Friday, February 3, 2012
Life on Dock 4
4 SA104: AKA the Live-Abord Dock and our address at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina - home for the past three weeks. Although we are living aboard and moving about this winter, our Dock 4 live-aboard neighbors are here to stay. Some have just arrived in the past few months, and others have been here for years. It is just like any other neighborhood: some boats are big, some are small(er), some are power, some are sail, some are new and some are not-so. Welcome mats on the dock are a gentle reminder to wipe your feet, or even take off your shoes. Various types of chair, cushions, and house plants adorn the decks, giving a backyard feel. There are single adults, couples, families with children(from from elementary school age all the way to 20-something boomerangs) and lots of dogs and cats. Every morning we watch a steady parade of neighbors head up the dock to work, school, or walk the dog - men in suits, women carrying coffee mugs, students with wet hair and heavy backpacks. And the view can't be beat -- to the east: Tampa Bay, to the west: the highrises of St. Petersburg. Sunrise, Sunset. There is a real sense of community here on Dock 4. Every Friday night, one couple hosts a potluck Happy Hour on the dock beside their boat. It's a way for neighbors to catch up after the work week, and for newcomers like us to put names to faces. Sunny weekend afternoons are a natural for dockside conversations, as neighbors trade stories, maintenance woes, and news. The marina laundry room doubles as a community center. Big comfy couches, a television, snack machines, a microwave and overflowing shelves of previously-loved books provide a natural setting to meet and greet while waiting for your sheets to dry. Even dogs can be found lounging on the cool tile floor. For those boaters on small boats with few amenities it is a great place to stretch out, relax and catch up on the Jon Stewart Show. Even though Freedom has her own washer, dryer and TV, I must admit I too enjoy spending time there. Dock 4 at the Municipal Marina is adjacent to the Whitted Airport and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Sailing Center-- both providing us with endless amounts of entertainment. The first prop plane speeds down the runway at 7:03AM, and the take offs and landings continue until well after dark some nights. Helicopters come and go too -- some for sightseeing trips and others on official business. For the past two hours a Coast Guard helicopter has practiced take offs, landings, touch and go's and hovering techniques. It is loud but interesting. (The airport runs a very popular restaurant at the the end of the runway, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and a great view). When we are not watching the planes from our perch on the Calypso Deck, we have the perfect vantage point from which to watch the Yacht Club sailors, young and old. This weekend the club is hosting their Valentines Regatta and today we can see about at least 100 Optimists (aka Bathtub Boats) racing on Tampa Bay. Every Wednesday morning the club's Salty Sisters head out for a race or two, and the high school teams can be seen 2 or 3 times a week. As much as we like moving about, and visiting new places, we are also drawn to this settled life at the dock. We'll be moving on in a week, but Freedom just might come back and sit a spell longer next year.