Where we at

Saturday, February 29, 2020

St. Lucie Lock

(and RV park...)

Happy Leap Year! Day! Whatever!

The weather apps all said the wind was going to come up in the late morning, and come from the north-ish. When crossing Lake Okeechobee, that's not great. The fetch of the wind can grow some pretty uncomfortable waves, and due to the lakes depth (almost none, that is), you can't bob and weave your way through it. If the ride is rough, you have to deal. So to avoid any issue we left at the crack of dawn, before any of it was supposed to happen.

Perfect sunrise
It's about a 2 hour ride across the lake. The winds were supposed to get strong around 10 am. We left before 7 am. The first hour was absolutely placid. Sunny skies, calm wind. The winds picked up around then, making small white caps on the water, maybe 1 foot seas. That steadily grew; winds blowing harder, waves getting bigger, and a bank of clouds took away the sun. It wasn't awful (like the gulf) but the last half hour was 2 footers on the beam. So we rocked. A lot.

We sped up the last 20 minutes, hoping to make the ride smoother. Since it was on our side, and at a tight frequency, we rocked from side to side. I counted out the minutes until we could turn and head toward the lock, taking the waves on our stern when we did.

Not an ideal crossing.
Once we turned the ride smoothed out greatly. But the swells were still substantial. We had to approach the lock at idle speed, which was challenging since we sloshed left and right. The water didn't smooth out until the other side of the lock. We got through unscathed, but it was a little tense.

On the canal everything was placid. The skies cleared and the winds died down a bit. Even docking at the lock's little marina was pretty easy.
When Russ went to plug us in he was greeted by a local.
See the tiny frog left of the plug?

Still have some electrical issues. Since we got in early Russ was able to fiddle with the batteries and the "path maker" that's supposed to monitor them -- but as far as we can tell it only drains the port battery (which read 11.9 V all day) and uber-charge the starboard battery (which read 14.9 V all day). We'll see how things go tomorrow, but I'm very glad we didn't just up and go to the keys -- we may have been stuck there a long time.

(Below: how to go sledding, Florida style).

Friday, February 28, 2020


Just a quick "woo hoo" to us -- on this day, a year ago, we started out on our Great Loop voyage.

We'd been here before, Clewiston, over a year ago. Captain Randy brought us here on our first big day across the state to bring Cat-n-Dogs to Palmetto. November of 2018. We didn't stop on our way over during the loop -- we were making long run days to get to Stuart. We're taking a slower pace this time.

After! Spiffy, no?
Not as slow as we'd hoped since we lost a number of days at River Forest. But the timing seems to be working out. We should be able to cross Lake Okeechobee tomorrow morning, and we'll get an early start to make sure we do.

Hectic start to the day. We stayed at the LaBelle Port Inn, which is an odd hotel and convention space smack in the middle of nowhere. It seemed weird when we got there, but it was clean and convenient to the boat. We weren't murdered in our sleep, so, you know, a plus.

These she is, stuck. The carrier broke down!
The plan was to splash (that's boater-speak for "put the boat in the water") first thing in the morning. We also had to return the rental car. So there was a little hustle this morning -- eating, getting to the boat, clean the car a bit, then me and the dog hung out while Russ returned the car. All the while they were taking the boat off it's blocks and putting it on the carrier. 

That's when we hit hitch #1. The carrier stopped working. People milled about, scratched their heads, tried this and that. Then they wired the remote in and managed to get it over the pit. Then it wouldn't lower all the way. Thankfully, it did work (and didn't drop the boat!) and we were underway around 10 am.

Hounded by hounds
This part of the trip is made up of long stretches of canal with little to do including steering. We didn't have far to go, less than 30 miles, so with the exception of a small wait at the Moore Haven Lock, it all went dandy.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Random Pics while "on the hard"

The bottom job is taking longer than we hoped -- 5 days instead of 3. So we rented a car and did some shopping and errands. We'll be underway tomorrow, with any luck.

inQuest being hauled out for painting.

See the white bits? Those are a hard shelled worm, 
a blight in these waters. They can foul props and rudders. 
They will be dealt with!

Meanwhile, there are crab legs to eat!
This is from 400 Beach (the address is the name) in St. Pete.
Best Caesar salad, best grouper reuben, and OMG best crab legs.

Hanging out in the hotel. Note the ad-libbed "crate" that a pug
has made under the chair.

Ate breakfast at the Toasted Mango, which was really good.
Behind us sat a group of Amish folks. I don't know Amish rules,
but are they allowed to do that??!!

Remember 400 Beach? Had a beer there that was amazing. Did
some research and found their brewery in Cape Coral. 
Big Storm is the place, and their collection of brews were some 
of the best we've ever had.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

River Forest, Labelle

Russ started the day with a bunch of electrical tests, trying to determine where a particular high-pitched hum was coming from. He adjusted a few things, then we were on our way to River Forest. It's not fixed but he's got a theory. He told me, but I'm gonna just trust he knows things.

This is a pretty calm section of the ICW, and will remain so for a while. The exciting parts to look forward to are crossing Okeechobee, which you want to do on calm days since that lake can get, as the mariners say, "snotty," as well as the traffic picking up once we get to the east side. 

Cows on the bank. Okay, not as cute as dolphins...
But for now, we're docked at a work yard. Tomorrow inQuest will get hauled out and her bottom painted, a process we believe will take 3 days. We'll rent a car and go "do stuff" during that time.

Russ parked us. I did the lines. The wind was coming stiffly from the east, which wasn't any issue other than slowing us down while in the channel. Even though River Forest is considered a "hurricane hole" the wind affected the boat. Russ did great, lining her up along where we wanted to dock, then he waited until the wind gently pushed her up against the wall. I fumbled with lines -- not a job I'm good at -- but since the wind had the boat pinned, all I had to do really was make sure we had fenders out.

Had lunch at the Ortona Tavern.
Meh food, but wonderful patio.
We also went through another lock today, Ortona, with 2 other boats. Kinda like old times...

Saturday, February 22, 2020

WP Franklin Park

We were supposed to be underway yesterday, but early in the morning a big front came through, dropping temps by nearly 25 degrees (goodbye, 80s) and bringing lots of bluster -- steady winds in the upper teens, gusts mid to high 20s. Given our location at Legacy we could have left. However. The marina staff parked a boat behind us, and those guys weren't planning on leaving until today. While we thought hard about squeezing by, on a calm day we would have done it. But on a windy one? We decided to spent another day. Besides, it was dreary and cold and windy. Good day to stay indoors.

While I wanted to try threading that needle
I didn't want to on a windy day.
The folks behind us left early, right around 8 am. So we did the same. Still a bit breezy, but better than the day before. Also sunny, and while the day started at a nippy 47 degrees, it promised to warm up to the 70s.

The trip was uneventful except (more "new boat blues") a new and very faint beep was heard all day. Also, our autopilot kept turning off. I swear this boat is weird.

We're being followed by a flock of seagulls.
"And I ran, I ran so far away!"
Anyway, The WP Franklin park/campground/dock is right across from the Franklin Lock, which we had to go through to get here. It was the first lock we'd done since the Tenn-Tom. There are several along the ICW as you got across Florida but they're all pretty small. Due to a low tide this was raised us a whopping 4 feet. Woo!

Our timing couldn't have been better. The breeze started to come up as we were docking but we managed without any drama or incident. Within an hour, however, the gusts were substantial. Woo!
Nestled in our little slip at the campground.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Back to Fort Myers

After weighing anchor around 8 am this morning we headed back to Fort Myers. It's pretty convenient for restocking (which we need to do), laundry (which we need to do), and since we got our old parking spot, walking dogs. And there's a bunch of restaurants nearby.

Judging by the number of boaters on the water today you'd think it was a weekend. It was stuffed! At times we could see tens (!) of boats in the distance heading our way on the narrow and sometimes shallow channel. And we were waked by them all. I take heart that I probably waked them back, but somehow I'm sure it wasn't a fair trade.

Lovely sunrise
En route today we saw a variety of wildlife. Firstly, while taking the dogs to land one last time by dinghy we spied a manatee. Didn't see it perfectly, but got a glimpse when he surfaced for air. Very big, and very much not a dolphin. Speaking of dolphins we saw quite a few today. And yet another sea turtle. Again no proof -- wily little devils.

While underway Russ decided that we really needed to get our bottom painted now. So he called River Forest in Labelle to make arrangements. They can get to us on Monday. We have reservations for Friday and Saturday night on one of the town walls, making it easy to get to the yard on Sunday and be ready for them to haul us out of the water Monday. Odds are that will take three days, so we'll be looking for a hotel or two.

Been toasty for a while now, in the upper 70s to lower 80s. Perfect, really. We'll be getting a little cold front over the weekend. Good thing we haven't put away the warm clothes yet.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Tunnel of Love

Some of our friends did this when they were here a couple of weeks ago. Sounded like fun, since we don't dinghy much, so we thought we'd try it out.

Despite last night's frustration, Russ tried the dinghy this morning and it started just fine. Our poor dogs had to go through the night without a break, but they are amazing pups, and made it to the bank this morning without any problems. Such good girls!

The working dinghy made the plans for the Tunnel of Love a go. We headed south for a couple of miles, then turned up into a teeny, tiny, shallow spit of water nestled in the mangroves. The depth was so shallow that
A Blue Heron and inQuest in the distance at dawn
Russ had to tip the motor to keep the prop just barely in the water -- we're talking inches here. I sat on the bow and helped by pushing and pulling us along the way, all the while following a Navionics map. The trip was so shallow that Navionics refused to plot us a course, but we could use it like a GPS map. Which came in handy since there were several forks that aren't marked.

Das Boot

Once through all that you get to a little pond. On it's left back is a quick walk to a lone beach that stretches out along the gulf. The day was sunny, warm, and calm, making the whole adventure quite pleasant. Except for the spider webs I had to  swipe away as we motored.

We came back, took naps, made a big lunch of grilled vegan sausages sammiches with grilled onions and spicy brown mustard, yum!

Tomorrow we'll weigh anchor and head back to Fort Myers. Then we'll start slowly making our way across the state. 

Lizzie on the bow of the dingy

The private beach off the Tunnel of Love.
Not so much sandy as shelly.

Monday, February 17, 2020

To St. James City, then onward to Cayo Costa

Part one, the beach to St. James City
We did something today that we've only done once before, and oddly thought we'd do a whole lot of while on the loop. We boated to an eatery.

While in Canada we boated to Henry's, which is a little seafood place on a little island. They had docks big enough for boats like us. We docked, ate, then headed out and anchored for the night in a nearby bay.

Today we boated to St. James City. We wanted to go to a restaurant we ate at years ago, when we were doing the RV thing, Woody's. We anchored out, hopped in the dinghy, and went up the little canal (Monroe Canal). We tied off on the wall right in front of the restaurant. 

Monroe Canal, and the little houses on it
The trip down the little canal was a bit like traveling back in time. The houses there are small, a number of them are trailer homes or prefabricated houses, all of which have small docks on the canal. No grandiose, multi-million dollar places here - they're on the island of course, but just not here.

Woody's didn't disappoint. We split a salad, conch fritters, and a grouper reuben, one of our favorites.

From there got back to inQuest, hauled up the anchor, and headed for Pelican Bay off of Cayo Costa. We spent a night there about a year ago; the first night we "officially" spent on the loop.

The only exciting thing that happened was Radio Waves. This is a big, blue, crazy fast boat that really, really, really needed to get somewhere. He was heading our direction, of course, which makes these things tougher, and the channel through here is fairly narrow, so there's not a lot of room to get out of his way (and he made no effort to get out of ours). Russ was at the helm when they passed us. He underestimated just how big the wake was, until glasses tipped over, dogs skid across the floor, and papers got scattered everywhere. (We weren't really "battened down" for a crossing, as it turned out.) Ahead Radio Waves made a turn off the channel heading for (we believed) Tween Marina. Good riddance. About an hour later, however, I noticed a boat coming up in the rear view. I looked over my shoulder and SURE ENOUGH here comes Radio Waves -- just as fast, just as rude. This time we dove in right behind him, which helped a bit. Still rocked, but not as long. The bozo.

Anyway. We got anchored without any issues, and took the dinghy over to the island to walk the dogs. 

In the continuing saga of "new boat blues" we had noticed that out port engine's battery was always low of charge. Russ knew the batteries needed to be replaced anyway, so we did that back in Naples. However, even with the new batteries, when we start the engines the port battery is still low. This morning, when we started out, the engine wouldn't even kick over. He jumped it, but now we have yet another mystery on our hands. 

We plan on staying here for a couple of nights. It will be interesting if we need to call Sea Tow to get us to our next destination.

Lovely sunset on Cayo Costa
PS. More new boat blues -- Just as we were about to walk the dogs one last time, our dinghy, which performed flawlessly 3 times today, would not start. Oy.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Back to Ft. Myers Beach

Crazy late start, much later than we wanted. Not our fault, really. Well, not directly.

A while ago (in the continuing story of "new boat blues") we had an issue with our inverter, a big box that powers all the outlets on the boat when we're at anchor or underway. Some of our appliances didn't like it. Like our toaster oven, which would not turn on the heating coils -- so no toast. We got a new inverter, but our favorite electrician couldn't install it to due his own time being in great demand.

When we got to Naples Russ asked around for a local guy, and we got one. He isn't an electrician so much as a handy man, but he does know his way around an inverter. The job, which he started on Thursday, didn't get finished. He finished it today, showing up at 8 am.

We didn't get underway until after 11.

My frustration with that was a) the weather was awesome in the morning, calm and warm, and would have made a wonderful travel day (spoilers: turned out to be a wonderful travel day anyway), and 2) windy weather was coming, and in my experience (slight though it may be) you don't want to wait, just in case the weather comes early (spoilers: it didn't, everything was wonderful). We even had lunch along the way -- a toasted sandwich (because the new inverter works, donchano!)

Flat gulf, with slight swells
We did see some dolphins on the trip, but the big animal sighting was sea turtles. We spotted 4 of them. Sadly, I have no photographic proof of this since the wily devils duck under so quickly. The spotting is a bit of a panic event, since they first appear like a big log in the water you're about to hit. Then they disappear.

On our way into Ft. Myers Beach we decided, quite last minute, to gas up at Moss Landing. We hailed them but got no answer. The fuel dock was open so I headed for it. Right away the current pushed me off, so I backed up to line up for a second try. The current was coming in, pushing the boat away from the dock as well as toward the bridge (which we hadn't gone under yet). In other words, we were doing it all wrong. Russ got a line to a dock worker (who hustled out once he saw a boat was trying to fuel), and we let the tide swing us around, keeping the nose close to the pier. Once heading into the current, it was a breeze to get her up against the dock. Should have done that right away.

Must be back in Ft. Myers Beach.
This "sails" several times a day.
Once fueled, we let the current push us off the dock and back into the channel (the trick there was getting an opening since, being a lovely Friday afternoon, boaters abounded). We spun around to head to the bridge and made our way to Salty Sam's. Docking inQuest is tricky since I really have no good view of what's behind me. We installed a camera, so I have a tablet that's a dedicated "rear view", but it's not in the perfect spot yet, so a glare on me makes it hard to see. Basically, I move real slow and listen for Russ to yell, "More to port!"

Apparently, fish love green light. Many restaurants and
boats have underwater green lights, and, well, fish!
The only bummer about the day -- the whole last 10 days, really -- is that I have a cold. Not enough to lay me out or need a doctor, but enough to keep me coughing and feeling rather un-enthused. It's made traveling less fun, to be sure.

Random pics

Naples City Dock

Pete the Pelican. A moocher on the dock

inQuest is there, somewhere

Eating out at the Old Naples Pub

More moochers. The dock is home to many fishing tours.
These guys seem to know that. Especially when the fishermen return.

Been humid. It's dawn and everything looks like it rained.
It hasn't. It just that danged humid.

Parrots love the Naples City Dock. And the sail boats within.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Naples for the week

We just took a 6 hour journey from Ft. Myers to Naples. This is the first open water run on the Gulf since the crossing. THE crossing. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Today's trip was very nice. A little choppy, but only 1 footers. Mostly we took them on the quarter beam, which is our preferred ride. The last hour or so we got them head on, making the ride a little bumpy, but still calm. Sunny, warm. Hard to complain.

We've stayed in this marina before, the Naples City Dock. Interestingly, we're almost in exactly the same slip, too. It wasn't as tricky to get into as I remembered from the last time.

We plan on staying until Friday. Thursday we plan on dashing across the state to go to the Miami Boat Show. There are a couple of toys we'd like to get, like a new stereo with Sirius and Bluetooth connectivity. Also we don't have an EPRB so we'd like to get one of the new, smaller versions, like Garmin InReach. Lastly, we want to meet some companies that do diesel heaters (both interior and water), and arrange having that done when we get up to the Chesapeake.

Lovely day on the water
We have just made tentative plans to go to MTOAs National Show, Sept 11 - 14, in Maryland. I received a notice that they were looking for women pilots and boaters to teach other women would-be boaters. I responded, and they seemed excited. Not sure what to expect, but I enjoy teaching.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Ft. Myers

We left much sooner than 9:55, but
Nebo didn't catch that for some reason. 
In the past we've stayed on Ft. Myers Beach, which is an island on the gulf. We were there twice in 2018, once to meet the "anchor" people, Jill and Rudy, and then on our way back from Naples just after Christmas. 

Ft. Myers itself is a longer hoof up the Caloosahatchee River. We stopped here once when we did our very first multi-day voyage with Captain Randy just to get some provisions, but we didn't stay. We're parked at Legacy Harbor Marina, which our looper friends all liked. So far, we do too.

When we left in the morning everything was extremely calm. Since Russ had been wanting to do some of the real piloting (locking and docking) he took inQuest out and I did lines. He was better at piloting that I was at handling ropes. We got out just fine.

Dolphins love this boat too! They were out in numbers,
with high jumps and lots of play
It was a longer voyage since it took 2 hours to get from Punta Gorda to the ICW, then it's about an hour's ride up the river. Moreover, inQuest doesn't seem to get quite the speed at the same engine RPMs we saw on Cat-n-Dogs. It is a heavier boat, so that might be the reason. Could also be the tides, which we're still getting used to.

We had reservations for 2 night, but it might be longer. Firstly, we're need to wait for some deliveries (side story -- we noticed several appliances misbehaving when we were off shore power so we're replacing our inverter. Apparently, the current one is a synthetic sine wave instead of a pure sine wave, and I'm sure that makes sense to some of my readers but not necessarily me). Of course waiting that one extra day puts us into very bad weather again, so we may be here a week.

Breakfast this morning at the famed Bennett's Fresh Roast.
Too bad we're not fans of Joe's. We got great parking.
After a quick swap of emails with our buddy boat we think we'll go to Naples from here, then onto Marco Island. That is all best to do in wonderful weather.