For Cara Dawn – thanks for keeping track of us the entire trip: So there we were, 5 AM Saturday, December 17 facing the last short leg to home port. You know how it is – you get a little sad that your time is ending but getting ready for departure brings activity that pushes the thoughts of ending from the present. Once underway, however, we had only one last bridge opening to request before facing Tampa Bay and home.
Belle’s mast requires 27-foot clearance and her antenna stretch that distance another 10-foot. There aren’t too many bridges we can get her under without an opening even when we drop the antenna. So we travel some fifteen minutes to the Anna Maria Island Bridge where we knew we would have a good 20 minute wait. Every idle moment now brings memories of the trip that wash over us. Alone on the Wahoo, swinging on the hook with Blue Moon, miles and miles of brown and tan grasses that only stick a foot or so above the waters of South Carolina and Georgia, the calmness of the Caloosahatchee, even now laughing at killing the batteries and spending $1,400 on a GPS we didn’t need (ouch). Time and pause to listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Lovely Cruise and lament at the trips passing. Even on the small iPhone speaker the song resonates throughout Belle.
Finally Anna Maria Bridge opens and there are no obstacles between Belle and home port. Even the jerk bridge tender who demanded I pass under his bascule port to port with another large vessel could not ruin the moment. These waters soon open to Tampa Bay that’s often the worst part of any cruise due to the shallows kicking up four to six foot seas with little more than an afternoon breeze. But today the bay had laid down for Belle’s arrival. And, it was all I could do to not give in to Lou asking why we just could not keep on going. Belle was running great. We had plenty of supplies, 900 gallons of fuel remaining, and certainly lots of experience during our 800+ mile shakedown. But, that damn side of me that always pops up did what it always does and put me and Belle on course for home. I’m working on that part…
When we passed the center span of the Skyway Bridge I too was wondering why we could not just keep on going. But giving Lou any hint of that weakness would have certainly meant a hard turn about. Much too soon came our arrival that was met with our good friends Dean and Carol, our son Ethan and his long time best friend Andrew. After parking Belle at the end of B-dock and trying to see where we could squeeze her in we finally moved into a safe slip along the floating dock seawall until better winds and more nerve were available to move her. So there we were – friends and family pouring over Belle, commenting on this and that, asking questions and praising our little ship while Lou and I stood there dazed. The trip was over. Of that there was no doubt. And we thought of how safe we had always felt on Belle regardless of any self inflicted calamities. We had learned these are great little ships that get you to your destination safe and sound. But, there was no time to waste, and on that day we started making plans for our next trip with Belle.