Thank you for the advice all. I just placed an order for the following and should be here early next week:
Manfrotto 055XDB Black Basic Tripod Legs
I also had a chance today to take some more pictures, and based on those results (blown sky, dark beach), I also need a graduated ND filter and circular polarizer:
B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer with Multi-Resistant Coating
B+W 77mm Grad ND 0.6-4X (502)
I wouldn't waste your money on any screw in grad filters, as they have no flexibility.