This has been a pleasant three days since the last post. You never know what you will find when you pull in to a new marina or anchorage. Cortez and Anna Maria Island were pleasant surprises. The marina we selected had mixed reviews, but we liked the price, and it was perfect for ducking in before thunderstorms rolled through. Here is HMR docked at the "Seafood Shack and Marina," the title of which made us wonder a bit also!
The marina turned out to be decent, the restaurant had great clam chowder, and we were able to get caught up on laundry. But the real gem was Anna Maria Island, also known as Bradenton Beach. As soon as we crossed the bridge and rode the bikes a couple of blocks, we knew we liked the quiet, laid-back atmosphere. I grew up in South Carolina and it kinda reminded me of Myrtle Beach in the 50s and 60s before it went ballistic (miss those days when things were quiet and simple). We never saw a building taller than 3 stories and they have at least a couple of miles on the south end that are nothing but beach, walking/biking trails, parks with restroom facilities, picnic tables, numerous pavilion areas, and really clear water in the Gulf. Here is the general setting.
The water and the beach.
Speaking of bikes and bike trails, we are really glad we decided to bring our bikes. We almost left them behind because they are a bit "in the way" on the boat. But they are perfect for getting out and sightseeing. Before this day was over, I'm confident we rode at least twenty miles.
And this was pretty cool - the squirrels there are so used to people feeding them, they are not the least bit bashful. When you stop, walking or riding, they are at your feet looking for a treat. At this stop, I had three around my bike and one even climbed up the front tire to increase his chances I guess.
Rhonda had one on its hind legs in a begging "please feed me" posture.
Heading back toward town, Rhonda wanted some pictures of the colorful homes and businesses that were quite the norm for the island.
We asked around and no one seemed to know what this tree was but it had really pretty blooms, yellow and red blooms on the same tree.
With my biology degree and intense/in-depth study of plant taxonomy from 37 years ago (yeah right, like I remember some of that), I suggested to Rhonda that the reds are the early color before the blooms mature to their normal yellow but she insists that there were full blooms of both. I guess she is basing her decision on her math degree and minor in computer science! In either case, she's right and the trees were very pretty.
After lunch and about the time I think we're done for the day, Rhonda is ready to go again and wants to see Cortez which is in the other direction from the marina. After about the first couple of miles, I've decided it is Cortez/RV parks/55+ retirement communities. We rode a long way and never saw anything different, but on the way back Rhonda wanted to check out the maritime museum and I'm glad we did, very interesting. We were even introduced to one of the descendants of the Bell family that was very involved in establishing this town, one of the few remaining small fishing villages of Florida. Here's the original schoolhouse and Mr. Bell was able to show us where his desk was as one of 6 first-graders in his day.
Earlier in the day when Rhonda and I were riding along the beach, we noticed tons of fishing boats all rushing back to back to a particular area and Mr. Bell explained that these are fishermen going after mullet roe, also known locally as "Cortez Caviar." For those of you from Rio Linda, roe is fish eggs (Limbaugh joke in case you are a liberal and don't listen to Rush!). The mullet is worth only about $1 per pound but the roe is worth $18 per pound. The processing plant had recently shipped 100,000 pounds to Asia. He said many of the fishermen are like gypsies, chasing whatever brings in the money for them during different seasons of the year at different locations. Sure enough, many of the vehicles pulling the boat trailers had license plates from different locations, some from as far away as North Carolina. The Bells also had serious maritime and fishing roots in the Beaufort and Morehead City areas of NC. Mr. Bell said he recently sold some property there that was handed down through four generations of his family. Anyhow, here's the Cortez Bait and Seafood location that processes much of the fish caught in the area. There was also an outdoor restaurant 100 feet away that gets the seafood right off the boats. The problem for us was that the whole area had such a strong fishy smell, we didn't think we would be able to eat there.
Fishing boats lining the canal by the loading docks.
All in all, a very pleasant and interesting two days, but time to move on. Next stop, Sarasota, more condos, but it is a very clean and impressive city if that lights your fire.
Marina Jacks is a huge first-class facility and Rhonda and I finally realized this was one of our stops by car when we were boat shopping over a year ago after we unexpectedly sold our Roughwater (it wasn't for sale). We had come here to look at a sistership of the 44 Gulfstar that we bought in Corpus Christi. Some Roughwater owner friends of ours ("friends" even though we have never actually met in person, they are from CA) really liked O'Leary's when they stopped here on their loop trip, so this pic is for Larry.
Pretty cool trees in the park by the marina.
And a dolphin fountain that Rhonda really liked. We have seen so many dolphin by now that it's not a big deal any more, but we certainly still enjoy seeing them.
We took a stroll downtown and like I said before, Sarasota is a very impressive "high-end" clean city. My picture doesn't do it justice but this is the main drag downtown from the marina and waterfront.
And one of the side streets to the above.
OK, I've rambled on enough so I'll close with 4 things. First, the Christmas Tree picture(s) of the day.
Second, I know you've seen many pictures of Help Me Rhonda by now, but there are some unique things about this one. First, we are tied to a mooring buoy for the first time of the trip. And second, you should notice that our boat moustache is gone! While we had the dinghy out, I decided to get some work done and got all of that off. Much better.
Third, our new list of "I Could Live Here Cities."
"I COULD LIVE HERE" LIST - TOP FIVE
1. Port St. Joe, FL
2. Anna Maria Island (Bradenton Beach), FL
3. Panama City, FL
4. Ft. Walton Beach, FL
5. Morgan City, LA
And last, my favorite bird, the pelican, that greeted us when we arrived at Anna Maria Island.
Continuing south tomorrow to Englewood, FL and Cape Haze Marina. Really looking forward to it - going to see an old high-school friend of mine for the first time in 42 years.