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St. Pete Beach

We continued our tour of the beaches around Tampa this weekend with a stop at St. Petersburg Beach. The town and its municipal beach are set on a barrier island just off the coast of Pinellas County, Florida. The island has long, wide beaches and, at least during our visit, calm water.

The cute downtown area is lined with shops, restaurants, resorts, and some classic motels that remind you of yesteryear. We found some convenient parking in a municipal lot, it’s not Parkmobile compatible so bring change or your credit card. You will find a small beach store and place to wash your feet before the long 100-yard walk to the water.

The beach itself is hard-packed sand and the water is cloudier than Clearwater. You will also find beach chairs and umbrellas for rent but the vender only uses cash at that location. We enjoyed our restorative day at the beach and can’t wait to explore some more of the other beaches.

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Southern Caribbean Challenge 2019

The idea of an active cruising vacation is taken to the extreme in the Southern Caribbean Challenge.

It’s comprised of seven marathons in six countries over the span of just one week. After taking a hiatus last year because of hurricane damage in the region, the runners were on their marks once more this summer. You have the option of running in all or one of the events joining World Record holders from more than 20 counties.

You start your marathon voyage in Puerto Rico and after stopping in St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and Saint Maarten, and — if you’re not entirely exhausted — there’s another race aboard the cruise ship. You don’t have to run a marathon at each of the locations. You can sign up for distances of 5K, 10K, 1/2 and full marathon.

If you’re interested in the 2020 series you’ll have to keep a close eye on when registration opens since the there are only 30 spots available and (for some reason Amanda nor I understand) they fill up quickly. Participants get a chance to explore the islands, meet like-minded adventure-athletes, and soak in the sights and sounds of each destination. Not only that, the comfort of being on a luxury cruise ship will allow participants to relax and enjoy the evenings with family and friends.

We have no doubt that part of that luxury is the spa services to soothe your worn muscles after each run. 

Southern Caribbean Challenge June 2019 in St. Thomas (Courtesy: Bevan Springer)

The package for 2019 included a one-night accommodation in San Juan (twin sharing), transfer from the hotel to the cruise ship, swag (including a T-shirt & hat), race entry fee for all seven professionally managed events by local organizers, medals for each event, welcome reception, credits on the cruise ship and other activities.
If your idea of a Caribbean vacation includes more running than relaxation, this challenge will send you home with considerable bragging rights.



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Chris-Craft Made Sailboats?

Courtesy: Ray Daugherty

We have been in the market for a sailboat for a while now that we’ve moved to Tampa. The search came to an unexpected turn when we came across a 35′ Chris-Craft Carribean. I was shocked at first. I’ve been a fan of the Chris-Craft brand my entire life. The powerboats they’ve built have been turning heads for more a century. The wood finish of their classic runabout makes her a real looker. You often see them used in any film that has anything to do with Venice. You see a few of them in an epic boat chase through the Venetian lagoon in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I learned during a search that Chris-Craft designers Sparkman and Stephens were tasked to design sailboats for the legendary powerboat company. It’s like if you asked Ferarri to a motorhome and the results were amazing. In the next 15 years, they built eight models between 26 and 35 feet.

I got the opportunity to do a walkthrough of one of these amazing ladies in Cape Coral, about 2 hours and 20 minutes south of Tampa. The owner Ray has kept her in remarkably good condition. You’d never guess the vessel was more than 45 years old. Her lines are classic with a sharp bluff. The cabin is remarkably spacious with plenty of headroom. You have two staterooms (one fore and one aft) each with a head (bathroom).  The center of the cabin (or the lounge) has a nice dinette and a great galley. He even equipped it with fridge designed by a physicist that specializes in thermodynamics. In short, you can keep ice cream in your galley. I snapped a few pictures during my tour and hope you can appreciate the beauty of this wonderful example of marine architecture.

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The Beginning of a Long Journey

The Errant is ready to set sail. You may remember that two years ago my brother-in-law, with some financial help from us, purchased a forty-year-old, 40′ Morgan Sailing Ketch. The boat wasn’t a complete disaster, had a running diesel engine and came cheap. I was excited thinking that we’d be on the water quickly after a short refit. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The first thing my brother-in-law Matt did was begin gutting the boat like a house you’d see on one of those flipping shows. He took everything out. The interior, with the exception of the engine, was empty. He then set about the tedious process of fixing the soft spots on the deck. The repair usually involved finding a weak point, cutting out the fiberglass and wood and then patching it with new fiberglass and wood followed up by lots of sanding before repainting.

After two years of work, the boat looks amazing. We wrote about the transformation earlier this year in “A New Name for an Old Boat“. Just yesterday, the boat and its crew achieved another milestone: Errant’s journey south from Annapolis to Florida and then to Saint Thomas is underway.

Matt, Andi, and two crew members Sam and Dyan raised the sails and found a heading south through the Chesapeake Bay. Their goal is to meet me in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in about two weeks. I have my fingers crossed they can stick to that timing. I’ll then hop aboard and guide Errant the rest of the way through the Bahamas, past the Dominican Republic, around Puerto Rico and into her new port of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

We all have experience sailing but this will be our first big trip without a seasoned professionals’ experience to fall back on. Think of it like a pilot taking his or her first solo flight. We know a lot of things can go wrong and if they do success will come down to how we handle them. I have a lot of confidence in our ability, especially my own. I’ll ask you to wish us luck as we make a rather big journey for a novice crew. 

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The Tampa Bay History Center

We decided to take a few hours to get a look at the history of our new home of Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay History Center is three floors of permanent and temporary exhibition space by the water in downtown Tampa covering 12,000 years of Florida history. The museum includes a branch of the Hillsborough County Library and a scaled-down version of Ybor City’s famous Columbia Restaurant.

The trip was enlightening. The story of Tampa’s early pre-Columbian history was awe-inspiring. We loved imagining giant sloths roaming the grasslands. The museum had significant floorspace dedicated to the region’s history including extensive exhibits on the area’s craft beer industry, pirates and privateers and its famed cigar factories. 

Seminole woman using a sewing machine

Seminole woman using a sewing machine


Learning how to use a sextant in the pirate exhibit

Zeke practices using a sextant for navigation in the priate exhibit.


A lesson on the history of cigar advertising in a cigar shop

 Marketing 101 lessons in a cigar shop: Put your logo on everything.

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Clearwater Beach

I’d have to say one of the best things about living in Tampa is being less than 30 minutes away from some great beaches. Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States. It has wide strips of white sand, warm water, amenities, and a vibrant downtown if you want to go for a walk or find something to eat. I would add one disclaimer, though: The water is not as clear as you might imagine. We would put it at a 7 on our scale where 10 represents the Caribbean and 0 represents the Chesapeake Bay.

We have been to this beach two Saturdays in a row. You probably want to get there very early (before 9 AM) to find parking. If you want to rent a beach umbrella and chairs you really need to get there before noon..

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My Walk Through History

I was doing some thinking this weekend about all the historic places and events I’ve witnessed and devised a chart to cover some of them.