The day started out windy, and just got windier. Not a surprise -- we knew this was coming. That's why we originally planned to stay put for a few days. However, it was a south wind, and today we'd travel north all day long. inQuest likes a following sea. We opted to make some headway.
Getting an anchor down, however, was trickier. While the anchor stuck happily in the mud we thought the islands here would give us a bit more protection. No matter where we dropped it we always ended up closer to the boat behind us than we liked. On our last attempt we backed down on the anchor hard. We're confident we'll stay put.
Dawn at Peck Lake. Nice anchorage. But don't wander... parts of the lake are shallow.
Traveling today was kind of Kathleen and Michael's (crew of Apres Sail) fault. They told us last night they were coming to Vero. Besides, we feel we're a bit behind schedule: When we compare our current logs to the Cat-n-Dogs log we are a month behind.
We're anchored near the mooring balls. Originally, that's what we were going to do. Then we heard they were "rafting" people on them. Nope, don't trust them that much to hold both us AND another boat.
Of course that implies we know where were going and, honestly, we can't decide. Although I think we did today. On the one hand we'd like to do the loop a 2nd time. We even put our names on the looper fleet shirt for 2022. On the other hand, we'd like to go to Maine. And we know at least 1 boat doing that whom with we enjoy traveling, Jonathon and Jayne of Bella Gatto. We spent some of summer 2020 with them, cruising the Chesapeake and the Potomac. We can do the loop a 2nd time next year, which (assuming no Covid, insane fuel prices, or nuclear destruction) might have fewer loopers. This year, over 500 have registered.
This was taken yesterday. We'd just explored Manatee Pocket
and were headed out. There were a nutso quantity of boats
and this vid shows how tough navigating can be.
This kind of stuff makes us sad. We called the sailboat and
arranged a slow pass. And then....
Damned near pushed us into that red, too.
We're planning on getting together for dinner tomorrow night, with both the Apres Sail and Bella Gatto crew. I'm confident we'll have a plan after that.
Pretty unusual. We always pass sailboats, but rarely when they
are sailing.Usually they are puttering under power or out
and about, enjoying a bay. But a steady south wind made for
Quite a day! The pier at Clewiston had gotten pretty full, and a number of folks -- including us -- planned on leaving today (Tuesday). Boats were stacked nose to stern all along the dock. Since we'd been there before, we knew the best plan of action was to turn around before docking, so you only needed to pull forward to leave. However, all the other boats were new. They all docked heading up the tiny channel, so all of them would need to back out. Also being new, they wanted more space to do that maneuver. So, we "took one for the team" and left very early so there was space for others to get out.
All of us were jazzed, too. The St. Lucie Lock was open today, two days ahead of schedule.
The boats in our flotilla, The Lower Place and At Ease.
By 7:30 am we were out on the Okeechobee. The winds were less than 10, but the lake was quite lovely. The first lock, Mayaca, had doors closed but there was no locking. We just motored right through. A couple of hours later, we hailed St. Lucie. After a wait for another boat to lock up, we were the 2nd lock down of the day. 14 feet, too, so a more substantial lock than the rest of Okeechobee. The lock master, happy to be back in business, was very friendly and recommended we go to Manatee Pocket.
Using the dinghy to see Apres Sail. First time it's been used in months!
Which brought up an interesting point; getting through the lock was the goal. We really hadn't considered what to do after that.
Joining us throughout the day was The Lower Place. We chatted about anchorages and an upcoming blow from the south. All of use wanted to stay put for a couple of nights. They were going to check out Hoggs Cove while we investigated Manatee Pocket. Around that time another buddy, Apres Sail, saw us on Nebo and texted they, too, were headed for Manatee Pocket. Sounded like a plan.
The secret passage to the Atlantic. Sadly, we didn't explore it. We headed out in the morning.
But we got there first. And it was just packed! So many sailboats were stuffed in the 2 fairly small anchorages. We moved on and texted both boats not to bother.
We'd been told Peck Lake was a decent anchorage, and Apres Sail was passing by it. They checked it out and dropped the hock. We joined them about 30 minutes later.
We've been here before a number of times. It's the stop you make after crossing Lake Okeechobee heading west, or the place you stay before you make the crossing heading east. For us it is the latter.
The sleepy town of Clewiston, home of the Roland Martin Marina Resort (not to be confused with Rowan and Martin, which I often do), has become another winter haven for snowbirds. Surrounding the pier we're tied on are condos and apartments, hotels, and RV parks. Next to us is the tiki bar, which is a biker destination on sunny warm Sundays like today. As these types of places go, the food is good. We had fish & chips and blackened fish tacos for a late lunch.
inQuest on the left, tiki bar on the right. They're expecting 7 more boats by tomorrow.
The trip here was short, just under 2 hours. Other than a railroad bridge and lock we had to get through right off the Moore Haven town wall the only somewhat tricky maneuver was a hard right turn into the marina. When the lake water is high you have to go through a lock. But today we just came right in.
Good news from St. Lucie Lock, the one we and everyone else is waiting for: they are ahead of schedule and will open Tuesday instead of Thursday. That's great news for us. We'll stay here the 2 days we planned then cross the lake Tuesday. We probably won't get to and through the St. Lucie Lock until Wednesday, but that's fine with us.
You get to see a little of the channel here, which isn't exciting. But to dock, we have to spin around and go in backwards. Keep in mind, we have no thrusters. That's all done with engines.
We expect a back up of boats there, queueing up to get through. But we've gone through all the locks thus far by ourselves. So we're due for a wait.
A short journey today, but to be honest, I like those better than long days. We'll be here for 2 nights, leaving Sunday. While there's not much here to do, we have a few chores to occupy our time.
Note the spiffy new waterline.
When we first returned to LBK I started a small herb garden, specifically for basil and cilantro, two herbs we use frequently. However, after our 2 weeks in Nola, the plants were not amused at being abandoned and dehydrated. This last week well and truly killed them all. I got most of the necessary pieces to remake my garden, so I'll work on that today. I also have some laundry to do. Meanwhile, Russ will practice is drone catches, and clean the top part of the boat since it needs to match the newly cleaned bottom.
Soon to be happy cilantro. They didn't have cilantro plants at the nursery, so I planted seeds. The claim is we'll have a harvest in 7 days. I am dubious, but I will report on the progress.
We also have a bunch of food, having stocked up before we left LBK. And we have network, so really, what more do we need?
First, we needed to get a car. Here in LaBelle/Moore Haven there is an Enterprise Car Rental. But the price we got quoted was crazy AND they no longer pick you up which, let's face it, is the only reason you would use them. Russ contacted Avis in Fort Myers and got a way better price (he's got some juice with the company from his HP days). Even with taxi rides to and from Fort Myers, renting from there was cheaper.
Worms! Worms everywhere! Look at those props!
Next, we needed a plan. We headed north and spent a couple of nights near my folks in The Villages. Then we meandered out east to New Smyrna, but couldn't find a hotel. So we took highway 1 south and ended up in Cocoa Beach. From there we slowly made our way down A1A to Miami. We met a friend of mine at his new digs in Aventura, north of Miami. Then got to the Cardoza Hotel in South Beach. We had reservations there for 3 nights.
Always haps in the Villages. Here's folks drumming.
My mom is in that crowd!
Cocoa Beach! Not too much spring breaking happening here.
Spring break was in full swing, and students from everywhere were walking the sidewalks and beach ways. This made for a lot of fun "people watching." Otherwise, we didn't do too much ourselves. Russ was feeling under the weather (first time since Covid, as a matter of fact, which made him believe he should just always wear a mask). We did get to enjoy two fabulous dinners. One was at Full Bloom, which is a high-end vegan place. I had the "tenderloin" and Russ had a curry. Simply outstanding. The other was at A Fish Called Avalon. We split a pasta and a Chilean Sea Bass, the latter made with a soy sauce and some shrimp dumplings. While we ate from the raised porch overlooking the scantily clad tourists, we had live music. But unlike the high-energy music that begs invitations for crowd participation ("Everyone clap!" "Everyone sing!") this performer played soft latin music and strummed guitars or played a flute. It was very mood making, and perfect for the night.
South Beach. The pink place is The Cardozo.
Leaving Miami we still had a night to kill. We headed back to Fort Myers by way of the boat to see how things were progressing. She looked amazing. We're ready to get going again.
We texted some friends of ours, Charlie and Robin (who won the Harbor Hosts of the Year award, so Go THEM!). After a little back and forth they were having some docktails on their boat. We joined them, chatted with past loopers and folks we hadn't seen for a while (anyone remember TxAu?) We all had a quick bite, then the McVeys lent us their front berth for a night.
This made me laugh. Asked for hot sauce for our breakfast eggs. We're in South Beach, little Cuba, bustling with Spanish speakers and latin rhythms. They brought us Sriracha.
Miami Beach. It's early... so not too crowded.
Up early we said thank you and goodbye to our hosts, then headed to a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. They still have the best blueberry pancakes ever. From there we dropped the car off and got our taxi back to River Forest.
We arrived here around 11 am. But they still had a bit of touchup to do on inQuest, but it had to wait -- within 10 minutes of getting back the skies poured rain for about an hour. Not great when trying to get painted. As a result, we didn't get splashed until 4 pm.
Now that's clean running gear.
Busy week. Now we drag our heels a bit. The lock is on schedule but won't open until March 31st. Which is a week away... and we really could get there in a day.
It took about 1 hour of trawling and 1 lock to get to River Forest. We weren't hauling out until Thursday morning, so they docked us on a floating pier for the afternoon and night. The most exciting thing about the day is the narrow little channel you traverse to get into the place. The wind was up and on our stern. It always adds a little spiciness to the tiny journey.
The next day we got hauled out around 8:30 am. The props were more than a little fouled. Clearly they were the issue with our performance. All and all, a good all to just get the boat hauled -- if we needed speed we would never had gotten it without overheating the engines. She'll get sanded, painted, and detailed from the deck down. We're also raising her water line (the black part) by a couple of inches to help keep her clean.
Getting hauled out
Worms on the left prop and top of rudder ...
... and same on the right. We think the bottoms of the rudders got cleaned a bit while we were underway.
Hmmmm... wonder where the straps were when they painted the last time!
After all was planned we got a taxi to Fort Myers where we rented a car. It's going to take about a week for the boat to get done, so we'll take a small vacation. Up to The Villages to visit my folks, then down to Miami for a little Spring Break action. Woo!
After making plans to have a diver take care of our worms in Marco Island we still had to find a marina to get that done. Russ had always planned on getting the boat hauled somewhere around the Carolinas to get the bottom painted. On a whim he called the River Forest boat yard in Labelle (we'd been there before) to see if they had the time to haul, clean, and paint us now. They did. So that's where we came.
First sunrise with a new view
It was a longer day getting here. Some rain, lots of wind, which totally died down just as we were docking. Serendipity! We'd been here a couple of times. You can only dock bow or stern into the wall, and it has no finger piers. The dock you are against is fairly tall, so the best option for us is nose in and get on and off the boat by the anchor. Many boats, those mono hulled jobs, use acrobatic acts to disembark. But, I'm happy to say, there's something definitely worth getting off the boat for, not matter how tricky.
Amazing walk to the brewery. If you look at this tree closely there are 4 other plants thriving on it. Gorgeous!
The Labelle Brewery.
It was under construction the last time we were here. Russ has been looking forward to going. It's about a mile hike to the place, which we did in a drizzle, but we were able to sit outside while sheltered from the rain. The food was very good, but the beer was amazing. Some of the best we've had at a random brewery in a long time! They don't have breweries this good in Fort Myers, or Sarasota, or Tampa. Which begs the question, why are they here?! (This will be a problem for us in the future. Their beer is so good we may always want to cross the lake, and never go to the keys!)
Been a while since Russ ordered a flight and everything was awesome.
We'll know later today what our plans are once the boat is hauled (I'm writing this the morning before we head out). It's a short run to the boat yard but we do have to go through a lock. Went through one yesterday, too. My next post will be once she's hauled and we have and idea of how we'll spend the next week, since we believe the paint job will take about that long.
Up early-ish (well, our usual time) we made our way back to the fuel dock to pump-out before getting underway. Breezy today, with winds from the east. At times downright gusty. But we planned on traveling in the ICW for the day and not go outside, so the wind wasn't much an issue.
Right off though, going into it while getting out of the bay meant we were going slower than we like. Then we turned southward, which was against the current, so we were going slower than we wanted. Then we had stiff winds on our port side so we were going slower than we wanted. And then... and then... and then... Eventually, there was no current and no tide, yet, we were going slower than we wanted. Same RPMs that we always use but we lost a full knot, somehow.
The plan had been to get to the bottom of Pine Island (which we did), then get to Smokehouse Bay on Marco Island where we'd stay for a couple of days, then go to Marathon on Thursday. The weather looks amazing for that trip, but it's about 100 miles, and I'm not thrilled about our bad performance in such a crossing.
Note the flag
Once anchored Russ got out the underwater drone. We have worms! I've posted pics of these things before. For what I can determine, they live only to find something to attach to, and then they die. They become hard, like a barnacle and have to be scraped off.
Russ called a dive company in Marco Island and they can clean our bottom while there... if we are in a marina. We planned on anchoring. So, we'll call around once we are headed out and see if we can't find a place to dock and get dived.
Oh, such boat fun!
Sunday morning, after massive winds from the north we experienced a CRAZY low tide. You could almost walk all the way to Sarasota!
As you may have suspected we did not go last weekend. Come Saturday morning after spending a noisy night on the dock (sloshy out there!) we pulled back into our slip.
Large schools of fish (Jack, I'm told) show up in our marina occasionally.
We felt like we lost a solid week of getting stuff done due to New Orleans. I still had a couple of sewing projects I wanted to finish, Russ still had a couple of boat projects he wanted to finish, so all in all the decision to stay wasn't terrible for us. We've even done a bit of walking and biking on the island. So no real harm.
If you haven't heard the east coast is about to get a whollop of winter weather this weekend, so we aren't heading out then either. After nearly a week of "highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 70s" the low Saturday night is project to be 42. Oh yeah. Don't put away those winter clothes just yet.
"I wanna swim. But the water looks cold."
But this does make the desire to get to the keys dwindle. We wanted to spend a month or so there, arriving early Feb and heading out and around the point of Florida about now. And all of that was largely due to the lock on Okeechobee being upgraded/repaired, so cutting through the state wasn't an option.
Well, the lock is on schedule in it's repairs which will be open April 1. At this point we might dilly dally our way down the ICW, spending a day in Venice, a day in Boca Grande, a day at Cayo Costa, and meander our way down the Caloosahatchee River, stopping at LaBelle, Moore haven, and Clewiston, and be one of the first through the lock, skipping the keys altogether this year.
My sewing challenges continue. I made this holder for our ResQ Disc.
Hoping, though, we never need it.
Because there's always next year. Fingers crossed.
Been doing some sewing. New covers for the bed pillows.
We left our slip at 4:30 this after noon. The plan is to fuel up, pump out, and be off at first light in the morning. The weather looks just stunning for the next week, so we're trying to get a decent start to traveling. With any luck we'll be in the keys come Monday.
The condo is empty after 10 days of hard work. If the place closes when it's supposed to, we'll be homeless around St. Patrick's Day. Which is exactly what we want.
I made these duffels for the scooters. We're hoping they do better than those we buy.
Another reason for the early up and out is, well, the fabulous weather. On a weekend. Which means everyone and their brother with a boat will be out. If we got outside we should be able to avoid a good chuck of them. The channels on the ICW can get clogged. So it's the gulf for us.
PS. You may have noticed the price of fuel has gone up. Yeah. We pay those diesel prices too... and our tanks hold about 300 gallons. Each. Yep. Gonna be a lot of anchoring out...
Pretty flowers on Longboat Key
PPS. NEVER MIND. The weather has totally changed on us. We'll head south, but we're going to hunker down for a while, or putter our way down the ICW, lots of short days until the weather breaks. Seriously, this changed in 4 hours time.