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Posted By Robin & Jim

It didn't take us long to travel from Florida into North Carolina. Both boats have reasons to get up to the Chesapeake where we'll pause to take care of family and health needs.

The weather was ugly so our usual offshore run to Morehead City was out of the question - we were stuck on the inside with a number of badly-timed bridges that open on a strict schedule, sometimes only once an hour. We anchored for the night at Mile Hammock - in the middle of Camp Lejeune. This was the night when all those tornadoes did a lot of damage in NC and we were glued to our radar and weather feeds. Fortunately the most violent storms stayed well to the west of us, but we had high winds and two sailboats dragged in the anchorage. White knuckles and sleepless nights are as much a part of cruising as the fun parts are.

We made a short stop in Morehead City, NC to arrange to have a new generator exhaust elbow fabricated. Morehead is sport fishing country, and this photo shows a rare moment of calm before these big beasties fire up and zoom out the inlet to catch the big fish.

morehead city sport fish

We braved strong north winds in Currituck Sound to claw our way up the long narrow channel into Virginia. Once again, we have to contend with a number of bridges on strict schedules.

waiting for bridge

As we approached Norfolk we were treated to an air show with F-18s, big helicopters, and these E-2 Hawkeye AWACS planes practicing landings.

ICW airshow

It was a long day and we were late enough that some bridges were going to stop opening during rush-hour. We waited in Great Bridge on the free dock for an hour, and ended up going through the lock and last bridge with this very large tug.

great bridge and tug

Our last bridge was opened so a huge ship could be pushed through by tugs - backwards! We were able to squeak through behind the last tug, but had to wait in the turbulent water while the tugs turned her around.

 

backing ship

We were late getting to the fuel dock at Ocean Marine but they stayed open for us, and both boats were loaded with fuel and underway by 9pm. We had a short weather window, so we continued out into the Chesapeake overnight. At 4am the wind whipped up and the glassy seas turned into a washing machine. We had a rough ride for a few hours, but we were safely docked at Olverson's Marina off the Potomac by 9:30am. I was a long 24 hour run, but we saw a little rainbow just before we turned into the Yeocomico River - a good sign.

GTF rainbow


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We headed north from Stuart with GOT THE FEVER, taking turns playing the lead boat every day. Chuck and Pat have a lot of the same habits that we do, and we're finding them to be very compatible cruising companions. Plus, we have a ball together. (And it's nice to look at another DeFever 49 all day long - such a pretty boat!)

got the fever

We always enjoy the trip up the waterway - there's so much to see. We passed this small dredge - the blue arm on the front is the part the drops down to the bottom, and there were some trailing barges with the long dredge pipes - it's like a very long train.
dredge
We had to stop in Vero Beach to get a little fuel - enough to get us up to the top of FL where we will get a better price to fill our tanks. We headed towards the fuel dock and spotted the Sea Ranger 55 ALGONQUIN - good friends Larry and Leslie. We had a brief reunion and catch-up on the dock while we fueled, and we wished we could have spent more time with them.
larry and leslie

We made a brief stop in Palm Coast for some quick repairs. There's a wide range of people who live in the area, but a good number of them are retired. We invited our dock hostess Peggy out to dinner but she had other plans - she was going to The Senior Prom. Yep - the retirees were getting dolled up, donning gowns and corsages, and tripping the light fantastic! Gotta love it.

We oozed through the skinny water at Matanzas Inlet, and cruised past beautiful St. Augustine. There are just too many places to see and too many things to do... and never enough time.

st. augustine

We stopped for fuel in Fernandina Beach, FL and took 564 gallons at about $4 a gallon. This year's trip north is about 6000 nautical miles so keep your fingers crossed the prices come down a bit!
We made a short afternoon stop at Cumberland Island National Park where we ran into several DeFever and MTOA friends out in the anchorage. Unfortunately we only had time for one nice walk on the beach and through the woods since we wanted to travel offshore and a good weather window was opening up.

We ran about 24 hours offshore from the FL-GA border to Winyah Bay near Georgetown, SC and continued up the ICW to Myrtle Beach for a quick overnight rest. The ocean was beautiful - we had a very nice ride and a fair current, with some long visits from dolphins. I can feel a slight change in steering when a pod is surfing the bow wave. I love it when they roll on their side to look at us.

offshore dolphins
Sunrise on the ocean - and a very odd cloud.

sunrise cloud


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We have come full-circle in a way, stopping in Stuart, FL.  This is where we bought ADVENTURES more than 8 years ago, and it was fun to come back through the area where it all started. 

stuart bridge

Stuart is the usual winter home for our buddy boat and cruising friends Chuck and Pat aboard GOT THE FEVER - another DeFever 49. We have been trying to cruise with them for years, and this year things finally worked out!

friends

I confess that I'm an early riser and I just couldn't resist running around the dock in my pajamas to photograph the beautiful pre-dawn sky... but I wasn't the only one up - I surprised some fishermen cast-netting for bait. Good thing I have decent jammies.
marina at dawn
When we pause anywhere we tend to dive into projects, chores, and repairs. This is a photo of Chuck helping Jim replace the motor mounts on our 15kw generator. It took about 3-4 hours and the result is a MUCH quieter gen! (THANKS Chuck!!)

gen motor mounts

Pat and I headed to the stores to do some major provisioning for our big trip to Nova Scotia. Yes, there are plenty of stores in Canada and along the way, but it's nice not to have to stop and find a store if we don't have to. We made endless trips down the long dock, hauling carts full of groceries and supplies. Remember, we came from the Keys where we don't have many "big box" stores. It's a treat to go to Target, Wal-Mart, Bed-Bath-Beyond, etc. Once every few months is plenty for me. Of course loading all the provisions aboard means reorganizing the storage areas a bit, and updating the inventory - "counting the cans" is an all-day job.

counting the cans

We got to know some of Chuck and Pat's friends in the marina, and were very impressed with a ship captain from Newfoundland. He's encouraging us to venture up there from Nova Scotia, but it's a lot of miles. We're inspired though, and will probably take the ferry over and do some exploring. There's another couple from our DeFever club who live up there and it would be fun to visit them too.

It was a frenzied week of activity, but we accomplished a lot. Now it's time to make some miles northwards!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

The Okeechobee Waterway cuts across Florida, connecting the Caloosahatchee River and a dredged canal (west side) to the massive Lake Okeechobee (451,000 acres) in the middle, then to the St. Lucie canal and river.  It's a 154 mile long short-cut through the middle of nowhere.  It was our first time across and it was very interesting!  Follow the green line on the map...

OWW map

The waterway belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers to control water for floods and hurricanes as well as for irrigation in south FL.  There are 5 locks and a number of bridges. 
bald eagle
Along the Caloosahatchee there were small orange groves like this one - note the bee boxes.
orange grove

At our first lock we had 3 manatees, a small school of jacks, mackerel, and a HUGE tarpon (6' long) that locked through with us. 

This is the lock right before the Lake - although the 3 locks that lifted us to the Lake level only raised us a few feet, this lock has tall gates to protect from hurricane flooding.

moore haven lock


lock sign

The rim of the Lake had a spooky feel to it, with vast expanses of cypress and grass flats on one side, and tall levee walls on the shore side.
shore of lake o
Of course we saw gators along the way... as well as lots of birds.  The Lake was very shallow due to drought, and the worst part has a rock bottom.  We had 1' to spare under our keel in the shallowest spots... not fun!

gator

The St. Lucie lock dropped us 12'.
st lucie lock


lock gates opening

And voila - after two and a half days of travel we're in Stuart!
stuart

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Our main reason for heading up the west coast of FL was to attend the DeFever Rendezvous in Sarasota.  From Cayo Costa it was an easy two day run and we arrived a few days early to get the boat cleaned up and to spend time with our good friend Heidi. 

This map shows the territory we've covered since leaving Marathon, with stops where the big green pins are.

marathon to sarasota

It was my first time in Sarasota - quite a contrast with the nature and quiet we had at Cayo Costa.  The Rendezvous was held at Marina Jack, next to the city's Bayfront Park.  It's a lovely area - very clean and nicely landscaped.  We had perfect weather, which never happens for DeFever Rendezvous.  Historically we have at least one major violent storm rip through every Rendezvous, but luck was on our side!

marina jack

The area is a bit pish-posh, and there were plenty of big yachts that made our biggest DeFever boats look small. 

The town has lots of lovely sidewalk cafes and restaurants, book shops, antiques, and many other attractions.  Ringling of the famous circus built an opera house here, and there is a lot of live music and other arts.  I tend to prefer nature to a city, but Sarasota is very nice.

sarasota sidewalk cafe

Walking around the north side of the marina I came upon this huge statue recreating the famous "V-J Day kiss" photograph from LIFE Magazine in 1945.

huge sculpture

You have to love a place that builds giant statues of happy things like kissing!

The Rendezvous - a gathering of people who own or love DeFever boats - was attended by about 130 people and 25 boats.  We had a big dock-tail party, two mornings of seminars given by members, a Hawaiian themed party, silent auction (we got a great deal on a week at a marina in Jupiter, FL where good friends live), and boat visitiations so we could meet people and exchange ideas.  It was a marvelous event and everyone had a great time. 

Rendezvous are hectic and exhausting - so many people, too little time.  It was all over too quickly and we had to head south towards Ft. Myers to take the Okeechobee Waterway across the state of Florida - a short-cut to the east coast.  With the drought conditions the Lake level was getting dangerously low, and we needed to get across while we still could.  The alternative would be to go back to the Keys and up the other side of the state - a much longer trip.  The Okeechobee Waterway will be the topic for the next blog entry - stay tuned.

jumping dolphin

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We found excellent protection from the strong winds by tucking into Pelican Harbor next to Cayo Costa State Park - just a bit north of Ft. Myers, FL.  We spent a few days wrapping up some projects on the boat while the wind howled, and when it settled down and we could relax a bit I was able to get out for some long paddles in my kayak.  The island is right next to an inlet to the Gulf so the water is clear and the fish and birds are plentiful.

flying osprey

There were a number of nesting ospreys around, and I was able to get fairly close to them.  In this second photo I watched the osprey flying with this fish - it was longer than the bird! 

osprey with fish

If you spend time around the water you may see cormorants - dark birds that dive under the water to fish.  This is an anhinga - a larger cousin with a longer, snake-like neck and a longer tail. 

anhinga

There were plenty of kingfishers, cormorants, gulls, terns, herons, and ibis around.  The shells were also plentiful - lots of large horse conch and tulip shells which were easy to see in the clear water.  Most were occupied, but I did find one good-sized tulip shell that was empty, which I kept.  It's such a gorgeous area yet relatively close to Ft. Myers and Punta Gorda.

sanderling and willet

On the Gulf side of the park there's a beautiful beach with lots of wading birds feeding in the surfline like this sanderling and willet. 

Aside from kayaking and exploring the island a bit, we also helped rescue a sailboat that was hard aground.  It's a tricky and narrow channel to get into the anchorage, and they didn't have good charts.  They had been stuck for about two days, despite two visits from TowBoat/US.  We had just wrapped up our projects and launched the dinghy, and Jim had some ideas for getting them free - and the tide was high.  It took about 45 minutes, one other volunteer couple, heeling the boat a bit, Jim standing on the anchor chain, and lots of pushing and rocking with our dinghy but we did get them free before sunset.  It was a good way to end the day.