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We are enjoying another warm winter on the Slappey…..

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……after an easy (enough) trip South from Brunswick. We pulled away from the dock on Oct. 30th and made our way down the Coast to the northern tip of Amelia Island. There, at Tiger Point boatyard, we got the Slappey hauled out and replaced our ancient propeller (that is always the ‘Royal We.’) I contributed by agreeing to stay aboard while we were on the hard, after threatening to get an expensive hotel room. Instead, I opted for an expensive rental car, as the Tiger Point boatyard is next to absolutely nothing. I attempted to walk back from the town of Fernandina once, and a lady with a minivan full of kids was so taken aback by seeing me walking on the busy road to nowhere, that she stopped and insisted that I let her drive me to the marina. I agreed to do her that favor.

After only two days propped up on jackstands, we were back in the water, and given dock space at Tiger Point while we waited for the winds to calm. We were hoping to go on the outside all the way to Ft. Pierce, but gave up and started down the Intracoastal once again. After a couple of really blustery days of travel, the weather cleared and we had a fine time heading down to some familiar places, and some new places. For example, on the way North in the Summer, I had wanted to stop in New Smyrna Beach, but couldn’t fit it into the schedule; this time we did. New Smyrna was one of the stops on the famous Clem family vacation of 1968 (the ONLY Clem family vacation, as I never tired of reminding my parents,) and all I could remember of it was that there were cars parked right on the beach. Today, in 2016, there are STILL cars parked right on the beach. I thought it was neat when I was 8. At present, I am not impressed. But the town of little New Smyrna is cute enough. It also has a surprising amount of current running through the marina, which we were slow to acknowledge on the day we left. Somewhat improbably, we hit no one on the way out.

We made it to Ft. Pierce by mid-November, hoping to stay for awhile, but there was no room at the inn, so we left after a week– and a nice Thanksgiving in their new cruiser’s lounge. Ft. Piece City marina has great new docks, a very persnickety electrical supply, and more marine life around the docks than I have ever seen. Many birds, dolphins and manatees (yes, manatees) around the boat, and so many fish one might have been able to walk across the water on the backs of them. I suppose it helped that the marina store sold fish food to all the tourists. We particularly like the A.E. Backus art museum next door. He was a Ft. Pierce native who did gorgeous Florida landscapes, and served as a mentor to the Highwaymen, a group of Florida landscape painters who sold their art from the trunks of their cars, having been frozen out of the usual galleries for painting while Black. There is a great number of their paintings at his museum as well. Should anyone wish to purchase expensive original paintings for me, they could do much worse than anything by A.E.Backus or any one of the Highwaymen.

The day after Thanksgiving, we decided to head West, through the middle of Florida, via the Okeechobee Waterway. There are three things to be mindful of when planning a trek across Lake Okeechobee–weather (it’s a very large, very shallow body of water,) water datum of the lake (constantly changing,)  and your boat’s mast height from the waterline. This is because there is a very limiting 49 foot railway lift bridge. Therefore, only smallish boats like the Slappey can make it through. It so happened we had fair weather, a lake datum of nearly 15 feet (making the depths doable for our draft of 5 feet,) and a mast height of only 44 feet. So, we went for it. One week and five locks later, we ended up in Ft. Myers.

The locks were much smaller than the grand Hiram Chittenden locks in Seattle, which we had traversed a few times, so we weren’t terribly worried, but there is always drama involved. We had to devise a system of guarding our solar panels which might be smushed up against the concrete lock wall if left unattended to. Once or twice, there was frantic shoving and boat hook activity, but no harm was done to the solar panels in the end. There was also yelling, plus my right arm still aches from holding the bow in tight to the wall. Otherwise, there was nice scenery in the canals leading to and from the lake, including a few gators, but not so much near the lake itself. The canal around the bottom is ringed by a high, bare levee. Every few miles there is another gravel pit, and some hurricane gates…all in all, pretty industrial looking. Our anchorage at the very bottom of the lake was notable for hundreds of birds, and about a goober-gabillion bugs. They didn’t bite us, they only swarmed us and got stuck in the buckets of dew that sloshed on deck every morning. The area is also known for sugar cane, which was being burned at the time, raining ash down on the Slappey.

So now we are in Ft. Myers, on the west coast of Florida. There is a nice revitalized and historical downtown, free trolleys, a big new library about 2 blocks away, and the Edison and Ford winter estates to tour. We plan to spend some time here before a lazy gunkhole north toward St. Petersburg.

 

Leaving Brunswick under the Sidney Lanier Bridge

Leaving Brunswick under the Sidney Lanier Bridge

A bit tricky getting guided into the travelift at Tiger Point boatyard, doable only at slack tide

A bit tricky getting guided into the travelift at Tiger Point boatyard, doable only at slack tide

shiny new prop installed in record time by John

shiny new prop installed in record time by John

and it runs like a dream

and it runs like a dream

view from the jackstands over Egans Creek

view from the jackstands over Egans Creek

bit of bother with the fridge once we got to turn it back on....it malfunctioned, got recharged with refrigerant, and ultimately required a lobotomy in order to work again properly (no more smart-control)

bit of bother with the fridge once we got to turn it back on….it malfunctioned, got recharged with refrigerant, and ultimately required a lobotomy in order to work again properly (no more smart-control)

we were pinned against the Sister's Creek free dock outside Jacksonville by strong winds on election day; the lights were put up as a patriotic show of support.......before we knew the outcome.

we were pinned against the Sister’s Creek free dock outside Jacksonville by strong winds on election day; the lights were put up as a patriotic show of support…….before we knew the outcome.

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some whimsy on the ICW

some whimsy on the ICW

and some destruction, courtesy of hurricane Matthew. The area from Jacksonville to Daytona had lots of this to show

and some destruction, courtesy of hurricane Matthew. The area from Jacksonville to Daytona had lots of this to show

we got out for some long walks while in Palm Coast

we got out for some long walks while in Palm Coast

another beautiful sunset from our anchorage south of Cocoa

another beautiful sunset from our anchorage south of Cocoa

fog from the anchorage near New Smyrna

fog from the anchorage near New Smyrna

Ft. Pierce City marina

Ft. Pierce City marina

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Ft. Pierce has a lot of art around town

Ft. Pierce has a lot of art around town

including on the trash dumpsters

including on the trash dumpsters

home and studio of A.E. Backus

home and studio of A.E. Backus

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our first lock, the St. Lucie; this one brought us up around 14 feet

our first lock, the St. Lucie; this one brought us up around 14 feet

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nice scenery on the St. Lucie canal

nice scenery on the St. Lucie canal

very lush

very lush

the famous (and limiting) Port Mayaca lift bridge of 49 feet

the famous (and limiting) Port Mayaca lift bridge of 49 feet

I was not convinced it was actually 49 feet, and inched under it at a glacial speed, plus there was a gigantic gator lounging around in front of it

I was not convinced it was actually 49 feet, and inched under it at a glacial speed, plus there was a gigantic gator lounging around in front of it

we tied up to the dolphins at Port Mayaca for the night before getting into the lake the next day

we tied up to the dolphins at Port Mayaca for the night before getting into the lake the next day

it was harder than it looks, plus, we discovered our 3-year-old batteries would need to be replaced here

it was harder than it looks, plus– we discovered our 3-year-old batteries would need to be replaced here

pretty, but spare scenery along Lake Okeechobee

pretty, but spare scenery along Lake Okeechobee

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a hand-operated swing bridge along the canal around the lake

a hand-operated swing bridge along the canal around the lake

anchorage with birds, and bugs

anchorage with birds, and bugs

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Moore Haven lock, only about 8 inches drop from here

Moore Haven lock, only about 8 inches drop from here

on the wall at the Moore Haven town dock

on the wall at the Moore Haven town dock

We were expecting cows, and here they were in the Caloosahatchie canal

We were expecting cows, and here they were in the Caloosahatchie canal

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John paddles back from a visit to the town of Labelle, where he is reported to have walked the streets and entered the ice cream shop barefoot (was he raised by wolves?)

John paddles back from a visit to the town of Labelle, where he is reported to have walked the streets and entered the ice cream shop barefoot (was he raised by wolves?)

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we stopped at the W.P. Franklin lock and campground, run by the Corps of Engineers

we stopped at the W.P. Franklin lock and campground, run by the Corps of Engineers

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That brings us to Ft.Myers, and a post for another day.

 

 

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One response »

  1. Diana L Johnson

    Mary and John, I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing photos of Florida. I cruised Florida a few years ago and enjoyed some things you mentioned: the abundant bird watching, the Ford and Edison museums, boating on shallow Lake Okeechobee, etc… Hope you continue to have a great time! Thanks for the website. —Diane from Puget Sound Cruising Club

    Reply

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