Hi all ~


This Eletter with all the links to fabulous photos is at:



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Enter Windigo's callsign: W3IGO


June / July 2006


Circumnavigation of Tampa Bay


cir?cum?nav?i?gate (s?;/span>?k?m-n?v??-g?t?)

??? v. tr.? cir?cum?nav?i?gat?ed, cir?cum?nav?i?gat?ing, cir?cum?nav?i?gates

1. To proceed completely around


Living on a boat affords one to live anywhere in the world where the water is deep enough and is affected by tidal change (Check out the letter to the editor from my friend in Alabama, JoAn Day). International law affords anyone access to these waters. Some sailboat cruising liveaboards venture forth with expectations of seeing every continent, stopping at dozens of countries, and encircling the globe with their track. There are now several races that finish at the exact point at which they start; the only requirement being that one only travels in one basic direction for the entirety of the race.


Whilst Karin and I hope to travel to exotic places aboard Windigo, we learned long ago that all these places are not distant from one's current position. Sure, we will leave the country and learn to speak other languages and adapt to alternative customs and meet a huge variety of peoples. But traveling slowly across the country on the inland waterway system, and spending a good deal of time in Mobile Bay, Corpus Christi and then in Tampa Bay, has taught us to seek the unexpected and enjoy it. (Actually, my pre-Windigo life of mountain biking through industrial parks, canoeing past huge manufacturing areas and practicing urban spelunking along the underground rivers and streams of SE Wisconsin was pretty demonstrative of finding beauty and enjoyment anywhere!)


So in order to say goodbye to all our friends in the area; and to hang loose in the area until all of Karin's prepaid dental work is completed; to test every part of every interconnected and fairly complex system aboard Windigo prior to leaving an area rich with resources well-known to us; but mostly to adhere to our philosophy and policy to go very slow and leave no shore unexplored- we have completed a thorough circumnavigation of Tampa Bay.


Not quite as demanding as circumnavigating the earth, we embarked on several navigational challenges, lived completely aboard and utilizing all the resources Windigo has to offer. Several problems surfaced, all handled with great aplomb by the crew, giving us greater confidence in the voyages ahead. By and large, the last few weeks have been very relaxing and enjoyable, with fantastic sunsets and sunrises, interesting trips ashore, time spent in/and on the water recreating, exercising, and performing routine maintenance of the boat.


We left the marina in Clearwater {BIGMAP} with a mission - I had a class scheduled to teach the first four days of June for Sunsail Tampa Bay. We stopped the first afternoon in Madeira Beach {MAP} and had supper aboard No More Mondays with our friends Dave & Gail. The second night we spent at our old stomping grounds in Gulfport, {MAP} visiting our friend Gene Lucky. Finally we anchored in Bayboro Harbor {MAP} the night before my class started. After my class, we spent a few days preparing, including performing my first welding project at anchor using only battery power and the inverter to power the welder. It is nice to be completely self-contained.


From Bayboro Harbor, {BIGMAP} we headed out to Egmont Key at the entrance of Tampa Bay. We met No More Mondays there and I actually cooked dinner for them for a change! Egmont Key is across from Mullet Key, home of Fort DeSoto. We have visited the park there before, and there is no good anchorages for Windigo, so we will skip this most worthy stop on our circumnavigation. [The coolest things at the fort are the 12-inch rifled mortars that could launch 1/2-ton projectiles almost 7 miles! In the 19th century!]


The open-water anchorage at Egmont Key was affecting Karin, so we scooted into the Manatee River {MAP} at dusk. Gail served breakfast in the morning (they have the LARGEST refrigerator AND the LARGEST freezer I have ever seem aboard a sailboat!) and then left us with Alberto. Actually it was just the outer edge of the first named tropical storm of the year, but for three days it rained on and off and blew 20 to 25 knots at times. Rinsed all the salt residue from the decks! The last day there we visited DeSoto National Memorial, which pretty much describes how Spaniards came to Tampa Bay in the 16th century, converted the Indians to Christianity, then enslaved and slaughtered them all. Nice.


We crossed the river and spent a couple days off Emerson Point and visited the Portavant Mound where the Spaniards buried a bunch of Indians they slaughtered. Pretty much makes a White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant dude like me wish our ancestors never came here and messed up what the Native Americans had going. But referring back to the condo developments of the last eletter, it seems we have a penchant for "improving" our environment with change, thus a greatly diminished Indian culture in North America and no more scallops in Tampa Bay.


We took on a very difficult navigational challenge upon leaving the Manatee River {BIGMAP}. We entered Terra Ceia Bay and did a little circumnavigation and popped back out into Tampa Bay. It was a challenge because the entrance channel has a charted depth of less than five feet, and there is an expansive area to cross to get into the bay at less than six feet charted depth. Windigo draws a full seven feet and not an inch less. We were able to enter, circle and leave Terra Ceia Bay {MAP} only by timing the tidal change with our passage. Very interesting to sail a deep-draught vessel in a place like that.


Next we stayed at the SE end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge {MAP}. It is a toll bridge on I-275, and I counted an average of 80 cars/minute. That's $100,000 a day. I don't think that money goes for "bridges" . . .

The island next to our anchorage is called Paradise Island. Didn't go there - too soon for Paradise for me! The sunrises and sunsets are not quite as consistently beautiful as the desert ones in Arizona, but there are just as many!


We attempted to continue our counter-clockwise circumnavigation the next day, but the winds were not cooperative {BIGMAP}. We slipped into Gulfport again {MAP}. We like Gulfport. We went shopping to get parts for projects and some food items for our ships stores and visited with Gene Lucky. It was here that I was able to connect to the WWW and upload the last eletter & pix.


When the wind was right, we passed through three familiar bridges and performed another intense navigational feat. There is a very narrow channel traversing Pinellas Point under the Meisner Bridge {MAP}, with a very shallow area to the south. The charts give an indication of an unmarked passage with a charted depth of 5 to 6 feet of depth. It was high tide and the wind was right so I negotiated this half-mile of shallows without touching bottom once. Cheap thrills.


After checking out Port Manatee {MAP} and some spoil areas (where the Engineers dumped the dredgings from the ship channel) we anchored off Bahia Beach {MAP} near the Little Manatee River. Used to be several nice marinas ashore, now just condos . . .


Next stop: Apollo Beach {MAP} just off Tampa Electric's Big Bend 2,000MW Power Station. Do any of you remember my previous life as an Electrical Engineer and Master Electrician? One of my former crusades was the case against coal-fired power plants. Amongst the factual data:


Even more controversial and of greater interest here in Tampa Bay is the Tampa Bay Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant right next door to the Apollo Beach power plant. Construction began in August 2001 and the first 20,000m2 of water was produced in March 2003. However, subsequently the plant has run sporadically, producing far short of its intended output. Three of the companies involved in the project have filed for bankruptcy and on 2 December 2003 the dispute over control and ownership went before a Federal Judge. This hearing determined nothing, and Jim Davis (our 'Representative' in Washington) said just six months ago in a speech how marvelous the water-making facility is. (?) No significant amount of water is being made there. If it's not propaganda, why a whole webpage trumpeting its safety?

[and its low cost?]


Oh well, Apollo Beach offered cool terraformed shoreline with tons of waterfront real estate and a few marinas. A several mile ride on Pedigo {MAP} revealed many natural and manmade wonders. The view of Tampa Bay is absolutely panoramic, and the evening thunderstorm activity was marvelous to watch.

The voyage from Apollo Beach {BIGMAP} proved to be quite challenging, working our way around and between various spoil areas, mostly submerged. Bumped one quite firmly, but with wind and tide it was a preplanned touch, and we sailed off without the engine (this was the third day since running the engine AT ALL). After skimming past some larger spoil islands, we anchored 70 yards from one of the more interesting spoil islands on the Bay. Fantasy Island {MAP} was stripped of all the invasive species and replanted with native Floridian flora. Birds and animals abound [even saw a bunny rabbit!] and this educational center is studied for the effects of human visitation. (Most other spoil islands are off limits to people - a small attempt at letting nature recover some land from the destructive hand of developers.)


Fantasy Island is right across from one of the largest Cargill phosphate plants. Phosphate is used for fertilizer, and to make phosphoric acid to make anhydrous ammonia, another fertilizer. Trouble is, for every TON of phosphates produced from the mined substrate, FIVE TONS of highly toxic, unprocessable waste is left behind. The solution? To big gigantic dikes and leave ponds containing BILLIONS of gallons of this poison right where they mine and process the phosphate. Which, for 75% of the phosphate used in America, and 25% of the world's supply, it is right here in central Florida. It's safe to mine and use this stuff . . . . according to the peoples that get rich from it. But what happens when tropical storms and hurricanes come visiting?


Tampa Bay was once one of the most important estuaries in the WORLD. Now they have an annual event called 'The Great Scallop Hunt'; scallops, which only 25 years ago could be scooped off seagrasses by the handful. Now they get excited when they find more than one during the hunt. (2 years ago, they didn't!) Scallops are not the only targets of this pollution. And not just the waters of Tampa Bay. Along with 25% of the world's phosphates, is Florida taking responsibility for 25% of the world's phosphate problems?


Back on Fantasy Island, it was quiet and relaxing on Friday, but became a people-watching Mecca on Saturday after sunrise, with dozens of small powerboats full of all types of visitors descended on that mound of earth in the Bay. The afternoon thunderstorms and plentiful mosquitoes sent most of them home early.


Sunday had us drifting east into the Alafia River {MAP} for more people-watching; A popular boat ramp disgorges hundreds of weekend watersport wranglers, whipping wildly westward while washing weenies . . . down with beer. {couldn't think of a "W" word for brewskis}


We finished off our stay there with a 15-mile Pedigo journey up the Alafia River {MAP}. Very quiet, very rural Florida; Nice long ride.


From the peaceful rural river we sailed right to the heart of downtown Tampa {BIGMAP}! At the junction {MAP} of the Seddon Channel, Garrison Channel and Hillsborough River we were adjacent to Tampa General Hospital, Tampa Convention Center, The Westin Hotel complex, the pirate ship Jose Gasparilla, right under the Tampa skyline and a stone's throw from the homeless storage unit (why would anyone be 'homeless' in Wisconsin when the weather's so nice in Florida?).


The pirate ship only gets used once a year, but it is the grand festival of Tampa, reenacting the triumph over a local notorious pirate. [Another pirate whose main address is said to have been New Orleans actually had a few families in Gulfport. I hope his descendants have recovered the buried treasure . . ]


The Pedigo voyage up the Hillsborough River {MAP} to West Tampa revealed the tradition of crewing here. Team spirit was evident along the river. A view of the Henry Plant Museum from the river is very picturesque. A stop ashore for a few groceries; also, who is Captain Rust?


How did we top staying in the hub of downtown? By anchoring at the junction of the Garrison and Sparkman Channels {MAP} directly across from the Port of Tampa. With excessive security in major ports for Liquefied Natural Gas & Anhydrous Ammonia tankers and cruise ships, all of which are plentiful in Tampa, it took the latest charts, attention to detail and knowledge of the regulations to find a viewing spot outside the Security Zones. The American Victory watched over us for our two-day stay, but the USGC Auxiliary still made a call on us and reported in to USCG Sector when the Inspiration left for its trip to Mexico. The 500-yard zone around the Inspiration expanded to 1000-yards as it pulled away from the dock, but we were anchored safely away from the channel, but with a great view of the action. Other ships bringing and taking cargo moved constantly.


From the Port of Tampa, we headed around Harbour Island and Davis Islands {MAP} to the northernmost point of Hillsborough Bay, which is on the other side of the Davis Islands Bridge and 600 yards away from our downtown anchorage. I used this opportunity to give Karin a lesson in navigation; she piloted the whole voyage nearly blindfolded - allowed only to use limited aids and her God-given senses. There is a huge learning curve to this type of sailing, and she climbed a good portion of it that day.


This anchorage was alive with waterfowl, mostly pelicans with their diving antics. They drop top-speed from 20-to-50 feet above the water for their dinner. Wow.


The next stop was around the interbay peninsula {BIGMAP}, which is the home of McDill AFB and Command Central for the Iraqi War operation. As we skirted the Security Zone for the Air Force Base, the USCG found yet another reason for to establish a Security Zone. This time it was three huge Japanese warships. The Japanese Navy wasn't too threatened by Windigo, but remember the last time we had a dispute with them? I stayed nicely 1000-yards from all three naval vessels [check out the flag]. (When I was in school, Japan wasn't even allowed to have a Navy . . .)


We had sailed a bit later that day, and spent the hour prior to anchoring at the east end of the Gandy Bridge {MAP} in a bit of a thunderstorm. The 20+ knots of gusty wind made anchoring a good experience for Karin. We had just finished the rain-catching awning for the bow of Windigo, and had a great time testing it out. (It gathers 10 - 30 gallons of water during the typical Tampa Bay thunderstorm.)


The Pedigo journey {MAP} the next day revealed a large number of waterfowl hanging around the mangrove shoreline.


Many reefs and shoals in Old Tampa Bay complicated moving Windigo and its seven-foot draft to the other end of the Gandy Bridge {BIGMAP}, and I took on yet another navigation challenge. Negotiating unmarked narrow channels in Tampa Bay {MAP} with its relatively soft bottom is great practice for the coral reefs we will encounter in the Caribbean.


We nestled into Snug Harbor {MAP} inside Weedon Island. Although this was one of the most remote and natural anchorages in Tampa Bay, we had easy access to Pinellas County where we used to live. This anchorage allowed us access to GE Polymershapes, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and other familiar places we needed for one last shopping trip here. One of the projects completed here was the replacement of an instrument lens that had gone crazed and hazy from UV damage. Just like new!


We are continuing the completion of the netting enclosure for the cockpit where we will sleep most of the time.


A Pedigo trip {MAP} through the mangrove alleys of Weedon Island revealed a vast amount of wildlife, one of which allowed his photograph to be taken.


From Snug Harbor {BIGMAP} we worked our way around several shallow areas and into Snell Island Harbor {MAP}, an upscale community (they screen-in their whole house!) just north of St. Pete. The harbor is only accessible to Windigo at the highest of tides, so we came in one day, left the next at the exact same tide height during a full moon. (Did you know the tides progress about one hour ahead each consecutive day, as the moon's orbit makes it pass overhead 55 minutes later each day?)


Here we scraped the prop and waterline of the light growth that accumulates. Cleaning these surfaces a couple times a month keeps Windigo looking good, sailing well, and helps my swimming skills . . . (I pluralize as an exaggeration.)


The next day we moved around the end of Snell Island to Coffeepot Bayou {MAP} without making our way across the shallow reef around the area. We may stay inside the shallows for only a few days during the full moon, as the tide will not reach enough height for us to leave during the waxing moon. Coffeepot Bayou was a wonderful surprise stop. It provided protection from the seas, but allowed a nice breeze to keep us cool, bug-free and power our wind generator. It is very pretty, with nice houses and tree-lined parks and beaches as far as you can see. It allows access to cycling with a clean seawall for disembarking from Pedigo, which we also took for a ride to the North Yacht Basin. Nice sunsets, too.


Moving along brought us into the North Yacht Basin of St. Pete, by way of perhaps the most shallow area we've crossed yet in Tampa Bay and the pumpout dock at the Harborage Marina {MAP}. The North Yacht Basin is the site of the former Vinoy Yacht Harbor. I say former because it was completely destroyed in a storm two years ago, WHILE I was teaching a class there!


We also lived here three years ago for an extended period, and it was here that I returned from my bike crash in Mobile when Windigo and Karin were ready to leave Tampa Bay. My, how the course of history gets diverted at times . . .


The most prominent feature of the waterfront of St. Pete is The Pier. Its many restaurants, shops, and even an aquarium makes it more than just a tourist trap. Heck, the bar on the top floor invites you to stroll through to see the great view even if you're not buying anything!


Today we left the North Yacht Basin in St. Pete, and headed for Gulfport {MAP} (we really like Gulfport) to tune up a few provisions, make a new rudder for Pedigo, and a little welding on my bike rack. We will take a few days before we head out for our next voyage, "Windigo's Return to the Dry Tortugas"


I hope you have found the circumnavigation of Tampa Bay {BIGMAP} interesting and enjoyable. There are beautiful and wondrous sights here, as well as the problems I felt obligated to discuss with you. Please don't take the negative comments as pure whining or bitching; I merely felt obligated to enlighten as many people as possible with some facts, observations [and opinions] of current events that have, or WILL affect you very soon. Educate yourself additionally concerning these issues and you will find your own heart and your own opinion.


(I really enjoy the charting/navigation stuff!) {BIGMAP}


Where we are right now:


(Mom, save this link as a bookmark- then you can be one click away from not worrying about me . . .)


Our permanent and EXACT address:


Capt. KL & Karin Hughes

S/V WindigoIII - PMB 365

88005 Overseas Hwy. #9

Islamorada, FL 36033-3087


Text-only Email addresses aboard Windigo, checked daily:



Email addresses checked when at a land-based computer:




And of course, the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue: