Tuesday, February 27, 2007

So what have we been up to?

Sorry I haven't updated lately. It's a rough life, lounging around the pool, drinking margaritas, etc.
Saturday we went out on the Gulf for a few hours with our next-door neighbor, Phil, on his Catalina 30. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and with a light breeze.
We've been exploring the area on our bikes. (Did I mention we bought a pair of folding bikes?) We've been to the beach and generally all over town, getting the lay of the land.
Sunday evening we had our friend Tom over for dinner. Tom is a guy from Oklahoma who just bought a boat and wants to sail to the islands. We're worried about him as he has no sailing experience and his boat is very old and in rotten shape. He's determined to leave this week. He'll need a lot of luck so everybody cross your fingers, say a prayer, whatever, for Tom.
After dinner, Tom and I jammed with our guitars for a while.
Last night we went to Gulfport where I auditioned for a part in the upcoming play, "Scapino." I made the "call back" list and so I have to go back tonight. So far, it looks like I'm in the running for the lead part. At the very least, I think I will get a part, if not the lead.
I've also been working on designing a wind-powered self-steering gear for the boat. If I can get it to work, it will make a crossing directly from here to the Keys a lot easier. I did some research and found a way to use the mizzen sail as a wind vane, linked to the tiller, to provide "hands off" steering without using the autopilot (which uses electricity and doesn't compensate for wind shifts.) Since we'll be staying here for a while, I'll have time to build and test it. A direct crossing from here to the Keys will take nearly 2 full days, so hands-off steering will make the crossing possible.
By the way, for all our family and friends up north - it's been in the mid 70's and sunny nearly every day here. Shorts and sandals every day.
As the song says:
"They've traded in their winter coats
for bathin's suits and shades."*

*from "Same Boat" by Eric Stone

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Downtown, where the lights are bright...

Well, we're still getting settled in, getting to know the area, etc.
Yesterday we took a trip to downtown St. Pete. We saw the crew of "Breakaway" and had a little visit to catch up on what we've all been doing. Tony and Renee have changed their plans and now hope to make it the Keys. It was good to see them again as we haven't seen them since Dog River.
After our visit with Breakaway, we walked over to the "American Stage" theater to see Neil Simon's play "Chapter 2." This was a professional production in a very small venue. The theater has only 124 seats. It is set up in a rectangular room with the stage set in one corner and the seats arranged along two walls radiating our from the opposite corner. The set-up and the small size mean that every seat has a good view of the stage and no seat is more than a few feet away.
The actors were all professionals. One of them, Christopher Cass, has done movies and TV, including a stint on each of 2 soap operas.
We really enjoyed the play, and afterward we went to Dan Marino's restaurant for dinner. I had the ribs and Bev had Lemon-Portabello Chicken. Both were excellent.
After dinner we took the bus home. It's nice having bus service so handy.
During our visit with Breakaway, we had a discussion of Florida's laws concerning boat registration. It turns out that if we stay in FL for 90 days we have to register the boat here and pay sales tax on the value of the boat. That just sucks. Why do politicians go out of their way to make life difficult for people. Don't they realize that folks like me live on our boats because we just don't have the money for their damned taxes?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Our little slice of paradise?

Well, that's stretching the point, but even so, I think we found a spot where we'd like to spend some time.
We loved Gulfport, but the town has an ordinance against "liveaboards" and the municipal marina only allows "transients" to stay for 72 hours. We doubt the legality of these rules, but don't have the time, money or energy to fight them. At the suggestion of the guys at the Gulfport marina, we walked over to S. Pasadena (about 2 miles away) and checked out the Pasadena Marina.
It turns out that they allow, even encourage liveaboards and there was one slip available for a boat our size.
After talking it over for a bit, Bev and I decided that we needed to take a break from cruising for a while and establish a "base of operations" from which to continue our exploration of the coast.
We signed up for a one-month stay here in Pasadena, with automatic renewal if we want it.
We will use this time to regroup, reorganize the boat, rest, relax and enjoy the St. Pete area with all its many attractions. We will take day trips out to the Gulf on nice days to do some sailing and build our confidence with sailing in Gulf waters. At some point when the mood and the weather are right we will make an excursion to the Keys, then come back here, perhaps until the approach of hurricane season. Key West is 220 miles from here and can be done as one 48-hour trip. We've never done that long of a trip in one hop, but it does seem the easiest way to get from here to there.
The weather here has finally decided to act like Florida. The temps are in the high 60's and low 70's, the sun is shining and it is just delightful.
The marina is walking distance to 3 major supermarkets, several restaurants and pubs, a Blockbuster, banks, etc.
We can take a bus to downtown St. Pete for $1.50. There we find lots of museums, theaters, shops, etc. so there's always something to do.
All in all, this seems like a good spot to spend some time.
The last two pictures on this post are of the friendly guys at Gulfport Marina who helped us find our new "base of opereations." Thanks, guys.
And thanks to all the folks at Pasadena who made us feel so welcome.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Beyond this place there be Dragons!

That's the sign at the entrance to the driveway of a house not far from the Marina here in Gulfport. And true to its word, sure enough, just beyond the sign, lurking along the wall of the house - a Dragon! Big, shiny metal scales and all.
The woman who lives in the house always wanted a dragon, and her husband gave her one right before he died. She keeps it there, in good repair, in his memory.
Her husband always hosted a big Christmas party every year for the kids in the community, and his widow has kept up the tradition.
All this we learned from Sandy who gave us a ride to Walmart. We were in desperate need of a Walmart fix and she took pity on us and gave us a ride. Thank you, Sandy - for the ride and the local folklore.
Friday night we took a walk downtown to see the "First Friday Artwalk," a regular monthly event. We saw some neat art, heard some live music then walked over to the theater to see a community production of "Lend me a Tenor." The play was very well produced, acted and directed and so funny it left us sore for hours.
Today we took a bus to downtown St. Pete. A $1.50 fare got us downtown where another $.25 took us on the trolly to all the downtown attractions. We went to the pier but were disappointed that the aquarium was closed for renovations. We went to the local history museum and learned that the very first regularly scheduled passenger airline got its start running between Tampa and St. Pete starting Jan 1, 1914. The flight consisted on the pilot, one passenger and a sack of mail. It cut travel time from several hours by steamer to 22 minutes by air - rocketing along at the breakneck speed of 55 mph!
Another 25-cent trolley ride brought us to the Salvador Dali museum. Did he ever have some good drugs? Wow! It is really neat to see his paintings in the original. The details they contain just cannot be brought out in a reproduction. We learned that he was inspired by the Spanish Baroque masters and was influenced by all the great 20th century trends from surrealism to Andy Warhol. Although the museum was built during his lifetime, he himself never visited.
While we were downtown at the pier we spotted "Breakaway" a boat we had traveled with on the Mississippi and the Tenn-Tom. Her crew has completed the loop, and it looks like Breakaway herself may be up for sale.
Walking around the city of Gulfport, we are reminded of what "old Florida" must have been like. We have gotten rather fond of the place. Too bad they have this pronounced prejudice against "liveaboards." I wouldn't mind tying up here for a couple of months to relax. I guess that's just not allowed any more. Pity.

Friday, February 02, 2007

We're OK!

Some of you may have heard about the line of strong storms that raced through central Florida last night.
We experienced some strong thunderstorms, lots of wind and rain and an exceptionally high tide, but otherwise we are fine. The marina we are staying in is very well protected from the waves, which is good because the Bay was very rough yesterday and last night.
Farther inland there was a tornado and as many as 19 people were killed.
I had to get up during the night to set extra lines and adjust the fenders, but other than that we came through it all just fine.