Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sarasota - A City With A Lot To Offer

N27°19’59.9”, W082°32’44.5”

Our goal of staying out of marinas for a while, is being achieved… in baby steps.  We have graduated to anchoring out for longer stretches, punctuated by the odd stay on a Mooring ball for good measure.  I love our time in quiet and secluded anchorages, but it’s also nice to have the option of access to services without the big marina prices that the Mooring Ball offers.  It’s kind  of like the best of both worlds.

We spent a week at Marina Jack’s, in Sarasota, FL. on the lovely Mooring Ball #2.  Our planned 4 nights turned a bit longer as we waited for mail from home containing Bruce’s passport.  But the time here was not misspent.  The weather was our first concern when we hooked up. There was a cold front coming through, and a couple days of forecasted inclement weather.  After our anchoring woes of Longboat Key, we wanted to be securely attached to the ball while the winds howled and the Bay tossed.  

Our first full day here was a beach day.  We rode the bus to the #1 Beach In America… Siesta Key Beach!  I have no idea why my mind persists in anticipating these scenes where there are no people… Oh, the beach was nice enough… but it was covered with people!  

Admittedly it wasn’t your Spring-Break-Week kind of crowded, but it was still a bit too crowded by our standards…  But, it was a colorful tableau of Beach Americana and I found our little spot to drowse in the sunshine and balmy breezes.  I drifted in and out, listening to the sounds of the gentle surf, punctuated by the snippets of conversations as walkers came and went along the water’s edge.  All too soon, the weather deteriorated and the cool fingers of the approaching fog chased us back to the boat.

Our second day was spent entirely at home on the boat.  The winds were blowing and the chop was more than we wanted to deal with, so we just indulged in a lazy day with our Kindles.  I baked some cookies and we napped.  

Our day ended sitting in the cockpit watching the city lights begin to wink on and the colorful park fountain reflecting on the water.  The night passed with some rain and even more big winds and chop, making us hope that our planned laundry day tomorrow would not be a soggy ordeal.

Luck would have it that by the time it was reasonable to get up and about, the winds had calmed enough to make a dart to shore for our first Laundry Day by Dinghy!  We loaded up all of our stuff and schlepped it to the dinghy dock and nearby laundry room for Marina Jack tenants.  We spent all morning waiting for machines to free up and for the sadly substandard dryers to finish.  We picked up a Cuban sandwich at the Marina Jack’s restaurant while we waited, not having prepared to be here so long… I was starving!  I have to say that while this Marina is nice, St. Petersburg blows them out of the water where laundry facilities are concerned.  In St. Pete, we washed and dried two loads for a total of $3.  Here, we washed and dried four loads for a total of $18.50.  Do the math.  No Bueno!  

We hooked up with our friends from S/V Encore, Sally and Jerry towards the end of our laundry business and took the Trolley with them to City Island and visited Mote Marine Laboratories.  Coincidentally, the Marine Max where we were to pick up a Yamaha part was literally right across the street… so we scored big there!  
We spent the sunny afternoon enjoying the facility, where we found several aquatic species we had never seen before.  

Cuttlefish changing color
My favorite were the Cuttlefish.  They were mesmerizing as they changed color.  Their scary looking little bodies would stripe with different colors and then turn right before your eyes.  Words fail me to describe how cool it was.  


Strange Seahorses

Injured Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle


More Jellies!

View of our mooring field from the bridge
While we were there, the skies began to darken and the threat of rain loomed once again.  We had escaped it for most of the day, but our luck was turning.  We waited in a light sprinkle for the bus to come and whisk us back to our dinghies.  The temperature dropped to barely comfortable and then downright cold by the time we jumped into our dinghies and sped back to our respective boats.  BRRR.  Glad to be home to our cozy cocoon once again.  

The phone call from our daughter at home, saying that Bruce’s renewed passport had arrived, helped us to make the decision of whether to extend our stay and visit the Ringling Museum with Encore, or to head on to our next stop…  We would get the Passport overnighted to us here at Marina Jacks, and spend another day or two exploring the City further.

Bruce walking into his element...
The Ringling Museum, grounds, Ca' de'Zan, and the Museum of Art donated to the City of Sarasota by the Circus mogul and his wife, was more than one could see in one day.

We were astounded at the display of artwork.
Had we more days, we would have bought a three day pass just so Bruce could continue to indulge his history side and give the appropriate level of attention to the hundreds of paintings and other works of art collected by the Ringlings.

Room after room of priceless objets d'art
The museum itself is worth notice as we walked through room after room after room of priceless beauty, ad some rather dark and disturbing pieces.

Kind of creepy but it drew me in...

We had to drag Bruce away

The Palm Lined pathway to Ca' de'Zan
The Ringling Mansion, Ca deZan reminded us of our Wedding trip to Newport, RI. where we toured two of the old mansions there, on a slightly less grand scale, but no less impressive in its own way.  The couple spared no expense to indulge themselves and the mansion and surrounding grounds set on the banks of Sarasota Bay are here for us to catch a glimpse of a bygone era.

We knew before we walked in that it would be grand

The Foyer

The living room with the balcony railing all around

The Wet Bar...

And the view of the back yard

Ahhh... the Veranda

I'm thinking we couldn't afford the cleaning bill!

The back porch and grounds

Everyone has a statue of David in their back yard right?

The miniature town display was HUGE!
Also bygone, are the days of the Circus.  Days when an entire town might close down to allow it’s residents to attend the Greatest Show On Earth.  Visit the Ringling exhibit of a miniature town to see just how immense a production it was to bring 1, 300 circus performers and the hundreds of trained and work animals to a small town back in the day.  

Under the Big TOP!
The tiny town was made up of thousands of miniature pieces depicting all aspects of circus life.  There were tents set up to cook and feed the performers and animals.  There were dressing tents for the performers and even private tents for the stars. The tents contained tiny trunks filled with the costumes and makeup used by the performers.  

Tiny... not real!
There were animal cages and of course the Big Top with a full circus in progress inside.  It has taken years for this exhibit to become what it is and they are adding more pieces all the time.  It is just awe inspiring….  If you ever go to Sarasota, you MUST visit Ringling.

Beaching the newcomers
By the end of the day, none of us felt
much like doing anything else.  We had walked miles on feet that are more used to sitting on a boat for days on end.  My legs and back were in full revolt.  Luckily the life of a Cruiser is a self indulgent one.  But even so, it is also a spontaneous one.  A new couple has arrived in our midsts and an impromptu happy hour at the local Tiki Bar, O’Learey’s for a little get-ta-know-ya.

We left when the music got too loud.  We had a lot to say!
We all dinghies around the point and beached our boats on the sand shores and told stories until the music got too loud… then retired with the sun to our respective floating homes. Now THIS is what Cruising is supposed to be like!

Our stay was extended through Saturday night due to the longish day we had planned for our next passage.  We weren’t expecting our mail delivery until around noon, so we had a morning to fill.  Bruce wanted to pick up some spare refrigerant in case our fridge conks out on us again somewhere remote.  So, we hopped on our bicycles and rode through the streets of Sarasota in search of the auto parts store.  

The Park Fountain had been "Bubbled"
On our way, we passed a shop called Fabulous Finds, which is a resale shop, advertising 50% off of everything.  I could not resist, so we did a bit of shopping.  I think our finds were fabulous indeed… and we only spent about $20 bucks!!  Score! We finished our shopping expedition with the acquisition of the aforementioned refrigerant and returned to the boat to prepare to host our first Cruiser Happy Hour.

Sally (Encore), Darcy and Wally (Summertime)
We entertained the three other couples here in the mooring field, or maybe they entertained us.  We are settling in to the Cruiser Code, where everyone brings something, nobody shows up empty handed to happy hour, as most are on a limited budget.  It’s all about getting together and sharing stories and information.

Bruce (DL) and Larry (Wife Theresa was still aboard Laruen Dawn)
Conversation flew and before we knew it, the sun was setting and it was time to scatter.  That’s also part of the Code… nobody stays until they have to be tossed out!  They don’t call 8pm “Cruiser’s Midnight” for nothing!  

Jerry (Encore) entertaining Jezabelle

Scattering before they turn into pumpkins!
And thus ended our week in Sarasota.  We are beginning to relax and feel more like ourselves after being ,admittedly, in a bit of a funk.  With so many things going against us, we had the chance this week to enjoy our time and remember why we came out here in the first place…. to have the full adventurous and spontaneous life we’re living!  

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