Wednesday, 31 March 2004
Day 6 Wednesday March 31 Arriving at the Atlantic Ocean

St Lucie LockWe made it to the Atlantic Ocean today for the first time. We followed the St Lucie Canal from Indiantown to Stuart. The locks on the Okeechobee are unique in the USA. They just open up the gates to let the water in rather than having underwater passages for the water to fill up or empty the locks. The St Lucie Lock drops about 10 feet and has the highest lift of any of the locks. It means that the current inside the lock is quite strong so you have to really hang on as the water drops. It also means you had better not cleat the lines down or you could be left hanging on the side of the lock as the water level drops. We just made it in time to the St Lucie lock saving ourselves a couple of hours wait. From there it was an easy run to Hutchison Island where we are at the Marriott Resort for the Southern Grand Banks Owners Association Rendezvous which starts tomorrow. There are about 2 or 3 empty slips and 20 boats arriving tomorrow so it should be quite interesting to see what happens. We had dinner tonight aboard a 46' Europa Grand Banks with Maria and Alan Perry. They are from Florence SC.

Posted on 03/31/2004 10:22 PM by Bob Duthie
Tuesday, 30 March 2004
Day 5 Tuesday March 30 Crossing Lake Okeechobee

Lake OkeechobeeThe plan was to take the canal around the bottom end of Lake Okeechobee. However, once we saw about 10 miles of canal and since the weather was perfect we decided to head across the lake instead. Okeechobee is the biggest fresh water lake in the USA outside of the great lakes. It is the source of water for much of Florida. Eagles abound in the dead trees all along the shore. It is also sugar cane country and they are burning the cane creating huge plumes of smoke. There is only one marina at the eastern side of the lake and it was full when we called. We took a chance on just showing up and sure enough got a spot. We followed at 57' Nordhaven, Tiger Eyes and it turned out that they are also going to the Marlow rendezvous. They qualify as they used to have a Grand Banks. After we got in a couple of Soprano-type guys on a huge new 55' cruiser came in behind us. Their boat has a sun mattress on the cabin roof about 20'x12' It looks just a like a 50' Chris Craft.

Posted on 03/30/2004 6:53 PM by Bob Duthie
Monday, 29 March 2004
Day 4 Monday March 29 On the way to Port LaBelle Marina

Port LaBelle Marina signWe left at 6:30AM with Hans giving a hand with the lines. Great to have friends that get up so early. We crossed Charlotte Harbor and saw Boca Grande from the water. Turning south we passed Captiva Island and Sanibel. The ICW then heads north east through the shallow 'Miserable Mile' that Hans had warned us to be sure and stay in the channel. It's not the shallow water that is miserable it - it's all the other boats that kick up the water. We passed Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Then its canal all the way to Lake Okeechobee. It's hard to get marinas along the way as they fill up fast. We managed to get a space at Port LaBelle Marina on the fuel dock. A little later we let a 44' Gulf Star trawler raft on to us as they had no where to go. Port LaBelle has seen better days. It was a big golf place but they are cutting up the course now to build houses. The large hotel there had no sign, the lights were out at the front desk and there were no signs of life. However, the restaurant was open with a couple of people at the bar. The prices were pretty high so we declined and went back to the boat for dinner. There were some great signs on the the fuel dock. Such as 'beware of alligators' and 'due to company and environmental concerns we do not sell gas to jet-skis, wave runners, etc.' Come to think of it we have not seen a single jet ski since Boca Grande. Our kind of place.

Posted on 03/29/2004 6:51 PM by Bob Duthie
Sunday, 28 March 2004
Day 3 Sunday March 28 Burnt Store

Today was change the fuel filter day as it had been showing higher pressure on the way south and had not been changed in 50 hours since Carrabelle. After that Hans and Ria drove us to Boca Grande. We had to cross the same swing bridge that held us up the day before. It? a $3.50 toll bridge designed to keep the riff raff out of Boca Grande. It doesn't work all that well as the headline in the local paper was about the first theft in several years. It seems someone stole liquor and golf carts over a several day period. Beach HouseThis place was built by the railroad barons in 1910 as a vacation spot. George Bush, Sr. and family spent Christmas here at the Gasparilla Inn. We were going to anchor in a bay beside the hotel last night but because of the high winds the plan was changed to go to Burnt Store. Most homes sell for more than $1 million. We had lunch at a bar on the beach. The photo shows the lighthouse at the south end of Gasparillo Island.

Posted on 03/28/2004 5:42 PM by Bob Duthie
Saturday, 27 March 2004
Day 2 Saturday March 27 Leaving Terra Ceia bay

Marlow ExplorerWe were underway at 6:25AM. A 70' Marlow Explorer was at the entrance to the harbor. (see photo. The tide was rising and the winds light. We made it out of shallow Terra Ceia bay without incident and the sounder never dropped below zero. On past Anna Maria, and Sarasota. At Vienna the water turns a beautiful shade of turquoise. We saw a few dolphins but none jumped out of the water. We made most of the bridges without any delay. At the Gasparilla causeway we were close expecting the bridge to swing at 3:00PM. But it didn/t swing so we called the bridgemaster on the radio and he said we had to wait for the next opening at 3:15PM. Apparently if you don? call him before 3:00PM you are out of luck. At 5:11PM we arrived at Burnt Store Marina on Charlotte Harbor. Hans & Ria were there to meet us. As before tieing up to piles takes a bit of practice but the varish was spared. Dinner was at the Snook Inn about 15 miles drive south. It was a dumpy place beside the water. The floors sloped so it was like being on a boat. The food was fantastic. Saturday night was buffet night with all kinds of sea food and roast beef.

Posted on 03/27/2004 5:40 PM by Bob Duthie
Friday, 26 March 2004
Day 1 Friday March 26 Leaving for Punta Gorda

Freshly scrubbed Katy LeighWe arrived at 1:30PM to find the Katy Leigh in the water, washed, and beautiful with her new varnish job; 12 coats hand rubbed! (see photo) Thanks to great friends we were taken to the airport in Nashville and picked up at Tampa. We took our Kenlake friends, Doc & Eileen to their choice of restaurant. It was a seafood place overlooking the Manatee River called Leverocks and very popular with the old people as the entrees were half price if you were seated before 5:30PM. Onion coated salmon with fried shrimp for $7.99 including salad and baked potatoe is a pretty good deal these days. If all is working, and the weather behaves we leave at dawn for Burnt Store in Punta Gorda, an 85 mile run.

Posted on 03/26/2004 5:36 PM by Bob Duthie
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