Friday, November 4, 2016

Day 31, Fort Myers to Naples, FL - Homeward Bound

November 4th.
Only a short 4 to 5 hour trip for our float plan today.

Sooooo, once again I’ll say that THIS will likely be the last day of our voyage, we can now say confidently, as at daybreak the weather is good and the forecast for the day in Southwest Florida is fair.

At 0845, we motor down the Caloosahatchee River out of Fort Myers, now and again having to idle down for manatee zones.  While we only saw manatee’sa few times, this whole trip has been filled with amazing wildlife between the birds, the sea animals and even land animals. 

Once again today, a dolphin was playing with our vessel’s wake while we were running at about 8 knots, this guy was shooting up the back side of the wave, jumping out and twirling onto his back as he splashed back into the surf, all the while with a smile on his face!

Today’s voyage down the coast was so much fun since this coast is one that we know pretty well from having been coming to this area for several decades now. We emerged from the Caloosahatchee River and into San Carlos Bay, through the Mantanzaz Pass into the Gulf of Mexico.  At that point we were several miles off the coast of Estero.  We then moved from several miles offshore to less than a mile, and ran along the beach past Pelican Bay, the Gulfshore area (where friends came out to the beach to welcome wave us from shore!) and Olde Naples before turning into Gordon Pass.  Then two miles north up to Naples City Dock, our final destination. Just as the sendoff in Maine, we were welcome here by family members!

Well, what a trip. It is certainly good to be back "home" on terra firma.  But first, and foremost, we need to pay our respects to the Lady A.  Our ship performed beautifully. There were very few issues with the systems and mechanics.  The Lady A is a small vessel, but she’s as seaworthy as any, and reliable all the day (and night) long. Life aboard was comfortable and sleeping was great.  We are so grateful for our vessel and of her, we are most proud.  

While I can’t yet say that I would rush out to do this trip again tomorrow, and I know Amanda wouldn't, we both have a great sense of having accomplished a significant voyage.  From Southern Maine to Southwest Florida, we sailed 1,772.2 nautical miles in 32 days (with a couple of weeks off in between due to weather).

The blog has been fun as well.  But bays, harbors, coves, rivers, sounds, gulfs and creeks as well as marinas, begin to run together and get hazy after a month at sea so it's nice to have the trip digitally memorialized. 

Thank you all who cared to take this voyage with us! nice to have you along.

Bon voyage to you.
We made it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Day 31 - The Glades to Ft. Myers

Sunrise leaving The Glades

Intended "last day", destination foiled.
As planned, we awoke early, before dawn, in order to get to the Ortona Lock just after the 7 am scheduled opening.

Crossing the peninsula
Float plan for the final portage.

We traveled the four miles to the lock "Arrival Point" before 0800 and radioed on our VHF, channel 13, "Ortona Lock, this is the Lady A, headed west, come in."  Ortona Lock: "Our next lockage will be at 11:30 AM."  Ouch. The day's plans to complete our voyage all the way to Naples have now been foiled.

Despite our detour, the First Mate is dealing well with her deep depression, and is busy making plans to find a nice berth for the evening.  Despite having packed all our clean clothes, our dirty laundry,  and started cleaning the wheelhouse, she wisely didn't "unmake" the bed so we will sleep in our comfy, cozy bunk one more night!

(Shouldn't have written last night that "tomorrow we'd wrap it up"! The First Mate will now need to make plans to find a marina in Ft. Myers to spend tonight and we'll have an easy morning sail down to Naples tomorrow.)

Went back to the Ortona lock early and had to wait about an hour but true to their word, they started operating at 1130. Only problem was, they opened first from the west, so we had to wait a full opening.  Got on our way around 1230.
Tending the lines for the drop

The final lock, W. P. Franklin, was uneventful and dropped us down about 2 feet to sea level.  You'd think we could just shoot the rapids, no?

Arrived in Ft. Myers at 1645 and found a great slip, right by Joe's Crab Shack.  Might be our dinner spot.

Ft. Myers, Legacy Harbour Marina

Ft. Myers sunset

'Til tomorrow, perhaps the last day of our voyage, who knows?

Day 30 - Stuart to Moore Haven (“The Glades”),FL

We awoke as early as we ever have as some of us are anxious to have the trip end in the next few days.  That said, the marina at “Sunset Bay” in Stuart was one of our finest places to stay.  Tonight, not so much.....

Stuart sunrise
Red sky at morning....

Fabulous weather in Stuart as we shoved off at 0738 for our almost nine hour voyage through Lake Okeechobee today. Just south of Stuart we entered the St. Lucie Canal and went from one ditch to another!  
St. Lucie Lock
up about 13'

The lock systems were pretty cool, one taking us up about 13 feet and the other two (for today), less.


Opening the gate
Tending the rise
Port Mayaca Lock, leading into Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee was a body of water that is not warm and fuzzy, one that doesn’t really draw me back. First of all, the water's edge is vague and obscure.  The wind was blowing hard, gusting to 20, but fortunately from the east (with us). 
Perhaps they thought we were a fishing vessel??

In addition, it was overcast, and spitting rain.  One of the few runs where some seamanship mattered.  Okeechobee is the second largest fresh body of water in America and most of it is about 10 feet deep. Went through some marsh to get to the canal on the west side of the Lake.

That’s where we entered the Caloosahatchee Canal. Another ten miles or so, and one more lock, this time a few feet down, we got to our slip for the night in The Glades.  This is a "hidden marina", complete with rv park, golf course, cafe and complimentary golf cart. Laura, who lives on a houseboat nearby, ran us over to LaBelle to grab a bite and brought us back.  A wonderful cross-section of America.

The plan is to depart around dawn and get to the first “downward” lock shortly after it opens. If all goes well, we can make Naples, our ultimate destination, by tomorrow night.........

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Day 29 - Vero Beach to Stuart, FL

Vero Beach City Harbor, our home for the night.

Opened our day with a mile or two hike to the Lemon Tree for a "healthy" breakfast and then hiked back. Some more welcome exercise, similar to what we had the night before.

Vero berth

We shoved off around 0900 as our day's float plan was short.  A beautiful day, again but in this area, the wind had been whipping up on the Atlantic out of the east for the past several days.  There was also warnings against certain areas of shoaling between specific markers that the First Mate reminded the Captain of, from time to time.
The Lady A's helm station
Staying in the channel
Consequently, we had to deal with some of that on the day’s voyage. There were large bays to our east during this relatively straight southerly run but the fetch created some choppy seas from the east that forced us to take on a decent sea spray for a long spell over our port side. Fortunately that’s the side that’s housed in!

Wipers workin'
Here we are, now, in Stuart, heralded for being one of the most livable and desirable seaside communities in America.  Really enjoyable.  
Followed a sailboat through, the draw bridge,
otherwise may have had to lower antennae
At the Sunset Marina, a City facility, for the night which has really nice docks, meeting grounds, amenities like grills. outdoor patios and an adjacent restaurant with live music and outdoor dining. Roughing it, not. We took the complimentary bikes around town and came back to the marina restaurant for dinner.

Tomorrow we enter the Okeechobee waterway and spend the night in Central Florida, making our way to the west coast by Thursday. (?)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Day 28 - Titusville to Vero Beach

October 31, Halloween

We shoved off relatively early, just after 0800. 

Titusville Sunrise
Today's float plan is very straightforward, due South down the Indian River. It was another beautiful day to be on the water but a somewhat boring run due to it being a straight shot, "in the ditch" on the well-marked ICW. 

Leaving Titusville, we passed Port St. John, Cape Canaveral, Melbourne, Sebastian and then down to Vero Beach. 

After about five and a half hours, we were getting pretty bored.  
Well, just near Sebastian, we spotted a school of dolphins ahead. The first mate got her camera ready as we approached them. We'd seen so many by now but these guys looked like a school of aggressive playmates. Well, they gave us quite a show. 
Darting to port

Diving under the stern

For several minutes they were dancing, twirling and frolicking in our wake. Darting under the boat, then backing off in order to dart into the back thrust  once again. Something about the sound of the engine combined with the wooden resonator?

Literally within just a few feet of the boat.  

VERY exciting. Dolphin obviously like swimming at about a 10 knot pace. 

Darting to starboard

We got to Vero with enough time for some real exercise, a brisk walk around town and back in time to freshen up before dinner.

Tomorrow's plan is to get to the Stuart area, a convenient stop before the beginning of the Okeechobee Waterway. which takes us over to the west coast, exiting into the Gulf of Mexico in Ft. Myers, just north of Naples.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day 27 - Palm Coast to Titusville, FL

October 30.

Shoved off early as this marina did not offer much in the way of sustenance. Just a cup of  hot coffee.  We decided to sleep in since our float plan was relatively short.  The only thing was, we didn’t account for "'slow", "no wake" and "idle speed only" zones for several sections of the run.  

Hound dog, sit down, stand up paddleboard
Had to request a bridge opening, now and again.
Yes sir! Please open the Bulow bascule bridge!
Ponce de Leon Inlet Light

Tons of boating activity through the South Daytona area, around the Ponce de Leon inlet area and just south in New Smyrna.
Dolphins abound: We took so many bad shots, this one's "okay".

The challenge was to scout ahead, look at signs with binoculars and pay attention to any and all signs.  Needless to say, it’s possible to miss one, now and again.  Anyway, we had an unscheduled delay while a coastal law enforcement officer checked out the Lady A and her credentials.  Some areas are "slow manatee" areas and then there's the newly damaged coastline. The hurricane damage has made all waterfront property owners and their agents, understandably, hyper-sensitive. We felt it was all but certain that a summons was going to be issued. But fortunately the officer came back with only a warning, verbally recognizing the " pedigree," of the boat.  Thus, we got a warning and were essentially granted a pardon. Pure speculation but he told us the property owners want tickets issued.

Then we had a long stretch through Mosquito Lagoon into the Cape Canaveral area, pulling in to Titusville for the evening. 

NASA bascule bridge on way into Titusville

One of our least productive days, from a time spent per nautical mile, 69 nautical miles in 7h 50m.

A must-do burger joint for tonight, Quam’s.  Worth two Absorbaid and one Pepcid AC.

Day 26 -October 29 - Amelia Island Yacht Basin to Palm Coast, FL

We fueled up first thing in the morning and shoved off about 0900.
Just out in the ICW, we had to go through a bascule train bridge and under a car bridge.
Just outside Amelia Island Yacht Basin

Air boat

Once in Florida, the ICW becomes a little more interesting and scenic than in Georgia and parts of SC, some of it because it offers a variety of naturalist topography and some for the human creations, houses, dockside toys and boats.

That said, the ICW is more of a straight shot and narrow so there is less variance in the route you can take. 
Approaching St. Augustine

An exception was in St. Augustine's Sound, a bustling area with lots of boating activity.

St. Augustine's city front

Large sailing vessel, Tabasco, that we had seen in Newport
earlier on our voyage crossing the draw bridge in St. Augustine's

One area, however was very tricky, taking you close to shore for an illogical route, as the center of the channel was shallow from shoaling.  As we approached, there were two vessels already aground and one shot out a warning to us over the VHF to get over closer to shore.  Good thing, as despite reading about the warnings in our Waterway Guide guide, we were headed for the area where we might have grounded out. 

Grounded vessels

Hopefully these vessels just needed to await the incoming tide before moving on and sustained no damage to their props, shafts or hulls.

Wave runners

One part of the run of severely storm-damaged waterfront structures had an emergency “No Wake” zone. We were warned of this by a patrolling law enforcement vessel’s officers.

More hurricane damage

We made our way into the marina at Palm Coast for the evening.  A fun condo complex nearby had a fun plaza inside the complex, a "European Village" with lots of activity, eight restaurants, live music and folks dressed up in their Halloween costumes.  We closed the evening with a few games of gin.  We won't say who won the most hands.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Day 25 - St. Simon's GA to Amelia Island Yacht Basin FL

Day 25-Oct 28

Checked out the town of St Simon's last evening and dined at the Georgia Sea Grill. Easy Uber, to and from. 

We have planned only a short run and given tidal issues, we did not have to leave before mid-day. Shoved off a little after 1200 and headed across St. Simon's Sound to the ICW adjacent to Jekyll Island. Here we saw the first pink flamingos of the trip. 

After that we had to cross St. Andrew's Sound. This one was exciting as parts were only 5 feet deep and just a little wind created some nice chop just as Amanda was making lunch for us. 
Then we traveled along the ICW adjacent to Cumberland Island, the last spot along the Georgia coast. 

By the way, we are in the area during a huge collegiate game tomorrow, Georgia vs Florida. Lots of people in town wearing  team jerseys for this one.

Fort Clinch

Industry in northern Florida
We enjoyed navigating down the Cumberland River at a leisurely pace and crossed the border into Florida and found refuge in a marina still standing, the Amelia Island Yacht Basin for the evening. 

Sunset at AIYB

Day 24-Thunderbolt to St. Simon's Island, GA

Oct 27 - Thunderbolt to St. Simon’s Island, GA
Another of Amanda's

Heart stopping goodness

Thunderbolt Marina had a special treat of Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee to welcome the day. (0700)

Headed down the Savannah River into the Skidaway River, through the Narrows ands toss the front of Moon River, (yes, the Johnny Mercer song that Andy Williams made famous) into the Vernon River. Down the Vernon toward Ossabaw Sound, through Hell's Gate and up the Ogeecheer River, through the Florida Passage into the Bear River. Made good time with the current down the Bear. 

Another Trumpe

Across St.Catherine's Sound over to and down Johnson Creek into Sapelo Sound. 

Up the Sapelo River into the Front River. Buttermilk Sound to the Mackay River. We considered doing the Frederica River which parallels, but the tide was going and it’s a bit tricky. Exited the Mackay near Lanier Is which we rounded and headed back north due to an impassable bridge.

There has been shoaling going on, a large part due to Hurricane Matthew.We have had a couple of bumps here and there but knock wood, so far, so good.This was a long day of 8h35m traveling 82.7nm.

Morningstar at Golden Isles was our marina and it's pretty large with many good size yachts.
We borrowed the courtesy car for a quick tour of St. Simon's. Dinner via Ubers at Georgia Sea Grill.