Optimystique’s Great Loop Has Begun!

Almost 80 miles down, only 5, 920 to go!

On Monday, February 5, Optimystique departed Twin Dolphin Marina in Bradenton, FL for our 6000 mile circumnavigation of the Eastern US … otherwise known as The Great Loop!   Beautiful day, partly cloudy, light wind… perfect!

Dolphins frolic in Optimystique’s bow wake as we leave Twin Dolphin Marina, Bradenton.

Dolphins were cavorting with Optimystique’s bow before we were even out into the channel! Unfortunately, dolphins are decidedly camera shy.

Dropping Mr Mantus in the fog at Emerson Pointe/Manatee River

Later, less than one hour into our year+ Great Loop adventure, FOG descended approaching the junction of the Manatee River and Tampa Bay … DENSE fog… as in, we couldn’t see much beyond the AGLCA burgee flag on the bow.

Hmmm… I liked the dolphin omen better.  😉

Since we were close to an excellent anchorage that we’d used during Winterlude’s last adventure, we baptized our brand new Mantus anchor – splash!  As anticipated, it grabbed the river bottom the first time and we were secure, away from the channel.

Tampa Bay closed to ship traffic, indicating serious fog. Listening on VHF Channel 12, we could hear Tampa Bay Pilots communicating with 4 ships.  An hour later, the ships were being instructed to restart their engines. We could see Emerson Point in front of us and almost see the faint outline of Anna Maria Island through the limited visibility.    Time for Mr Mantus to come back aboard!  Not being used to having all these new amenities, we promptly forgot to use the salt water washdown hose to rinse the sand off the anchor.

Anna Maria Island Bridge … #1 bridge on our Great Loop.

The Anna Maria Bridge… our first bridge … had less than 20′ showing on the tide marker board. Somehow we missed reading the sign that said there’s an extra 3′ clearance in the middle. With Optimystique’s 20′ air height, we were hesitant to chance it and waited for an extra half hour for the next bridge opening.  It wouldn’t be good to knock off the top off the boat before our first day was even over!

Hello Sarasota!

Due to the late start, we picked up a transient mooring at Marina Jack in Sarasota and watched as an amazing sunset unfolded.

Sarasota Marina Jack Mooring Field Sunset

I can tell, I’m going to love this “dark side” boating!  The next morning, there was no captain forcing me out of bed before the crack of dawn, just sunrise and lingering over coffee. My kind of morning!

Good Morning Sarasota! … our 2nd Day on The Great Loop

No matter the day of the week, the ICW is a busy waterway.  Lots of boats, more dolphins, more white pelicans, more shallow sandbars on both sides of the channel and sadly, many boats that appear to be victims of Hurricane Irma.

Beautiful homes along the Florida West Coast ICW

After 10 more bridges, most of which we managed to clear without needing an opening … (did you know that it’s supposedly a $10,000 penalty for requesting a bridge opening if you don’t need the clearance?), we emerged into Charlotte Harbor, crossed Boca Grande Pass and gingerly made our way from memory, i.e. without a GPS track, into shallow Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park.  We wanted to give Mr Mantus our new anchor a chance to hold us all night long.  After a bit of an anchoring dance, providing entertainment for neighboring boats, once again, the anchor performed admirably (despite its humans getting the new snubber all screwy and having to start over).    Learning curve!

Pelican Bay … Cayo Costa State Park ….

Sunset at Cayo Costa State Park

Wednesday morning we crossed Charlotte Harbor to Burnt Store Marina where we took on fuel for the first time!

We’re looking forward to some “Looper Wintering Over” here while we get a few boat projects completed (things we didn’t know we wanted to address, but as our shakedown has proven, need to be moved up on the priority list!), and enjoy two different sets of Grandkids visits!

Almost 80 miles down, 5,920 to go!

Back on D Dock, Burnt Store Marina.


  1. why did you not give me a call?

  2. Love your photos of places we recognize! Emerson Point, Pelican Bay (crowded!), OUR mooring at Marina Jack, etc! Tickled for you folks. Our flights south again are the 26th!

  3. Nice photos. Good luck on your loop!

  4. What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing it with us – looking forward to the next installment!!!

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