We make our Gulf Crossing in two hops, then start down the west coast of Florida. On the way, we stop in Steinhatchee, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater Beach with a side trip to Dunedin, and end up in Gulfport.

Day 250 – Tuesday, 01/30 – From Carrabelle, FL to Steinhatchee, FL – 84 miles, Travel Time: 8hrs 10min

Carrabelle, FL to Steinhatchee, FL
Carrabelle, FL to Steinhatchee, FL

We left Carrabelle at 7:00 am, just as the sun was rising. It was a bit chilly at 45°, but it was calm and sunny! Oh, those doubters! As we left the Carrabelle Inlet and entered the Gulf Of Mexico proper, Brenda looked and counted 14 boats in our flotilla. Barefoot Jones, Brand New Day, Certitude, Cool Change, Emprise, Escapade, Livin the Stream, Love on the Locks, Manatee, Northern Lights, Stay Golden, Virginia Hawkeye, and Wayward Wind.

On our last Loop, we traveled 171 miles from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs. This time, we are doing the crossing in two hops: first to Steinhatchee, which is 84 miles, and then to Tarpon Springs, which is 125 miles. Doing it this way is 38 miles longer, but it breaks it up a bit. Also, the route is closer to shore, and you don’t have to travel in the dark!

Some of the slower boats will make the trip in 3 hops, first to Steinhatchee, then to Crystal River, then to Tarpon Springs, so that they don’t have to do any nighttime travel.

We didn’t see Steinhatchee on our last Loop, so it was a new place to visit, and we heard that they have an excellent Looper-friendly marina. We got some great sunrise photos at the start of our crossing as we were heading due east.

The crossing was boring. We spent just over 8 hours watching for and avoiding crab pot buoys, and there were a lot of them. Fortunately, the crabbers usually place them in straight lines, so when you see one, it’s easy to figure out where to look for the next ones. I guess boring is a good thing. There were no engine issues, we didn’t hit anything, there was no bad weather, and there were no killer whales trying to eat our rudder. Yes, boring is good!

Backing Path
The yellow line is our backup path to our slip. Every slip on the dock had a boat, some sticking out quite a bit!

When we arrived in Steinhatchee just after 3:00, some of the boats continued up the river to the next marina, and some went to anchor in the anchorage. There were a few of the boats that were slower and had not arrived with us. Four boats in our group were staying at the Steinhatchee Marina. This caused a bit of a traffic jam. We waited out in the river while they got Brand New Day and Stay Golden settled, and then they called us and said. We are running out of room, so we have to put you on the back dock, so you will have to back down the fairway and into the slip.

When we got to the back corner, a bunch of pelicans who didn’t want to move were sitting on the dock. The dock hand had to shoo them off to catch our lines. They like to hang out there because the fish cleaning stations are just above where we parked.

Tim and Brenda on Indigo returned to their boat a little later in the evening. They had crossed a week before and left their boat for a trip home. We were sad that it was just the two of them. Riggs, their dog that was with them through most of the trip, sadly passed while they were home. At 17, he had a long life and got to experience a good part of the loop.

The marina has a Tiki bar right above where we were docked, and we got together with some of the other loopers for Docktails before a group of us went next door to Roy’s restaurant for dinner.

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Day 251 – Wednesday, 01/31 – In Steinhatchee, FL

Steinhatchee Hardware Knife Case
Steinhatchee Hardware Knife Case

It was a sunny and warm 63° on Wednesday. We were scheduled to stay in Steinhatchee for a few days, and I had wanted to refinish the teak rails on the boat for a while. I figured this was as good a time as any, especially before we got back into Snooty, Florida, and were docked next to all the fancy new boats.

I needed a few supplies, so I walked the mile and a half to the local hardware store. It was a great place. The owner seems to be a knife aficionado, as they had a whole row of glass display cases with folding, hunting, and fileting knives for sale. Some of them were quite high-end, in the several hundred dollar range!

When I got back, I started getting the rails ready by washing them well.

In the evening, there was another round of docktails and route planning at the Tiki Hut, and we were treated to a fantastic sunset! Brenda got a new friend. One of the Looper dogs took a shine to her (probably because of the treats she was feeding it) and parked itself next to her for the evening. After the docktails broke up, we went to the tiki bar and had some chicken wings for dinner.

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Day 252 – Thursday, 02/01 – In Steinhatchee, FL

Thursday morning, Brand New Day and Indigo both left for Tarpon Springs. We couldn’t get a reservation until Friday, so we had to stay back.

I got busy putting teak cleaner on the rails and scrubbing them with a scotch-brite pad. It took me until early afternoon to get all 82 feet of them clean and bleached back to their normal color. Brenda spent most of the morning working on her cross-stitch kit.

Just after lunch, one of the dockhands came around and said that the marina owner had sent him up to his orange grove, and there were freshly picked oranges and grapefruit in the office. It’s something that they do for the Loopers when we come through. Brenda went up and got a few. They were delicious!

Once the rails were dry, I went around and put three coats of Danish Teak Oil on them. The day had warmed up into the upper 70s and by the time I finished going around the boat oiling them, they were dry enough for me to do the next coat.

At about 4:30, I finished the rails. They looked very nice. I have to remember to take pictures when I’m doing boat projects. After I cleaned up, Brenda and I went next door to Roy’s for dinner.

Day 253 – Friday, 02/02 – From Steinhatchee, FL to Tarpon Springs, FL – 125 miles, Travel Time: 7hrs 10min

Steinhatchee to Tarpon Springs
Steinhatchee, FL to Tarpon Springs,FL

Friday morning, we headed out of Steinhatchee at 7 a.m. Again, we were treated to a spectacular sunrise. Stay Golden, who had crossed from Carabelle with us and were only on the fourth day of their Loop trip, followed us out of the river and back into the Gulf. They were headed to Crystal River, so they would peel off after a couple of hours.

The water was amazingly calm—so calm that, looking out, you could hardly tell where the water stopped and the sky began! Again, it was dodge-em with crab pot buoys, but aside from that, it was smooth sailing.

The only hazard we saw was a large dolphin floating on the surface. It was a large inflatable pool toy that must have blown away from some dock in the winds of the last few days.

We bid Stay Golden safe travels as they turned toward Crystal River, and we continued to Tarpon Springs.

As we came up the Anclote River into Tarpon Springs, we passed Brand New Day. They were docked at a marina on the opposite side of the river from downtown Tarpon. As we rounded the last bend toward the Sponge Docks, a large tugboat pulled out in front of us and headed toward the harbor. They were dredging the harbor, and there was a large dredging waste barge and another barge with a bucket crane on it in the middle of the harbor. The tug was going to pick up the waste barge and swap it out for an empty one.

The dock hand at the City Marina was waiting for us. He was surprised when he saw our boat because our friends on Indigo, who have almost the same boat in the same color scheme, had just left that morning. We backed into the slip without issue and, within 15 minutes, were comfortably seated at Dock’s Waterfront Bar (conveniently located right at the end of the dock), having a refreshing beverage.

On the First Friday of every month, Tarpon Springs has a street market in downtown. It’s sort of like a large craft and food market. We took the bikes and rode into town to meet Steve and Edie for dinner. We first stopped at the “Two Frogs Brewery”. Brenda and Tim on Indigo had told us about it, and we just HAD to stop. We walked around the market, which covered a couple of city blocks for a while—then stopped at Back Draughts Pizza next to the brewery for dinner. This pizza place is very popular, and it was quite crowded with the market going on. They don’t do “seating”. It’s first grab, first serve. There were 4 or 5 people inside waiting for a table, and Steve and I hovered on the outside patio, waiting to pounce when someone got up. We waited about 40 minutes but finally got a table inside.

It was worth the wait! The pizza was cooked in a wood-fired oven, so it had a nice smoky flavor, and the crust was super crispy! After dinner, Edie and Steve took an Uber back to their boat, and we rode the bikes back to ours.

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Day 254 – Saturday, 02/03 – In Tarpon Springs, FL

Saturday morning, it was really foggy. We could hardly see the dredge just a couple hundred feet in front of the boat. Brand New Day was heading for Clearwater Beach, and they had to delay their departure a couple of hours until the fog burned off. The fog didn’t stop the dredge crew; at 7 am sharp, we heard the engine on the crane start up, and they began dredging for the day. Just before we left for downtown, they swapped out the waste barge for a new one. It’s cool to watch the tug maneuver the huge barge with just a small assist boat to help.

Once it cleared up, Brenda and I rode the bikes back downtown. We had seen several interesting shops while walking around the street market last night, but they were too busy to visit. We parked the bikes, walked around the shopping district, visited the shops, and took pictures. Around 1:00, we stopped and had a light lunch, then headed back to the boat.

In the evening, Jerry and Allison on Destination came to visit. We met them in 2019 on our first Loop. We were in Clifton, Tennessee, and they were staying at the same marina. Jerry and Allison are from the Chicago area and had just purchased their boat. They had never heard of the Great Loop, but after meeting a bunch of Loopers and hanging out with us while we were stuck in Clifton for a few days, they decided to join. They had planned to go to Florida, then turn around and head back to Chicago. After joining, they decided just to keep going and do the Loop!

They have now done the loop twice and are on their third circuit. They were in Bradenton, Florida, picking up their new, larger boat, and when they saw that we would be nearby, they drove up to have dinner with us.

We went to Yannies Seafood & Greek Cusine next to the Sponge Docks and had a great Greek meal while catching up with them.

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Day 255 – Sunday, 02/04 – In Tarpon Springs, FL

On Sunday morning, I worked on the blog a bit, and Brenda worked on her cross-stitch. Around noon, we took an Uber to Publix to do some food shopping and stock up on water. When we got back, we walked up and down Dodecanese Blvd, the main street in the Greek Sponge Dock area, and visited the tourist trap sponge and souvenir shops. We stopped at a Hellas Greek Bakery for some honey-soaked, nut-covered, flaky pastry crust Greek delicacies. (Baklava, Kataifi, Chocolate Flogeres) You know, diet food!

Hellas Greek Bakery
Hellas Greek Bakery

I had seen a restaurant called Blackbeards Grub and Grog just a block up from the marina that sounded interesting. As it was our last night in Tarpon Springs, we decided to give it a try for dinner. Something other than Greek food. It was more of a bar and pool hall, but the food wasn’t bad, and they had a good selection of beer.

Demosthenes the Dolphin
Demosthenes the Dolphin
The Frog at the Dock
The Frog at the Dock

Day 256 – Monday, 02/05 – From Tarpon Springs, FL to Clearwater Beach, FL – 21 miles, Travel Time: 2hrs 25min

Tarpon Springs, FL to Clearwater Beach, FL
Tarpon Springs, FL to Clearwater Beach, FL

Monday was a bit cloudy, and there were some sprinkles of rain in the morning. The wind was up a bit, but most of our short run down to Clearwater Beach would be in the sheltered ICW, so we weren’t too worried about rough water.

As we got near Dunedin, a couple of dolphins started playing in the wake of the boat. We love it when they do they are so fun to watch jumping, and racing the boat. Like kids (from the good old days) playing!

All in all, the trip wasn’t bad. It was a little choppy where the breaks in the barrier islands allowed the swells from the Gulf in, but the rest was just light chop.

We pulled into Clearwater Beach Marina, and caught back up with Brand New Day. Once we were settled in, I pulled the bikes off of the boat and rode up to the local UPS Store to drop off a couple of Amazon returns and pick up our forwarded mail.

In the late afternoon, we got together with Brand New Day, Emprise, and Endeavor and went to the 3 Daughters Brewery for docktails. It was a bit cool and windy on the outdoor patio, but we had a good time talking about all things Looping! We found it funny that Brand New Day, Emprise, and Endeavor all had 3 Daughters, just like the brewery name. At least a couple of them bought T-shirts.

When the docktails broke up, Brenda and I went downstairs from the brewery to Hooters and had chicken wings for dinner.

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Day 257 – Tuesday, 02/06 – In Clearwater Beach, FL

It was clear and had started to warm up a bit on Tuesday, but the wind was still blowing in hard from the Gulf of Mexico. Brenda and I decided to go for a walk on the beach. There were a number of walkers but not too many beach loungers. When the wind gusted, it kicked up sand, and you had to turn away or get sand-blasted in the face.

We walked down to the end of the beach, where a jetty separates the Clearwater Beach boat channel from the beach. The waves in the boat channel were easily 2-3 feet. It’s not a good day to be coming into or out of Clearwater by boat.

After watching the waves for a while, we walked back down toward the restaurant district. We walked on the sidewalks next to the hotels this time to get out of the wind. We stopped into a couple of the beach shops to see if we could find some gifts for our Grand Nieces. Around 1:00, we walked past a restaurant called “Coco’s Crush” that looked fun, so we went in for lunch. The place was very busy! The food was good, and the bartender was a hoot!

Edie and Brenda had planned dinner on Brand New Day. They needed a few things for dinner so when we got back to the boat, we took the bikes up to the local Publix supermarket. Steve tried to get his BBQ going to cook some steaks, but the wind was too strong. We ended up bringing them over to our boat, which was a bit more sheltered from the wind and cooked them there.

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Day 258 – Wednesday, 02/07 – In Clearwater Beach, FL

Wednesday, we took the Trolley service to Dunedin with Steve and Edie from Brand New Day. The Trolley is a great deal; it’s $2.25 and will take you from Clearwater Beach to Tarpon Springs. There is a Trolley stop right in the marina parking lot.

Brenda and I have been to Dunedin several times, and it’s one of our must-stop little towns. There is a nice downtown with lots of interesting shops. There is a nice little harbor with a very good restaurant. The harbor used to take transient boaters, but now it’s full of full-time boats, so you can’t stay there on your way past.

There is a rails-to-trails trail that runs from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburgh and right through the center of town. It’s a hub of activity with a Street Market and lots of shops and restaurants along its intersection with Main Street. We started our visit at the old Dunedin Railroad Station, which is now the Dunedin History Museum. Dunedin was always a tourist town and a hub for the orange-growing industry.

As we left the museum, we heard music coming from just across the street. There was folk music… orchestra, I guess you’d call it, playing in the park next to the rail trail. It appeared to be a group of retirees who enjoy playing music and get together from time to time. The collection of instruments was vast, from Accordions to Zithers and everything in between!

We listened to them for a while, then wandered around the shops along Main Street, heading toward the harbor. When we got to the harbor, we stopped at the Olde Bay Cafe for lunch. We got a real workout during lunch, shooing away the yellow jackets. They were everywhere!

After lunch, we strolled back toward downtown, browsing the shops a bit more. Around 3:00, we caught the Trolley back to Clearwater Beach. Brand New Day was staying in Clearwater for a few more days, but we had reservations in Gulfport for Thursday, so we put the bikes back on the boat to get ready for a morning departure. We had had a big lunch, so we just had a snack on the boat before bed.

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Day 259 – Thursday, 02/08 – From Clearwater Beach, FL to Gulfport, FL – 25 miles, Travel Time: 3hrs 20min

Clearwater Beach, FL to Gulfport, FL
Clearwater Beach, FL to Gulfport, FL

It was a great day to travel on Thursday. There was no wind, and it was continuing to warm up. We left Clearwater Beach at 8:00 for the short, 25-mile run to Gulfport, FL. I had made the reservation for Gulfport several days before. When I called, they answered “Gulfport Marina,” and I said that I wanted to make a reservation. “Sure, what is your boat name?” they asked. I said, “Kissed Some Frogs,” and the person at the marina asked, “Oh, you’re coming back so soon?” I said, “Well, it’s been two years.” The person chuckled and said, “You have the wrong Gulfport. This is Gulfport, Mississippi. You were just here a couple of weeks ago.” Oops! Wrong Gulfport!

We took our time getting there. Two bridges had to be lifted on the way, which took a bit of time, so we arrived just after 2 p.m. As we pulled into the marina, we stopped at the fuel dock to top off our fuel tanks and did a pump-out. Then, we rounded the corner to the transient dock and pulled up behind our friends Tim and Brenda on Indigo.

We had a catch-up with them and then walked into downtown Gulfport for dinner at the Neptune Grill.

When we were talking about downsizing and moving from South Carolina, Gulfport, Florida, was one of our choices for places to move to. It’s a sleepy little town with several marinas and lots to do. It is also just a short distance from St. Petersburgh and Tampa if you want museums, sports, culture, health care, or large shopping.

The only issue with Gulfport is that anything on the west coast of Florida south of Tarpon Springs is VERY expensive. We found a condo there similar to the one we purchased in Palm Coast, and it was over twice the price! Still, it’s a great place to visit and another of our must-stops when we are boating on that side of Florida.

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Day 260 – Friday, 02/09 – In Gulfport, FL

When we were downtown for dinner last night, we saw signs for an Arts & Crafts Festival on Saturday. We had only planned on staying 2 nights but decided to hang around until Monday so that we could go to the Festival.

The harbormaster said we could stay, but he had boats coming in that needed the space on the transient dock, so we would have to move into a slip. “That’s no problem. What slip do you want us in?” we said. “What’s your beam (width)?” he asked. “14 feet,” we said. “Okay, go to slip C-15.” So, we cranked up the engines and moved to one of the fairways next to the C docks and backed into slip C-15. While backing, it looked a bit tight, but we slipped in and got almost to the back of the slip when the boat pretty much stopped moving. It seems that C-15 is exactly 14 feet wide, and we are exactly 14 feet wide. We were hard up against the pilings on either side of the slip. There is a tide change of a couple of feet there, and there is no room for fenders.

I called the harbormaster, and he said that he would be right over. He took one look and said, “Nope, that’s not going to work! We’ll move you to the other side of the dock where the slips are 16 feet.” So, we cranked up the engines again, moved to the other side of the dock, and got tied up in a slip where we could put out fenders!

Once we were settled again, Brenda did laundry and cleaned out our freezer. I rode the bike into town and got us some lunch from Siri Gourmet Burger.

That evening, we biked into town and walked around before settling on dinner at Pia Trattoria. Pia is a very good Italian restaurant with an outdoor garden patio. They had a guitarist playing music while we had an excellent dinner. It’s one of our favorites in Gulfport.

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Day 261 – Saturday, 02/10 – In Gulfport, FL

We rode the bikes into town to the Arts Festival. It was quite crowded! The last time we were at the festival, it was on the main street. This time, they had moved it to Veterans Park on the waterfront. There were about 50 artists set up. It was nice as it was a juried show, and it was all artists. No one is hawking rain gutters or vegetable peelers. We walked around for a while. There was lots to look at, but we didn’t find anything we “needed.”

We took the “long way” back to the boat through town and up to the main highway just to see a little more of Gulfport. We then stopped back at the boat to pick up some shopping bags and then rode to Walmart. There is a great network of bike trails in Gulfport that run through the mangroves along the shore. The route to Walmart uses these for most of the way so it’s a very nice and scenic ride.

We did our shopping, then went back to the boat and relaxed for the rest of the day.

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Day 262 – Sunday, 02/11 – In Gulfport, FL

On Sunday we decided to take an Uber to St Petersburg to go to the Imagine Museum and the Chihuly Glass Collection. Both of these are museums feature glass art. Brenda is a “glassaholic” who loves going to glass-blowing studios and glass art museums. We have been to both of these before, but there is always something new to see.

We started at the Imagine Museum and spent a couple of hours looking at all of the exhibits. One of the artists on display makes “Lenticular Paintings”. These are 3D works of art that move as you do. You have probably seen the postcards where the image changes as you move it. Most of those only show two or three images. This is the same basic technology, just brought to a new level. The images were very colorful and detailed, and the eyes of the subjects followed you as you moved along. With each step you took, the image shifted, giving the appearance of a 3D hologram. Amazing work.

When we got to the second floor, a docent was sitting there with handouts. She explained that in each gallery room, there was hidden either a small glass frog, or a small glass flamingo. The goal was to find them as you viewed the galleries and check off which piece of art the frog or flamingo was next to. It was an interesting way to get people to look more closely at the art.

As we walked around, we found the frogs and flamingos in each gallery. When we finished viewing the second floor galleries, we returned to the main lobby and the gift shop. Brenda saw a perfume bottle made by one of the artists we had seen. Unlike so many art pieces in museum gift shops this one was resonably priced so we bought it.

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When we finished at the Imagine Museum, we walked a couple of blocks toward downtown to the Chihuly Museum. Chihuly does large glass-blown sculptures. He is famous for the glass ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and for his outdoor installations at botanical gardens around the world. We’ve been fortunate to see his work on several occasions. The Chihuly Collection in St Petersburgh is an indoor display of a selection of his art. Like the Imagine Museum, we’ve visited before and enjoy coming back to see what new pieces have been added.

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After Chihuly, we went across the street to the Florida Craft Art Gallery and had a look around there as well. This is more standard art, pottery, sculpture, jewlery, and photography. Similar to the artisan festival we were at yesterday.

It was getting to be mid-afternoon, and we had not had anything to eat yet, so we went to “Ferg’s Sports Ba,r” a famous St Petersburgh bar and grill. It is right next door to Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team plays. It was quite crowded as it was Superbowl Sunday, and people were getting there early to get good seats for the game. We found two seats at the bar, had some lunch, and then got out before it got too crowded.

We got an Uber to pick us up right in front of Fergs when they were dropping someone off and headed back to the boat. In the evening, Brenda fixed nachos, and we watched the Superbowl on the boat.

Day 263 – Monday, 02/12 – In Gulfport, FL

After a busy day on Sunday, we took it easy on Monday. Across the dock from us was a sailboat called “Too Many Toads”. We’ve been trying to catch up with the owner, and Brenda saw a dog on the boat, so we went over to say hi. The captain is a single lady who sails with her dog. She spends winters on the sailboat in Florida and summers on her Trawler Yacht in Connecticut. She was quite the character, with a PhD in Psychology, certified boat captain, minister, boat bottom painter, and a number of other titles and skills.

I walked over to the marina office to pick up a package and saw a bunch of egrets hanging around the bait tank. The cover was open and a few were IN the bait tank helping themselves. I tried to shoo them when I went past, but they weren’t scared of me! When I went into the office, I mentioned the cover was open, and they had some shoplifters. They said that on Monday, they clean the tank and let the birds help themselves to whatever was left after the weekend.

We went for another bike ride on the trails and stopped at Walmart for a few things, then had dinner on the boat.

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Day 264 – Tuesday, 02/13 – In Gulfport, FL

On Tuesday it was sunny but quite windy. I did another couple of coats of Teak Oil on the rails. There were a few maintenance items on the engines, tightenening up belts, and dealing with a loose clamp that was dripping oil.

Brenda worked on her kit, and in general we just relaxed. In the evening we brought the bikes back onto the boat and got the boat ready to move in the morning before having dinner on board.

Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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