Sept - 2008
by Ron Hoddinott
The Squadron has now been on "active duty" for ten years, so many of us thought it fitting that we raise a few glasses to celebrate that milestone. And what better place to do that than on the lake where it all started in August of 1998. Back then six boats, mostly SeaPearls, showed up at Chesnut Park on the south end of the lake, and we sailed north along the east side of the lake and through some of the tall reeds on that side, anchoring for lunch and then being chased back to the ramps by gathering thunderstorms. We talked about the club and what we'd like it to be , and everyone thought it would be great if we didn't hold meetings and elect officers, but rather gathered for sailing outings and to decide where we'd like to go next while we were out on the water. Coming from a yacht club where I was commodore and vice commodore, that was a unique idea, and one that I liked very much. More sailing and fun, and no politics! We've kept it that way for ten years, and we'll try to keep it that way.
This year Steve Kingery was at the ramp when I arrived, putting his newest Rushton Princess canoe replica into the water over the seawall, thus thumbing his nose at the boat and trailer parking fees. Steve Morrill arrived soon after with Shadow, and was waiting for a boarding party from his other club, the Bay Sailors, from Tampa. I had a guest named Scott, who was interested in SeaPearls and all trailerable boats. He had heard about the speedy SeaPearls. Dennis and Carol Marshall pulled into the ramp parking lot with their Com-Pac 16 and began setting up. Dennis moved here from New England and used to have a very large in-the-water boat. He realized how much fun he could have with a boat that could be easily moved to different sailing venues after they moved to Florida. Ed and Becky Combs arrived with their SeaPearl Tri, Blue Bayou. They have decided to put her on the market, in case you are interested! They are once again thinking of the condo like comforts of the MacGregor boats. At least they already have a truck that can pull them with ease. Art Gregory and Brenda Bell also arrived with Brenda's SeaPearl Tri, Rosie Pearl. Art has been in the Chesapeake area all summer, and it was great to see them both!
We all got launched easily, as there was no crush of powerboats trying to launch on this Saturday. It seems either the football season, or the gas prices are discouraging the power boaters from using their vessels. What a shame! Out on the lake we spotted a familiar sloop heading north. It was Chuck Wicks with his Sanibel 17, After You. At one time I owned that boat, and a sweet little cruiser it is. I sold it to a fellow who lived on Lake Tarpon, and he sold it to Chuck. Chuck had a problem with the centerboard pin leaking, but he's got it all fixed now, and it was sailing quite well.
So once we were all out there sailing, we had seven fine looking craft cruising around the northern end of the lake. Fine winds from the northeast were flowing over the surface of the lake and full sails were run up. It was great to get Whisper going again. I'd just put new tell tales on her new cream colored sails and Scott was having a ball sailing her all over the lake, studying the flow of the wind over the sails as we went along. I was in the center cockpit taking photos. The two SeaPearl Tris were staying together a lot, and the two sloops, Com-Pac and Sanibel were also hanging out together. Steve Kingery was making the sailing canoe move nicely with his lug rigged sail, and Steve Morrill's SeaPearl was loaded down with four crew aboard.
About 11:30 we decided to try to gather everyone up to head for the restaurant. Thinking that with somewhat limited dock space, we'd do well to head in before the motor heads got launched for the afternoon. There were two large pontoon boats at the dock, but one left just as we were heading in. Steve Kingery found his own slip, between the deck and the first slip, and stepped out into knee deep water. We slid into a slip, and proceeded to help Dennis and Carol, and Chuck Wicks get their boats docked. Steve Morrill had plenty of help on board, but we assisted with dock likes as he came alongside the main finger pier. The two SeaPearl Trimarans didn't like the docking facilities, and/or wanted to continue to sail, so they waved and headed back out on the lake.
So there were ten of us for lunch. Once again the Jack Willy's Tarpon Turtle worked hard to get everyone's food and drink orders correct. We were served with heaping platters of onion rings, hamburgers, fish tacos, chicken sandwiches, and of course plenty of cold beer. Gil Walker turned up on the dock to help out, and joined us for lunch. You might remember that Gil loves to build wooden boats, and usually turns up with one at Lake Tarpon. This time however, he had his Kingston Lobster boat all taken apart and under wraps. "It's too hot to work on her in the summer," he complained. We sat at a long table looking out at the docks and our boats, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the time together.
One thing we talked about as usual, was where we want to go in November. October is Cayo Costa Cruise month, so November was the next decision. November is fall in Florida, and if you're good at seeing subtle changes, you can see fall here. Lake Harris is just a little bit north of Tampa, but far enough north that the leaves really do change, and there are cool winds on the lake in November. The Hickory Point Recreation area has great ramps, and free parking, even overnight! The way I like to get there, is cruise north up I-75 to SR50 and go east to Groveland. Highway 50 is a two lane black top that moves right along and goes through some very scenic rural areas near the Withlacoochee State Forest. In Groveland you turn north (left) on highway 19 for about 19 miles. You'll drive over scenic hills and the small town of "Howie-in-the-Hills" before following 19 on a sharp right turn to cross the bridge toward Tavares. Crossing the bridge between Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris, you'll see the Hickory Point Recreation Area on your left. This can be a day sail or an overnighter, so please put it on your calendar!
Not to be getting ahead of myself, don't forget Cayo Costa weekend in October. It starts on Friday, Oct 17, and ends on Sunday, but if you're retired and want to extend a day or two please be our guests! The two main launching points for folks from the Tampa Bay area are Eldred's Marina at Placida, and the county park on Bokeelia on the north end of Pine Island. You'll have to cross Charlotte Harbor both coming and going to get to Pelican Bay on the north end of Cayo Costa, and the weather may help you make that decision. Charlotte Harbor can be a rugged crossing if the wind is really howling, although it is usually not a problem for well found boats.
After lunch most of the boats pulled out, as the wind had died and the afternoon was getting long in the tooth. Steve Morrill and his crew stayed out longer than the rest of us, and enjoyed sparkling winds in the late afternoon.