Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Okeechobee Waterway

Days: 157
Miles:     62                           Total Miles: 2,928
Locks today:     2                     Total locks:  38

Today we crossed the Lake Okeechobee Waterway, along with Charis and Patriyachtik. We left Moore Haven around 0730 and immediately locked through the dam there. 

Daybreak in Moore Haven

For the first part of the trip the waterway continued to be a narrow canal. We saw birds everywhere eating breakfast- Cormorants, vultures, gulls, ospreys, and even a pair of nesting eagles.

Looks like this osprey grabbed a gar.

I am pleased that my new camera captured a sharp image of this flying eagle from a moving boat at quite a distance.

Construction work along the bank

At Clewiston we turned left to take the channel that crosses the lake, rather than choosing the rim route. There was not much in the way of wind and waves. This lake is so shallow that it is easily stirred up. In fact, if our boat were to sink out there, the top part of it would still be above water! We knew that the sugar cane fields near the lake are burned off this time of year, so we wanted to avoid that smoke.

Smoke from burning cane fields
The lake at this area is about 27 miles wide, so our crossing took approximately 3 hours.  We finally arrived at Port Mayaca lock on the east side, to find it wide open. All we had to do was to motor on through- a nice surprise.

Charis and Patriyachtik enter Port Mayaca lock.

The waterway was now the St. Lucie Canal- another narrow ditch the rest of the way to our marina near Stuart. We had a little excitement with a railroad swing bridge. It has just five feet of clearance and is left open unless a train is approaching. Our leader called the bridge tender, who told us that there was a train coming but he would leave the bridge open for us. He must have thought we were fast boats, because several times he called on the radio telling us to hurry to beat the train. I have never thought that racing a train is a good idea- especially through a open bridge. We were the last boat in line, concerned that the tender would decide to start closing the span at any moment. It was tense! The tender exhorted us to keep up our speed even through the bridge's no wake zone. It sounded like he was about to wet his pants. Our boats, which typically travel at 8 mph or so, were streaking through that bridge at 11 mph. Whew! The bridge began to close the second we cleared it. I continued to look back, expecting to see the train any second. It was a full 6 minutes later when the train appeared-- not quite as close a call as we thought!

We saw this family n the water seining for fish.

Our flotilla of three arrived at River Forest Marina around 3:30, in plenty of time for docktails.  Tomorrow it looks like we we all go our separate ways.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Moving On

Sunday - Monday March 29 and 30

Days: 155-156
Miles:     122                           Total Miles: 2,866
Locks today:     2                     Total locks:  36

Yesterday we left our winter “home” in Punta Gorda and resumed our travels. We wanted to leave on Friday, but a significant thunderstorm and cold front with plenty of wind changed our minds. Instead we cleaned on Saturday- all windows, the fly bridge, and the interior of Mara Beel are now all ship shape, or “Bristol Fashion.”

Sunday we untied our lines and cruised out of Charlotte Harbor and into the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. We dislike traveling on Sundays in general, because so many fast, crazy boaters are out playing around. We were “waked” repeatedly and severely by inconsiderate go-fast boats. We had tucked away whatever could potentially be tossed around inside, but the contents of cabinets were jumbled, and our recliner slid across the salon. Good grief. Then we traversed what’s nown as the “Miserable Mile” due to the narrowness of the channel and the extreme shallowness on the edges of the channel. The trip was not all relaxing.

Lots of boats!

The Burroughs house in Fort Myers

With a huge sigh of relief we tied up at the Fort Myers Municipal Yacht Basin. On our walkabout, we discovered two looper boats we know- Charis and Spiritus. Ken, Ann and Eddy joined us for docktails, along with Gina and Steve from Island Time, who live in FM. We ate a late supper at a Mexican restaurant nearby. Great to see fellow Loopers again!

Good friends

Today we left Fort Myers with the sunrise and headed east on the Caloosahatchee River. The river banks were lined with beautiful homes and their docks for many miles. We locked through Franklin lock and then Ortona lock. I (Becky) was holding the bow line and Mark was at the stern. I was startled to see how the lock chambers filled with water to lift us up. This was the first time we’ve seen the upper gates open slightly to allow water to rush through the gap and fill the chamber.  Pretty cool! Fortunately we did not have to wait for either lock to be ready. Franklin lock had the first female lock attendant we’ve encountered, and she was the best! She knew the sun would be blinding us, and planned accordingly. She actually handed ropes to us and stayed around to talk. Lo and behold, she is a native Iowan!

Sunrise on the Caloosahatchie

Cattle grazing among the palms

Fort Denaud swing bridge is only 5 feet above the water, so it has to be opened to allow boats to pass through.

This lady is the bridge opener. She has to walk out to the middle of the bridge to operate the controls. She has a great sense of humor !

After an 8 hour trip we pulled in at the Moore Haven city dock. We were followed by Patriyachtic and Charis. The wall is just long enough for our 3 boats and another non-Looper that is also here. Moore Haven is a small town- in fact we all walked across the street to pay our docking fees at City Hall.  On our walkabout we discovered a 3.5 to 1 ratio of Pit Bulls per block.  In fact there were quite a few big scary-looking dogs in fenced yards. This is definitely Old Florida.

It's almost impossible to see the house behind all the vegetation.

The end of the day.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Surprise Meeting

Day 148
Miles today:    0  Total miles: 2,744
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

As I mentioned yesterday, Mark is attending a continuing ed weekend seminar in Fort Myers. Yesterday he ran into a colleague from Iowa of whom he had lost track over the years. Long story short, Todd, Mary Ann and their son Grant joined us for docktails after the day's meetings. It was fun to catch up and learn that this family now lives very near our daughter. We keep saying what a small world it is... We enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner (grouper, swordfish, amberjack, ahi tuna, and a crab boil) at the restaurant here at the marina-- Laishley Crab House. We have eaten here at least half a dozen times and keep going back for more!

Another amazing sunset

Saturday, March 21, 2015

To the North and Back
Day 147
Miles today:    0  Total miles: 2,744
Hours today:    0
Locks today: 0.    Total locks: 34

We have been MIA from this blog for the past 3 weeks or so. We flew home to move out of our house- we decided to put it up for sale somewhat spontaneously when we were home for the holidays. It sold in about a month, so of course we needed to move out. After shuffling some furniture to each of our three children and numerous trips to Goodwill, we successfully combined the contents of this house with furniture in our vacation house on the beautiful Upper Mississippi River. What a hassle- changes to utilities, insurance, address, security systems, banking, etc. etc. But now we are well settled in one house and it feels wonderful!

Historically we have moved on either the hottest, coldest, or wettest day of the year. This time, the weather was ideal. We loved seeing the ice leave the river over the course of a week as temperatures reached the 70's consistently, and even 80 degrees one day.

Wonder what this raccoon had in mind...

It was great to spend time with family and to simplify our lives considerably. Now we are back on the boat and are making plans to continue our journey.

We shared docktails with Bill and Laura from Kindred Spirit last night- new friends are such a blessing! We all plan to attend the MTOA Rendezvous in Daytona Beach next month. We will leave Punta Gorda sometime next week and head for the Okeechobee Waterway to cross Florida.

Mark is attending continuing education classes in Fort Myers this weekend while I enjoy time to work on photography and putter around the boat. It's good to be back!

Mara Beel must have a cousin??

Enjoying Punta Gorda's Laishley Park