The Route South

Saturday, April 8, 2006

“It’s The Gospel From The Coast”

In my line of work I get to see a lot more than most.
Write ‘em down and pass ‘em around,
It’s the gospel from the coast.
Reflections not just replays,
Takin’ time to escape the maze,
Lookin’ for better days.
“Floridays”
  Jimmy Buffett

So with apologies to Jimmy, we begin the chronicle of our trip to the Chesapeake Bay, hopefully more than just a log of daily events. Some reflections, as well as replays.
Saturday, April 8, 2006

 6:30 AM So much for my dream of a light and variable breeze so we could run down the Gulf of Mexico with the GPS talking to the autopilot Cindy and Randy sitting idly, reading and watching out for boats. Instead it is blowing out of the South at 10-15 and forecast to go higher. A quick engine check – oil, coolant, tension on the alternator belts and we start up the engine. We are out of the slip before 7 AM and head south down the Intracoastal Waterway (usually called the ICW).
 By way of explanation, the ICW is a mostly inside passage running from the Norfolk, VA to the southern tip of Florida, then turning up the Gulf Coast to Tarpon Springs. There is a break where travelers have to cross out into the open Gulf to the Florida Panhandle, returning to the ICW somewhere near St. Marks. It then continues on through Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, where it plays out around Brownsville. We intend to travel south down the coast where we will turn east at Ft, Myers and go up the Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee. On the other side of the Lake we pick up the St. Lucie canal which will deliver us to the East coast of Florida at Stuart. From there we head north up the ICW to Maryland, specifically Solomon’s Island, where we have a slip reserved until the fall.
 As we pass by Elaine & Bob’s house we wave and blow a quick salute on the boat horn. Their son Chip runs out and waves back, followed by his Elaine. Unfortunately, Bob is quite ill and Chip is here to visit his dad.

 By 1 PM we are passing the Sunshine Skyway, crossing Tampa Bay. The wind has built to a steady 15 kts. The Bay is surprisingly good to us. So many times we have gotten thumped good and proper crossing Tampa Bay. The wind and tide conspire to form a short steep chop that will almost bring the boat to a complete stop. Last year on the way to the Keys we had one of those situations and the spray was flying over the top of the pilothouse. The windshield looked like it was being sprayed with a fire hose. No such misfortune this year. A comparatively smooth trip across with the autopilot doing the hard work. We watched a couple of ships on the radar and before we knew it we were on the other side of the Bay and making our way toward Sarasota. Since it was early we pressed on to Venice, where we tied up to the free dock at Higel Park by 5 PM. At about 6 PM, Chip Wedan’s sister, Judy, called to tell us that her dad passed away this afternoon. Bob was a friend of the family for many years and we are going to miss him.

Higel Park - Venice, FL
83/83 (The first number represents the statute miles traveled today. The second is the cumulative total)

Sunday, April 9, 2006

 Slept in and loafed through breakfast this morning. We have an easy day today; only 30 miles. We are away shortly before 10 AM heading for Boca Grande and beyond. We pass BG by 1:45 PM and continue on to Cayo Costa, where we anchored in Pelican Bay, around the “hook”. There is a front forecast and we will be snug there.
 We put the dingy in the water and putted into the manatee cove where we saw at least half a dozen in residence. About 7:30 PM we were eating dinner in the cockpit when the wind suddenly shifted to the NE and piped up to about 20 kts. It blew all night long. 30/113

Monday, April 10, 2006

 Up ,coffeed, breakfasted, engine checked and anchor up by 9:40 AM. The wind hasn’t let up a bit but at least it is going our way. We chug south through Pine Island Sound, passing between the very private Useppa Island and the very public Cabbage Key. By lunchtime we have passed Captiva and Sanibel Islands. We anchor in Glover Bight shortly after 1:30 PM and relax for the rest of the afternoon. The wind hasn’t let up a bit but the anchorage is well protected.

 At 6 PM we take the dingy ashore to meet our friends Gloria and Norb for dinner. They live a few miles up the road and have agreed to drive down to pick us up. As always, we had a great time with them. When they delivered us back to our dingy we noticed some flashing lights out in the anchorage. As we got closer we saw the Coast Guard in one of their orange 25 footers cruising around our boat and a local towboat attached to the bow of MORNING STAR. As we got closer we realized that there were two CG standing in the cockpit. When we got there I asked politely what the hell was going on and why were they aboard my boat? Their reply….YOU DRAGGED ANCHOR!! Supposedly, the towboat operators found our boat floating about ¾ of a mile from the anchorage and towed it back in.

 This whole thing smells to me.

  • We have spent literally hundreds of nights at anchor and are very careful about how we anchor.
  • We had about 75ft of chain and a #35 Delta plow anchor set.
  • It held for almost 5 hours before we left for dinner.
  • What the tow operator was asking me to believe was that 45 minutes after we left for dinner, the boat had pulled its anchor and drifted ¾ of a mile!
Anyway, he was able to bill BoatUS for the tow…approx. $600. Hmmmm.

 We re-anchored the boat and sat around watching the radar and GPS for the next three hours. The boat didn’t move so we went to bed at 11:30PM. 28/141


Tuesday April 11, 2006

 After breakfast we pulled the dingy up in the davits and warmed up the engine.

 We pulled up the anchor at 9 AM and slowly made our way back to the ICW. By 11:10 AM we were tied in our slip at the Ft. Myers City Marina. We are leaving the boat here tonight while we rent a car and drive back to Clearwater to attend Bob Wedan’s funeral tomorrow.

13/154

Wednesday April 13, 2006

 Drove back to Ft. Myers after the funeral. Bob was a great guy and his kids all spoke at the service as well as some of his grandchildren. They all did a wonderful job. We are all going to miss Bob.

 When we returned to the boat we found a business card for an air conditioner repairman. Did I mention that we discovered that our air conditioner pooped out on Friday night, the eve of our departure? We phoned at least six different repair companies that were referred to us but nobody could get to us for at least two weeks. Anyway, we called this guy up and he stopped by 20 minutes later. The A/C was completely out of freon. He recharged it and couldn’t find an obvious leak. Hopefully that will be that. We’ll see.

Thursday April 14, 2006

 Up and at ’em early. We’ve got a lot of miles to cover today and also three locks to negotiate. We slipped quietly out of the marina at 6:55 AM, the first boats underway this morning. We arrived at the Franklin lock at 8:40 AM and twenty minutes later we were on the other side and under way again.
Rialto Harbor Marine - on the Okeechobee Waterway

 By 12:30 we passed La Belle, had lunch while under way and arrived at Ortona Lock. Here’s the problem…they make you wait your turn! It was 1:05 PM before we got through. The locking process is quite simple. When you get a green light, quite literally, from the lockmaster, you pull into the lock and go along side the wall at the prescribed location and wait for the rest of the boats to “assume the position”. The lock has lines hanging down for you to hold the boat into position while they close the gates on one side and slowly open the other side, filling the lock. Once the lock is full the gates open and the boats proceed out of the lock, under the direction of the lockmaster.
Locking Through

 3:00PM finds us at the lock at Moore Haven. We locked through with some folks who were friends of Tom & Becky, Krogen acquaintances from Maryland. Small world, this cruising community. By 5:10 PM we were tied up at Roland Martin’s Fish CampMarina. Those of you who watch ESPN on Saturday AM will recognize the name. He made his name bass fishing and owns a marina in Clewiston. It’s the only game in town.

70/224

Friday April 14, 2006

 Today we head to Stuart! Krogen Yachts sponsors a big party every year for their customers and everybody who owns one of their boats is invited. We timed our departure from Clearwater with this party in mind. We are up early because; a) we have 60 miles to do today, b) we want to get across Lake Okeechobee before the wind gets up, and c) there is one final lock to do. We are out of the marina at 6:45 AM, first out. As we head out into the lake we see a line of boats coming out of the marina. They all pass us in the lake. More about that later. We had a relatively easy trip across, running on autopilot while we drank coffee and ate breakfast. By 10:00 we were across the lake and into the St. Lucie canal. We arrived at the St. Lucie lock at 1:20 PM and there was a traffic jam. Many of the boats that passed us were waiting to get into the lock. We finally locked through at 2:50 PM…an hour and a half wait! We missed the first opportunity because the lock was full with eleven boats. We were one of seven boats on our transit. We finally arrived at Krogen’s marina, Stuart Cay Marina, at 4:00 PM. The party was under way. The first week of the trip is behind us.

Swing Bridge

60/284
Nice Lady
Krogen 39 waiting for the railroad bridge