From Stuart, FL to Ft. Myers, FL by way of the Okeechobee Waterway (February 2 – February 16, 2018)

I love to be warm. There is no getting around it; I think summer should last all year long. Being cold makes me grumpy. I don’t care if it’s hot. Give me sunshine and warmth. I know some people like a change in seasons. Some even love snow. That’s a good thing, because otherwise everyone would want to live in South Florida. But for me, there is nothing better than feeling the warmth of the sun, walking around in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, and not needing a jacket. Finally we are back in my favorite climate, and I am truly content.

IMG_1430The Falcon Heavy just after take-off.

We left Cocoa Village on February 2nd and traveled to Vero Beach, where we stayed for two days. Early on the morning of February 4th, we started out for Stuart. We picked up a mooring at a marina and remained there for three more days. From our mooring, we were thrilled to be able to view the Falcon Heavy launch on February 6th. There is something about a rocket launch that is a thrill to see every time, and this rocket was truly history in the making.

IMG_1442Love was in the air for these guys.  Further pictures were not for family viewing.IMG_1447A paddler along the St. Lucie RiverIMG_1457Approaching the first lockIMG_2390IMG_2393IMG_2395IMG_1458Scenes along the riverIMG_1468IMG_2397IMG_1478Some of the bass boats in ClewistonIMG_1480This guy just seemed to like to hang out nearby.

The following day we started our western trek across the Okeechobee Waterway.   The Okeechobee Waterway is 154 miles long and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Our trip started in Stuart where the waterway begins on the St. Lucie River. It was here that I finally started feeling warm again. The vegetation was once again the tropical variety that we grew in our yard in Bradenton. Huge philodendrons snaked their way up tropical palms, trees bloomed in bright reds, purples, and yellows, coconuts hung precariously right below fanning fronds, and royal palms grew wild. Flocks of egrets perched in trees, turtles lined logs fallen in the waters, and, yes, alligators swam in the water or rested on the shores. From my seat on the bow, I felt the contentment I can only find when the sun is on my face and the temperatures are in the 80’s once again.

Soon we navigated two locks which rose AfterMath to the level of Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is the third largest fresh water lake in the United States, only following Lake Michigan and Lake Iliamna in Alaska, and the trip across is long.  Because of its size, we chose to stop overnight along the way in Clewiston at Roland and Mary Martin’s Marina. Shortly before arriving at the marina the view drastically changed. While crossing the huge lake, there was nothing but water to see. Suddenly, as we neared the shore, the scenery is exactly what you would see in the Everglades. Tall grasses, with just narrow pathways for boats are the norm. To get into Roland Martin’s, there is a lock that is sometimes in use and other times open, depending on the level of the lake. This time it was open and we motored right in, accompanied by a parade of bass boats that were heading in to weigh their competition catches; Okeechobee is famous for its bass fishing. Finally, tied up and set for the night, we were able to appreciate this marina in sugar cane country; it is Old Florida at its best. It is a bit hard to describe, but low key would be a good place to start. We had dinner at the tiki bar there and enjoyed looking at the variety of boats that stop by on their way across the state.

IMG_1483Nature at its best.IMG_1490IMG_1491IMG_2409IMG_2415IMG_2427The skies were so amazing.IMG_1493IMG_1498Maybe we will skip that lodge.IMG_1501And, once again, a sunset that begged to be photographed.

The next morning we continued west, through narrow troughs in the sea of grass and onto the Caloosahatchee River. About half way between the lake and Ft. Myers, where the waterway ends, is the small town of LaBelle. LaBelle has town docks for boaters to use for free overnight and we planned to take advantage of the convenience. When we got there, but, after a serious squeeze between two posts, we decided AfterMath was just too big to stay there comfortably. On the other side of the river was a hotel that had a dock for a few boats so we squeezed back out of our tiny spot and moved to the Riverside Motel where we spent a comfortable night.

IMG_1512A bridge tender along the way.IMG_2433This alligator was sunning himself right before the lock pictured below.IMG_2434

IMG_1514IMG_1520There are a total of five locks in the waterway, not counting the one in Clewiston which is sometimes open.

Friday, February 9th, we continued west on the Caloosahatchee and arrived at Ft. Myers Yacht Basin right in the middle of downtown Ft. Myers. Interestingly, the whole time we lived on the west coast of Florida we never spent any time here, and we were anxious to explore the city. John’s brother, Jim, and our sister-in-law, Julie, have a home in Cape Coral, just a few minutes away from our dock, so they came down and we walked into town for dinner.

IMG_2440The dog parade brought all kinds of dogs out.IMG_2443Not all the pets were dogs!IMG_2445IMG_2454IMG_2460IMG_2464

IMG_2469At the Children’s ParadeIMG_2492IMG_2503IMG_2506These dedicated dads pulled the kids shown below.IMG_2508IMG_2517IMG_2518IMG_2527This little guy just walked all by himself down the parade route.IMG_2535Just a few of the beautiful floatsIMG_2542IMG_2551IMG_2556IMG_2577

What a wonderful place Ft. Myers is! There are events happening all of the time. We are just a couple of blocks away from a beautifully renovated downtown and there is so much to do. Streets are commonly shut down for whatever the event of the day happens to be, and Saturday there was a dog parade and animal related vendors, a line of food trucks, and a craft fair for me to explore. It also seems that we arrived at just the right time as an Edison festival is taking place to honor Thomas Edison who kept a winter home here. Sunday brought a children’s light parade, complete with floats and bands from lots of local high schools.

Wednesday was a very long day for us. I had to return to Jacksonville for a follow up visit for my cataract surgery so we rented a car on Tuesday and left early Wednesday morning. First, after the 350-mile ride north, we stopped in at Kelly’s office where Kirby got a check up and his shots. We also picked up some packages that had been sent to Kelly’s house and got to have a short visit with Madison, who was busy doing an inventory on all of the candy and treats she accumulated at school for Valentine’s Day. Next we went to the eye doctor and I’m happy to report that all is well and I am back to 20/20 vision again. We had one more stop to make at Green Cove Springs, which is where we have our mail forwarding service and where several packages waited for us. Finally we drove back to Ft. Myers, completing 700 miles in one day.

IMG_2602Fun times with Debbie and Larry

Thursday we had a huge treat when our friends, Debbie and Larry Gaddy, came to visit. We met Debbie and Larry in Guadeloupe in 2016 then spent our summer with them in Grenada and traveled with them while they were aboard Tropical Blend until we left St. Maarten in February of 2017. Along with Scott and Noi, of the sailing vessel Symbiosis, we had many wonderful days and countless laughs and good times. Debbie and Larry have since sold their boat and are getting ready to move to their new home in Antigua, but have been traveling around the states for the last eight months. We were so happy they could come to Ft. Myers this week. We relived experiences, got caught up on news, and just had a wonderful time together. As always, it ended too soon, but we will be sure to see them in the future.

IMG_2606That’s Jim, Julie, Joan, and Al

While we are in Ft. Myers, John is busy striping, sanding, and refinishing AfterMath’s outdoor teak. I have been doing some deep cleaning and some sewing, some walking around town, and, of course, provisioning. Last night, Friday the 16th, John’s brother, Jim, kindly picked us up and brought us to his house for a delicious seafood lasagna dinner made by Julie. Also there were our good friends and Julie’s brother, Alan, and his wife Joan. Back in Connecticut when we were sailors aboard our 30-foot Hunter, Solitude, you would have found us and our children in Port Jefferson, NY or anywhere else around Long Island Sound almost every summer weekend with Joan and Al and their two girls on their sailboat. Joan and Al took off on a 6-year voyage throughout the Caribbean and South America about 14 years ago, so it was great fun to see them and compare adventures.

IMG_2628What good would a parade during an Edison Light Festival be without a lightbulb?IMG_2638IMG_2657IMG_2665IMG_2678The Bavarians seemed to be having a great time!IMG_2692

Tonight was the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. This afternoon I added our chairs to those that lined the streets and tonight we attended the longest parade we had ever seen.  For almost two hours we watched bands play, motor cycle police show their skills, floats pass by, fire engines galore, and lots of general silliness from bicycle riders and those always lovable Shriners.  Before the parade ended the sky was lit by a beautiful fireworks show.  All in all, it was a great night in Ft. Myers.

We will remain in Ft. Myers until the teak is finished; I’m guessing another week or so and then start heading north along the west coast of Florida on our way to Kentucky for the summer. It’s wonderful to be back in the warmth and beauty here. It has been so nice to be near Jim and Julie again too. As always, we never really know where we will be and when, but we love seeing friends and relatives whenever we can. We are looking forward to visiting with those in the Sarasota and Bradenton area very soon and once again to be able to go to those amazing beaches that populate the coast just north of here. To all of you, we send our wishes for your good health.  May your days filled with sunshine and warm breezes, and, most of all,  may you too have the ability to live your dreams.

3 thoughts on “From Stuart, FL to Ft. Myers, FL by way of the Okeechobee Waterway (February 2 – February 16, 2018)

  1. Great photo’s Brat. I have subscribed to Capt. John’s newsletter in reference to the Loop after you stated you will be headed from the coast to Kentucky. So happy for you two living your dreams and the beauty of nature. I’ve contacted you from my school address and feel free to contact me at amorrow@lcss.org. Life is good and its still winter here in West Lafayette, IN high of 38 today and wintery mix on my way to school in the morning. Southern Indiana is about 10-15 degrees warmer than up north here in West Lafayette. I look forward to connecting with you two as you travel to Kentucky. School is out June 5th I think. Blessings and sunshine at your back. Brat

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