The Great Loop
Setting off on their U.S. trip, narrow boaters Ian and Jane Ainsworth faced sea-sickness, mooring to a buoy and running aground before enjoying the sun and sparkling waters of south Florida
Florida turned out to be a bridge engineer’s delight. Even a bridge engineer’s spouse, required over the years to observe the subtleties of design and construction of British motorway bridges, could not but be impressed by the number and variety of the structures linking Florida’s many barrier islands to the main shore, or carrying railroads over bays and inlets.
Most impressive of these was the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a concrete cable-stayed bridge which crosses Tampa Bay and which we had driven over several times when we stayed in Sarasota before buying the boat. With a total length of just over four miles, the bridge curves gracefully across the water, its yellow cables reflecting the Florida light.
There was not much Florida light being reflected, however, on the day that we left St Petersburg to start our trip in earnest. It would have been wiser to wait for the weather to improve, but impatience got the better of common sense.
Having spent a week getting the boat ready, and two days waiting for the wind to drop, we could wait no longer, and left St Pete behind in light rain and winds approaching 20 knots.
No sooner had we emerged from the shelter of the marina than the swell started, which lasted for an uncomfortable two hours while we crossed Tampa Bay. With a draft of four feet, we found that Carina rocked and rolled at the slightest provocation and an early lesson we learned was to Close All Doors Before Setting Off. Fortunately, nothing was broken or damaged, and our supplies of medication just about warded off sea-sickness.
We arrived at Marina Jack, Sarasota, six hours later, drained with the stress but exhilarated at having the Tampa Bay crossing under our belts without suffering serious mishap.
One problem with these journeys is that at the very end, just when you feel you can relax at last, you have the business of either tying up to a dock or lowering your anchor or mooring on a buoy (pronounced ‘boo-ey’ in Florida, we learned). All of these procedures benefit from skill and practice, in which we were rather lacking.
At Marina Jack, Ian had chosen, in the interests of saving money = on marina fees, to moor on a buoy, which meant that the crew (me) had to either throw a rope some distance around it, or grab it with the boat hook. My only previous experience of this procedure was watching Shane Spall’s largely futile attempts, on the TV programme of her and Tim doing their Round Britain trip in their barge ThePrincessMatilda. There had been some profanity on the Spall boat, but we managed it at the second attempt with no foul language at all. We awoke the next morning to thick fog, but by late morning