Oh Bother! as Pooh would say…

chharborWe hung around Venice an extra day because the North wind continued to blow,  we were pinned to the dock and the National Weather Service had extended the small craft advisory for another day.

On Saturday morning,  I checked the weather as I do nearly much as I check Facebook,  and cleared us for travel southward.   Our float plan would take us out into the Gulf for a 30 mile run,  we would enter at Boca Grande, a opening to a large deep bay.   Leaving Venice Inlet the 2 and 3 foot waves were abeam and made the ride uncomfortable.    When Robin turned the boat southward and I let out a bit of sail to steady the boat we picked up boat speed into the mid sevens;  this is perfect, I thought,  a downwind run for the day.

The rest of the sail was uneventful.   Robin and I made the approach to Boca Grande,  putting the breaking waves on the beam,  the ride got uncomfortable again, but we knew that it would  only last for about 15 minutes, until we reached the safety of Charlotte Harbor.

Robin turned the boat and we joined the ICW for a mile or two,  turning off into Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park.  Following our electronic trail that we left last June, we ghosted with sometimes less than 1 foot of water under the keel to our anchorage.   The anchor set the first time.  Everything was going according to plan at this point.

As sailors we try to prepare for every contingency.   We play tons of “What if?” games.   What if we run aground?  What if the batteries go dead?  What happens if?  And while we try to prepare for everything, we can’t possibly consider or address every option.   This was precisely what happened when I noticed what looked like a  swarm of bees hovering around our mainsail.  Looking around the dodger,  the swarm continued to build,  I could see bees coming from the nearby land.  At first there were 20 or so,  then 30, then 100 or maybe more.

The bees were swarming on the main sail at first. There on the luff of the mainsail was what appeared to be a sheet of bees. They looked quite content to huddle together on the flat of the sail out of the wind protected by the fold of sailcloth above them.   Lacking any serious bug spray and not wanting to kill the bees,  we opted to raise the mainsail  hoping that in the breeze the bees would not be able to hang on and would  be blown away in the wind.

Robin braved the swarming bees to untie the sail ties,  while my hyper-allergic self used the halyard to raise the sail from the safety of the cockpit.  Instead of having the bees leave the boat,  they quickly gathered at the end of boom, finding the hollow of the boom and likely rejoicing at finding something much like a dead tree hollowed out and suitable for habitation.

I could see this was going to be a problem,  I shouted on the VHF to see if I could gather some assistance from the local park rangers at Cayo Costa,  no luck.   I googled the phone number for the ranger station, no one answered.   Thinking all the while  that we needed help with this situation before the bees on the boat became even more problematic.

I remembered years ago  that my good friend, Pat Franz ’78 from Subiaco had helped the Abbey set up some bee hives.  He’d even shared some of the delicious honey from his own hives in Oklahoma.   He knows about bees I thought.   Using the phone a friend option,  I call him up and leave a frantic voice mail pleading for him to call me back.  All the while the bees are swarming around the end of the boom while Robin fended them off with a towel tied to a boat hook.    In a few minutes, Pat called back.    In less than 5 minutes he explained what’s going on with our bee problem.   This isn’t a swarm by apiarian standards, but an advance scout team of bees looking for a new home.    He said that  time is critical in discouraging these docile insects.  Should enough of the scouts return to the main hive, they will work to convince more than half the bees to leave their current hive and arrive at our location to start a new hive.

He instructed us to make a mix of Dawn dish soap and water and begin to liberally apply the soapy mix to areas where the bees are swarming.    The bees, now discouraged, would begin to leave. Just as he said, the bees left as Robin continued to spray the sails and boom.  Soon most of the bees had left Sea Change.

We managed to get all of the bees off the boat and while a few of them were killed by a direct hit of the dawn mixture, by and large,  most of the bees escaped and relocated hopefully to a better location than Sea Change.

I chuckle to think of the picture we presented; Me, intermittently poking my head out of the companion way to give instructions or help and Robin climbing around the foredeck armed with a towel, boat hook and spray bottle of dilute Dawn, all the while bees zoomed about trying to find a home.

So the bees have gone and the sail is flaked. The sun is setting and it’s another adventure to record for Sea Change.

“Editors Note”

Our incident with the honey bees has spawned a swarm of bee puns on Sea Change. it hash’t stopped yet. Just take note that if Michael is found  dead in a pile of honey, it couldn’t bee me.

Sunset at Cayo Costa

Sunset at Cayo Costa



Moving South

Mar Vista

We have been making plans and discussing our plans and rethinking our plans to leave Pasadena Marina and head toward the Keys for weeks now. The weather was forecast to be favorable for a move south, then on Sunday at our late afternoon weather check, we notice what was to become Invest 93L.  This could definitely through a kink into our travel plans.

All the advice from sailors and boaters alike seemed to be, Watch the weather but carry on with your plans. We worried over leaving but continued to gather supplies and plot a course southward.

Tuesday morning was overcast early on but cleared as the morning progressed. Checking the morning forecast, we decided to leave the dock. We waved as we made our way out of our home for the last 4 months and entered Boca Ciega Bay. We topped off our fuel tank and our last stop north of Tampa Bay was done.

We tested out our new auto pilot as we crossed Tampa Bay headed to Anna Maria Island. The auto pilot works like a charm and we made excellent time. We arrived at the anchorage between Jewfish Key and Longboat Key about 4. The last time we had anchored here we anchored without significant difficulty but this time it seemed that the anchor just didn’t want to set.

We dropped anchor 3 times and pulled it up again and again. Michael began muttering under his breath and his frustration was apparent. Finally, the anchor set. Michael and I remembered the strength of the wind from thunderstorms that came in the last time we traveled along the western shore of Florida. Neither of us wanted to be second guessing our anchor at 2 in the morning if the predicted winds came in with gusts to 25 knots.

For now we had only a slight breeze. Michael readied the dinghy and we went ashore to Mar Vista. if you have the opportunity to dine here, then take advantage of the opportunity. Fairy lights hang from the trees over tables set on the shore.  Yummy treats come out from the kitchen there. The servers are friendly. We watched the lights on the boats off shore as we shared a meal.

Sunset at Mar Vista

We had gone to bed and just dozed off to sleep when the wind began whistling and the wind generator started whirring.  Apparently, the predicted wind shift arrived early. Michael had commented before we went to sleep that one of us needed to get up about 2 when the wind shift arrived and do an anchor check. Mother nature had different plans, she planned a short night for us. With the strong wind, Sea Change was lying bow into the wind and a lot closer to our two neighboring boats than earlier in the evening. In fact, we were close enough to keep me up in the cockpit for a while monitoring Sea Change’s swing in the anchorage. Michael and I both were up watching the wind and Sea Change’s response to the wind. Our anchor held, thankfully, throughout the night but both of us were alert to any changes in the wind or the motion of the boat.

Michael had gone above at one point and called for me to come up also. Oh no! Here we go, I thought. I was mentally preparing to drive the boat up on the anchor while Michael dealt with the chain and anchor.  Much to my relief, Sea Change tugged at her anchor rode and swung back and forth. Nothing seemed to have changed. What had changed was another boat in the anchorage. Before going ashore for the evening, Michael and I had noted a sailboat come into the anchorage. They seemed to have the same issues we did with setting their anchor; the anchor just didn’t seem to want to hold. Finally the anchor set and everyone went about the evening.When I made it to the cockpit, we could see the crew of the sailboat  motoring forward because their anchor was dragging in the brisk wind. In the dark of the middle of the night is not the time that anyone wants to be setting anchor. Grateful that Sea Change’s anchor was holding we watched our fellow sailors struggle in the dark and wind to set the anchor to allow them a few hours of sleep for the night. Crawling back into our bunk, we managed a few more hours of sleep and woke to bright sunshine and continued brisk breezes.

We met our fellow sailors who managed to reset their anchor in the dark and wind a few days later. They were traveling south also and were undaunted by the trials thrown at them by Mother Nature. We offered our kudos and good wishes for the rest of their journey. Sailors as a group are a hearty breed.

So starts this next part of our journey!