St. Johns River '10

April 18 to April 23,

April 18, 2010 - Ft. Myers to Moore Haven, FL

It was a gloomy Sunday morning. I woke up at 4:30 and again at 5:30. I decided to get up before the alarm went off at 6:30. I usually don't sleep well before a departure because of anticipation and a little anxiety, I guess. The alarm went off as predicted and Bob got up. We had breakfast and prepped the boat. At 7:15, we took off the unnecessary lines and unplugged ourselves from power to avoid having to do it in the anticipated rain. According to the radar, the rain was moving in quickly and we wanted to be out of the slip by then. We untied our last line and were out of the marina by 7:30. We hung out in the river until Gallivant pulled out at 7:45.

 
 
We began our journey north up the Caloosahatchee River. The water color looked like root beer.

 
 
We motored along slowly with Gallivant coming along behind us. The rain continued to come down lightly as Bob plotted a course to Moore Haven.

 
 
I navigated a course to our first lock and then sat by to enjoy the ride.

 
 
Gallivant was going slow to check out a noise, so we ran at about 8.7 knots to stay with them. Everything checked out ok, so away we went. There was no other traffic on the river this early, so we had the place to ourselves. We entered Franklin Lock at 9:20 and got ready to be lifted 1 1/2 feet.

 
 
We locked in and had no problem, except dealing with the rain.

 
 
A steady, soft rain started as we approached the lock and continued for the next 28 miles to the Ortona Lock. The skies lightened up every now and then, but the rain continued to nag at us for most of the afternoon. Boat

traffic increased a little in both directions as we moved up the river. We had to request to have the Denaud Swing Bridge opened by the sweet little bridge tender who carried her rainbow umbrella across the bridge to open it.

 
 
We passed the town of La Belle known as the "Honey Capital". The Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. maintains 1000 hives here and allows you to sample different kinds of honey. We locked through the Ortona Lock at 1:00 and continued on to the town of Moore Haven. This part of the river was lined by pastureland and scrub trees. A few cows grazed the area.

 
 
We ran a little faster the last 8 miles just to clean out the engines and arrived in Moore Haven at 2:40 according to the bank clock in town. Moore Haven is a shipping point for produce and catfish, as well as the center of the sugarcane industry. There was no one else at the town docks, but us.

 
 
We got there first and secured the boat. We waited for them to arrive and then we helped Pam and Don tie up.

 
 
The Waterway Guide said that we had to register and pay our fee at the City Hall. Since it was Sunday and it was closed, we had to wait for the digamist to come by later on in the evening.

 
 
It continued to rain as we settled in and had cocktails on Gallivant before dinner. We went back to our boat to cook dinner and relax for the evening. We plan to leave at about 8:00 tomorrow for Indiantown on the other side of Lake Okeechobee.

April 19, 2010 - Moore Haven to Indiantown, FL

The rain finally stopped sometime during the night. The only thing we heard then was the glub, glub of water alongside the hull and the traffic on the bridge. We got up before the alarm and had breakfast. Bob dried off the boat and checked the weather. It was still overcast with stormy weather to the south. We hoped it would stay there. The sun peeked out as a towboat and barge went by.

 
 
We had to wait 20 minutes while they locked through. Then it was our turn. We approached the Moore Haven Lock at 9:00 and were locked through in 10 minutes.

 
 
We had a 3' rise and were out and on our way to Clewiston, 13 miles away. This area of the river is littered by swampland and dead cypress trees on one side, and a high levee with pastureland on the other.

 
 
We spied an alligator swimming along the shore with its eyes and snout just above the surface of the water. We saw a few more of them, but they would duck under the water when they heard us coming. The water is much higher this year, than it was in June of last year when we crossed to go to the Bahamas. We cruised along slowly taking in the stillness, broken only by the sound of birds and waves slapping against the shore. We passed 2 tugs, a cruiser, and a bass boat going 50 mph.

 
 
We turned left at Clewiston Lock and headed out into the lake. This is the lock that leads to Clewiston.

 
 
The wind was blowing out of the NE making the lake a little choppy with strong 1-2 ft. waves. Lake Okeechobee at 25 miles long, is the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the continental United States. It is shallow with normal depths at 11-17 ft. and can set up a very healthy chop in stronger winds. We had to travel faster than Gallivant to have a smoother ride, so we took off ahead of them and met them in Indiantown later this afternoon. Last year we were running in 4 ft. and this year it is 12.5 ft. Wow! What a difference one year can make in water levels. The sun was out and there were no rain clouds in sight. We passed no one on the lake except for a sunken boat that was marked by white pelicans sitting on it. We arrived at the Port Mayaca Lock at 12:15 and dropped 1/2 ft. in the lock.

 
 
We entered the lock with a tug. It was hardly worth all the effort, but we were on our way in no time.

 
 
We took a slow ride the rest of the way to Indiantown, so we could look for alligators. Sure enough, we spotted a HUGE one--about 8 ft. long, swimming across the river. We approached slowly so I could get a picture of him and he wasn't one bit afraid of us. He just sat where he was until we got fairly close--then he submerged himself and was gone. We arrived in Indiantown about 1:30 and took a spot along a floating dock.

 
 
We settled in and walked up to the office to check in. This marina is the best hurricane hole on this side of Lake Okeechobee and many boaters come here to store their boats for the summer.

 
 
In fact, there were lots of people decommissioning their boats and getting them ready for storage. We sat in the newly created patio area enjoying the shade, while we waited for Pam and Don to arrive.

 
 
There were two fire pit areas to enjoy on cooler nights. The colorful Adirondeck chairs were very tropical.

 
 
While we sat there and talked, I was amused by a cute little lizard chasing ants on the patio.

 
 
Gallivant pulled in about 3:00 and we helped them tie up. We sat on the patio and made our plans for tomorrow. We traveled 54.8 miles today.

 
 
After awhile the guys took a walk, while Pam and I visited.

 
 
Inside the marina's boaters lounge was a "free" table where people could put food or other things they need to get rid of. We were there at the right time today--we got some fresh broccoli, spinach, onions, potatoes, 4 chicken breasts, garlic bread, and olive oil. Pam got some coffee, capers, and curry paste. What a haul! We decided to share the chicken, broccoli, and spinach for dinner together. Bob and Pam put together the dinner while the sun was going down.

 
 
The four of us ate on the back "veranda" of their boat and had a delicious meal.

 
 
Bob and I went back to the boat before dark to relax and watch a little TV before bed. We would get an early start tomorrow for Stuart and the St. Lucie River.

April 20, 2010 - Indiantown to Ft. Pierce (Faber Cove), FL

It was a cooler morning in the 60's. We threw off the lines from the dock at 8:10 and were on our way. It was a mostly sunny day and the water was like glass.

 
 
We motored slowly down the river heading for the last of the 5 locks on the Okeechobee Waterway.

 
 
The St. Lucie Lock is about 14 miles away.

 
 
We entered the St. Lucie Lock at 10:00 and dropped 14 ft.

 
 
We pulled out at 10:20 as a dark cloud hovered over us and started to drop some light rain. We drove out from under it and were beneath sunny skies again. The rain chance was 20%, but there were dark clouds to the north of us. Stuart was 9 miles away and the Atlantic ICW was 15 miles farther. We continued north on the south fork of the St. Lucie Canal to Stuart on the St. Lucie River. The dark clouds looked a little ominous over the Gulf as we passed through Stuart. An Ocean Yacht came by and I had a twinge of missing our old boat. It sure looked slick going by.

 
 
Huge homes lined the shores of the St. Lucie River. One was prettier and more elaborate than the next.

 
 
The wind had picked up and combined with the waves rolling in from the Gulf, the river was a little choppy. As we approached the Crossroads (where the Okeechobee Waterway meets the St. Lucie Inlet and the ICW), we could see out to the Gulf through the St. Lucie Inlet. The marine forecast was for waves 5-7 ft. with an 8 second period between waves. Not nice! Good thing we don't have to go out there.

 
 
The skies were dark to the south and to the north of us, but over the Crossroads it was sunny. I have to say, that many large boats traveling through this area show no regard for the smaller boats when they pass by at full speed, creating huge waves for us and others to deal with. How rude! We stopped at Mile Marker 0, where the Okeechobee ends and joins up with the ICW on the Atlantic side.

 
 
We turned left and motored north into the ICW on the Indian River. We saw a few boat wrecks on the tip of Hutchinson Island and further in the shallows.

 
 
We passed up our first anchorage choice at Jensen Beach because the winds made it a little rough to anchor there and it was still early in the day. Our next choice was at Faber Cove near the Ft. Pierce Inlet at Causeway Island. The ride on the Indian River down the ICW was smooth, but uninteresting as we motored slowly at 9 mph. This section of the river was 2 miles across, so there wasn't much to see. It's fairly wide open to the wind, so we saw some whitecaps and bigger waves the farther north we went. I drove for awhile to give Bob a break and to break the doldrums.

 
 
We lit up the engines to cruise speed for the last couple of miles and got to our turnoff at Ft. Pierce Inlet. We entered into Faber Cove to check it our ahead of Gallivant and found it to be empty of boats. We dropped our anchor at 2:45 and radioed Gallivant to come on in. Our trip today was 52.3 miles.

 
 
Faber Cove is a quiet, protected anchorage surrounded by smaller homes with docks. We traveled a total of 52.3 miles today. A huge thunderhead loomed over the Gulf for quite awhile. The white cloud was pretty against the blue sky and eventually got sheered off with the high level winds without causing us a problem.

 
 
Gallivant came in and dropped anchor near to us.

 
 
We all settled in and just relaxed a little. After awhile, Bob got the dinghy ready and Pam, Bob, and I took a ride into the marina at the condo complex near us to check it out.

 
 
They had slips for rent in case we needed one. That was our third option. When boating, you have to keep all your options open.

 
 
We also took a tour around the anchorage to check out the houses. Then we dropped Pam off at her boat and went back to ours to get a drink and some appetizers. We went over to Gallivant with those things in hand to talk about our plans for tomorrow. After an hour or so, we returned to our boat to make dinner and settle in for the night. Bob put the snubber on the anchor to quiet the sound when the boat swings, and now we'll have a great night's sleep....maybe.

April 21, 2010 - Ft. Pierce to Vero Beach, FL

Overnight, a storm moved in and doused us with rain. It rained for quite awhile and with it came the lightning. The boat blew around a little in the wind, but the anchor held. We fell back to sleep after the rain moved on and woke up to cloudy skies. We pulled our anchor at 9:10 and proceeded out of the channel and into the ICW to Vero Beach. The anchor was covered in muck and made a mess of things. We called for a reservation early this morning for a mooring ball and were told to come ahead. Vero Beach has an interesting system with their mooring field. They raft up to 3 boats on one mooring ball. They try and raft large boats to large boats and small boats to small boats. We hope to be able to raft off of Gallivant on one ball, but we'll see what they tell us. It's a popular place to be and the mooring field was full last night they told us. The day was partly cloudy with rain sprinkles off and on. The morning temp was a pleasant 75 degrees and a little humid. It should get up into the 80's again today. We crossed the Ft. Pierce Inlet where the current was really ripping. From the ICW we could see a cool campsite on an island that people were enjoying.

 
 
Across the way from there was the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the Smithsonian Institute's Marine Station as seen by the geodesic dome. It is the home of 2 research ships equipped with subs that can operate at depths to 3,000 ft. It is also home to a wide variety of marine-biology research projects.

 
 
This particular stretch of ICW was a strictly-enforced Manatee Speed Zone, so we had to go slow and not create a wake. The clouds opened up a bit and we started to see blue sky. Vero Beach is the beginning of the more populated areas going south. It is a favorite spot of cruisers and got the name "Velcro Beach" because many who plan to leave....don't. Vero Beach also processes much of the Indian River fruit before it is shipped to other parts of the country. Supposedly, the shops of Vero Beach rival those in Palm Beach and the barrier islandside is world famous for its distinctive shops and restaurants. We'll spend 2 days here to check out as much as we can. We followed Gallivant into the anchorage where we would pick up a mooring ball.

 
 
Pam picked up the pennant for ball #17. She had a long way to reach, but she got it on the first try.

 
 
We were going to raft off of them, but decided to take our chances with someone rafting off of us and took ball #18 right next to them. Our trip today was 16.4 miles. We got settled in at 11:30. The air was perfectly still and it was warm! We took our dinghies to shore and tied them up at the dinghy dock so we could register at the office.

 
 
After taking care of business, we walked a short distance to the Riverside Cafe under the bridge and had a nice lunch by the water.

 
 
It was a cute restaurant with a great view of the ICW.

 
 
They had a really cool fishing pier and walkway that went under the bridge that we checked out.

 
 
After walking back to the office, we took the free bus down to the boardwalk, beach, shops, and restaurants along Ocean Drive. It had started to rain, so we decided to hop into the Ocean Grill Restaurant until it stopped.

 
 
Wow! What a unique place with an ocean view.

 
 
It was built in 1943 and survived a hurricane or two. Inside it smelled of old wood and lots of it.....carvings on doors, walls, and tables. There were beautiful stained glass windows and ornate metal railings and sculptures. The centerpiece of the restaurant was this huge, round, wooden table adorned with a new fresh flower centerpiece every day (we were told). I expected to see knights of the round table sitting there in their suits of armor. In fact, there was a full suit of armor standing in the hallway. Above the table, hung this spectacular chandelier!

 
 
Most of the tables had an ocean view, and there were nooks and crannies that contained romantic tables for special occasions. This place had a lot of history. After the rain stopped, we walked along the beach for a short ways to the Driftwood Resort.

 
 
It was really rustic looking and had a great spot right on the beach.

 
 
It is famous for having a shipwreck just offshore from its beach. It is said that the boiler of the ship can still be seen in the water at low tide. The dark clouds from the storm moved on and the sun came out. We walked down Ocean Drive past a really cool banyan tree.

 
 
I bet no one else had taken their picture there before...Ha! We caught the GoLine bus at 4:45 and took the short ride back to the marina.

 
 
While we walked back to the dinghy dock, we heard some birds in the trees making a lot of noise. Much to our surprise, it was a couple of green parrots making a nest.

 
 
We took our dinghies back to our boats to relax. The boys did "whatever" on the boats, while Pam and I took her dinghy back to shore. She wanted to take a walk and I was going to do some wash. I did some reading and watched a little news on TV in the boater's lounge while my laundry was washing and drying in the marina laundromat. When Pam returned from her walk, she and I dinghied back to our boats for the evening.

 
 
Bob and I decided to skip supper and maybe eat something light later on. We were still full from lunch. We did some research on the Internet for anchorages north of here and watched a little TV. It would be a warm, peaceful night. (No one did come to raft off of either of us last night.)

April 22, 2010 - Vero Beach, FL

We woke up to clear skies and 60 degree temps in the morning. I had my breakfast out in the cockpit and enjoyed the sunshine on my face. We hung out and made our plans for the day. After breakfast, we slathered ourselves with sunscreen in preparation for our dinghy ride up Bethel Creek.

 
 
We rode about a mile or more down the wide creek, lined with very well-kept homes. On the way back, we stopped at a park to land the dinghy.

 
 
We wanted to walk across the highway to Jaycees Park, where we could walk along the beach on the boardwalk. The boardwalk goes down along the beach for quite awhile.

 
 
We walked down the beach and the water was a pleasant 72 degrees.

 
 
There was an unusual looking lifeguard stand on the beach with a yellow flag signalling moderate caution for riptides and man-o-war jellyfish on the beach.

 
 
We walked back along the boardwalk on the way back. Many couples were enjoying the day with a walk and some were having breakfast at the Seaside Grill.

 
 
We hopped back in the dinghy and toured the canals that paralleled the ICW. At the dinghy dock, we spied an unusual bow fender made of Crocs. It was quite creative!

 
 
We got back to the boat and had lunch. After lunch, we got on the 12:45 bus which took us down to the shops on Ocean Drive.

 
 
We took our time doing some window shopping and looking at the high-end shops. We especially liked exploring the Driftwood Resort in more detail.

 
 
It was an eclectic place with lots of raw wood and really interesting architecture.

 
 
Someone had a great imagination and eye for detail.

 
 
We caught the 2:45 bus back to the marina and picked up the dinghy to go back to the boat. We relaxed for an hour and dinghied over to the Riverside Cafe for "happy hour" at 4:00. Pam and Don met us there later, but we didn't' stay long because the band was warming up for tonight and the bass drum was giving us a headache. We couldn't hear ourselves talk! We took our separate dinghies back to our boats to cook dinner. It was a pleasant day with a cool breeze blowing off the ocean. Today, a few boats were rafted off of each other, but there were still 15 mooring balls empty. Obviously, the boaters knew each other and wanted to be rafted together. The mooring field filled up with more boats later in the day, but we were still not completely full. Bob cooked some pork chops on the grill as the sun started going down, reflecting off of the yacht nearby.

 
 
Around 8:00, we spotted the rocket that went up tonight from Cape Canaveral. It left a glowing contrail behind it as it soared higher into the sky. All of a sudden, we could see a burst of light. The boosters fell off and began their descent to Earth. It was quite spectacular to see.

 
 
It was a pleasantly cool evening for sleeping with the hatches open tonight. We sat outside as darkness fell and enjoyed the colorful lights on our boat and music on the radio.

 
 
We didn't sit outside very long because the noseeums came out. Tomorrow we will be leaving for the Port Canaveral Barge Canal where we will get fuel and stay at the Harbortown Marina near Cape Canaveral. It will be an early evening to bed to get an early start tomorrow.

April 23, 2010 - Vero Beach to Harbortown Marina, Canaveral Barge Canal, FL

We got up to experience a little bit of fog this morning. We had breakfast and got everything ready to go. Gallivant left early at 7:20 to get a head start. We unhooked ourselves from the mooring ball and moved out into the ICW at 8:00. The fog had burned off and it was a pleasant 72 degrees. There was no wind and the water was like glass. Boats were moving on the ICW with a beautiful day predicted. We entered a section of the Indian River that was very picturesque with large homes and beautifully landscaped frontages. Further north, we passed the Pelican Island National Refuge which is a rookery for a variety of bird species. It was the nation's first federally sponsored wildlife refuge dating from the years of Teddy Roosevelt. We traveled a little faster today at 17 mph to compare our fuel economy. Coming up on Sebastian Inlet, we were warned by the charts that this is not a passage to the ocean without local knowledge. Too much shoaling exists. Almost opposite that inlet on the landside was the opening of the St. Sebastian River. We began to lose a mile and a half mph in speed due to the tide here. We caught up to Gallivant just past the St. Sebastian River and followed them for awhile at 9 mph. Then we continued on by them at a speed of 17 mph. Near Melbourne, FL we encountered the ICW littered with crab pots inside the lane. Bob radioed the Coast Guard to inform them of the situation. We heard the Coast Guard on the marine radio saying the mariners should avoid a certain area because the Navy was going to be shooting off their guns for practice. How cool! We passed Dragon Point at the beginning of Merritt Island. Merritt Island separates the ICW from the Atlantic Ocean. This is also the start of the Banana River. The Banana River bisects Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. This entire region is know as Spaceport, USA. It seems that in 1971 a sculptor was hired to begin a 200 ft. statue of a dragon to be put on Dragon Point. In 2003, the dragon fell to the elements and the pieces were carried off. The dragon is no more, but it was a landmark to mariners for quite some time. The Indian River here is wide and there wasn't too much to see on the shoreline until we got to the city of Cocoa. We plan to make it one of our stops on our return trip to see the Cocoa Historical Village dating back to the late 1800's filled with interesting shops, restaurants, and 14 points of interest. The water tower painted with an American flag is the city's signature landmark.

 
 
Two miles north of Cocoa sits the Canaveral Barge Canal and the entrance to the Harbortown Marina where we will pick up fuel and a slip for 2 nights. We arrived at the barge canal entrance at 11:45 and motored our way slowly east. We crossed under the Christa McAuliffe Memorial Bridge and continued on down the canal.

 
 
It wasn't long before we were turning into the Harbortown Marina.

 
 
We fueled up and got a pumpout before heading over to our slip-E29.

 
 
We were tied up in our slip and relaxing before 1:00....well almost. Our docking situation was less than perfect, but we had no major problems. We were just glad to be tied up to the dock. We settled in and cleaned up the boat....inside and out. They have this unusual type of palm tree here that looks like it has a grass skirt surrounding the trunk.

 
 
As we waited for Pam and Don to arrive, we went up to the pool and laundromat. While the clothes were getting washed, Bob and I sat at the pool and took in the sun. I took a nice swim, while Bob hung in the shade.

 
 
The water was refreshing and a special treat for me. It was 4:00 before Pam and Don were fueled and docked at the end of our pier. They met us up at the bar in time for "happy hour". The appetizers were good and we stayed to have dinner. It was a nice end to a long day. After dinner, we walked back to our boats and said our goodnights. Tomorrow we would spend the day at the Kennedy Space Center and celebrate Pam's birthday!

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