NASHVILLE TO FLORIDA
1,631.3 Miles of 1,631.2
2036.2 Gallons of Diesel
20 Locks of 20
1,631.3 Miles of 1,631.2
2036.2 Gallons of Diesel
20 Locks of 20
Leaving the dolphin at St Lucie Lock was bittersweet. Knowing our last few hours on the water would soon over makes the ride to Indiantown a solemn ride. This portion of the trip is familiar. Seeing things a second time and noticing things we missed the first time. Again no alligators, no horses, no manatee but there were cows. Little cows jumping a playing by the water’s edge. We took our time until we reached the marina.
The entrance to Indiantown Marina is small. There is gas and diesel available but they only have a 500 gallon tank so if you need some to get you to the east coast it’s a good stop but don’t expect a fill. We are placed on a long dock with water and shore power which helped us get ready for the haul out to the hard storage. Scott got into the engine compartment to change oil on both engines and take a look at those things that need to be serviced for storage. I did the domestics and packed the items to go home. We thoroughly washed the boat, treated the canvas, treated the water system and pumped out. Airline check in is done. Now we are ready for the haul out.
The lift is an easy one with a massive 100,000 lbs lift. We are only 34,000 lbs. Watching her drive to her place of rest for the next few months we gather up everything as we are settled. We cover the dingy in a tarp, fill all the exhaust holes with screen or bubble wrap to keep the mud bees out of them. It’s a long day of just work.
We met some other Canadians here that are selling their boat. Anyone looking for a nice trawler she is a sweet boat. We popped over for some info on the loop as they have done it twice, Gold Loopers!
So we end our current journey. We will be home this time tomorrow night with family and our trusted companion Newton. Till our wakes meet again…………………………………………..
Today we plan. We have the dry storage prepared, the way to get there, the maintenance to be done. We looked at flights to get me home and Scott to work and booked those. We managed to arrange a taxi to take us to the airport from the marina. Scott prepared some last minute work plans . We just have to arrange a hotel and rental car for Scott and I have a pick up at the airport. It may sound like a lot in a couple days but in reality it has to be done. So it will. Scott wants to change the oil in the engines. We need 10 gallons. He figured out that AutoZone would have it in stock and they do. The closest store is about 7 miles away. A taxi gets him there and within about 45 minutes he’s back.
We decide that today we will take a couple hours just to enjoy being on the Atlantic. We travel out to St. Lucie Inlet area and head south along the Intracoastal Waterway. While on the ICW we see the mega yachts and multimillion dollar homes. They are stunning to look at. We travel south for awhile until we decide there in an anchor spot to check out next time we come. It has mangroves all around and manatee zones areas. It is protected from the wind from all but north winds. Some sailboats are already here. You will rock from the wake of the boats that go by but it is a great spot to enjoy the afternoon…..in the future. For now we have decided to head to our dry storage facility back on St. Lucie Canal in a little town called Indiantown. This facility has been recommended by other Loopers from this area, and it’s in fresh water.
So we head back on our path from yesterday. That okay that we are turning around. Now we can say we made it to the coast, from Nashville. No manatees, horses or alligators today though. We do see the flying fish a lot. We have to find out their name.
We didn’t want to spend our last night on the water at a marina. So we stopped at the dolphin tie ups at the St. Lucie Lock on the west side. There is a campground here with several RV’s and tents. We find a couple dolphins to tie to but they are different from the last ones. These ones have the cleats really low so we can’t use them. No big boat could. So I spend about 10 minutes trying to lasso the top of the one to tie the bow to. A video would have went viral. The campers had a good view of us trying to “catch the dolphin”. We did it and settled in for the night. FYI be sure to have your gen facing away from those campers if you tie here. It will be an annoyance to them.
We enjoyed our last night on the water in style. Finally able to use our screens instead of canvas because it has become warm enough at night. We BBQ our dinner and watch the sun set. Knowing this portion of the journey is coming to an end is bittersweet. I miss home, the kids, the dog, the routine. By this weekend I’ll be wishing I was back on the water.
We made it. We made it to the Atlantic Ocean. No more fresh water and back to the salt. We had unhooked from the dolphin and started to head east toward Stuart Florida. The travel was with light winds, a few fishermen and a lot of scenery of the lifestyle of the folks on the east coast. Boats became larger and we were passing more of them. It must have been the day for the animals. Making our way east we saw our first alligator and also some horses coming to the water for a drink. We locked through our last lock, St Lucie Lock with an 8 foot drop. It was easy. Hold the line and let it out. Down is so much easier than going up in all locks. As we were leaving I yelled to Scott “manatee”. Directly in front of our bow was the beautiful manatee diving and swimming. We slowed completely down and only pushed through as needed until the gentle giant was past. Apparently it wanted a ride in the lock.
Down the St. Lucie Canal towards the St. Lucie River andthe many boats we would pass. They come within only about 10 feet of your boat at full speed. It’s creepy to this laker girl. No one slows down. You rock all the time from so much wake. It seems strange to us as we always slow for the boats that pass, but that’s in the north. Down here it’s all about doing whatever works. There is so much boat traffic that is it normal to come so close to each other. It’s just different to us but Scott is getting used to it already.
We found our home at Manatee Pocket, a very busy inlet. We are staying the night at Sailfish Marina. It’s mainly a fishing marina with large deep sea fishing boats. There isn’t a lot of slips available so we are at the end of the fuel dock. It’s actually a great spot to watch the boats go by. The marina has laundry, gas and diesel, wifi that works. We con’t need much more than that. We did, however, head out on the dingy to dinner at Shirmper’s Raw Grill. A lovely dinner on an open patio. We ended up traveling back to the boat after dark. The boat traffic was gone. I think we passed one boat. The interesting thing to us is how many boats are anchored and look like they haven’t moved in years. They are just anchored out in the open area, with their dingy attached. Liveaboards we are assuming.
We have been looking for a slip to leave the boat at for the 4 months at home. Not an easy task as it seems. We are looking at leaving her on the hard for the duration which hasn’t proved to be any cheaper really. Wet slip real estate is slightly higher priced but not significant. We are thinking that she might be better out of the salt water and wait for our return when we come back to move north. Forgetting that Monday is an official holiday we are finding several places closed. That could change the date for departure home by at least one day.
Waiting for the sun rise this morning and wiping the dew of the windows we had breakfast and tea. It was a great night on the hook with no breeze and smooth waters. I do recommend this anchorage but just stay away from the ski course.
As we traveled down the Caloosahatchee River in the morning light was spectacular. The sun played with the colours of the shore and trees. The water was black like northern Ontario waters. The river meanders until the Ortega Lock. We locked through with no problems at all. The locks on the OCWW are quite simple. The lines are provided and drop down for you to get with a boat pole. Then you hang on to them and wrap the end around one end of your cleat so that you still hold the end and can control the up or down of the boat. In this case we are going up to Lake Okeechobee. The river then become the Caloosahatchee Canal where the river is cut out into a canal. This seems to go on forever. The good thing is there is normal operation of the boat with the odd manatee no wake zone. So far the OCWW has proven to be quicker than expected. The last lock before the “big lake” is the Moore Haven Lock. The town has provided some dockage for folks to stay for free along with shore power and water. It proved to be quite popular. On the north side of the canal there was a very large dock. I’m not sure if it is part of the marina or town. Lots of space there. No amenities.
After this lock the canal section is fast. There is a small no wake zone after the lock but normal operation beyond the zone. This canal travels all the way to the “Big O’. If you want, or need fuel, you can take the route to Clewiston and not make the turn to the lake. At this point the channel is more grassy and open. It seems strange to be going quick but it is not protected. You know you have reached Lake Okeechobee by seeing the channel markers that lead to the open span of a fresh water lake. The channel into the lake started at depths of around 5-8 feet and eventually opened up to 10-15 feet under our belly. The channel meanders through the shoals of the lake. Be sure to stay on your line for you boaters. There are markers occasionally so you know you are in the right place but watch your line. There are a couple 90 degree turns.
At the other side of the lake we had one last lock Port Mayaca. The water is low right now so that lock was completely open. We requested passage from the lock master and were granted an idle speed directly through. No locking required. 4 locks down and 1 to go. We decided earlier that we would stay on the east side of the lock. We caught a dolphin here. Not a real dolphin, The massive group of pillings are called dolphins. We had to string a line from the bow and 2 from the stern to keep Conductance happy in the 12 knot winds today. So now we sit on the hook at our 2 dolphins to dock us for the night.
It’s not a quiet setting with a highway on the other side of the trees but it is a place to not anchor, but anchor, if you know what I mean. We did see the farmer set a controlled fire that seemed quite big to be controlled. Glad we were not downwind of that. The highway should quiet down later this evening and so will the winds. Tomorrow we will be back in salt water as we hit the ICW at the Atlantic Ocean.
We planned this trip to take 3 weeks. Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since leaving Nashville. That never happens on a boat. The cardinal rule of boating is to never have a schedule that you have to meet.
Off to an early start. Or so we thought so. We were crammed in between 2 large boats. The winds were coming into us and pushing us into the dock. With no bow thruster fixed yet it would be a tough spot to get out of. We asked for help from the attendant. I think if we had waited for him we would still be there. He was too busy talking with fish buddies at the dock and then folks in the parking lot. After waiting about 30 minutes I noticed a couple other boaters were up so I asked them to help out. No problem. We were off by 8 AM.
Again the weather was good on The Gulf so instead of the slow long haul of the ICW we chose to head out to the open water. Dodging crab or shrimp pots until Ft. Myers. These shrimp pots are difficult to see. They are a soccer ball sized ball with a rope through them and tied to a pot on the ocean floor. All we see are dodging white, orange or whatever choice of colour the ball is. Yesterday was much easier with the smooth glass of the calm sea. Today there was a chop so these things bobbed up and down with the waves. We both were on lookout for hours.
The beauty of the Great Loop is its adventure. Today we saw a whale. It’s big puff of air blowing high in the sky. We have no idea what type or how big but saw the curve of its body and the blowhole mist. Dolphins joined us too. They usually swim toward the boat rather than away. Today we had mom and her baby. They crossed directly in front of us. Slowing down he were able to see the two of them working closely together. Momma is side by side and no more than a fin away.
We came into the Caloosahatchee River in Cape Coral. The meandering river is very shallow with channels dug. The depth is between 6-11 feet in the channel. There were several boaters, both big and small, out enjoying the 82 degree weather. We had the back off all day while traveling. The river seems undisturbed in some areas and built up in others with the multi million dollar homes on the OCWW. The Okeechobee Waterway eventually leaves the city setting of Cape Coral and Ft Myers into a calm river. Channels are quite wide after leaving the open bay areas in the cities. Again multi million dollar homes can be seen. Several marinas with 100 plus ft boats are here along with gas and diesel. The interesting part is that the speed limit through here is 25 mph, watch your wake. We would slow for passing boats and docks. That seems to be the opposite of what everyone does.
We decided to lock through the first lock. Franklin Lock is only 3 feet to go up and about 15 minutes. We contact the lockmaster and it is set for us when we arrive. We lock through with 4 other boats. They throw you a line and you just cleat it down to hold her since we are going up. Scott is at the stern and I’m on the bow. There is a breeze which isn’t too bad since it’s a shallow lock. On the other side we find an anchor spot at a tip of an island at oxbow just past WP Franklin Campground on the north side. We are on the south side. There is a ski course there and we watch the locals. Not before guy who owns the house on the shore freaks out over us being there. He doesn’t like us near his ski course. He drove his golf cart to the water and then started shouting at us. We had already talked to the fellas in the boat skiing to ask where a good spot out of the way is. He just keeps yelling at me on the bow telling me to go someplace else. He doesn’t realize that we are avid wakeboarders from the past. After trying to settle him down we move out a bit. The boys in the boat that were skiing were fine with us. They called him the mayor. Oh boy!
Tonight we will watch the sun set, enjoy the serenity of being on the hook and enjoy that fish that we bought in Carrabelle.
This morning was the first morning where we could actually see that we are in Florida as most people know it. Folks were out running, walking, biking or getting ready to go on their fishing charter. The Clearwater Beach marina is a great marina near the beach. High rise condos are everywhere and just about any tourist would be happy here.
We decided to head to the beach before heading out. I put the coffee on so that we would have it ready when we got back. The beach was about 5 minutes from our slip. People were out and about by 7 AM. The Gulf was smooth with SE winds.
As we headed back to the boat we talked about the day. We decided to head out to The Gulf to make up time. Deciding to not do the ICW was a wise choice for us mainly due to our time constraints. We took a quick cruise through the ICW for about 10 minutes just to see the sites then headed to The Gulf. From there we thought maybe to make a short day and stay at Sarasota. The water was smooth with less than 1 foot waves. We were able to travel at 28 mph and made Sarasota in a couple hours. We thought we should push on and “make up a day” and stay in Venice. It was an easy channel to get into with Crow’s Nest being right at the mouth of the channel. It is also an easy diesel top up and slip with a large dock. We had 3 other larger boats than us on it by nightfall.
Crow’s Nest Marina is a nice marina for the simple items needed. The grocery store is about 2 miles away but you can take the courtesy bicycle there. Which we did. It took a little over an hour there and back and picked up groceries to put in the baskets on the bike. FYI the wifi is terrible. It is shared with a busy restaurant and even in the “boater’s lounge” directly below the restaurant it is flaky. There is not much available here if you need provisions but the sunset is a must see.
We planned our route to Ft Myers tomorrow, did laundry, checked engines, cleaned up the boat, biked to get those groceries, went for a long walk on Venice Beach and watched the pelicans and the osprey nest directly next to our boat. Mom and 2 babies learning to soar. Amazing. Tonight we turned on the underwater lights which attracted large 2+ foot fish. We have no idea what they are but they are big.
Holy H E double hockey sticks. That was an adventure. We started out with Lady V before the sun was up to get out of the channel of Carrabelle River and into the bay and then into The Gulf. When we got to The Gulf the waves started. Marine forecasts were predicted for 2-4 feet SE winds. The waves would hit our bow straight on. These waves progressed to 4-6 foot with some 2 foot. It was a slow go at 10-12 mph……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….for 7 hours, yes, 7 hours. Up and down, up and down. Lady V is a lot heavier than us so she took those waves with a little less effort. We had only done about 65 miles in those 7 hours. The waves started to subside after that and we could pick up speed slowly. Scott had calculated we needed to do an average of 17.5 miles per hour to get in before dark. After we had a look at our data we did 17.2 average mph and 11 hours. I’d say that’s a good day’s work.
Ok folks, some of you don’t boat. So 65 miles doesn’t seem like much. So let’s just say put yourself in a swimming pool and turn on the waves like in a wave pool. Now do that for 7 hours and note that you really need to be someplace before dark sets in and you’ve only made 1/3 of the way. We usually can do about 25 or more mph in good water. So only doing 65 miles in 7 hours is a tad slow. We have headaches and neck aches to prove it. On the good side, we did it. We are in Clearwater without the heat on and just putting on pants and sweaters at 7:30.
On the flip side the dolphins enjoyed us being in The Gulf today. We had several pods enjoying our wake and diving under the boat to come out the other side. They would run along the side or dash in front of us. It was a really neat to see them so close.
Tonight we dock at Clearwater Beach Marina. We filled our diesel tanks upon coming in and found a nice quiet slip. We’re really tired after our curry dinner and a couple bevies. It’s an early night tonight. Sweet dreams!
It’s a go. We are on for tomorrow morning to tackle the 175 miles to cross The Gulf to Clearwater FL. Engines are ready, We’ve battened down the hatches for the 2-4 footers expected. With a SE – SSE wind we should hit them somewhat on the bow. Reservations are made at the Clearwater Beach Marina. Us and Lady V are excited to move to the south.
Recapping today we did go for a walk into town for a couple groceries at the IGA. We made it to the Post Office not far from the marina. Carrabelle is host to the World’s smallest police station. It’s a phone booth, literally. There is also a fresh fish market up past the main street about 1/2 mile. We bought some freshly caught red snapper and another kind but we can’t remember the name. Looking forward to trying out a new recipe. We had dinner with Lady V at The Fisherman’s Wife Restaurant. Seafood is caught right in the bay with a daily catch of the day. Today it was catfish.
We wondered around for the afternoon and finally had the opportunity to take off the heavy clothes and be in Tshirts. That’s a first on this trip. Back at the boat we continued to watch the weather on about 4-6 different sites. It’s showing a decent ride for the day tomorrow. The trawlers left at about 4:40 pm today for the 20 hour trip across. Another 50 foot Carver came in from Clearwater stating not too bad seas. Now we are sitting again on the Carrabelle River with glass calm waters. A good sign for tomorrow morning. Scott went out to take some night shots of the area. There is so much beauty here on The Panhandle.
A question that is asked a lot is how do you live on a boat. Today being a down day I took some pics of the interior of the boat. It’s cramped and things have a place. All the cupboards are full of needed items and the rest has a spot on the floor. Tomorrow as we get ready for the waves there will be more items placed on the floor just so they don’t bounce around too much. We have about 200 square feet of living space and with 3 of us usually its comfortable. With Scott and I cruising for the first time without Aiden, it seems so big. Strange that we don’t have him asking for something to eat or us trying to think of something for him. We miss him already but know he is in good hands at home. We do miss Steve and Amy and the routine that comes with home. For now we will focus on getting us and Lady V across that big water………..
Waking up to a hot shower and prepared breakfast that is provided for marine guests here at The Moorings was a nice reprieve. A few loopers arrived today from the various ports along the Panhandle. Everyone is in the waiting period to cross The Gulf. Weather looks like the best on Wednesday so I think that’s when we’ll go. A few slower moving boats are looking at a crossing Wednesday to Thursday or Thursday to Friday. It’s always a conversation here in Carrabelle.
We went into town today to pick up a new hose that froze along our route and had a bulge that would be nasty if it let go. It was inside the boat where the connection was. It’s not a far walk to the grocery store, post office, hardware store, restaurant. Actually where we are on the east side of The Moorings I think its closer to those amenities than it is to the laundry, restrooms, breakfast and showers. It is a brisk walk when its 28 F here in the morning.
Scott did some maintenance on the engines for the journey ahead of us. Changing out the racors a bit earlier than needed but they should be good now for the remainder of the Florida portion as well as up the east coast a bit. I’m sure there was more than that that he checked in the 2 plus hours he was in the engine compartment but I won’t bore with the details. I cleaned up the boat and checked for anything we might need. I’m sure that once we hit Clearwater we will have most amenities available. It’s just getting there.
We’ve been skyping and texting Aiden and his brother, Steve, back home. It’s looking like about 10 cm of snow overnight. A snow day may happen for them in Niagara tomorrow with forecasts of snow and freezing rain.
As we sit here looking out over the Carrabelle River it has calmed to glass. The lights reflect off the no wind evening and almost full moon night. The pelicans are back on their perches at the pillars near our bow. It’s a beautiful night but cold. The heat is still on in the boat and we’re supposed to be in Florida. At least we are here and not in Niagara…….