Our last couple of days in Clearwater were cool and rainy, but our 45 mile travel day to Bradenton was warm and sunny with almost no wind. We chose not to “go outside” (travel in the Gulf of Mexico), and instead followed the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway South past St. Petersburg, across the wide Tampa Bay, and into the Manatee River to Twin Dolphins Marina in Bradenton. Along the way, the dredged GICW channel was well marked but sometimes narrow, and at times the water outside the channel was only 1-3 feet deep. So we paid close attention to the ATONs, the depth sounder and the chart, and traveled slowly in the narrows.
One evening we had dinner with friend Jean from Lafayette and friends Wayne and Ann who we knew from Lafayette and who had just moved to Bradenton. Another evening we joined a group of Lafayette church friends to help Bill Van Dokkenburg celebrate his 80th birthday. We invited the group to see our boat, had dinner at the excellent marina restaurant, toured Tom and Barbara’s home, and finished the evening with birthday cake at Bill and Jan’s Bradenton home. It was good to be with these friends and celebrate with Bill.
The next day Lafayette friends Mark and Mary joined us for a few days. We toured Anna Maria Island in their rental car, walked the beach, and happened upon a very good local waterfront restaurant, all on a summer-like sunny day. We bicycled along the 1.5 mile long Bradenton Riverwalk Park (see https://www.realizebradenton.com/riverwalk). We agreed that that Lafayette/West Lafayette could benefit greatly from a similarly well-designed and attractive park along the Wabash River, with public art and a variety of recreational and gathering spaces.
The next day we cruised about 20 miles to Longboat Key Club Marina, on the bay side of this barrier island. Along the way we needed lifts from two drawbridges, and we enjoyed having dolphins play in our wake.
The Longboat Key Club Marina setting, amenities, and staff were top notch. We took advantage of a free shuttle to enjoy the marina’s sister resort on the Gulf side of Longboat Key, beachwalked, watched the sea birds, and relaxed. After a spectacular sunset we checked out the marina’s resort-style pool and hot tub area.
When we returned to Bradenton, friend Lorraine joined the four of us to get together and enjoy an overnight on the boat. Lorraine brought a trunkload of Amazon packages we had sent to her Florida home, knowing we would see her. Thanks, Lorraine!
We all prepared the boat for a five week layup in Bradenton (following a long “Leaving the Boat Checklist”), packed our bags, said goodbye to Lorraine, and drove north across the Tampa Bay to an airport hotel. Very early the next day we flew from Tampa to Indiana for work and to celebrate Thanksgiving Day and Christmas with family, who we have missed greatly in our Great Loop travels.