Gulfport to Caladesi State Park

We woke up to the pitter-patter of rain on the hatch this morning. It was a light rain and when it stopped Auggie got his walk. We got things ready and pulled away from the dock at 9:00. The forecast was for scattered showers, so we were hoping it would rain somewhere else. It continued to be cloudy with light rain off and on as we moved north.

We had a dolphin come by and swim with us for awhile. It took our mind off of the weather.

We were in the Narrows south of Clearwater at 11:30 when the rain really started coming down. 

Visibility was bad, so we decided to cut the throttles and remain in one spot with a red and green marker as visual cues. Good thing we did because the wind picked up and a line squall moved through. 

The winds picked up to 20-30 mph and Bob had a hard time keeping the boat pointed into the wind. I went down below and checked the radar on the computer. The radar screen showed that we were in the middle of a red blob with lightning strikes around us. That’s not good. It would be at least 30 minutes before it would be moving away from us. The windshield wipers were flapping wildly, the canvas was blowing, and everything was getting soaked….including me, as I tried to tie down the flapping canvas in the back. I finally went down below to put on my raincoat… and checked the radar again. It looked like we might be getting a break in the storm where we could make it to our destination before the next wave hit. After about 20 minutes, the wind and rain let up and visibility improved. We turned on the marine weather radio to get a weather report. They had spotted a water spout heading for Dunedin, just north of us. Yikes! We have never met one of those on the water and never hope to! Once the wind and rain let up, I walked up on the bow to unhook the safety on the anchor chain in case we needed the anchor to hold us in place at some point. As we moved slowly north, it looked dark up ahead, but clearer to the south. We went slow in the hopes that the storm would continue to move east before we got there. 

About 12:45, conditions improved dramatically so that we felt confident about entering the narrow channel to Caladesi State Park. 

We entered the marina where 4 other boats were already docked and took a space at the end of a T-dock at 1:30 where we could use the wind in our favor to dock safely. 

It had stopped raining and we proceeded to start drying everything out. We had part of the back canvas up during the trip, but with the wind blowing so hard, everything out back got wet. I was soaked trying to secure things during the storm. Once we were all tied up, Bob had a beer and I gave Auggie a walk before it started raining again. Auggie slept through the whole ordeal, except when the claps of thunder sounded really close. We went up to register at the Ranger Station , but no one was around. We did find out from the ferry captain that the park did a prescribed burn here last week. He said it came dangerously close to the Ranger Station and killed some snakes and tortoises—all in the name of controlling nature and burning off the underbrush. It looks bad at first, but it starts to replenish itself very quickly.

We hung out at the boat waiting for our neighbors, Denny and Brigid to arrive by sailboat. They were planning to join us for two nights at the park. The weather report and radar said that another batch of thunderstorms were coming in from the Gulf. Who would get here first? The skies darkened a little and we heard thunder. We put up the rest of the canvas on the back of the boat to keep out as much rain as we could. The rain started out lightly at first and then much heavier around 5:00. Still no Denny and Brigid. It rained continuously until they arrived at 7:15. 

They had contacted us by radio earlier to let us know when they were getting close, so we could be ready to help them tie up to the dock. Bob donned his raincoat and met them at a dock two piers down from us. That would be the easiest spot to tie up in the wind and rain. The docking went well and Bob returned to the boat drenched down to his underwear.

It rained hard until about 10:00. We haven’t had a full day of rain like that since….I can’t remember when. I wonder if this will make a dent in the drought we’ve been having?? Good thing I planned an indoor meal for tonight’s dinner. After dinner, we watched a DVD and were lulled to sleep by the raindrops on the “roof”. Tomorrow we would begin the task of drying everything out.

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