Saturday, June 5, 2010

A good day today with some beautiful scenery and staying ahead of the afternoon storms. Went from Jensen Beach near Stuart to New Smyrna Beach today and found the Night Swan B & B along the intercoastal with a small dock and my own deck overlooking the water - perfect.

Boat ran fine today (as usual) after my layover for maintenance Friday. Saw several manatees in a marina while gassing up. Couldn't get a good picture as they tend to stay just below the surface and sometimes stick their nose out. They don't have dorsal fins like dolphins so their presence is subtle - they move very slowly.

Came through the longest no-wake zone today. Most of them are posted to avoid striking manatees but some are necessary due to boat ramps and fuel docks. Passed by Cocoa with their water tower painted with the American Flag and then Cape Canaveral near Titusville.

Will eat breakfast at the B & B and depart by 7:30. Only had an evening meal today as I began too early for breakfast at the hotel. Power bars are in.
Photos: Top - Cape Canaveral from afar; Night Swan B&B from the dock - doesn’t get much more convenient than this; really raining now... people in that boat are dry and I'm on my balcony.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I am now on the east coast of Florida having traveled the 135 miles from Ft. Meyers to Stuart via the Okeechobee Waterway and Lake yesterday. Thanks to Fred Martin, via phone and computer, for locating the Sundance Marina where I could obtain the scheduled service for the Yamaha. It was previously scheduled elsewhere but had to change after I was on the water. So today, Friday, is a day off and a chance to plan the route and stops going north on the ICW (intracoastal waterway). Hopefully I'll get to near Cocoa, FL by early afternoon tomorrow. Early starts are required for now as the thunderstorms have been building by late morning - yesterday storms swept my route from Ft. Meyers several hours after I arrived in Stuart. Rain is one thing, lightning is another. Florida is considered the lightning capital of the U.S.

Rental cars are not available here today so I plan to taxi to the marina, pick up all the maps I’ve used so far, and ship them back to Joanne. Will be good to free up some room. Many of them got damp on the first Gulf crossing attempt. By the way, I did see my first alligator yesterday. He was crossing the waterway while I was stopped. I saw what, at first, looked like a stick floating across the river but when I tried to get close for a picture, after realizing it wasn’t a stick, he slid below the surface. The vast Okeechobee Lake is only 5- to 10-feet deep even in the middle so it’s important to follow navigational aids to avoid grounding. There are locks entering and leaving the lake. In the 1920s a hurricane "blew the water out of the lake" just like a saucepan, to one side, killing over 1,000 people. Thus the locks and dikes since then.

I want to thank Jerry Deangelis of SunDance Marine in Jensen Beach for accommodating me on one day's notice and solving the issue of getting a tri-pontoon out of the water without a trailer to service the engine. His technicians commented on how great the features are on this boat - a great vessel so far.
Photo: House on Okeechobee Waterway. Most homes have both screened and unscreened outdoor patio areas.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

After Monday’s long crossing of the Big Bend of Florida - 200 miles from Carrabelle to Clearwater - Tuesday was a shorter trip between Clearwater and Sarasota. I used the afternoon to do laundry, clean the boat and plan today's trip to Fort Meyers. The thing about 75-125 miles a day is that I tend to overrun my planning if I don't spend time with the charts each night. The 250 hp Yamaha has a way of doing that. I can still pause when I like and make up time when necessary.

The intercoastal on the west side of Florida is beautiful with "passes to the Gulf,” homes with boats outside, occasional white-sand beaches, stretches of "no wake" zones due to the Manatees of which I've gotten a glimpse, and unpopulated Mangrove swamps. Also, since beginning the trip I've seen osprey, eagles, seagulls of course, dolphins, egrets, and pelicans. Stopped last week to photograph a snake crossing the Tombigbee River but he dove when I approached. The lady at Bobby's Fish Camp said it must have been a Water Moccasin as most other snakes like rattle snakes can swim but can't dive. I was hoping he didn't find a way up under and onto my boat!

The weather has been in my favor so I keep moving. Today enroute to Ft. Meyers I spent some time around Sanibel Island. While drifting a mile from shore in the bay I noticed I was about to ground in shallow water. I actually got out and guided the boat to deep water - weird with miles of water all around me. As Fred and others have advised, at least when underway, follow the channel markers to the letter. This is a land of shallow water, often 4-10 ft. even in the channels. This will hold all the way to the Hudson River whenever in the intercoastal.

Tomorrow I will depart for Stuart, FL. (about 135 miles) across Lake Okeechobee to the Pirates’ Cove Resort where I'll have scheduled maintenance done on the Yamaha by a technician who Fred knows. Hopefully that will be Friday and a day off before the weekend.

The oil problem seems to be expanding. When I came through Pensacola there was no talk of oil approaching Florida but the winds shifted to the east and now there is an oil sheen on the water 10 miles off the coast there. Sadly, the threat is growing for western Florida. There are now some Gulf sport fishing restrictions off Pensacola - that is not good for tourism or the Captains.

A great trip so far - going solo keeps you very busy. There is no one to blame if something goes awry or you leave the phone charger behind! And so it goes.
Photos: Buoy in Tampa Bay; inches to spare; murals; bridge opening; our perfect house!

Monday, May 31, 2010

On our second attempt Fred Martin and I made the Gulf crossing today from Carrabelle, FL to Clearwater, a distance of over 150 miles. We tried Sunday morning but seas were too high. We had waves coming under the front gate of the boat and could only make about 5 mph so would not have reached even a 70-mile intermediate position at Steinhatchee. The trip today was grueling due to getting underway at 6:00 AM and the nature of constant wind, sun and pounding from the waves. The bimini supports temporarily failed and we traveled the remainder of the day in the sun. We were at least 20 miles offshore most the time. I almost misjudged the fuel consumption and we had to stop in Tarpon Springs, a short distance north of Clearwater, to gas up. That was after we emptied my two, 6-gallon, government-mandated gas cans. Don't buy these cans if you can avoid it - they make life more dangerous, not safer. It has to do with a spring loaded cap that must continually be pressed while emptying the can. Try that leaning over the side of a boat in the Gulf with waves rocking the boat and gnats swarming on you. Sounds like the work of another bureaucrat with too much time on his hands and not much life experience. After fueling we then spent the better part of two hours looking for a marina and hotel. A long but satisfying day; not sure I could have done the crossing without Fred's help. Wonder if a pontoon boat ever made this crossing?

Carrabelle is an interesting town of 1,500. A former prison guard who is in charge of the marina, saved us after we arrived from Panama City on Friday [Memorial Day weekend] and couldn't find lodging. Via his co-worker's sister-in-law we had a nice place to stay Friday night and last night a room at the marina motel close to the boat for an early start.

I was talking to a local resident at the boat dock and he said there used to be a T-shirt going around with the words, "Carrabelle, a Nice Little Drinking Village with a Fishing Problem.” Yes, there is an obsession with fishing in these parts.

Am sorry to see Fred leave tomorrow as his companionship for the past 3 days has been a break from the solo days. His boating expertise and sage advice are going to prove very helpful for the remainder of my trip. Hopefully he can join me again later.
Photo: Lyn taken by Fred. A picture of Fred will appear in the next posting