inn-Sea World seemed to take care of all that and had very affordable rates. The Admiral called to make sure they could meet our needs and all seemed good so she booked it for a week since we had no idea what the aftermath of the storm would be. This is a rather large resort type of hotel with 350 rooms and they were only about 1/3 full during this week so we knew we had either beat the crowd or were misjudging the severity of the storm. Two days later this hotel was booked full.

Preparing Wand’rin Star for a Hurricane
The tracks after Isaac cleared Cuba changed every 6 hours or so. It would move farther West then it would come back and look like Tampa was going to get a bad part of it. Then they predicted a Cat 1 when it reached Tampa. I started preparing the lines for a hurricane and moving small stuff off the deck. There is no one in the slip on our port side so I could tie to the cleats on the fingers on both sides. John who owns a Catamaran next to us helped us get our head sail down and of course every fender was secured for whatever may come. I waited till the last day to deal with the dingy, bimini and the kayak. The report the morning before we departed to Orlando now showed Isaac moving off to the West and making landfall in the Florida Panhandle but it could be a Cat 2 as it was even with Tampa some 100-to 180 miles offshore. The big concern was tidal surge as the storm passed Tampa as the southwest winds would drive the water right into the Bay. I checked the storm surge maps for Tampa and our area could see a 8-10’ foot surge in a Cat 1 storm and 10-15’ above high tide in a Cat 2 storm. Our pilings here are only 12’ above high tide so of course you can understand the concern building. By noon the storm was tracking even father West so the winds in Tampa now were only forecasted to be no more than tropical force, in the 40-50 mph range. I knew I could just tie up the dingy and the Kayak on their davits and not have to take them down and lash them to the deck. But the bimini and enclosure would have to come off. The bimini has made it through 60-70 mph but since we would not be here to watch after it I wanted it secured down below and not become someone else’s problem. The Admiral had packed all our bags and cooler while I secured the boat and we loaded up the Little Truck That Can full and made it to our refuge in Orlando before dark.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not
The next morning was the calm before the storm. We knew we had some time to spend in Orlando but was unsure if we wanted to commit to buying tickets to a theme park since Orlando could receive plenty of rain in the next several days. There is a trolley that runs down the length of International drive where there are lots of restaurants, hotels, and other area attractions. We decide to get a day pass and just ride around on it to get the lay of the land. As we passed by Ripley’s Believe it or Not we talked about checking that out for the afternoon. We rode to the end of the line where there is a huge Outlet Mall and got off to walk around there but if you have been to one you have seen most of that stuff so we soon got back on the trolley and found a place for lunch near Ripley’s then spent the afternoon there. Ripley’s turned out to be fun for both of us and maybe it is because we both retired teachers that we found this to be a neat place to spend a few hours. There are plenty of unusual and unique collections and hands on fun for all ages in Ripley’s. While on the trolley ride back to the hotel the driver told us about Downtown Disney and mentioned this was a good place to spend a afternoon or evening. The next day was full of rain but it cleared off in the afternoon so we drove to Downtown Disney and It is full of restaurants and Disney theme stores. I bought a Bubble Gun and the Admiral bought a Lego kit for the grandkids. It is like a small version of Disney World without the rides, the parking and entrance are free.

Sea World Orlando
Isaac moved further West and we knew the impact in Tampa would be no more than Debby. John called to let us know Wand’rin Star was ok and it was just rainy and windy but not bad at the marina. We could even return to the boat the next day but we were already here and figured we might want to take the opportunity to do a theme park. I was here with my daughter the summer of 78’ as we were touring a few colleges for her. We went to both Universal Studios and Epcot. I explained to the Admiral that Universal Studios was great fun and Epcot was the most interesting.

Since our hotel was connected to Sea World she checked on tickets etc. She was more interested in going where she could see animals than any of the other theme parks so she bought a package that included Busch Gardens in Tampa. When she inquired why the package deal was so cheap the ticket lady explained that Sea World was trying to keep people out of Disney and in the Sea World parks. OK fine. We spent the next two days at Sea World and we almost saw all of it at least once. The next day I returned to the boat to put it back in order for us to move back onto and the Admiral did a third day at Sea World. I was amazed to see the bilge dry as we usually take in some water down the mast from rain. I checked the marks on the concrete pilings and the docks did not exceed the surge level of Debby. There was some minor street flooding in the area reported but not even as severe as Debby. You just never know but you have to prepare and make decisions early, there is just to much competition for resources once things go bad so you have to be ahead of the curve to stay reasonably comfortable instead of riding it out in a shelter. The one thing that every person on the Gulf Coast is thinking when a storm enters the Gulf of Mexico is “Please, Not Here”. Well Tampa was really into the Not Here with over 50,000 Republican guest around. The hard part is that if it is Not Here then It must be Somewhere. After spending a month in wonderful New Orleans that has just got back on her feet from Katrina we were also hoping Not There!

Plant City

We were in no particular hurry to get straight back to the boat so we looked for something to do on the way back to Tampa. Plant City is on I-4 so we looked for things to do there on the net and of course Plant City is the Strawberry Capital of the world so there are lots of Farmers markets in the Area, the best known is Parksdale Market so we made a easy side trip to get some fresh veggies. The Serendipity was the Peaches and Cream, $1.99. One bite took me back to my grandparent’s 100-acre farm in Grandview, Texas. My grandfather grew his own peaches and mixed in with my grandmothers homemade ice cream, wow back then I took this for granted since it was everyday stuff since they just lived an hour away from us. We loaded up on fresh veggies and headed off back to Westshore.

Isaac should find his way to Ripley’s Believe it Not in Orlando. Every one on the Gulf coast were trying to figure out what to believe about the ever changing forecast. For Tampa Bay this possible Cat 2 Hurricane turned out to be less of an event than Tropical Storm Debby. Even friends in Texas were concerned that it could head that direction. The standard procedure is watching the Weather Channel, local weather forecast, the NOAA Hurricane Center online, and just talking to locals to try and decipher what is coming. Since the forecast kept swinging between favorable to unfavorable tracks several times over the course of almost two weeks it was difficult to believe the forecast or Not.

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