Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18 - We have arrived

We departed the dock at 10am to make the 1pm lock opening.  It was 17 miles away and at 5 knots, it would be close.  There were two drawbridges along the way and they take extra time.  The trip along the way was peaceful. We saw orange groves, cattle, horses, manatee, a variety of birds and even a snake swimming along.

The swing bridge was pretty cool.  The operator opened the bridge quickly for us and we motored through.

The other draw bridge was a regular bridge and the bridge tender opened it right up as well.  So both bridges with minimal delay. 
The Franklin lock, they did eastbound traffic first which meant our side didn't actually open until about 1:30.  We did make it in plenty of time had it been 1pm on our side.  Hats off to all the bridge and lock tenders and linesmen we have encounted along the way.  They have all been prompt, professional, helpful and friendly.  These people really know their jobs and how to take care of the boat traffic.

After going through the lock, we proceeded down the river to Bob's house.  Bob is a fellow Gemini owner whose boat is currently in Virginia and he offered the use of his dock to us while we were in the area.  We chatted with Bob for awhile and made plans to meet with Jim and Deb, other fellow Gemini owners in the morning for brunch.  Jim and Deb have their own website here.  They have been cruising on their Gemini for years. We look forward to hearing their tales and hopefully learning from their experiences.  Bob loaned us his car for a run into town and Beth was craving proper sweet tea so we went in search of McDonalds and we both got an extra large. Beth had a Big Mac meal and I opted for KFC for dinner.  We also picked up a new battery for the camera.  Tomorrow we will do brunch and hang out on the boat.  Friday we will head over to Sanibel when Richard comes down.

So, after 18 days we arrived at our first "destination".  We have had a blast and hope you have enjoyed the trip along with us.  We don't plan on departing until after the holiday so Blog entries may not be daily so be sure to click follow so you will know when we post.

All is well.

Tuesday - May 17

We got up for an early departure but wound up leaving at 7:30. We departed the marina without incident and headed westbound.

The canal is quite unspoiled with a variety of wildlife.  Some of the rocks remind me of Hawaii.

We hesitated just a bit before entering the Port Mayaca railroad bridge as this is the lowest lift bridge on the Okeechobee waterway with a bridge clearance of 49 ft.  We had measured our bridge clearance when I went up the mast so I knew we should clear it easily.  With the water level being so low, the clearance was more like 55 ft.

Entering the Port Mayaca lock.  Both ends were open so it was just cruise through.

We cruised through the Port Mayaca lock as it was open both ways and entered the second largest freshwater lake in the entire country, Lake Okeechobee.  We opted for the open water route, a 25 mile passage to Clewiston.  The wind was pretty much directly ahead of us so we motored almost the entire way.

About 3 miles out we saw a wrecked boat, I don't know how long the boat has been there but it is on the charts.

Approaching Clewiston this is a concrete structure in the lake.  We have no idea of its purpose.

 The lake depth was minimal even for our boat and we crossed into Clewiston without any problems.
We passed through the open Clewiston Hurricane lock and stopped at Rowland Martins Marina for gas.  It is a very nice marina but because of the low lake level it is suffering lack of business.  The approach channel was less than 4 ft of water.  The dogs enjoyed the walk and the attached store had a good variety of stuff.  The walls were plastered with record bass and pictures of celebrities that had fished the lake from here.

Departing Clewiston, we headed up the channel.  This channel was wide and deep compared to everything we had been through up to this point.  Depths were 15ft or better most of the way.
This section of the waterway boasts more gators than you can count and they were not wrong.
We saw all kinds of wildlife on this stretch.  Gators, various birds, manatee, turtles and even an otter.

Clewiston Lock

It was about there that the camera batteries died.  It was getting late when we passed Moore Haven lock but we decided to press on and try to make LaBelle Fl.  I figured we could make it by 8:30 which is about dark thirty.  We motored on and crossed the drawbridge in LaBelle right at 8:30 and docked at the city marina just on the other side.  Some people from Texas aboard the motor yacht "Bandit" helped us tie up and we all chatted for awhile.  Most of the people we have met along the way have been great people and this group was no exception.  The owner of "Bandit" was curious about the layout of Second Chance so I gave him a tour and he gave Beth and I a tour of his boat.  A 45 ft Hatteras with twin cat engines ( 2700 Hp ) and two 20kw generators.  Wow, what a boat but I wouldn't want to pay the fuel bill.  He carries almost 1500 gallons of fuel.  I called Little Caesar's Pizza and talked them into delivering us a pizza so Beth and I had pizza and turned in for the night.  What a great day, almost 80 miles covered, spectacular views, good weather, great people and pizza for dinner.

We have to be at the Franklin lock at 1pm for the scheduled opening, otherwise we wait till 7 pm and then on to Bob's dock.  Bob, a fellow Gemini owner, has graciously offered his dock to us while his boat is being repaired.  The dock is in Ft. Myers which is very close to Sanibel where my sister and family have a place.  We will stay there for a while to regroup, resupply and decide where we go next.