Thursday, 4 April 2013

April 2, 2013

Monday morning we left Franklin Lock Campground and started heading east again.  The scenery on the Caloosahatchee River was really pretty.  We saw large homes, orange groves, wilderness, large horse and cattle farms along the shore.   All this with 23 to 27 feet of water depth made it a relaxing run to our next stop La Belle.  

We arrived around noon at La Belle and found a space on the town’s free dock.  To dock here you have to use a Mediterranean mooring, which involves dropping the anchor and backing the stern up to the dock.  This was a new experience for us and after 3 tries, some local knowledge, and some local help, we were able to get the anchor to set.  The holding was very poor and the only way to get this to work was to drop the anchor in the dredged channel and hook it in the side of the channel.  This, combined with the wind blowing hard on our port side made for an interesting hour!  

La Belle is a small town and most of the larger businesses have moved out to the highways.  We explored the few shops that were still in the downtown core.  Over the next couple of days, and a couple of very  long walks we made it to the grocery store and the hardware store.  

There is a 3 day limit to stay at the free dock in La Belle, so Thursday morning we pointed the boat east again.  This stretch of the river was different boats, no houses, no people, just all leaves, trees and some pastureland.  Around 11 am. we arrived at the Ortona Lock, which raised us 8 feet back into fresh water.  We have been fortunate going through these locks, that we were the only boat.  They raise and lower the water level by opening the gates, which would make it very interesting to hold onto if you were situated close to the gate during the opening.  Just past lock we stopped for the night and a much needed pump out at River Forest Marina.  This is a fairly new marina (5 years old) that is mainly a work yard for large motor boats so there was not much in the way of facilities for transient boaters like us.  We took this opportunity to dinghy about a mile east to an anchorage we had read about called the Lollipop.  

The next day we moved to the Lollipop.  This is an old quarry that had a channel dug into it, so on the charts, it was shaped like a lollipop.  It was a quiet, peaceful anchorage and we were the only ones there.  We dropped the anchor off the bow and tied the stern to a palm tree and sat in 8 feet of water 8 feet off shore.  It would have been a perfect spot except we saw an alligator in the river just as we turned up the channel, so no swimming again!  

The weather forecast has been changing a lot for the next week so we decided to start moving closer to Lake Okeechobee, in preparation for crossing to Indiantown.  We left Lollipop Easter Sunday and went to Moore Haven.  

They installed a 55 foot high bridge over the Caloosahatchee River several years ago, totally bypassing the downtown.  This has left the old downtown near the docks with nothing but boarded up and abandoned buildings, it was sad to see it and imagine what once had been.   A powerboat arrived later in the afternoon and tied up behind us.  The owners Paul and Karen, were from Texas and we had a nice visit with them that evening.  

We decided Monday to try going to Clewiston and see if there was more there.  We first had to pass through the lock at Moore Haven which was really easy as the river was at the same level as the lake.  So we just drove through after the Lockmaster opened the gates.  This is the start of Lake Okeechobee but is just a channel that has been dredged around the edge of a high bank that surrounds the lake.  We saw a lot of alligators and shorebirds along this stretch of waterway.  At Clewiston we had to go through another lock and a Hurricane Gate which were both open because of the lake level.  We tied up at Roland Martin Marina and after paying, we looked around at the nautical clothing store and checked out the menu at the Tiki Bar.  We were told the dockmaster wasn’t there but would return shortly.  Meeting the dockmaster, ‘Little Man’ alone was worth the price of the dock fee.  Watching him direct boats onto the dock as if they were a 747 and then lassoing the cleats with the dock lines, was a sight to behold.  He is a one-of-a-kind character who was very friendly and went out of his way to help everyone.  Paul and Karen, the couple we met last night, came in there too and we all had a nice lunch together.  The Tiki Bar had such good food, we ended up going back there for supper.  

The weather forecast continues to change, sometimes twice in one day.  Tuesday seems to be the only good day for crossing Lake Okeechobee.  With rain and winds forecast for the rest of the week, we decided to cross the lake Tuesday morning.  The first third of the trip is a narrow dredged channel through marsh grass that takes you out to the deeper part of the lake (12 feet).  We tried to put up the sails, but the wind swung around onto our nose so we motored all the way across.  While crossing the lake we looked at some of the anchorages in the guide books on the east side of the lake.  There were no really good options so we decided to go directly to Indiantown, if they had a slip available and they did.    This left only one challenge on the trip -  the Port Mayaca railroad bridge with only 49 feet of clearance, the lowest fixed bridge we’ve had to deal with on our trip.  It doesn’t matter how many times you add a cabin roof that is 5 feet above the water, a 40 foot mast, and a 3 foot antenna, you still wonder if you’ll make it under that bridge.  The numbers did add up, we made it through, but it sure didn’t look like we were going to.  The St Lucie Canal from Fort Mayaca to Indiantown seemed long, straight, hot, airless (high berms on both sides) and just plain boring , so it was really nice to see the turn off to Indiantown Marina.  

This is our last stop.  We will be leaving Time 2 Go on land here until the end of Hurricane season.  Our arriving here early is kind of sad because it means the end of our trip for this season, but the extra time will be helpful in preparing the boat for storage.  The mind set around storing the boat here is exactly opposite to what we were concerned with in Port Elgin - cold temperatures & snow.  Here, we have high temperatures, high humidity, bugs, mold and mildew!  

This will be our last posting to our Blog for this season.  This trip has been a great learning experience with many new challenges that we learned how to deal with together.  We have seen some incredible scenery, and met some wonderful, interesting, and fun people.  Time 2 Go has worked well in all the conditions we have encountered.  These things have made it more than just a road trip on a boat.

Our first Med mooring at La Belle

Free dock at La Belle

Small falcon near our boat at River Forest Marina
Lollipop anchorage

Moore Haven Municipal Marina on Caloosahatchee  River

Time 2 Go at Roland Martin Marina

Heading east onto Lake Okeechobee 

Port Mayaca railroad bridge 49' fully open
The Port Mayaca railroad bridge up close

The St. Lucie Canal to Indiantown

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