12-19-09 Clearwater FL Weather and Tarpon Springs

[Rick] Today’s note is to catch you up on our last three days. The weather has been horrible. You will recall that while in the panhandle, it was cold. Here in Clearwater, it is windy and cold. Yesterday, the temperature did not get out of the fifties and the wind was 30 mph at times. This means that the waves on the Gulf are 7-10 feet high. Glad we are not out there. However, when the wind was from the East, we got the full brunt of it and the boat really rocked at our dock. The wind has moved to the West a bit, and it is not now so bad. Just to give an indication of how bad the weather has been, the huge party boat, about 150 ft long in 3 floors, has not gone out the past two nights. She is fully booked with Christmas parties, but she is tied to the dock. As I write this, the Starlight Majestic has just left for a cruise. The huge fishing boats have not gone out in 3 days. According to the weather guy, the temps should get to the 30s tomorrow night. Weather-wise, it has been a terrible year for the loop.

We can stand the weather, but the real problem for us is the tide. With the wind pushing the water into Clearwater bay, the tide is about 5 feet, normally 3 feet. This means that we have a huge difficulty getting on and off the boat with these fixed docks. An even bigger problem is getting Beamer off the boat three times a day. We have to get up in the night to adjust the lines so we can fall or rise enough and still keep the boat off the pier.

We rented a car for a week, beginning today, Saturday. Our first outing was to West Marine. Yesterday Betsy was lying down and I hopped off the boat. At the same time I hopped off, causing a little rock, one of the inflatable life jackets automatically inflated for some unknown reason…it had probably gotten damp we’ve had so much condensation in the boat. Anyway, it really made a racket when it inflated and nearly scared Betsy to death. She knew I had gotten off the boat because she felt the rock, then she heard the very loud hissing noise. It took us a minute to realize what had happened, so we went to West Marine to get a re-arming kit for the lifejacket.

Then we went to the bike shop to have some work done on my bike. Somehow, the back tire is shot and will not hold air, so I’m having it replaced.

This afternoon, we ventured 19 miles north to the town of Tarpon Springs. TS is the home of Sponge farming and gathering in the world. Back in the early 1900s, someone figured out that the Florida waters contained a gazillion sponges, and an industry was born. Today, over 200 boats go into the gulf, harvest the sponges, return to TS and sell them at the Sponge Clearinghouse in TS. One business, the Spongarama has a video that details the process of harvesting the sponges. They also have a Sponge Museum. The town is a Greek dominated society, as Greeks knew how to harvest the sponges and came here to do it. All of the restaurants and businesses have Greek names. Here are some pictures from our visit to Tarpon Springs.

Here is the sunset for today. Tomorrow, we visit some friends in Zephyrhills and go to church with them. Next Tuesday, we visit Maurice, the man who did the loop by himself in a 21 ft boat. He lives in nearby St Pete.

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