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Passing the state part on Boca Grande as we go out the inlet

That east wind we had on the Atlantic ICW has stayed pretty constant for a long time. We had it going across Florida in the canal, but noticed it less because we traveled the same way. It blew at Boca Grande, causing our boat to rock a bit in the slip, since the marina is open to a 10 mile stretch of water to the east across the bay to the mainland.

The ICW was 50 miles up to Sarasota and had two drawbridges under repair with greatly reduced hours. One opened only at 8 AM, noon and 4 PM. The east wind has been whipping up the gulf, but not within a mile or so from the western shore, so we again ran the outside route on the open gulf up to the Big Pass Inlet at Sarasota. This is that same not so major inlet we went through when we came the other way last December. I since learned that a local Sarasota yacht club “maintains” this pass. It puts out a few markers as well as has a file I downloaded that put location indicators onto my iPad marine chart. Those indicators, some new physical red floating markers, and a 2/3 tide made getting up to Marina Jack at Sarasota easy.

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A large home along Big Pass Inlet

It was a uneventful trip outside. No porpoises, very few other boats and calm water made it relaxing. Sue enjoyed looking at the homes facing the gulf until we started running into too many crab pots, which forced me to stay about a mile out.

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Halfway up the inlet we can see our home. Third large building from the right. Wider and lower than the others.

Our condo is #806, about in the center of the building side to side and up and down. We’re almost completely moved in. Maybe two or three boxes remain. We have not hung pictures yet. Some bookshelves have been completed but we will build more storage into the kitchen and bedroom. We’ve steadily decreased the number of boxes needed for a move and this time it was pretty manageable. Sue’s discount and junk store shopping habits have led to us having few family heirlooms.  

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Marina Jack from our balcony. Star Gazer is straight up from the black SUV going to the right, just above the trees.

Except for maybe a few local trips we’ll be here in Sarasota at our condo for the next few months. Winter is when we try to pack in all our business, medical issues and obligations.

This is the last post for awhile.

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Return to Boca Grande

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Today was porpoise party time.

We reached the West Florida ICW today. We started at 8 this morning and traveled 25 more miles to the end of the Caloosahatchee river, which is the west end of the Okeechobee canal.

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Morning at Calusa Jacks before we left.

Landings Marina, in Ft Myers just after the last bridge, had the lowest fuel prices so we stopped by to load up. Active Captain listed the depths in all parts of the marina at 5’. Those measurements are at low tide. Since our draft is an inch or two short of 5’ and it just happened to be a half hour before low tide when we approached the marina we took notice and watched the depth gauge carefully as we went in. It did hit 5’ once or twice, but never lower, so we held our breath and kept going.

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Slowly going out the channel after getting fuel.

We got 300+ gallons of fuel, which made us float just a bit lower, by which time it was right at dead low tide. We held our breath going out, taking a slightly different path after talking to the dockmaster, and made it out without feeling a bump.

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At least this one was cooperative. I got four pictures in a row with him leaping into the exact same position. During that time the ones underneath him changed positions, but none of them ever came up for air.

A few more miles and we were at the end of the Okeechobee canal, mile marker 150, and at mile marker zero for the Florida west coast ICW, which starts at Ft Myers and proceeds north. Boca Grand was at mm 27. And what a 27 miles it was!

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You can see 5 in this picture off our port side. I think there was 6 or more at this time.

Someone out there decided it was porpoise party time. We had porpoises with us for at least half the time. We could see at least five on each side at the same time once. It’s hard to say how many there really are because they swim under each other and continually change positions, so if you see 5 there may be more.

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Three out of the water at starboard.

I have to take back what I said recently about side slappers. Once out of a party of 4 or more we had two doing that at the same time. I was able to put the boat on Nav mode and have Sue just make sure we did not run into anything while trying to take pictures. It’s tough and they don’t think much about helping me out. Swimming at 10 mph is pretty relaxing for them plus they’re using the boat’s wave pressure to help them along, so they don’t have to surface much to breathe. Out of a group of 5 or more it still awhile before any one of them needs to come up for air, and usually only one at a time bothers.

The excitement finally died down as we passed the Charlotte Harbor Inlet which is at the south end of Boca Grande Island. I think the porpoises were using us to help them on their way back out into the gulf.

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A side slapper. Two of these alternated, with at least two others swimming along with them.

We pulled into Boca Grande Marina, where we’ve stayed before, about 3:30 and tied up. Sue remembered a restaurant, Sisters, that we liked last time so we got a golf cart and went there for dinner. After that we went to the beach at a state park at the south end island to watch the sunset. We’re finally on a west coast now so we can do that. Since then we’ve had a second day in Boca Grande and visited the beach again, collected shells and such and toured around the island a bit like we did last time.

Tomorrow morning we’ll leave for Marina Jack at Sarasota, our final trip for awhile.

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Okeechobee West Canal

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We just got through the Moorhaven lock and found this small railroad swing bridge closed.

We left the marina at 7:30 Sunday morning and struggled through the Clewiston lock by 8:00. As we approached the lock three smaller boats were already waiting at the gate. They moved out of the way as we approached and let us in first. Then they came in beside us and crowded over at the opposite wall. Even they had trouble holding position with those ropes from on high.

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After we floated around for a half hour and engine came across and the guy standing on it got of and somehow opened the bridge.

The Moorhaven lock came just as we turned to leave the lake. Just past that the rail bridge was closed. The lockmaster had told me something about staying tied up to the wall but I couldn’t understand him on the radio. There was no one to call about the bridge. I called the lockmaster again and found that the railroad sometimes is shifting cars around and can leave the bridge closed for a half hour or more. That’s why he offered to let me stay tied up to the lock wall.

We floated around for a full half hour when an engine finally came across the bridge. Someone got out, stood on the tracks and apparently caused the bridge to open for us. I think he had some kind of remote control, but could not be sure. It was a long wait, but the wind and currents were light so we just floated around for the time.

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Homes on the canal are not as grand as on the ICW, but they have much bigger lots.

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A nice home. Not terribly new or old. Big lot with lots of trees, so hard to see the whole house.

The rest of the trip was easy. There was one other swing bridge that opened as we approached and two more locks, but all were quick with little waiting. A few drawbridges but we could go under all those. It was good it was Sunday, since the Ortona lock is still being worked on and opens only a few times a day on weekdays. Other boaters decided to beat that Ortona lock schedule or that Sunday was just a good day to travel. We passed more boats coming the other way than we have on any other day this year.

We pulled into Calusa Jacks marina after traveling a total of 125 miles since leaving the Atlantic ICW.

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To Lake Okeechobee

 

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Horses and birds (Ibis?) along the east Okeechobee canal.

We had a quick two day rental car trip to Sarasota and got back yesterday. We left Sunset Bay Marina at 7:30 and started up the canal toward Lake Okeechobee. That east wind was still with us, but not so much as a few days ago, and going its way made it not so noticeable.

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Dredgers and work boats along the canal bank

We went through the St Lucie and Port Mayaca locks. All the bridges were high fixed ones except for two rail drawbridges that are usually open and were open for us. The second rail bridge looked abandoned as we approached it, but as we passed through I thought it might still be working. The last lock came just before the big lake.

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You can tell fishing boats come out here on the lake. No one else right now so they followed us.

Okeechobee is very shallow. There is a 25 mile long channel for larger boats (they don’t get much larger than ours here, maybe up to 65’) to follow that has four straight sections connected by sharp turns. This ends at the bottom shore of the lake where you turn hard right to continue the channel which is along the south shore of the lake for 12 more miles before turning west. This time we stopped after the first 25 miles and went to stay at Roland Martin’s marina just behind the Clewiston lock. Seems strange to have a lock here. It serves only two very small marinas and a short canal that goes into the small town. There is a large sugar and citrus processing plant there, so maybe the canal services boats for that somehow, although I’ve never seen commercial boats in this canal except a few related to maintenance of locks and bridges.

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Clewiston lock from the lake. Big processing plant off behind the town to the right.

The Clewiston lock was a surprise. A 65’ boat would touch the gates at both ends. We’ve never seen anything close to this short. We dropped only a foot or so to the other side, and it’s usually left completely open unless the lake is higher than normal, like it is now. Even with the small drop, the lock walls are very high. They pass ropes down from the top for us to hang onto. How do you hold a 25 ton boat in place by pulling down on a rope? Pull hard enough and you can lift yourself off the deck, for what good that does. I just used the engines and thrusters to hold us.

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Our marina. Several smaller and one larger boat (a work boat) came in later. They had a rip roaring Halloween party in the “Tiki Bar”. We didn’t go.

We got in about 3:30. The marina was a real backwater place and is popular with area fishermen. I think we’ll pass this one by next time unless the lock is fully open.

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Leaving the Atlantic ICW

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Had to wait for these guys to get through the bridge. They took forever.

Calm & nice as we left Melbourne Harbor Marina, but soon wind came up and was steady 25 – 30 mph from east, coming right onto our port side. The instruments were great today. Normal travel in a given direction was tough because the wind blew us to the side so much. The electronic chart has an “extension line” that comes off out boat symbol and extends in the direction we are actually going, instead of the direction the boat is pointed. When I adjusted that line to the proper direction everything worked out great. I used Nav mode, setting a course line to follow, a lot today also.

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He smacked the water so many times I finally decided to photograph him. Only had one chance. He stopped after the first snap.

Not too many porpoises today. Maybe they don’t like the wind. The pelicans seemed to be sitting things out as well. Once time I did notice a sharp slapping sound outside. It was a porpoise that would jump up from the wake, turn sideways in the air and come down with a sharp smack on his left side. He did this about 20 times before he left. Scratching and itch? I’ve seen this once before but can’t remember where. Again just a single porpoise. They don’t seem to do this in groups.

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All sorts of homes along the ICW. This is certainly not the largest.

At mile 988 (from Norfolk VA) we turned right off the Atlantic ICW into the St Lucie River which tomorrow will become the Okeechobee canal. We had a brief blast of rain as we came through the first 7 miles of the river to the Old Roosevelt drawbridge. This raised up for us by the time we reached it and our Sunset Bay Marina was immediately beyond it. Because of the winds we decided to tie up outside on the dock that surrounds the marina. Much easier than backing into a slip in a crowded marina with a 30 mph wind. That dock divides the marina from its mooring field, so the water was still pretty calm there.

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To Melbourne

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Leaving early again, so we see the sunrise.

We left New Smyrna Beach Marina at 7:30, just before sunrise. With fewer questionable ICW areas ahead we could risk travelling through a low tide (at 2 PM). Winds are often much less in the early morning and that was the case today. The water surface was not quite a mirror, but close until about 9:30.
In these conditions we really noticed the pelicans hunting in groups of three or more. The whole group is side by side and can skim a few inches above the surface without moving at all for the longest time. That clear surface must be great for spotting fish.

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We saw a lot of wrecked boathouses, but not too many, like this one, with a boat inside.

Sue was busy spotting manatee and saw 14 of them. We both noticed the first one surfacing 15’ off our right bow as we started to leave the marina. When they come up it’s that strange nose first which then they blow. With the porpoises you always see their back and dorsal fin since their nose is up there.

No significant hazards listed in Active Captain and no bridges to wait for, so it was an easy travel day. Sue never tires of seeing the homes along the water. People can go all out for these and some are large enough to house a family of 50.

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We saw a lot of manatees, and signs for them too. 

We also saw porpoises. Sue called out that two were following us, then said “no, three!” I went over to look and there were four, all coming out of the water together. They wouldn’t stay with us more than a few minutes because we run the boat a bit slower than we used to, at 1500 RPM, exactly 10 MPH. Sue wanted to see more so I increased to our old porpoise speed, 1700 RPM, to get a better wake and they came and stayed longer.

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To New Smyrna Beach

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Leaving St Augustine. Our first or second favorite coastal city.

We started late (10:30) again at half tide rising and had an easy trip from St Augustine to New Smyrna Beach. Today we saw more hurricane damage. More sailboats blown onto the ICW bank, many piers and dock houses caved in and homes with half their shingles or tiles blown off. A lot of trees were down. I think a number of owners were away from their vacations homes and have not been able to get back to clear things away.

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The first grounded trawler we’ve seen. All others are sailboats.

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The wind stripped the deck and rails from this pier. We’ve seen many wrecked piers & boathouses

Nearly all the wrecked boats we saw were sailboats. Sailboats can be cheaper to own, smaller engines and less fuel requirements. You do trade a bit of speed and a lot of inside room for this. The other way they save money is by anchoring instead of paying by the foot in a marina.

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Hooray. Another drawbridge gone. 2nd removed one we’ve seen in last few days.

When the hurricane hit most of those anchored boats held just fine, but some did not and were blown into the ICW bank. Since the water was much higher than normal they were blown up onto the land in many cases.

 

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