North of Vero Beach is a little island called Pine Island, just off the ICW. We've anchored here before. It's perfect protection from fast waking boats. A bit of north and south exposure, but very tolerable.
The only obstacle ahead after raising the anchor was "The Crossroads", just outside of Stuart. It's a big X of waterway, where the ICW goes north and south, and the Okeechobee waterway goes east and west. In high traffic it can be interesting to navigate. We chose Peck Lake for its close proximity to the crossroads. As planned, up and out early, and we snuck by before the masses even woke up.
Right around 10 am traffic got heavier as we continued north. We were waked a couple of times by big, fast boats that had to be worth millions. Odd that radios don't come with the price tag, which we assumed was the case from the lack of hailing they did.
Sunset on Peck Lake
Only one boater hailed us to do a slow pass. One. In three days.
Tomorrow we'll get to Cocoa Beach and stay for a couple of nights. Some Endeavour owners have put together a little gathering for the weekend. Time to do some boat-type socializing.
2nd breakfast while underway -- corny eggs! One of my favorites. Especially with green tabaso.
I also need to get to a grocery store. We're almost out of flour!
Up and out early today. We wanted to get this land-o-people behind us a bit, and than meant going through a bunch of bridges. The first one opened at 7 am, and we made sure we caught it.
The morning was cloudy and windy as promised. We even had a good deluge to cruise through. But eventually the skies cleared and the remainder of the day was sunny. Still breezy.
As was true yesterday, we almost had the waterways to ourselves until noon-ish. Then there were boats everywhere.
What's irksome about that is none of them know how to boat. For example, at one point a tow, just a single barge, was moving south on the ICW. He had a bridge hold open so he could easily pass through, which is understandable. Meanwhile, 3 zippy boats whooshed passed us and slowed at that bridge, because they are required to do so. But 1 of them, a teeny, tiny, bimini-topped runabout, headed straight for the tow going the other way. Never made an effort to move either, taking the attitude they had as much right to the water as the tow did. Firstly, it's a commercial vessel, so no, he has the right of way. Secondly, he's bigger than you, so he has the right of way. And thirdly, he doesn't maneuver as quickly as you can so, you bozo, he has the right of way. The tow never blew his horn, but really should have. We did hear him apologize to the bridge (who held up traffic all the time this game of chicken was going on) for taking so long "but there was a boat in the way." He had to come to almost a complete stop to avoid a collision.
This home stood out on the ICW. It looks more like a ski chalet than a Florida home. Zoom in to see the icicle gingerbread!
We've anchored at Peck Lake before, last year. It's another popular place, always filled with boats, but we managed to squeeze up close to land and out of the way. Due to the solid winds we feel good about our location. But if the wind blew hard from the west, we never would have picked it.
We officially completed our travels around Florida's tip today. From Naples all around to West Palm Beach was new travel for us. What's to come we've done a number of times now. There won't be a lot of new stuff until we get to the Hudson River. That's gonna be a while.
We thought we'd put in a long day, but man. this was a looooooong day. I was beginning to think we would be cruising in the dark for hours before finding an anchorage. The channel, filled with homes for miles, made finding a place to anchor nearly impossible.
Last night, the water was so clear we made water. Up early we headed to Matheson Hammock Park, which had the best diesel price, $4.10. If we bought 500 gallons we'd get a discount. Our total: 497. Of course. We can hold 600 gallons, total -- we were getting low.
Note to self: If we ever go back to MHP, do not use the northern channel. We managed, but the depths were about a foot under the keel. Bit of a nail biter. 3 feet on the southern channel.
Last night's sunset
From the fuel dock we were immediately into Miami, and immediately had to open a bridge. These are usually time consuming, since the bridges only open at certain hours through out the day. After that one, however, we managed to get under all the bridges. Basically we got through Miami without any issues. Folks who have come done this section have nothing good to say about it. I was beginning to think they were unfair in the their assessments.
My job was to watch the fuel pump to let Russ know how much we were adding. To do that, tho, I had to move my feet. Such a bother!
Then came Fort Lauderdale.
Once past the main port of call, the channel got narrower, and was bounded on both sides with sea walls and houses. Lots and lots of houses. From palatial estates to apartment complexes, for miles and miles, nothing but buildings. Additionally, all the bridges here were too low for us to sneak under. On top of that, boat density increased (probably more to do with the time of day, mid to late afternoon). While all the signs around us say "slow" or "no wake", the locals believe these are optional. Their wakes smacked us as they blasted by, then smacked us again, bouncing off the sea walls. Oh yeah. We get it now.
Riding through Miami
Landscaping, Miami style!
Not a black-n-white pic. Just rainy at sunset.
Oh. And weather. We kept an eye on it hoping to get anchored before the predicted thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Finally we came to a lake (bounded by houses and sea walls), that had some space for us. We dropped the hook, exhausted. 4 minutes later, the skies poured open.
Those mooring balls sure make it easy to leave an anchorage. No need to wash off rode or anchor or bridles. Florida needs more of those!
As you look at the map you may ask yourself, "Jax, why didn't you just travel in a nice straight line, following the keys?" (Which is an odd thing to ask yourself. Bah dum bump - ching!) Turns out that stretch is the shallowest section of the ICW. Moreover, there's not much tide to help you out should you get stuck. So you go where the channel is marked, and don't even think about taking some shortcut!
Last night's sunset
That also meant we were traveling slow making for a little longer day. It couldn't have been more glorious. Balmy breezes, calm seas, blue skies. So what's a little 2 foot clearance on the keel?
Today's track also wound us in between a number of channels cut through islands. One of the niftier ones was at Key Largo.
Note the number in the lower left corner. 2.9 was one of the higher readings, today.
Keeping an eye on the weather there's going to be some bigger winds coming Thursday. We're making a push to get into some skinnier water on the ICW just for that. Sadly, that means no dilly-dallying (Sorry, Bill, we'll wave as we go by!) in Miami.
Just off of Shell Island are 5 mooring balls. And we took one.
Shorter day today so we didn't leave at the crack of dawn. We didn't dawdle too much either. This is our first trip to the keys and the wind was our of the south around 15 MPH. We wanted to get underway before it could get beamy, which it never did.
As we left we noted that Marathon was our southest-most point we every reached as boaters. Yay, us!
There is a valuable upside to winds, especially in a place like the keys. Airflow! Despite the warmth (mid-80s) we haven't had to run the AC at all due to the breeze.
Russ trying not to get his feet wet. This is the secret dinghy spot.
We grabbed a ball, took a quick nap, then dinghy-ed into town. Rumor had it there was a notch just west of Lorelei Restaurant. Not a dinghy dock, as we found out, but a sandy boat ramp that a number of dinghys use to get to shore. Most of them tied to mangrove plants. Just like we did.
That gave us a 10 minute walk to the Islamorada Brewing Company where we had lunch and drank some brewskies. I had the blueberry ale, which was very good.
On the ball at Shell Island
The tender ride itself was longer than most. Surrounding the island are lots and lots of shoals, all marked with "No Combustible Engine Vehicles Allowed" signs. We made a circle, going the most direct way in (but farther out in the gulf), then toddling through more islands on the way back.
When we returned, after all the salt water spray, I needed a quick shower! But it was a lovely trip.
We went to the island by the green track, then returned by the red one.
I wasn't sure what to expect today, since this was a bigger open water run with no places to "just duck in". While sunny and warm the winds were close to 15 MPH and on the nose. Looking at depth charts we realized we could tack if we needed to, without risking getting into shallow water. Well, more shallow than what we're traversing.
Turns out it was a great ride, wind and all. A little bumpy on the nose, but as the ride went on that dwindled.
Anchors up at dawn
Waters are shallow all around here. All this water makes it look vast and deep, but it's really just kinda wet land.
We got anchored, took a nap, then headed to shore to grab a late lunch. All in all a great day!
We got the anchor up with ease, although it was quite muddy. Winds were between 10 and 15 knots and on our nose. We took a route closer to shore to keep the waves on the quarter bow. We ride better than way.
Otherwise, nothing happened. Sunny and pleasant, with the windows open for lots of air. 5 hours later or so we got to Shark River.
The Winn-Dixie dinghy dock in Marco. You gotta climb the ladder to get off.
After reading a bunch of comment from Active Captain there was one and only one common complaint about Shark River -- buggy. Rather than push far up into the river and out of any breeze (leaving mosquitos with ample opportunity to eat us) we opted to staying in the wind a bit. Choppier, but less buggy.
That's the theory, anyway. I'll have an update tomorrow.
This time a small hawk (I think) followed up along the coast.
Speaking of tomorrow, we will officially be in the keys. Not sure where yet, but Marathon is the closest leap from here. We have no plans on dawdling there -- we want to start heading north. Start to head to cooler temps!
Panther Key is one of the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida's southwest coast. Zoom in there on a map. Yep, close to 10,000 islands.
After the very long and crazy day yesterday we decided to keep it short today. That said, it was still crazy.
Russ had read about the inside route out of Marco that took travelers southward. Rather than go around the outside (onto the gulf) we wandered our way between some islands. Looking at the map you'd think that was an impossible task. At times we wondered ourselves.
Panther Key. Known for it's beach.
Everything Russ saw said to do it on a rising tide, which is why we left when we did. That gave us some time in the morning to dock at the Winn-Dixie, walk around Marco Island, and get some breakfast at Hoots. Then we headed out.
It was windy and twisty and very shallow a fair bit of the way. Of course, many locals knew the route and dashed by us. We didn't try to minimize any wakes, given the narrow channel and our lack of knowledge. Just as we'd experienced over the last 2 days, tons of boats all wanting to go fast, fast, fast!
We planned on stopping in Goodland to tank up on water and top off the dinghy's fuel. The worst part of the day was doing that. We got there right around lunch time which is apparently when everyone was either coming or going, all trying to maneuver around the big cat that was in their way. Meanwhile we were just trying to get to the Safe Harbor marina without needing to call Sea Tow.
Around this area were some of out shallowest reading, around 2 feet (below the keel). We got in and docked, tanked up, fueled up, and off we were, following the chart-plotter breadcrumbs we planted coming in.
The second leg of the day was a little gulf trip. Looking out a the vast water it's amazing how shallow it is around here. Once we turned onto open water we had 3 feet beneath the keel. In fact, the deepest water was at our anchorage, 13 feet.
Winds are up a bit. We'll see how the weather is tomorrow, but all the weather say a little windy but nice water. Weather wise, the trip remains lovely.
Having seen this you get a sense of confidence about where we're heading.
This was SO not true in real time! Also, the traffic jams around the docks
don't look as bad as they were when we encountered them.
This was a crazy day. When we woke the plan was to do what we always do -- go across the state through Lake Okeechobee. After yesterday's successes our confidence in the boat had increased. Additionally, it was looking like another lovely day, which meant another ton of boats. We'd have to go through "the miserable mile", and we'd do it right around the busiest time of the day.
Well... what if we don't? The weather for the next couple of day looked rather nice, after all. Many time we came this way with the intention of going around the point of Florida, and every time something changed our minds. Seriously, there is only so much you can do in Clewiston.
So, we zigged instead of zagged, and headed to Marco Island.
The dot on the water is a bunch of mylar balloons. We practiced our MOB techniqes And rescued it. Look at that water!
We still had issued with our alternator charging the house batteries. While Russ puttered with that I noticed something peculiar. We were making fuel. I filed a complaint with the manager. I know a little about boating and one thing is as you travel you're fuel tanks shouldn't be getting filled.
Russ fiddled with the data and viola! We had less than 1/3 a tank of fuel. Which isn't bad, but full tanks would be better, especially given we wanted to make sure those gauges were correct. We all know what gauges look like with a full tank.
As the day went on the water got better.
We changed plans and headed to Naples. Russ read the diesel prices were decent. After confirming that with a phone call (and they had mooring balls) we zigged again. At the time I was a bit disappointed. Marco Island was someplace new. We'd been to Naples before. But it was a longish day so stopping, taking a dingy ride, going into town for dinner, was all sounding wonderful.
If you've never boated to Naples once you get into the channel it is crazytown! It has the fastest speed limit we've ever seen; 30 MPH. We're only an 8 knot (about 12 MPH) boat. Needless to say, the experience was like the "miserable mile" on steroids. After being waked by huge fishing charters dashing customers back and forth we arrived at the City Dock.
We asked for 400 gallons. They only had 100. "We had a rush." They explained. We asked for a mooring ball. "What's your length overall?" "45." "The max is 43 foot on the moors." Needless to say, we were miffed. They didn't mention fuel supplies might be limited (or we would have called before coming), nor did they mention a size limitation when we asked about the mooring balls.
Disgruntled, we took the 100 gallons, then beat our way back to the gulf, through the waking fishing tours and tons of tour boats, then back on the gulf.
The gulf today was absolutely fabulous, both to and from Naples. Once outside the only fret was the occasional prop trap (aka, crab pots).
We picked Smokehouse Bay to anchor in. Reviews said it was closer to the haps in town. However, it was packed, filled with sailboats. No review mentioned that. We have had this happen to us a couple of times, where sailboats stuff an anchorage. These look like residents, maybe misplace by the hurricane? Or priced out of their marinas? Sadly, not a good trend.
Marco Island, and Smokehouse Bay
Just beyond was the 2nd anchorage that reviewers said was great but small, only able to fit one boat. We went there just to peek in. And we can confirm: it will only fit one boat. And that boat is us.
Yesterday, Russ fixed the windlass. That took him a hour or so, taking the thing completely apart and putting it back together. I can attest that it does, indeed, let out rode. Tomorrow morning we'll see if it can bring it in again.
Then he fiddled with some settings, senders, and switches on all the electronics he installed the past 3 months. Turns out the engine was not, in fact, overheating, but readers and displays thingys weren't in sync. Which is always good news.
I drove most of the day while Russ tracked down all little hiccups and fixed them, and it kept him busy almost the entire time.
What it's like to be me.
Engine overheating (faulty sender)
Missing AIS data (reseated the inline fuse)
"Drunken sailor" auto-pilot AND the "speed source fault" error from the autopilot (change speed source to GPS from Tachometer, which he thinks was the default when it couldn't find the AIS information, and that made her stay true. Go figure.)
"High pressure" reading on the starboard engine (oddly tied to the next problem, so keep reading...)
House batteries weren't charging (At some point Russ had switched together both engine starter batteries, probably trying to troubleshoot our engine issues back in December. Once he disconnected them, the house started to charge just fine and the starboard oil pressure reading returned to normal.)
Due to repairs the Albee Bridge only opens every half hour.
We missed it by 2 minutes. But this give you an idea
of how many boats were out and about today.
By the end of the trip the only issue remaining was the throttle. The port side has to be nearly an inch ahead of the starboard for both engines to run at the same RPM. He made phone calls, wrote emails, and googled for answers. He did some magic while on the hook. Tomorrow we'll see if that changed anything.
That all aside this was a terrible day to boat! For me, that is. Yes, the weather was gorgeous, sunny, warm, a little windy but not an issue in the channel. Even the red tide, which has plagued the area for months now, was not a problem. But all that made every one who owned a boat get out and enjoy the day. It was flippin' Wednesday! There were tons of boats -- every kind, everywhere, and all at once (hmmm... sounds familiar). That just made doing the driving a little more tense -- frankly, I don't trust any of these people.
That dark diagonal line is the ICW. We didn't even get to it!
We knew it was incredibly positive thinking that we would head out today. We are optimistic people. Deep down, however, given the amount of stuff we mucked with, given we haven't left this slip since we docked in December, and given the fact that we only ever turned the engines on to do an oil change meant, of course, today would be nothing but a test run.
What went right? Engines started up just fine with the fancy digital display Russ installed. We backed out of the slip without issue and headed down the fairway.
Drifting on the Sarasota Bay... Sarasota in the distance.
Then it gets weird.
While in the channel out of the marina I put inQuest on autopilot. Right away I didn't like what was happening. Usually we move in a solid straight line. This time we weaved about a bit, like a drunken sailor. Also, it kept giving a new error. Russ believes we just need to reboot the autopilot. We may have to calibrate it again, which involves boating in circles and patterns until the autopilot has a clue what to do. Either way, no biggie.
Once out of the channel we put some spurs to her. The new display is digital and clearly tells us our RPMs. The throttles, on the other hand, were way off. Typically they match, so you can push them with one hand. Now the port throttle must be much further forward to get the 2 engines to match RPMS. Again, no biggie, just weird.
Then the big problems start. The starboard engine got hot. Given all this new senders and readers and work Russ had done, it's not clear that it was really hot. But we slowed down for him to take a look, bringing that engine into idle while we cruised on the port one. Cooling was slow so Russ thought it best to stop, drop and anchor, and let the motor totally cool before he gets into it. The Sarasota Bay was flat, making this no issue. We were just a few hundred feet, at this point, from the ICW.
We took one last walk today. Well... maybe it won't be, now.
A quick catchup: All the while in LBK the anchor has been sitting on the deck. Our slip has very short finger piers, so for us to get off the boat using the side exit we have to pull pretty far forward. The piers here are NOT floating, so the boat goes up and down, and in lower tides, the anchor catches on the pier. Bad news for both us and the pier, so we always pull some line out and keep the anchor on the deck.
Back on the bay, with me on one end and Russ on the other we gave the anchor a pitch overboard, which went fine. But the windlass jammed as we try to let out more rode. Russ brings it in, won't go, lets it out, won't go. Eventually we see something very un-chainlike stuck in the chain, jamming the windlass.
It's dead, Jim.
Bottom line: In order for us to boat we need engines and an anchor. And we don't seem to have either.
We limped back with one engine. Once we got off the channel we started the starboard one and we docked without any excitement.
Russ is sitting on the dock now, the windlass in pieces, trying to discover what got jammed and how. Hopefully we'll try again tomorrow.
Look closely as you'll see an owl, smack in the middle of the picture.
After all the last bits of stuff has been done we're finally getting ready to shove off. Our target is Tuesday of this week.
Of course, now that that is the case, the weather's turned. We had weeks and weeks, all winter long, of balmy days and lighter winds. The temp dropped over 20 degrees since yesterday and we've been pelted by winds. It looks like Wednesday and Thursday should be nice days to get over Gasparilla Bay and maybe Lake Okeechobee if we can get that far. However, we haven't moved once since we got here. And after all the work Russ has done on the boat we don't have a lot of faith everything will go flawlessly.
..after. Russ ordered and cut stainless strips to finish the surround on the new oven.
Russ made the flip-down panel below the stove. He did an excellent job!
We did have some visitors last week. Cousins I haven't seen since I was 5 years old flew down to visit my folks, and all drove to see Sarasota and inQuest. Frankly, if they hadn't come I'm not sure we would have cleaned the boat! She seriously needed it after weeks of being a floating garage.
The gang on the deck.
For any foodies who read my blog I have to give a shout out to two new restaurants we discovered in Sarasota that should be visited. The first is the Yummy House, which is Chinese. Our excitement is they do Dim Sum, one of my favorite-est foods. Unlike typical Dim Sum, where carts are pushed around the venue and people call out what they have within them, you get a laminated picture menu and a sharpee, and just mark what you want. It's awesome! The second restaurant is Turmeric, an Indian place. Truly outstanding! We made a point of getting there a second time before heading out. After talking to one of the proprietors we found out they came from New Jersey, where there are a bunch of Indian places. Good to know! I'm headed that way in a few months.