We arrived to St. Petersburg in mid May from our passage from Puerto Rico with our friend Rollo (catch up here). We would be spending the entire summer, and most of fall, at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. We looked forward to a long time of catching up with family and friends!
We spent the first few days getting settled into city life again and giving Galatea a really thorough cleaning; she was absolutely covered in salt after nearly 1,500nm at sea since her last bath a few weeks ago. And then, it was Frank’s birthday! After a slow morning of coffee, croissants, and a sweet video Misha had Frank’s friends put together, we went to the farmer’s market down the street. And this is where we quickly learned about Roci and her amazing tamales, which we would get every single Saturday we were in town for 5 months. From the spicy hot sauce to the carrot salad, these things are amazing! We later had dinner at Sab Cafe, our favorite Thai place in St. Pete which we would frequent weekly as well, and caught an outdoor live show of a Grateful Dead cover band at the pub next door. 33 was so far off to a good start!
The next day Rollo had to head back to the UK. We went for a walk on the St. Pete Pier, a really impressive new construction that stays very crowded throughout the year. It was so sad to say goodbye to Rollo for the second time this year, and this time, we knew it would be a long time before we saw him again. Besides being a great friend, he was so helpful in sailing back from Puerto Rico with us. Because we’ve now spent the last two Christmases with Rollo, we joked about where we would meet for the next Christmas.
Just after Rollo left, Frank’s family came to town for a week to visit and hang out on the beach at Anna Maria Island. We had such a great time hanging at the beach. We also went to a Tampa Bay Rays game and did indoor sky diving and Top Golf! The kids slept on the boat one night and loved it! We played lots of card games and watched movies. Hopefully we can convince them to come stay for longer sometime soon!
Misha went home to visit her family after this while Frank got a head start on some of the projects we wanted to accomplish this summer. This included replacing two air conditioners that were quickly becoming a pile of rust, sewing new saloon cushions, giving our engines a lot of loving, replacing some fairly worn bits of rigging, sewing a new cockpit enclosure, and a slew of other minor improvements.
The biggest project of the summer though was a complete revamp of our solar array and dinghy davits. We had put the old solar arch on in a rush before leaving two years ago, and now it was time to redo it exactly how we want it, with two years of cruising experience to inform the design. Our friends at The Yacht Rigger did such a marvelous job on this project. We removed our old solar panels and their rack and sold them. Then Brian and Keaton at Yacht Rigger built and installed a new solar rack to go on the original arch that held six 435 watt bifacial panels which could generate nearly 50% more power than the array it was replacing. Plus there is now a cool walkway down the middle for jumping off of! Stephen at Yacht Rigger and Frank removed the original dinghy davits and swim platform/bench which weighed nearly 400 pounds! We then installed new hardware to raise the tender off the arch and Brian and Keaton fabricated a new multi-functional stern railing. The final outcome is just awesome and we love how much it has improved the functionality of our boat, while shedding a lot of weight. We hope to find it eliminates the need for our massive generator and we can sell that next summer, as it weighs around 600 pounds and takes up an enormous amount of valuable real estate. But, we’ll keep it onboard for the next season to be sure it’s not needed.
At the start of July our first and only serious storm threat headed our way. Hurricane Elsa passed right by St. Pete as a Category 1 hurricane. We prepped the boat which meant lots of extra dock lines, bringing in everything from outside, and setting out a kedge anchor to hold us off the dock. Although Elsa was technically upgraded to a hurricane, the actual impacts we felt were tropical storm level, with winds 30-35 knots for about 24 hours, gusting to at most 42 knots. It was a good dress rehearsal which fortunately was not repeated the rest of the summer. We suffered no damage, although we noted damage in the tens of thousands of dollars to other boats in the marina which were not properly prepared – gel coat scratches and ripped sails and Bimini tops. Mostly minor things, but a minor thing on a boat is still expensive!
On the tail of Hurricane Elsa, Misha’s parents came to town and rented an Air BnB for the month. Her sisters and her niece and nephew came throughout the month too. We spent SO much time in the pool, played loads of cards, watched lots of movies and celebrated Misha’s birthday. Our dog Youk also came with the family and did much better on the boat this time although for sure it is clear she is quite scared of the boat moving and the sounds it makes, so it was a good thing we were at the dock which is fairly calm.
There was also a really bad spell of red tide this summer. Thousands of dead fish would wash up in the marina every day and the smell was horrible. The city eventually contracted fishermen to go around scooping up fish and putting them in special lined dumpsters. On some days we were directly downwind of those dumpsters and it was pretty gross! This was our second, but worst, experience with red tide. A massive phosphorus release from Piney Point contributed to this summer’s red tide. Two years ago Misha wrote a Deep Dive blog post about red tide, which you can read here.
Of course no summer in Tampa Bay would be well spent without a trip to Harry Potter world at Universal Studios! We went for one day with the highlights being riding the new Hagrid’s motorbike ride for the first time, and Misha riding the new Velocicoaster (Frank was too scared!).
It was right around this time that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was taking over after the Delta variant wave began to falter. We went home for Thanksgiving to spend it with our family, but rather than fly we rented a car and drove. This worked out on the way up as we were taking lots of items to our storage unit to offload from the boat, but on the way back we got stuck in horrible holiday traffic and it seemed like we’d never get there! Nevertheless, it was all worth it for a week with our family, who we do not get to see nearly enough.
The week after Thanksgiving it was time to get serious. The stern railing that Yacht Rigger was working on was almost complete. Omicron was causing massive spikes in infections, and some countries were closing their borders or increasing restrictions. We figured we better get into The Bahamas as soon as we could before it got any harder to do so. We did our season’s provisioning at Costco, and turned our eye to the weather.
Our next blog post will pick up at the beginning of December when we set out from Tampa Bay and make a fast run to Freeport, Bahamas where we hauled the boat out for two weeks to get some work done before exploring The Bahamas for the rest of the season. Stay tuned!