Oct 6, 201203:10 PM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Tampa Bay and Apollo Beach
We pulled up anchor on a bright, sunny Friday morning and set a course for Apollo Beach. I took this picture of the famous Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg as we cruised by. (It's the big pink building.) We heard its been renovated. We're happy when landmarks are kept up and not left to decay.
Our route to Apollo Beach was only 23 miles, but we decided to take a detour and travel up the western side of Tampa Bay to check out the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel and Marina.
As we were tooling along at our normal 8 to 9 miles per hour, the boat in the picture above showed up right next to us with no courtesy call on the radio or honk on the horn. The captain waved, but I would have liked it better had he given us notice. The wake he was throwing was a huge one, but not a bell ringer. I told him on the radio that he should have signaled us before he passed, but we understand, being peons and all.
This is the entrance to the Vinoy. It's right in downtown Tampa, next to a small airport. The harbor is home to several large yachts and is very nice. We were interested in seeing it because a friend of ours had his 65-footer there for about two years, and we were hoping to meet up with him when we moved down to Florida, but he has since moved his boat back up to the Alton area. When he was down here, John Travolta kept his boat in the slip next to him. Nice neighborhood. My old boss has a boat in there, too. A beer is named after his family. If we were going to stay in this area, I would look into getting a slip at the Vinoy. They are negotiable on their pricing and are unbelievably reasonable as far as costs go.
We had a mission, and that was to meet friends on Friday night at Circles, a bar/restaurant at the Lands End Marina in Apollo Beach, 10 miles across the bay. I set a route in a straight line, and we just putted along and watched lots of dolphins and manta rays as we went. The bay was calm, and we were in no hurry. With a half-tank of water and about the same on fuel, I cranked up the Cats and let Swing Set run for a few miles. I'm happy to report nothing broke.
We got to the first light into the Apollo Beach Harbor, and I followed the advice on Active Captain and hugged the starboard side of the entrance. We were at low tide, and we soon were in four feet of water...nervous territory for me. I turned around, checked the chart and made another approach favoring the port side. Big mistake, we were soon in 3.4 feet of water and I saw sand kicking up at our stern.
At this point, we turned back out again and I went to drop a hook outside of the entrance and wait for the rising tide to help us get in. It was only 3 o'clock, and we weren't due to meet our friends until 6 or 7. Meanwhile, I called the marina and got some local knowledge about the depth going into the harbor. I also called our friend, Doug, who navigates this channel quite a bit, and I found that I should have just cut the channel right down the middle, like I normally would in the first place. (Unless we're in a river and heading into a slough.)
While Rosie got her shower, I sat in the cockpit and observed how other boats were navigating the channel, and when a couple of the larger boats plowed right through with no problem, I knew we would be OK. Sure enough, we sailed right in there and pulled into a courtesy slip right in front of the restaurant. A patron at the bar came out and gave us a helpful hand getting our lines secure.
Doug and Jeanne are here in the picture with Rosie. We met them back in the '80s at a resort down here in Florida. They lived in Ohio and moved here in 1991, left their jobs and sold their home. Doug set to remodeling homes in Apollo Beach and now owns more than 20 properties and keeps very busy. Many of their friends followed them down from Ohio, and they have a big social circle. We hadn't seen them since we bought our boat eight years ago, and it was good to catch up.
Another rain storm was developing while we were in the bar, so we were glad we pulled into the marina and didn't leave Swing Set out on the hook.
The worst of the weather spared us, but we did get the salt rinsed off the boat with the cooling rain. We stayed in our slip until early morning and then moved out into the harbor to have our coffee and breakfast.
We have an invitation to take our boat to the home of one of Doug and Jeanne's friends, where we'll leave it for the day and take the dinghy out to Beer Can Island and meet up with Doug and Jeanne. We'll also be able to keep it there this evening when we all go watch some college football at a local hangout. Holly will have to miss out.