But I did. I pulled myself away. I managed it. Dropping the lines for the last time was hard.
Traveling up the Caloosahatchee River wasn't very exciting except for the locks which were interesting. I've been in the lock at Great Bridge, VA, which is about a one foot drop either way depending on wind, current, and rain. There are three locks to Lake Okeechobee from the Gulf of Mexico - Ortona Lock up a couple of feet, Moore Haven Lock up about 4 feet, and the Port Mayaca Lock up about a foot.
The first, Ortona, is just a few miles east of La Belle on the Caloosahatchee. Traversing the whole waterway is special in that first, there are cities, then towns, then orange groves and dairy farms and then just a few housing developments, and finally the lake. The lock operators are friendly, helpful, and kind - I'm sure they've seen it all and yet exude patience and good humor. Moreover, they're versed in the waters up and downstream of their lock.
Locking through takes about 10 minutes once you've gotten the green light, meaning your doors are open. Apparently, there's been some money spent recently on the Waterway's locks smoothing the concrete walls. Additionally, there are lines provided on the lock walls for boaters so that they don't have to struggle. This is a good thing because the lock walls are very high, generally and it's not easy to reach the cleats, especially if single handing.
You can see from the pictures that it's not that exciting - I suppose if the drop or raise was significant, it might be more so, but the operators do everything they can to prevent boats from banging around and skittering all over. In the case of the Ortona Lock, I was the only one locking through. They open on demand from 6:00 am until 9:30 pm and at all other times with a three hour notice.
By the time it got late, I stopped in Moore Haven at the Beach House Marina. No sooner had I arrived with the help of Linda who apparently runs the place then the next door neighbors Dan and Diane aboard Fitzcat stopped by and asked if I needed anything in town. The marina supplies golf carts for doing business. Very friendly - true, it's a face dock only a few hundred feet long, but there's a nice bathroom with shower, free ice (as much as you want), and the aforementioned golf carts.
In addition, Linda will come running out with an air horn every time a boat comes by throwing a wake - it's a no wake zone per the Coast Guard.
A little later, the Fitzes came by again and asked if I wanted some Mexican food - well, I sure did. There's a little nondescript luncheonette kind of place (although that gives it much more atmosphere than it really had) on the road to Moore Haven (which in itself is about two blocks long).
The food was rumored to be good, and it sure was - very tasty! And very inexpensive. And cooked to order - I wanted mine without bell peppers and Diane wanted hers without jalapeño peppers. No problems! I'd recommend the name except it just had 'Mexican Food' out front. I can tell you it's on the east side of the highway, if that helps.
Here's a funny little thing about the Beach House Marina: payment's on the honor system. Really - on one dock entrance there's a box with envelopes to put a check or cash into and on the other a stainless lock box to drop it into. For a dollar per foot per night you get everything mentioned above plus electricity and water. A deal - and a place to stay before doing the lake.
You can do the whole waterway in two days even in a sailboat. But you either have to stop before or after the lake. It had been a long 10 hour day for me and I decided before rather than after.
Because I was early for Indiantown, I stayed one more day and one more bag of ice in Moore Haven. I went up the main mast to remove all the gear up there so that I could get under the Port Mayaca Rail Lift Bridge which was about 49 feet. Now, my cousin Joe and I had measured the mast at 48 feet in Ft. Pierce, but you know, we could have been wrong. Better to be conservative, I think.
The Fitzes and I had cocktails with their dog Fitzie and that pretty much took care of dinner. We planned the next day's schedule, and decided to leave just after daybreak. Dan and Diane wanted to get to Stuart before stopping for the day.
We all left just after sunrise the next morning and were into the Moore Haven lock in a few minutes. We got out just after 8 am, and off to Clewiston we went. The wind was perfect for sailing the lake, but we had to motor into it to get to the channel out there.
I made a left into the channel around 10 am and set sail for Port Mayaca! Whew! Engine finally off. We sailed very nicely until around noon when the forecasted 20 knot winds died. Well, what do you know about that? Big surprise. Because we had a place to get to and theirs was farther than mine, we decided to do the iron genny thing and off we went.
Sadly, about a half hour later I noticed the engine getting hotter - not quite overheating, but hot. Then it started to overheat. So I stopped it and at the hottest point of the day I had to work lying on top of an overheated engine to replace the water pump and clean the heat exchanger. I was losing gallons of water in sweat! You can bet there was a string of words being had by me that day! But Fitzcat stayed by for the hour or so it took to get it all straightened out.
We made the Port Mayaca Lock around 1:30 pm or so, and waited for about 15 minutes for a lock through. After the lock, there's the train bridge I was really worried about - as bad as it is hitting the keel hard, it's much worse hitting the top of the mast. Interestingly enough, it looks just as bad going through a 75 foot bridge as it does in a 49 foot bridge. Who'd have thought?
It's only about 12 miles from the lock to Indiantown Marina, my destination for the night. Fitzcat had to make it to Stuart before stopping, about another 15 miles and a lock. With fond farewells, we parted ways - we'll probably meet again on the way up to the Carolinas.
Because I going to get there late Friday after they stopped hauling, I had scheduled a haulout on Monday. As soon as I got myself together, I called my friends Lee and Karen who said they'd come up Sunday for a visit - they're in Vero Beach waiting for their mast to be finished.
I met Drew and Shelley on the dock - a couple of young uns living the dream. They were getting their boat ready for sale and leaving for Washington State to pick up a new boat to sail to the Pacific Islands! Good for them!
Anyway more about this adventure with the next post: Haulout!
See you on the water!