In early June I cruised with a few friends aboard a Beneteau 37 from the Vinoy Basin in downtown St. Petersburg, FL to the Twin Dolphin Marina along the Manatee River in Bradenton, FL. The 40 mile round trip was ideal for an overnight and the conditions in early June were perfect for our weekend adventure. Although hot for others, Floridians know that June weather has nothing on that of late July and August and we wanted to take advantage. June on Tampa Bay offers relatively moderate temperatures, pleasant sea breezes, red skies at night, and SUMMER TRANSIENT RATES! Twin Dolphin Marina was only a buck a foot per night.
My crew and I left the Sailing Florida base in the Vinoy Basin sometime in mid afternoon, if I recall it was around 3PM when we left for good following a few setbacks. When finally underway we had clear skies and a beautiful sail through the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and up to the channel leading into the Manatee River. The sea breeze provided a steady 15 knots of wind, gusting to 18. The Beneteau 37 performed well on a beam reach, averaging 7 knots the whole way. As we entered the Manatee River under sail the sun began to set and the crew and I caught a spectacular Florida sunset. We made it to the entrance of the channel into Twin Dolphin Marina just as night fell, and luckily had the live music at Mattison’s Riverside to guide us into port. After we were safely tied up in our slip, we made a plan for the evening. In unusual fashion, the female members of the crew chose to head straight for the bar at Mattison’s, while the males opted for showers. The full crew then reassembled at Mattison’s for hors d’oeuvres and spirits. The evening continued at the Cigar Bar on Main St. in downtown Bradenton until the fun ran out.
On Sunday two thirds of the crew scoured Bradenton for a greasy breakfast while myself and the remaining crew-member held back for bagels and coffee in the cockpit. Shortly after breakfast, around the crack of noon, we set sail for Egmont Key for what was supposed to be a day filled with exploring, beaching, swimming and sunning. As we left the mouth of the Manatee and reentered Tampa Bay the breeze began to build and shift. About a mile into the Bay and on course to Egmont Key, the breeze shifted again and we were faced with a long beat to our destination. After a brief discussion and one executive decision, we cracked off and headed for the Skyway en route back to downtown St. Pete. A few gray clouds encircling the Bay provided a stiff breeze and a close reach almost all the way to our new destination. About a mile outside of the entrance to the Vinoy Basin the breeze shut off and we drifted the rest of the way into home port. The crew at Sailing Florida greeted us at the Vinoy Marina and guided the boat safely into its slip. We unloaded and cleaned up just in time for dinner and another fantastic sunset.
The trip from St. Pete to the Manatee River was a great weekend getaway. Fair winds, a worthy craft, good friends, and cheap slip fees made for the perfect “staycation” for a few St. Pete locals.