Home? Are we home? No, but Gypsies Palace is. We bought her in Tarpon Springs and thought it would be fun to get in touch with her original owners. We have loved how she has performed and wanted to share our Loop experience. Gypsies Palace was used to traveling the West Coast of Florida so these are her home waters. She was commissioned in South Africa and the new owners took possession of her in 2010. They now have a brand new 51 ft. Leopard Power Cat which we got to see while we were in the area. In fact, the original owners were so gracious. They took us all around the area and had us relate our Loop adventure with their friends. We also felt that we were in Home waters!
We had not really explored the West Coast of Florida by water so this was going to be a fun adventure as the warmer weather welcomed us. Tarpon Springs is a Greek community that was founded with the sponge industry so there are numerous Greek restaurants and shops that sell sponges. Upon arriving we were greeted by the AGCLA Harbor Host of the Year, Herb Seaton. He makes sure that all Loopers that arrive in his town are welcomed personally. A Harbor Host is someone in the Loopers Association that volunteers to assist Loopers in their home port. It can be providing transportation to stores or by offering restaurant recommendations. As we traveled the Loop we met several Harbor Hosts that made our stay memorable. While we were in Tarpon Springs we reconnected with other catamaran friends on Colorado Cat who invited us over for dinner at their wonderfully decorated holiday home. This trip down the West Coast was really feeling like home!
We decided to move a short distance to the town of Dunedin and anchor off of their downtown. We had heard that it is an adorable town that is boater and pet friendly. It was! We stayed two days, but there is enough to do to make this a longer stay. There are great restaurants and shops and the town has a walkability factor.
While we were in Clearwater at a marina the winds decided to really kick up as a front rolled through. We took the Jolly Trolley over to Clearwater Beach to check out that area. The Jolly Trolley can actually go all of the way to Tarpon Springs. When It is windy i.e. winds over 20 mph we tend to “hunker down” on the boat and not do much except watch some movies or recorded shows.
One place that had grabbed my interest was Ana Maria Island. It is an island with several communities. We stayed in Bradenton Beach and really liked all of the shops and restaurants within walking distance. They also have a free trolley which makes a run to Publix.
Our next stop over was Sarasota and we were going to use the mooring balls at Marina Jack. This was our 1st mooring ball attempt. Normally we would drop an anchor, but a mooring ball provides the added stability and peace of mind that the boat is not slipping. Additionally, we were able to use the dinghy dock at the marina. The cost for their mooring ball was $25 a night. Having a remote really helped our ability to grab the line on the mooring ball. Typically, one person is on the bow of the boat with a boat hook while the captain is upstairs at the helm trying to position the boat. What usually happens is that the captain tries to position the boat so that the person on the bow can reach over and grab the line with a boat hook. We watched other people trying this and it takes several attempts to position the boat so that the line is hooked. It can be an exercise of frustration, but it usually gets secured on the 3rd try. We were able to do it on the 1st try since Steve was literally right on top of the mooring ball and could grab it himself.
Sarasota was fun! We explored the Ringling Museum and home of John Ringling. We learned so many things about the circus, but their ability to tear down and set up an entire city was fascinating. They had a miniature circus set up and many restored circus cars. It is truly a worthwhile visit. The marina is within walking distance of downtown and we met up with friends for dinner and the Farmers Market. Lots to do here for sure!
We loved a little stop that we made in Venice at the Crow’s Nest, which is right on the inlet for the Gulf. It is close to the beach and sunsets. We only stayed one night, but highly recommend it. There was a lot of boat activity and a good restaurant on site.
From there we entered Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda and the Laishley Marina. This week was all about connecting with friends. Our Looper friends on Lab Partners were there to greet us. My best friend from high school has a winter place there and we had been shipping lots of online orders to her as a “mail drop”. They took us for a lovely trip on their pontoon boat to areas that we could not take our boat. While we were there we took a group of friends out on Gypsies Palace for a sunset cruise and I got to show off my mermaid Christmas hat!
This was a busy stop for us. We met up with Parrothead friends that had moved from the east coast to Punta Gorda and got a home cooked meal. My best friend drove over for a few days and we got to share the Christmas season. Just lots of good times and fun friends for the week we were there.
We also added a new toy to our bikes compliments of Christmas. It is a new “must have” – a cell phone holder for the handle bars so that we can see the Google Map hands free. We seem to always be needing a trip to West Marine somewhere!
Our plans now lead south – Marco Island, Everglades City and Marathon as we work our way to a departure for the Bahamas. We have loved the West Coast of Florida and feel that we will be back next year to winter in this area.