Greetings, and welcome back. Quick note that our last 2 posts were not “posted” correctly the first time, so you may have missed them. If you’re interested, you can read Stuck in Sarasota – Again, and Quick trip to check on power problem.
7/23-8/3/2015 Summary: We arrived on the boat in Sarasota for what was to be our longest stay on the boat so far. We spent 14 days moving from Sarasota (on the west coast of Florida), to Stuart (on the east coast). The weather was not your typical Sunshine State weather, as we had rain for at least some part of all but the last 2 days. Our travels took us south on the ICW from Sarasota, where we turned east at Fort Myers to cross the Okeechobee Water Way (OWW) to Stuart.
We boated about 150 miles under numerous bridges (many which we had to have opened to get our needed 32 foot clearance), and through 5 locks which lifted or dropped us a minimum of a foot to over 12 feet. We saw dolphins every day until we went through our first lock, then we started seeing manatees and alligators instead.
We anchored most nights, but took advantage of a couple of free docks, and also paid to stay at a couple of marinas. We bought fuel (300 gallons) for the first time since we bought the boat. We also got the kayak out for the first time and enjoyed paddling on a “kayak trail” through mangroves. And Tom finally broke out the fishing gear for the first time, though with very little success.
We toured the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, which were very interesting and well-maintained. Edison was an amazing man with over 1,100 patents and had his fingers in much more than electricity and lightbulbs.
We ended up in Stuart where we have guys working on a new flybridge enclosure and frame. We will also be working on replacing the bow pulpit and the batteries while in Stuart. Stuart is a nice little town with many small shops of all kinds, plus a wonderful ice cream shop.
Our plan is to return for part of the time work is being done on the boat so we can work on the list of things we need to do. Sometime in early September, we will head north to be out of the area of biggest hurricane threat until November.
This is where we start getting into more details of the daily activities, so you may chose to stop here.
7-22 – Longboat Key: The day after Paula’s birthday, we flew from Phoenix to Sarasota in preparation to head south and then across the Okeechobee Water Way (OWW) to Stuart where we planned to have some work done on the boat.
7-23 – Longboat Key: Rudi, a friend of Kathy Johnson’s, stopped by to see our boat. We then ran errands to pick up supplies for the trip (including the yarn shop, of course) and had lunch at Costco before returning to the boat. Finding gorgeous, large raspberries, Paula made a batch of freezer jam and filled 5 containers. (Wonder just how often that’s ever been done on a boat before.) Shortly after we returned, Steve, the diver, arrived to scrape the bottom. The first task was to remove the screen covering the bottom of the sea chest. That requires one person in the engine room holding the bolt head while the diver underwater removes the nut. Once the screen was off, it showed we had about 4 inches of growth inside the sea chest. Three and a half hours later, the boat bottom was clean and ready for our departure the next morning.
Also while the bottom was being done, Tom mounted and ran the plumbing to a new drinking water spout on the aft deck, which Jeff graciously supplied.
A delicious grouper dinner at the Dry Dock overlooking Sarasota Bay’s sunset closed our visit to Sarasota.
7-24 – Longboat Key to Venice: Before leaving we stopped by and said hi to Ziggy, an airline pilot who lives in the marina. We got all ready to go, and looked up to see some very dark clouds headed our way, so decided to sit tight for a while and let it pass. Finally at 11:45, we cast the lines and headed south.
We followed the ICW past some very nice houses, big boats, and mangroves. We saw lots of dolphins, some joining us for a ride in the bow wave. We needed fuel and Paula did some checking and found the best deal in the area was conveniently just before our planned overnight. Just a bit south of Venice, we pulled into Marina Max, 10 yards off the ICW, and bought fuel for the first time since buying the boat. While we were taking on 300 gallons of fuel, it started to rain so hard we had to stop so water would not run into the fuel tank. By the time we were done, Marina Max was about to close. Jeanie, the dock lady, said if we were gone by 8:30 AM, we could spend the night, and pointed to the showers and laundry room. A free dock was hard to pass up, especially one to which we were already tied!
So we walked to the Salty Dog, a little restaurant by the road for dinner; then showers and laundry brought the day to a close.
7-25 – Venice to Peekins Ranch Cove: We were off the dock by 7:45 AM after a night of mostly rain. Saw several dolphins during the day, but none seemed interested in riding. Several bridges required opening for our passage; one, the Boca Grande Causeway Swing Bridge, had us wait 30 minutes, even though the chart said it opened on demand every 20 minutes.
We arrived at out destination, Peekins Ranch Cove, just about lunchtime. After we set the anchor in about 10 feet of water with some very dark clouds headed our way, we retired for a well-deserved nap!
Later, Tom pulled out his fishing gear. All it resulted in was a small catfish, but at least he caught something. He worked on some small projects around the boat from the list, while Paula worked on the master stateroom quilt. Dinner was on the aft deck watching some lazy dolphins patrolling the area.
7-26 – Peekins Ranch Cove: We woke up to some very dark clouds and more rain. It was obvious we were not going anywhere quickly. We listened to several good sermons on TV and Tom caught up on some Canyon Ministries work since we had a good internet connection. Paula did some knitting, worked out on the Nordic Track, and we got the final layout for the quilt done. Then began her task of hand-sewing on each of the 8 marine picture squares before it would be quilted. Rain and wind persisted throughout the day, so we spent a second night without moving.
7-27 – Peekins Ranch Cove to Sanibel Island: There seemed to be a small break in the weather, so at 8:00, Paula raised the anchor…about 25’. At that point, the anchor roller came loose from its mount. Switching positions, Tom began remounting the roller; fortunately, the anchor was still holding. 50 minutes later, we were able to raise the anchor and were on our way. The next 2 hours were under solid overcast skies with occasional rain, rolling waves, and whitecaps. But we’re so impressed with Life’s TraVail’s ride – the stabilizer seemingly smooths out 90% of the rocking and rolling. It’s quite a comfortable ride and not inclined to make even the seasick-prone turn green.
When the sky got increasingly darker with poor visibility and rougher water ahead, we pulled slightly out of the Intracoastal and anchored in 7’ of water to wait out the storm. An hour later, lunch eaten, we were off again, traveling under passing storms, once only being able to see a few hundred yards in front of us. Glad to have that magenta line (the line on the chart indicating the ICW) and a depth gauge to correlate our position. After a tedious day, we anchored in Ding Darling, a highly recommended anchorage off Sanibel Island. The afternoon weather continued to clear, promising better weather for the morrow. Tom took advantage of the dry deck to mount a fishing rod holder as well as the safety throw stick. Paula napped and then enjoyed reading Flying Tigress, a book written by the 2nd female US airline pilot.
7-28 – Sanibel Island: We awoke to somewhat blue skies (well, at least not as dark as the day before) so decided to take a ride over to J. N . “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, just across the bay. We lowered the dinghy and got ready to go, but the engine would not run. Tom tinkered with it for a while, finally giving up saying: “Honda 1 – Tom 0.”
Not giving up on our exploration, we got the kayak out and, battling the wind, paddled across the bay and found “Commodore Creek Kayak Trail” through the mangroves. Saw lots of fish, birds, and even a snake swimming across the “trail” as we wound our way through the narrow channel which at times had tree branches hanging almost to the water (click here to watch a short video of the kayak trail).
After returning to the boat, we undertook the job of scrapping the layer of sugar coral off the bottom of the dinghy, which we had made the novice mistake of leaving in the warm Sarasota water for a week. After mounting the dinghy back up on the dinghy deck, we started scrapping. After an hour, we got the bottom fairly clean, but that was when the real mess began! Using the hose, which we thought would wash the mess overboard, the vast majority of scrapings ended up on the sundeck, furniture, and sunscreens below! Now we really had a mess. It took us as long to clean the sundeck as it did to scrape the dinghy. When you do things, especially new things, you often learn as you go. Well, this was one lesson we learned very well…don’t scrap the dinghy on the dinghy deck. Better yet, don’t leave it in the water long enough to grow coral!
7-29 – Sanibel Island to Fort Myers: Having had dinner at 8:45 PM the previous night, we did not get off to an early start. But we didn’t have a long day planned, so that was fine. We entered the OWW on the Caloosahatchee River which would take us to Lake Okeechobee. Approaching Ft. Myers, Paula discovered in the AAA tour book that it was home to the Edison-Ford winter estates. Tom found a city marina with a good price for the night and we were soon docked there. After a walk around town, we were able to get 3 loads of laundry done (all at the same time! – sweet) before calling it a night. While walking around town, Paula hit 10,000 steps with her brand new birthday Fitbit watch for the first time!
7-30 – Fort Myers to LaBelle: After a short rain in the morning, we left the boat at 8:45 to walk to the Thomas Edison-Henry Ford Estates, where they wintered for up to 2 – 3 months each year. The estates were well-kept and well-managed. We learned so much about the genius Edison – almost 1,100 patents and the only person ever to have 35 continuous years of patents, inventor of not only the light bulb but the phonograph, motion pictures, fluoroscope, concrete (there was a pool on property), and a battery for an electric car. Edison only had 3 months of formal schooling, beginning at age 8, after which his mother taught him. By age 9, he had turned his family’s basement into a laboratory and was doing chemical experiments in test tubes.
Ford, 16 years his junior, was an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company and after meeting him and sharing his idea for the quadricycle (with 4 bicycle tires, a steering wheel, and platform with seat), was encouraged greatly by Edison and the two became fast friends. In 1914, Ford almost doubled the worker’s wages to $5 per hour ($120 in today’s wages), which drew all the experienced workers in town. Initially, he could produce 25 Model T’s per day with just manual labor. After he developed the assembly line, he could produce 1,000 cars per day and was able to produce cars “affordable for the everyday man.”
In addition, Edison, Ford, and friend Harvey Firestone loved the outdoors and took extended camping trips of up to 4 weeks in southwest FL and into the northern Appalachians where they relaxed, brain-stormed, talked about the war, boated, and learned about biology and botany from John Burroughs, a naturalist friend. Note the lazy suzan, an Edison invention, in the middle of the table on their 1921 “camping” trip. (Yes, that is a waiter serving them.)
Because our visit to the estates was on Ford’s birthday, his home was open for entry (usually you can just look in their homes through large crosswind-style doors). We even saw “Mr. Ford” again on the news that night. We were on the tour when the birthday party was being thrown, but Paula’s nose sniffed out the cake, and we got invited to partake in the administrator’s office. After we discovered she was from Burlington, NC (where we used to live), we also got given homemade soy cinnamon cookies (Edison experimented with soy for a number of different products) to take back to the boat. The cookies were good and we have the recipe to make them for you!
Bamboo likely attracted Edison to the property. (He used bamboo in his light bulb filaments.) The estates also included Mina Edison’s moonlight garden, many mangoes and orchids, royal palms, a nursery ,and one of the largest banyan trees in the continental US, planted in 1927 as Edison, Ford and Firestone were working to find a natural source of latex for rubber for tires that could be grown quickly in the US, testing 17,000 plant samples. (Goldenrod was the answer, but by then a synthetic has been developed.) The Edison Botanical Research Laboratory on property aided toward those ends. A “truck garden” had 75 varieties of vegetables from 1900-1910, feeding everyone on the estate and trucking the others for sale.
Though it rained while we were indoors visiting Edison’s laboratory and museum, we walked home without rain (but still soaking wet from the stinkin’ hot weather), stopping for lunch at First Watch.
Leaving range of Ft Myers’ wonderful oldies radio station, we drove past our originally intended anchorage from the previous day, making up a little time and not stopping until 6:15 PM. We “locked through” our first lock, a good starter one, with only an 11” rise. Then we found LaBelle’s free city dock with free power!!! And it was big enough for Tom to back into the slip! We may never find another one of these on our whole trip (free docks – yes, but free power too – probably not)!
Tom did a great job, but it was the first time we had tied up alone, and Paula had a lot of work to do, not letting Tom get the swim step too close to the dock while getting close enough for her to jump to the dock to tie off. But, we did it without even bumping a pylon. After a short walk up the ramp, we found we were tied in front of the city library, and a block from the park with tennis courts. We also got a peak inside the bridge tender’s office right next to the dock. A short walk indicated it might be only a 1-stoplight town.
This day was the very first day we ever moved the boat without seeing a dolphin, though we did lock through with 2 manatees. We didn’t think we’d see any more dolphins while in the OWW (and indeed, we didn’t). We decided if we were them, we wouldn’t be in this brownish, yucky water either; sort of made it look like you haven’t flushed. It did not seem to phase the owners of the beautiful homes we saw along the waterway however.
7-31 – LaBelle to Moore Haven: The Harold P. Curtis Honey Co (established 1954), a 5-minute walk from the boat, opened at 9:30 AM and we enjoyed sampling different flavors (purchasing cinnamon orange blossom) and talking with Corey, a fifth-generation family member, whose family originated and still lives in…Graham, NC. (That was 2 people in 2 days from within 10 miles of our previous home!) On our walk back to the boat, the Culligan man passed 2 bottles of Culligan water out his truck window to us. Sweet. That’s “small town”…and we loved it. We also walked through the library and picked up a book from the “free books” shelf.
Back on the water, except for some nice houses and an 8’ lock rise, it was a relatively bland drive to the Riverhouse Marina in Moore Haven where we docked and again had shore power. With no one to help us side dock, it took 2 attempts, but we learned some things (like always dock into the wind) and didn’t hurt anything in the process.
Moore Haven was very Mayberry-esque, with neighbors driving by in golf carts and kids alone on bicycles and scooters. A block away were the library, tennis courts (maybe we need to put some rackets on the boat!), and a water park where water spurted out of the ground and sprayed down from overhead sprinklers and kids giggled in delight. “Aunt Bee” told us over the phone she’d come by later and loan us a golf cart or take us to town if we needed anything, but never showed up.
Had dinner on the aft deck in some of the nicest weather so far this trip, then took a walk around the neighborhood before calling it a night.
8-1 – Moore Haven to South Bay: We took an early morning walk along the river and around town. Stopped at the water park on the way back, and Paula could not resist! Click here to see the wet, but refreshing, results.
Immediately after leaving the slip, we had to have a bridge raised before proceeding east on the Caloosahatchee River. Just a mile up river was our next lock, which raised us a whopping 11” to the lake level. When we got to the lake, well really the canal along the edge of the lake, we turned right to follow the shoreline along the southern edge of the lake, unable see the lake for many miles.
What we did see soon after we entered the canal was…our first alligator, a little guy, maybe 4 or 5’ long cruising along in front of us. We stopped counting gators when we hit 20, which did not take long. The canal was not the most interesting section of the trip we had done; in fact, it was the least favorite so far for both of us. A big berm on the lake side prevented us from seeing any of the lake, which was at its summertime low. We motored about 24 miles and anchored in little South Bay cove just off the canal. It took several tries to get the anchor to set, but once set, we had the place to ourselves for the night – except for some alligators (which certainly kept Paula from any thoughts of swimming).
8-2 – South Bay to Four Rivers Loop: We set out earlier (“anchor up” at 8:00 AM), back into the canal for a 46-mile day to Four Rivers Loop, a small anchorage just off the river. More of the same canal, then finally some lake views before we entered the St. Lucie River through another lock, which actually raised us 11”. The lockmaster even gave us popsicles! Several miles downstream, we had to wait 30 minutes for another lock, which dropped us 13’. Just we were entering the lock, one of the engines stalled, so there was a mad dash to restart to prevent a smack into the lock wall. We didn’t hit anything…but we didn’t get any popsicles either. The lockmaster told us we were the third boat to lose power entering the lock that day. Leaving this lock, we were now on the St. Lucie River. There were places on the river which were covered with vegetation (see video).
Hey, we passed a boat today named “Genesis 1 to 11.”
Anchorage for the night was on a loop just off the St. Lucie. There was a neighborhood pier nearby with people coming to drop a line in the water. Not much catching though. We set a stern anchor (first time with this boat) so we wouldn’t swing too much if the wind changed. It was a very calm, peaceful night.
8-3 – Four Rivers Loop to Stuart: In the morning, Tom tried to pull the stern anchor up by hand, but it was set hard. Even when he pulled some slack in the line, the boat kept turning sideways, not lining into the wind, which seemed very mysterious. Both anchors were off to the right and we couldn’t figure out why, when it seemed to be a left quartering headwind. Using reverse on the left engine, Paula could swing the stern around to get slack in the stern line, but not enough to get the boat on the other side of the stern anchor for Tom to pull it up. Eventually, we decided to pull up the nose anchor first and once the front anchor was up, Paula gently motored the boat to the other side of the stern anchor and up it came. We finally figured out why the boat was indeed not turning into the wind – a rising tide was pushing us up the loop and it was stronger than the wind pushing us down the loop! Not even out of the anchorage, we had already learned something new for the day!
With only 4.5 miles to Stuart, it was a short ride to the Sunset Bay Marina where the boat would get its new bimini. Steve Schrimsher (Schrimsher Yacht Canvas) came over in the early afternoon to meet with us about our ideas for the new top. Steve and Nancy’s boat, Salty Turtle, docked in this same marina, was one of the ones we looked at when first shopping boats. Because they own a canvas shop, their boat of course had lovely canvas work! (We loved their boat, but someone else bought it first.) Later in the day, Steve already had lined up a metal fabricator (who can make a new bimini frame) to return to the boat the next day.
We heard Park Avenue (known to the locals as “PA”) had a rib special on Monday nights, so we walked about a mile to PA and shared a rack of some of the best ribs we ever had!
8-04 – Stuart: Before we could walk to town to sightsee in the morning, Steve called and said he and Jeremy Harper, the metal fabricator, were on their way to the boat. We discussed options with Jeremy. After they left, we walked to town and had a late lunch – fish (great/not greasy) and chips slaw at Mulligan’s, then walked through the little town of Stuart. It was such a cute town, with modern clothing shops, thrift stores, restaurants, and expensive stores all mixed together. Our waiter suggested Kilwin’s ice cream just down the street and oh was it good, especially given the swelteringly hot day.
Then it was back to the boat to get ready to leave for Phoenix the next morning, which included a “clean out the refrigerator dinner” of leftovers. Tom took some time to explore the anchor pulpit problem and why the roller had come off. He found the wood base was dry-rotted almost all the way through, which will require a complete remake of the pulpit and winch mounting pad…another item for the list!
We did take some time to sit on the aft deck, watch the sunset, and listen to the live music from the marina’s restaurant.
8-5 – Stuart: Rising early, we caught a ride to the West Palm Beach airport with Uber Car. It was our first use of Uber, and it worked well (pre-arranged from the night before). The driver was on time, and it was cheaper than any of the other options we had researched. The airport was very nice. Paula had to ride the flight deck jumpseat, and Tom only got on because a deadheading flight attendant gave up her cabin seat for him and sat in her jumpseat.
The flight out of Charlotte to Phoenix did not go as well. Paula again had to ride the jumpseat, and Tom ended up going through Denver. After 2 full US Airways flights out of Denver, he moved over to Southwest, finally getting home at 9:30 PM…a 14+ hour day of “airport appreciation time.”