Rhode Island to Florida - Day 19
We departed on the last day of our trip from Rhode Island to Florida this morning at 0630 hours... leaving from the Rum Runners docks in Cape Coral, FL.
When I awoke at 0545 hours I noticed the boat was listing slightly to port away from the dock... the list I discovered was not due to water tanks levels being uneven but rather the starboard side of the boat was sitting on the bottom... high tide had been at 0400 hours and in just under two hours we had lost a lot of water... I was not sure if we would get off the docks or not... we dropped the lines and I attempted to roll the bow off the dock and swing the stern away from the dock into deeper water... I said attempt to do this as it took about 20025 minutes to get the boat to swing around and away from the docks into deep enough water that we could maneuver... but it was not very deep... depth sounder would not even register a reading... :( we skimmed along the bottom for about a quarter of a mile out of the canal that leads back to Rum Runners and finally as we turned into the main canal the depth sounder started to work reading instantly 14 feet deep... :)
That behind us we continued out of the canals and channels that led us back to the Okeechobee Waterway channel or the Caloosahatchee River by name and head down the channel towards our final destination Punta Gorda.
The tide was extremely lower than what I ever remembered seeing in the past in this area... large areas that were normally sand bars hidden a foot below the surface of the water were fully exposed land masses rising a foot above the surface. We had to move slowly as even the channel was very shallow... with depth readings of 5, 6 and 7 feet. So we crept along at 5-6 knots... the trip which should of taken 6 hours took us 7-1/2 hours.
We arrived to Fishermen's Village Marina in Punta Gorda, FL at 1400 hours and proceeded to the slip that had been assigned to us a few days earlier... Slip B-13. Arriving at dead low tide even getting into the slip was interesting as we churned mud up with the props but we were floating... unlike earlier this day... LOL
We traveled today for 7-1/2 hours covering 45 nautical miles. This made the trip from Rhode Island to Florida a total of 1362 nautical miles or approximately 1566 statute miles. We did this in actually 18 days as one day we only moved 10 miles... does not count... LOL
The entire trip leaving Florida in April going north to Rhode Island and returning to Florida we traveled 3144 nautical miles or 3616 statute miles.
Now that we are back in Florida I will return to work as captain for TowboatUS Charlotte Harbor and Susan will return to her old job working for National Cremation Society.
Rhode Island to Florida - Day 18
We departed from Moorehaven, FL this morning 0730 hours and headed west across the Okeechobee Waterway towards Fort Myers, FL. We had about 60 nautical miles to go and planned to stop there for the night.
We had two locks to go through... Ortona Lock and Franklin Lock... we reached Ortona Lock at 0915 hours and only had to wait a couple of minutes before we got the green light to enter. We dropped 9 feet at this lock and the lock tender was not shy about the speed he lowered us... we were down 9 feet and out of the lock in 15 minutes exiting at 0930 hours.
After Ortona Lock we had three bridges to deal with... all of which were on request so they did slow us down at all... first the Labelle Bridge, then the Denaud Swing Bridge and finally the Alva Bridge.
Then we came to the Franklin Lock... we heard on the VHF ahead of us two boats that had passed us were entering the lock to lock through westbound... we were still 8 minutes away... luckily for us one of the boats had some very "novice" operators on board and as we rounded the bend we could see they were having some trouble in the lock.. their boat was sideways halfway into the lock... they were right at where the gate that closes is located... anyway, their troubles enabled us to make it the lock at 1250 hours and lock through with the other boats westbound... if we had missed the westbound lock through we would of had to wait 30-45 minutes for the next westbound lock... :) We dropped 2 feet at this lock and exited at 1300 hours.
After the Franklin Lock we had one more bridge to open... the Wilson Pigott Bridge... it was on request and we passed through with no wait at all... :)
We decided to stop in Cape Coral rather than Fort Myers... it would only add another hour to day’s travels and the place we were going is very nice... Rum Runners at Cape Harbor... a restaurant dock and it offers FREE dockage while you eat.
We arrived at Rum Runners dock at 1630 hours and secured the boat. (N26°32.592', W082°00.424') We traveled for 9 hours today covering 60 nautical miles. Tomorrow we head to our final destination... Fisherman's Village Marina in Punta Gorda. We will be docked there until Mid April 2011 when we will start our trek back north to Rhode Island.
Rhode Island to Florida - Day 17
We departed from Stuart, FL at 0645 hours and it was low tide... the Stuart City Courtesy Docks do not have a lot of water next to them... maybe 5' at low tide and our draft is 4'-8"... as I tried to move away from the docks I discovered there are a few spots where there are hills where the depth drops to less than 5'... we bounced around a little but managed to get away from the dock... :)
Actually as we moved out towards the channel we did not gain much depth... this area of the St. Lucie River is very shallow... dead center of the channel we only had 7' of water.
We had to open a bridge almost immediately after leaving... The Roosevelt Bridge... it is directly next to a railroad bridge that is automated and the Roosevelt bridge tender has no control over the railroad bridge. As we approached the bridges the railroads red light was flashing and the siren was sounding off... informing us that the railroad bridge was about to close. I communicated with the Roosevelt Bridge tender and he said we should stand off and wait until the train cleared. We were just about to turn 180 degrees around when suddenly the railroad bridges red light turned green and the siren stopped... I talked to Roosevelt Bridge tender again on the VHF and he said he saw it turn to green and he would open for us... but he also added... "I hope it turning to green is not a malfunction"... which was so reassuring for us... LOL Anyway we went ahead and turned around and head away from the bridges waiting for the Roosevelt Bridge to open... we had current on our stern pushing towards the bridges and I wanted the bridge open before we made a run under and through both bridges. He opened and we turned back towards the bridge... but what did we see but a small center console boat headed under the Roosevelt Bridge towards us... there is not enough room for it and us to pass through the railroad bridge fenders... and luckily the center console boat owner realized that and sped up to get through before us... we made it through both bridges but it was a little hairy there for a minutes or so... :)
We continued up the St. Lucie River towards what would be the first of three locks we would have to go through. We arrived at the St. Lucie Lock at 0800 hours and we were raised 12-1/2 feet and exited at 0838 hours... it took what I though to be an unordinary amount of time for this lock... I think he may of been a little gun shy to raise us quickly... he even hailed us on the VHF as we were entering the lock that we needed to use our lines due to the size of our boat... his lines would not be big enough... we've been through this lock maybe a dozen times and this was a first for us... we have always used the lines supplied by the lock.
While we were in the lock the lock tender told us to watch out for kayaks in the waterway as we exited... he said that there was a group of German Olympic contender here doing some workouts... and sure enough in after exiting the lock we came upon 6 people in kayaks... 4 men and 2 women... I approached slowly and was running at approximately 5-1/2 knots... they looked back and the next thing I knew they were leaving us in the dust... I sped up to 7 knots and caught them very very slowly... as I got close to them the dug deeper and more quickly with the paddles and were going the same speed as us... I ran like this with them alongside for a couple of miles... finally, I said enough of this and pushed the throttles forward and jumped up to about 8 knots and we moved slowly away from them but they were amazing... this made them work even harder to try and keep up... once ahead of the about a quarter mile I dropped back to 7 knots... they stayed with us for over 10 miles at that pace... finally, they dropped off and turned around. It made me tired just watching them... LOL
Before long we came to the Port Mayaca Lock. This is the lock where you leave the St. Lucie River and enter Lake Okeechobee... the lock was ready and waiting for us and we entered at 1142 hours and soon the lock gates closed behind us... he informed us that we would be going up about 3 inches... a lot different than the 12-1/2 feet at the previous lock. We exited the lock into Lake Okeechobee at 1152 hours.
The lake level is normally around 14-15 feet which gives you a minimum depth while crossing of approximately 8-9 feet. The lake level was now at 12.55 feet and this gave us minimum depth of 6.49 feet for the crossing and I saw this depth several times while we crossed... the bottom of the lake is not forgiving... ROCKS... so when you only have 1.5 feet of water under your bottom and the rocks it can be a little unnerving. But we made the crossing without a problem... :)
As you exit you go straight through a set of hurricane locks and are at Clewiston, FL... Roland Martins Marina... we made a 90 degree turn to starboard into the lake's rim canal and headed towards Moorehaven... our stopping point for the day.
The rim canal is a narrow channel between the dike that surrounds the lake and a barrier island of marsh land that surrounds the outer edges of the lake. With it being marsh land on our starboard for the next 12-13 nm you see an abundance of wildlife... and the most interesting one to see is the alligator... and we saw a lot of them and BIG ones... we stopped near a few of the bigger ones for a photo op... You’d think they like having their picture taken but it seemed to piss them off... LOL
Soon we arrived at the last lock for today's travels... the Moorehaven Lock... we entered at 1700 hours and were informed that we would be dropping about 8 inches... and it took very little time and we exited at 1710 hours and proceeded west into Moorehaven.
Ten minutes later at 1720 hours we were docked at the Moorehaven City Docks (N26°49.919', w081°05.391')... the dockage is inexpensive here at $1 per foot.
So for the day we traveled for 10 hours and 45 minutes and covered 62 nautical miles. This is a total of 1311 nautical miles since leaving Warwick, RI and a grand total of 3040 nautical miles since leaving Florida on April 3rd of this year headed to Warwick, RI.