Thursday, May 21, 2009
Sails, Storms, and Contingency Plans
We woke up early and optimistic on Tuesday morning as we headed out of the channel and into the rougher waters. Though there wasn't any thunder and lightening that morning, but the seas were rougher than we had seen them before and the winds were more powerful. The sails weren't much help though, and we were primarily moving with help from the motor. Within a few minutes, I was starting to feel queasy and after talking to Captain Pete it became clear that we'd be slogging through at least six hours of these conditions until we got to Venice. And Venice was still over fifty miles from Tampa. I decided we should turn back and head for Punta Gorda, a small town in Charlotte Harbor.
The rain started falling again as we cut through the rough seas on our way back into the channel. I concentrated on the horizon and tried to breathe deeply. As soon as e made it into the Harbor, I immediately started feeling better and pretty soon the sun started coming up. We let the sails out and did our first actual sailing of the trip.
The wind was blowing consistently and we were heading towards Punta Gorda at a pleasant six knots. Though I was pretty busy at the time- frantically calling everyone I could think of to help find a way to get to Tampa. I called the airport, flight school, chamber of commerce, and some people I had met in the past few days, but no options were presenting themselves. Finally I called one of my initial Florida contacts- Nate at the state tourism board. He was very friendly, as always, and said he'd email a few contacts in the area. Within an hour I had receeived an email from Jennifer at the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau. She had a few ideas and was sending out a few emails of her own. We docked at Punta Gorda and I made my bed for the third night, and went to sleep slightly unnerved.
The next morning, I bid goodbye to Captain Pete and the Offshore Sailing School, and I was back to the transportation game. I had a few emails waiting for me, and some of theme looked promising. Jennifer had put me in touch with Tracy, who works in marketing for some nearby hotels. Tracy told me about her dad, John, who's a car and motorcycle aficionado and is always up for an adventure. I kept my fingers crossed and kep looking into some other options just in case this didn't work out. She got in touch with her dad a little after 10AM on Wednesday, and about an hour later we was picking me up on the back of his Harley.
We rode the 100 miles to Tampa, stopping off at John's house and shop where he showed off some of his awesome classic cars, (a few of which used to belong to Bob Dole). John told me about some of the crazy trips he's gone on including a few cross country road trip and a canoe ride down the Mississippi. He dropped me off on Davis Island where I met up with Scott Glassburn and a few other folks from Suncoast Electric Bikes.
Scott has a background in building sports cars, but he wanted to start looking into cleaner transportation. The company was born less than a year ago, but they're already starting to catch on in Florida. We rode down the island, and it was an effortless ride. Without any peddling, I could push the accelerator and get up to 20 MPH in no time. A few minutes later we arrived at the marina where I met up with Nancy and Jeff of Endeavor Green, a new company that makes electric hyrbid yachts.
We took a ride into downtown Tampa as Nancy and Jeff told me about the beginnings of the company. They'd been renting and selling electric boats for a while, and they'd take note whenever their customers had notes or suggestions on what they were looking for in their watercraft. Eventually, they realized they wanted to make a boat of their own. So they started designing this hybrid yacht that has a remote control roof that also acts as a cover, a full size toilet stall that pops up, and a shower. Pretty impressive and it all fits comfortably on the nearly silent boat, (as long as it's running in electric mode).
Lastly, I got a ride on Hop Tampa to the train station. It's a free taxi service, (paid for by ads), that shuttles people around town in an electric GEM car. It's a pretty wild vehicle but it was a fun ride and was timed well as a huge rain shower started just as I stepped in. As usual, Amtrak was a little late, but I really didn't mind sitting to catch my breath this time. I almost didn't make this train so I was just happy to be there.