The Route South

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Being Pulled

pull |poŏl|
noun - an act of taking hold of something and exerting force to draw it toward one….

Frequently people speak of being “pulled” in one direction or another.  But it is especially true on a boat.   The moon’s gravitational pull on the earth’s waters causes the tide to rise and fall.  Current pulls at the boat, sometimes off course and sometimes into danger.  Cindy and I find that we are being irresistibly pulled away from a “normal” life, pulled to wander along the coast on the water.  This concept is completely foreign to many folks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011
After a three-year hiatus we are finally under way once again.  It has been a hectic few days getting ready – taxes are filed and paid - we have been to grocery store – we have been to the marine supply store again – the oil is changed – the laundry is done.  We are out of excuses and after prematurely announcing our departure twice, its time to go!  We are being pulled like lemmings that follow a strange and unavoidable urge to run off a cliff into the sea.  We too defy common sense and jump off the cliff, pulling out of our slip at the Downtown Marina in Clearwater at 0830.  By 0900 we were out Clearwater Pass and into the Gulf of Mexico, headed south so we could once again head north.  We have to go down to Ft. Myers and across the state through Lake Okeechobee to Stuart before we can go north. 
By noon we were running through the swash channel at Mullet Key, entering Tampa Bay and slipping across the Egmont shipping channel without encountering any shipping.  Tampa Bay is quiet and kind today and by 1300 we pass through “The Bulkhead” at Anna Maria Island, where we enter the Intracoastal Waterway - aka the ICW.  The ICW is a ribbon of channels, cuts, rivers and creeks that wind all the way from Texas to Boston.  It was the ICW that carried us up and down the coast in ’06 and ’07 and we are happy to be back on that familiar marine highway.  
At 1400 we are pulled strongly toward Longboat Pass, not by tidal current but rather by fond memories.  This is one of our favorite local anchorages and the site of one of our favorite restaurants, “Mar Vista”.  We spent New Years Eve there and it would be too easy to call it a day early and slip in there, anchor up and go in for a celebratory dinner.  But at this rate we will never get anywhere and sadly, common sense prevails and we continue on to Sarasota.  By 1540 the anchor is down and nicely set in 12 ft. of water off Island Park.  With a pleasant 10-12 knots of breeze to cool the boat down, we declare victory and pour a glass of wine.  We are glad to be here.  Happy lemmings indeed!

Friday, April 15, 2011
At 0730 the engine is warming up.  After 15 minutes, the anchor is finally up pulled up and stowed.  It normally doesn’t take so long but the mud from the bottom completely encased the anchor chain, looking like a 3” diameter piece of gray pipe and it took a full five minutes of hosing and squirting to clear away the mud.
Shortly after rejoining the ICW a northbound Krogen 39, “Mary D”, passed by and hailed us on the radio.  They knew “Morning Star” from Pensacola ten years ago and knew the previous owners, Bruce and Joyce Beebe.  Turns out they were aboard in ’06 when we attended the Krogen Owners’ Open House in Stuart.
By 1015 we were passing Venice Inlet and as Higel Park slid into view we noticed several boats tied up at the city park dock.  Several months ago the city fathers closed this favorite spot of ours to overnight docking. Perhaps city is not enforcing this statute.  Several cities have done this.  One of our favorite stopping places is in Portsmouth, VA where we stop and tie up for a few days, right next to the large sign that proclaims “NO OVERNIGHT DOCKING”.  I think the cities have these ordinances on the books so they have the authority to force undesirables to move along.  We hope so.
By 1215 Englewood Beach is abeam.  There is a popular anchorage there and several boats are moored there.
The Boca Grande swing bridge is one of the few bridges that we have to wait for on the west coast of Florida, but our timing is good and they only hold us for ten minutes before setting us free at 1330.  By 1420 the entrance channel to the village of Boca Grande is abeam.  We are being pulled.  Memories of the good food at “Temptation”, one of our very favorite restaurants in that pleasant little town pull strongly at us. Not today, Boca Grande. 
But Boca Grande doesn’t give up easily.  The tide pulls at us, slowing our speed to 5.7 knots.  We have 22 kts. of wind across the deck.  By 1510 we are firmly anchored to the bottom in Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa Island. 
Krogen 38 anchored in Pelican Bay.  Yes, Jim Krogen did design sailboats too!

Saturday, April 16, 2011
We have declared a lay day.  Boat chores in the morning.  But we are being pulled.   Into the dinghy we go, in time to zip down to Cabbage Key for lunch.  It’s hard for us to go past here without stopping in to enjoy this unique spot.  We first “discovered” this place in the early ‘70’s in our 24’ Morgan sailboat.  Chip must have been only 4 or 5 at the time and it was like visiting a private tropical hideaway.  To us, it still is.  The Rays played baseball this afternoon and finally won! 
Cabbage Key - outside

Cabbage Key - inside
Interesting decor.

Sunday, April 17, 2011
0720 - A cold front blew through at 4 AM.  It is only a bit cooler but the humidity is way down from yesterday.  The wind is N at 19kts.  We are being pulled.  Its time to get under way again.
0730 – The anchor is up and stowed and in another ten minutes we are out of Pelican Bay and back in the ICW. 
1000 – St. James City is abeam on the port side.  We are being pulled.  I wish we have time to stop and see our pool-builder friends Bob and Jane Wason, but we need to make 50 miles a day.  Forty minutes later we are at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River.  All the mileages on the ICW are in statute miles so I reset the speedometer and GPS to read in statute instead of our normal nautical miles. 
1215 – Ft. Myers City Marina has the best price on diesel fuel around and we need some so we stop and take on 175 gallons @ $4.05/gal.  By contrast, in ’06 we were paying in the $1.99-$2.50 range.  This is going to be an expensive trip!  By 1305 we are away from the fuel dock and headed further up the river.  By 1450 we are anchoring at the Franklin Lock.  Because of the drought, the lock openings are limited to three times per day – 7 AM, 1 PM and 7 PM.  But our friends Gloria and Norb are here in their skiff.  They live in the Cape Coral area and by prior plan we are meeting up at the lock.  They showed up bearing a bottle of wine and some of G’s delicious pumpkin bread.  The wine didn’t survive the afternoon but the pumpkin bread will serve us well for several days.
At 1900 sharp, the lockmaster called us to enter the lock and by 1920 we were through.  The Army Corps of Engineers, who is responsible for maintaining the ICW and locks, has built a small campground and marina.  It was only $24 to tie up for the night, including electricity.  Its half that if you have a Golden Age Passport.  I’m old enough to qualify but I haven’t had the opportunity to buy one yet so we are here at full price.  I’m hope that all you taxpayers appreciate our contribution!
Sportfishing boats leave their mark on the lock walls with stickers.

Locking through Franklin Lock

Full moon at Franklin Lock marina

Monday, April 18, 2011
It was nearly dark last night when we came in so we took a short walk after breakfast to check out the campground/marina.  It’s a small and delightful facility.  Almost all of the sites are full.  We’d love to stay a while and chat with some of the campers but we are being pulled.  We need to make some miles today.
0815 – Depart the Franklin Lock campground.
1000 – Our favorite bridge tender is working the Ft. Denaud swing bridge today, as always, in a pink hat.  I’m told that she is the minister’s wife.
1045 – Passing Labelle
1150 – We arrive at Ortona lock and have to wait for only a short while to get a turn going through the lock.  The restricted openings are only at the east and west ends of the Okeechobee Waterway.   The rest of the locks are opened “on demand”.  By 1210 we have been raised up 8 ft. and are on our way.
1400 – As we pass through the town of Moore Haven we see a sign in front of the library.  It is 97°!  It doesn’t take long to decide that we are going to a marina tonight so we can plug into the electricity and run the air conditioning.
Everybody is hot!
1600 – We arrive at Clewiston and tie up to the dock at Roland Martin’s marina.  The place looks like it is falling apart.  We know that Lake Okeechobee is low.  Our shallow depth alarm keeps going off…while we are tied to the dock.  Only 4 ½’ of water.

Tuesday, April 19,2011
0700 – Start the engine and warm it up.  We want to get across the Lake early.
0710 –Clewiston Lock is a really massive hurricane gate constructed by the Corps of Engineers after a devastating Category Five hurricane killed over 2,500 people in 1928.  We are through there and headed out the channel into the Lake. 
0840 – It has taken and hour and a half to make it all the way out past Rocky Ledge and into the open waters of the Lake.  It will be another two hours before we are across the lake and enter the Port Myakka lock, on the Lake’s eastern shore.
1420 – We arrive at the St. Lucie lock.  The next opening isn’t until 7 PM.  We while away the hours reading and listening to music in the shade on the boat deck.  Cindy prepares an early dinner and that is out of the way by the time the lockmaster calls on the radio to invite us into the lock.  7 PM on the spot.
1920 – We have locked through and are now officially on the east coast.  We are racing the sun to if we can get to the mooring field in Stuart, which is nine miles away, before dark.  The sun wins and we arrive and pick out our mooring in the dark.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Stuart is full of Krogen friends and we are declaring a lay day.  As we approach the marina docks in the dinghy we spot Nick and Sherri Morgan’s Krogen 39, “Sweet Time”.  After a short stop to chat with them, we head to the marina office to check in and pay for two night’s mooring rental.  It makes sense to take advantage of the marina’s free shuttle bus so we run back out to the boat and grab our backpacks so we can go to Publix for a few groceries.  While waiting in the shade for the bus to arrive we chat with John and Barbara Holum from the Krogen 58, “Solveig III”.  Our paths haven’t crossed since last August in Maine!  Once the groceries were put away, Cindy decided that I was taking her to lunch at the restaurant by the marina.  Back into the dinghy and in we go.  The restaurant was very nice, the setting was excellent and the food was quite tasty.  What more can you ask for?  It was reasonably priced!
After lunch we wandered over to “Grand Adventure” to see if Mark and Emily Little were aboard their Krogen 39.  They were and we went aboard for a long chat.  They have had quite a year, traveling from as far north as Maine to farther south in the Bahamas than Havana.  Their boat has long legs!
There was a Krogen 48 named “Almost Perfect” that was berthed next to Mark and Emily.  We knocked on their hull too, since they are from Treasure Island, FL.  The owner, Bud Perfit was Cindy’s boss’s boss at Jack Eckerd Corp a lifetime ago, but he remembered Cindy and we had a pleasant chat.  By the time we had made the rounds, it was time to go back to the boat and sit and read for a bit before Happy Hour and dinner.
Our newest favorite marina - Sunset Bay in Stuart
Nice, big dinghy dock

This is where the name comes from!

Thursday, April 21, 2011
0850 – It was great seeing everybody but we are being pulled on and its time to move so after warming up the engine for a few minutes, we slipped our mooring lines and headed to the fuel dock to take on some water.  While topping off the tanks, Cindy looked at the boat next-door and said, “Hey, there’s Scotty!”  Scotty has a company that does a lot of boat work for a lot of Krogens.  We have seen him in Solomon’s, MD but forgot that he follows the Krogen folks down to Stuart in the winter and does repair and upgrade projects.  Can’t do that in winter in Maryland!  He is very good, very fair and very busy. 
0930 – After pulling away from the fuel dock, we called the bridge tender at the Roosevelt Bridge and requested an opening.  He complied quickly and we headed through when he called back on the radio and warned us that the automated railroad bridge was starting to close.  He is supposed to get a five minute warning before they close that bridge but for some reason he didn’t get one this time.  After quickly backing out of there we waited…and waited…and waited.  Finally, after a 45-minute delay, the bridge was opened again and we were away. 
1200 – Passed Ocean Breeze Park.  This is the trailer park that Cindy’s grandparents used to winter at from sometime back in the ‘20’s until at least into the ‘70’s!
1410 – We pass Ft. Pierce Inlet and again we are being pulled, but this time it is by a very strong current!

1615 – Our destination for the night is Vero Beach and we have arrived at the mooring field there.  The last time we were here there were so many boats that we had to raft two or three together.  This time we have a mooring ball all to ourselves.  On the way in to the dock master’s office to pay our rent, we were hailed by the 48’ Krogen Whaleback named “Fluke”.  We hadn’t seen Wayne and Carol since Solomon’s, MD in fall of ’06 so we had a nice chat and were invited to lunch and laundry on Friday!  Guess we will be staying for two nights!
Vero Beach Marina and Mooring field.  They have regular bus service to the local grocery and marine supply stores, as well as a great laundry room, an air conditioned captains' lounge with an exchange library and free wifi.  No wonder cruisers call it "Velcro Beach".  Its would be easy to get stuck here!
View of the mooring field.

Friday, April 22, 2011
Another lay day.  This could be habit forming.  Vero Beach is a wonderful spot.  The marina and mooring field is a great stopover…so much so that it has the nickname “Velcro Beach”.  People seem to get stuck here!  Cindy did a couple of loads of laundry in the morning while I tended to some business and did a bit of computer work.  By 1015 it was time to walk the half-mile to Wayne and Carol’s so we loaded some sheets and towels into the dinghy and off we went.  Lunch was great and we certainly enjoyed catching up with them and swapping tales.  Before we knew it, it was after 2 PM!  Their friend and cruising companion Eddie gave us a ride back to the marina.  We spent the rest of the afternoon doing small chores aboard the boat and before we knew it, it was time to renew an old cruising tradition of ours. – The Happy Hour Harbor Cruise.  We pour a drink and have a leisurely putt around the harbor in the dinghy, looking at boats and chatting with our neighbors.  The perfect end to a great day.  But we are being pulled and tomorrow we travel.