Stuart to Wabasso

We left Stuart after spending close to an hour at the fuel dock. We had to wait for a bigger boat ahead of us and then the credit card reader did not work which we had to wait to be fixed so we could pay.

The water was a green color when we entered the Indian River and we did not see much wildlife. Not like I would expect in Florida in the late fall. We saw 4-5 dolphins but not until we got north of Vero Beach. At that point, the color of the water changed and it was not green anymore. We started to enjoy the waterway more once we got past Vero Beach. It is likely because it narrows and the shore becomes more visible. I did not take a single picture while traveling. We anchored in a nice, sheltered spot and an anhinga showed up drying its wings. It is the only picture I took all day and its blurry.

Female anhinga drying her wings.

We heard the sound of Rice Krispies again last night, so we are back in waters that contain the little shrimp that make a noise when snapping their claw shut.

Whenever we anchor, the anchor alarm goes off multiple times during the night. It is set to go off if we move too much. That could mean that the anchor is no longer holding us. It would be dangerous to float freely with no one at the wheel. If we did not wind up on the shore, stuck, or hit something, we would not know where we were. The alarm only goes off when Regis is sound asleep, waking him regularly to tend to it. The good thing about a marina is that he can sleep through the night. The alarm usually goes off because we have swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction. This is primarily because the tide has changed. If there is about 40-60 feet of chain out, the boat can move 80-120 feet. Setting the alarm too high can be a problem if you actually are moving. You would not know until it was too late. If the setting is too low, it requires tending all night long. I will not miss the anchor alarm and I am not the one who gets up when it goes off.

Port Mayaca to Stuart

We anchored near Port Mayaca. I love anchoring when we are near wildlife.

Limpkin.
Belted Kingfisher.
Feather on the water.

The trip down the water way was boring from Port Mayaca to the last lock. That lock was a 14-foot drop, which was interesting, but going down is always less interesting than going up. At this point, Regis can jettison me, but I suspect he will keep me as long as he can. We get along pretty well and rarely have issues with each other. We have known each other since I was 16 and he was 17 and I guess we are in a good groove.

Today I was grumpy. I felt sorry for Regis and tried to hide it. I think I needed something else in my diet.(edit by regis, Linda has been great this whole trip. She has accepted situations when we had not choice and pushed thru. I am grateful she has volunteered to help me move the boat to the east coast of Florida. The trip has been much better with her aboard!) I was getting aggravated with things that should not have bothered me that much. When we left the St. Lucie lock, the boat traffic increased dramatically. There were boats going every which way and jerks on big boats with huge wakes that plow their way through with no sense of how they knock everyone else around with their wake. We arrived in the most expensive slip so far and they could not get me a key to the showers and laundry. We went out to eat and then Regis tried and, voila, he got a key. Don’t ask me what I think about the difference between a female asking and a male.

But there are pelicans everywhere and I got some closeup pictures of the one on the pilings at our dock.

Brown pelican.
Brown pelican.

If nothing breaks and the weather holds, we should be in St. Augustine in 4 to 5 days. I am excited to be on the east coast!

Moore Haven to Port Mayaca

We successfully crossed Lake Okeechobee Saturday. Fortunately, the winds were decent, and the crossing was comfortable. We started to see more wildlife as we approached the lake. My favorite part was watching this snowy egret perched on the Julian Keen Lock where the water comes through, probably looking for fish. We saw one at the Port Mayaca Lock also, in the same spot. We were joking whether the bird on the west side flew 39 miles to arrive at the lock on the east side.

Snowy egret looking for fish as the water flows into the lock.
Turkey vultures.
Crested caracara.
Osprey.

There is only one marina in the town down the river from us and they are not answering their phone because they closed at noon today for the weekend. We found a small place to tuck away along the waterway and anchor. Since this is a basically a canal, there is not much room to anchor. I had to call about 7 marines before I found a slip available in St. Lucie. I think it is harder to get slips than campgrounds.

In the meantime, the krakens (collies) are enjoying playing together in snowy Washington.

Raven and Clover.

Fort Myers to Moore Haven

We left Fort Myers from our anchorage near a power plant. There were supposed to be manatees in the area, but we did not see any. Birds were starting to fly into our area as the sun rose, but we saw few birds on our long trip along the Caloosahatchee River. We had to pass through two locks, so we got our first lock experience. It was more intimidating anticipating it than it turned out to be. You bring the boat in, grab two of the lines hanging from the side, tie up, wait for the water to rise, and you are on your way. At the second lock, we saw an otter on the shore. Cute as could be.

Franklin Lock.

We came across a bunch of cows removing the vegetation from the water with a bunch of cattle egrets (aptly named) perching on their backs. They were likely looking for insects. That was the only concentration of birds we saw after lifting anchor.

Cattle eating the vegetation in the river accompanied by cattle egrets.

I was able to snag a slip in the only marina that had one since we left Sarasota. It is the most interesting dock set up we have had so far. I do not know how Regis maneuvered us in. We chased the resident alligator away with our approach and he has been swimming around the boat keeping a wary eye on us.

The only slip we were able to snag since Sarasota. It was the first time I stepped on land in 3 days.
We have intruded upon this alligator’s territory. Poor thing. We will leave him be early tomorrow.

I placed an instacart order for groceries upon our arrival and found out after the gentleman purchased the food already that he was 1.5 hours away from us. I cannot believe the guy was willing to come that far to deliver about $55 worth of groceries. It would have been more if the store had the items we wanted.

Crucially, the order contained two bottles of champagne. During our travels, I have been reading The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge by John Vigor and read the part about changing the name of a boat. It is bad luck not to do so in the proper way. It is essential to have one ceremony to remove the old name and a different ceremony to give it the new name and they both require a bottle of champagne. Regis has put me in charge of making sure the ceremony is conducted properly. I am feeling a lot of pressure. For those interested, I quote the part entitled “Name, Changing of”.

“It’s not unlucky to change the name of a boat, provided certain rules are followed, including the holding of Vigor’s little-known interdenominational de-naming ceremony.

“The first requirement is to remove the old name (Linda: I left this paragraph out.)

“Concoct your own ceremony, to be performed with or without spectators. Make it short, sweet, and simple. The elements of the ceremony are twofold: a supplication and a libation. Address directly the gods of the wind (Aeolus), sea (Neptune), and others you want, (Linda: Is there a god of motors?) and ask them to strike from their records the old name of the boat. Mention the name. Then pray their indulgence in extending their goodwill and protection to the vessel in her new name, which will be revealed in a separate naming ceremony to come. Do not mention the new name.

“Then, without further words, pour a libation of champagne, the best you can afford, over the bows. Be generous. You may drink some yourself and offer some to guests, if any, but don’t be mean with the gods’ portion or you’ll regret it. And unless you’re absolutely bent on self-destruction, don’t use a cheap substitute for real champagne. Remember, the champagne represents the blood sacrifice of the ancients. It saves you from having to slaughter your favorite virgin, so don’t stint on the price. (Linda: I bought the only champagne available in this remote, foreign land of central Florida.)

“Immediately thereafter, or at any interval to suit yourself, you may conduct a normal naming ceremony as if she were a brand-new vessel. And yes, since blood sacrifice is no longer encouraged or even tolerated, you do need another, fresh bottle of champagne. Real champagne.

“I have changed the name of a boat in this way with great success, and I can recommend Vigor’s interdenominational de-naming ceremony to all without hesitation.”

Krakens (Collies) Observations

By Jason Burek

Raven.
Clover.

On the differences between dogs: whenever we let Coco out at the end of the night, she had a typical pattern. She would make her way around the yard, smelling things and checking to make sure everything was in order. Some nights she would take longer than others, but for the most part you could let her out then go brush your teeth and get ready for bed and be pretty sure that she’d return by the time you were ready to hop in bed. Not with the collies. I started my normal end-of-night routine and as I entered the bedroom to put my phone on the charger, I looked out the window to see them sleeping on the front porch. Apparently waiting for them to return is not a good idea.

On rain: the collies do not like rain. At least, not real rain. Typical Northwest rain is a more like a mist. It is even joked that only tourists carry umbrellas because you can literally walk a mile in the rain and not really be that wet. That kind of rain does not phase the collies, but on Tuesday we got real rain – like “I’m not even sure I want to walk the ten feet to make sure the gate is still latched” kind of rain. The collies did not approve of this. They stuck their heads out from underneath the porch and decided that that was plenty. They enjoyed licking the rain off of the sidewalk, but only if the rest of their bodies remained covered. Raven eventually decided that he was willing to brave a quick jaunt around the front yard for a pee. Clover decided she was fine with holding it for now.

On the hazards of the garden paths: It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to walk down to the hot tub at night. Every day a new stick appears in the middle of the pathway. During the day you can see well enough to avoid them but at night it is too dark. It is especially dangerous with sandals or bare feet. They like to leave them on the steps to the lower yard as well which is even worse. Hopefully we survive the next few weeks.

On the mysteries of windows: I was sitting in the corner couch by the window sipping my morning coffee and looking out into the yard at the fountain in case any wildlife showed up. The dogs were out romping through the yard. At some point Raven came over to the fountain for a drink and spotted me in the window and started barking at me. I tried to convince him that it was just me and he had to have been able to hear me (it’s only single-pane glass) but he was having none of it.

On herding dogs: Dan had a doctor’s appointment downtown, so we walked the collies down to the light rail for their morning walk. Dan departed to hop on the light rail and I took both of the dogs and started the return trip home. Raven, in particular, was not happy about this situation. One should not leave a man behind.

On play dates: Our neighbors have a seven-month-old Glenn of Imaal Terrier named Chisme. We run into each other regularly on walks and he suggested we bring the puppies over for a play date. It sounded like a good way to get some energy out, so we brought the dogs over and let them run free. They had a fabulous time. Chisme has short stubby little legs so he’s much smaller than the collies but he’s got agility on them. He had a ton of fun running around the yard making them chase him. Clover has no fear of heights since she was jumping off of 3-4 foot rock walls to try to catch him. Other than the collies being particularly vocal during play, it was a great time.

On beautiful dogs: We ran into a woman on one of our walks who loved the coloring on the dogs. She grew up with collies but said she had never seen coloring like theirs. She asked if she could take a picture to send to her father.

On differences in behavior: We had to take a trip over to the peninsula so instead of leaving the dogs all day, we brought them with us and dropped them off at the Bremerton house while we ran some errands. They were clearly thrilled to be home. The moment they came through the door they started running around with house playing. I went downstairs to unlock the doggy door for them, and they nearly bowled me over trying to get down there. Later, we took a walk around the neighborhood, and they were both more obnoxious than they normally are (Raven, in particular, was incredibly vocal). Dan and I both agreed that we couldn’t wait to get back home. They are both still clearly puppies and have a ton of energy but there was something different about them being home. I suspect it is because the house has more room. Our layout is really narrow, so it is hard for them to really get going while inside.

Gasparilla Sound to Fort Myers

Hurricane Ian destruction on Pine Island.

Gasparilla Sound leads into Charlotte Bay which is a large inland Bay. Large enough to whip up nice size waves with a constant wind. Crossing Charlotte Bay was miserable. In order to make it possible to tolerate the crossing Regis had to tack (if motorboats can tack) at an angle from a direct path to meet the waves in a way to increase the comfort of the ride. Actually, decrease the misery would be a better way to put it. While making the passage, I could not understand why anyone would go around the world in a boat. At the end of the day, Regis asked me if there was anything I liked about it and I had to think long and hard. I said, “I was with you.” He does not believe me.

After crossing Charlotte Bay, we began seeing more damage from hurricane Ian. I called ahead to see if there was any hope of getting a slip for the night and one marina told me that all the marinas in Fort Myers have been condemned. After passing through, it is easy to understand why.

Hurricane Ian destruction on Pine Island.
Marina in Fort Myers.
Hurricane Ian destruction in Fort Myers.

I guess the highlight was the large groups of white pelicans we saw along the way.

White pelicans. I have to get nature in every post I can.
If I ever return to the Gulf side of Florida, this is my plan – be a relaxed landlubber.

I forgot to mention two interesting things about our passage near Sarasota. First, there were lots of dead fish. I still get the red tide reports from Florida and there were high counts in the Sarasota area which explains all the dead fish. It was heartbreaking to see. Second, during the two nights we stayed in Sarasota, it sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies crackling on the hull. It is likely small shrimp. They have one large claw that makes a loud noise (for a shrimp) when they snap their claw shut. I learned about this in my Florida Master Naturalist classes, so it was very cool to experience it.

Sarasota to Gasparilla

Wednesday was Regis’ birthday and he was hoping for a smooth motoring day. We left the mooring ball at sunrise and by the time we got into the main channel for the intracoastal waterway (ICW), Regis said we had to turn around. That quickly changed to “We have to anchor now!” The engine was overheating. Regis spent 2 1/2 hours cleaning out the hoses, muffler, etc. and replacing the impeller. The problem was related to running aground Tuesday. After he was finished, he washed up and wanted to get moving.

Magnificent Frigatebird.

We had good weather down to Gasparilla Bay but often had to idle or motor with minimum wake. Add the requirement to wait for bridge openings and it made for slow progress. Along the route, we listened on the marine band VHF radio to the coast guard searching for a boat on the Gulf about 50 miles from Gasparilla Pass. A boat saw three flares go up in the morning, so the search began but they never found anything. If something bad happened, it is a reminder that it is dangerous out there. Hurricane Ian made a direct hit on the area south of here at the end of September and there is likely stuff floating around.

I had wanted to stay in a slip for the night but there were none to be found. Either the marinas are closed for repairs or filled to capacity if they are still open. Therefore, we anchored, and it worked out well.

We saw numerous white pelicans on the ride down. We anchored shortly before dark and began to see waves of white pelicans flying directly overhead heading south. This went on until it became dark, and it was almost non-stop. A wave would be about 50 to 200 white pelicans. It was a sight to see, and I sat on top of the boat watching until the show was over.

White Pelicans.

While up top, I heard splashing and turned to see a couple dolphins playing with something in the water. They would throw it up in the air over and over again. It looked like vegetation. Once it got dark, we sat inside with the windows closed for protection against the mosquitoes. At one point, I was startled by heavy breathing. A couple dolphins were directly next to the boat. We heard them several times at night.

We hope to be able to make it to the Okeechobee Waterway Thursday where we will cross the State to the east coast. The entrance to the waterway is in the area heavily damaged by hurricane Ian and know that will impact how quickly we get through the area.

Krakens (Collies) First Snow

By Jason Burek

Clover, Jason, and Raven.

Seattle was forecast to receive our first snow fall of the season and since the collies are too young to have seen snow, I was excited to see how they responded. When I woke up in the morning, I pulled the curtains aside to take a peak outside. If there was snow on the ground, I was going to need to get dressed so I could go outside with them and capture some video. Sadly (fortunately?), the snow had not started yet so I let them out for their normal morning romp, had my breakfast, made some coffee, and curled up in the corner couch to catch up on the news.

It did not take long for the first flakes to start falling. I kept an eye on things as I drank my coffee, hoping that there would be enough accumulation that their first foray into the snow would be an exciting adventure. They clearly sensed something was different out there. They kept going over to the door and turning around to stare at me. When I didn’t respond immediately, they would come over to the couch and shove their nose into my lap. When all they got was a quick pet and a kind word it was back to the door. After a few repetitions it was clear we were not going to be able to wait for any accumulation, so I put some shoes on, grabbed my jacket, and let them out to explore.

It was… rather anticlimactic. Coco would turn into a lunatic when it snowed. Even in her old age she found a sudden burst of puppy energy and would start running at full speed. The collies seemed to think that this was just another way of drinking water (as with the rain storm the other day where they were mostly interested in licking up the puddles). After licking a few snow flakes off the ground, they returned to their normal wrestling and destruction of the gardens.

They clearly enjoy the colder weather though. They spent at least an hour out in the yard today. Clover took up her normal position at the bottom of the driveway and eyed the construction workers warily. Raven had left a “rawhide” outside that was nice and soft now so he laid neared by and chewed to his heart’s content.

Added bonus – On Clover’s new habit:

On both walks today Clover has developed a new habit. About two thirds of the way through the walk she slows slightly and starts trailing you on the walk. Then, without warning she hops up on her back legs and shoves her front legs into your rear. She likes to try to climb on top of Raven so maybe this is a form of play for her? It’s odd that she’s picked the exact same spot both times to do it. Regardless of her reasoning, we will work on stopping this habit. Nobody wants wet, muddy paw prints on their rear and she’s big enough that if you were slightly off balance for any reason you’re probably going down. (Linda: She often does this with me on our local walk and always does it in the same spot. I have not been successful in correcting this.)

Stuck, Take Two

Sarasota.
A Tiki Bar boat in Sarasota. Linda nearly flagged him down after today’s travails.

As we started one of our earliest and easiest departures, we were feeling good about the day. It was a clear day, the sun was going to shine, and we could wear shorts from the start. The trip down the waterway was great, barely a breeze, smooth water, life was grand. Then it happened, only an hour into the day and I ran aground. It was my fault. It all started the night before. One of the pre-trip actions is to plot the course for the next day, or rather let the charting program do it. I entered the data and it drew out a course for me to follow. First mistake, I did not look closely at the map. The next morning, I loaded the course and left the dock. Second mistake, I did not look closely at the map. There were two routes to take, I wanted route one, but the program gave me route two. They are very close, but one went down the ICW and the other went into the Gulf.

As we were going along, I pointed out the inlet to the Gulf and without warning, we come to a full stop. We were stuck and this time the tide was falling. It would be worse in a couple hours with no hope of getting off until well after midnight. The tides here are longer than the usual 6-hour duration. I was slightly too far right in the channel, but not much. I tried to get off, but it was hopeless. The current was too strong. I had to call for a tow. The BoatUS guy showed up about 30 minutes later and within 15 minutes we were in deep water again.

While getting pulled off I was going to center the rudder, however the wheel would just spin more than it should. I took a quick look and found that the chain had jumped off the sprocket. I had no steering. I yelled over to the tow guy that I will also be needing a tow back to the marina. Great. I can only guess that while I was trying to get unstuck, I jammed the rudder in the sand and turned the wheel with a lot of slack and the chain jumped off.

On the slow trip back, I found other problems. The nuts and bolts holding the steering gear to the rudder post were loose. Maybe it was good luck getting stuck because I found a potential future problem that could have been worse. I also found the engine was getting hotter than it should. I knew what the problem was. When I was on the sand, the engine sucked up sand into the sea strainer. I jumped down below and started cleaning the strainer. I needed the shop vac to get all the sand out.

Just as we neared the marina, Linda got on the phone and quickly and got us a mooring ball. The tow guy, Captain John, did a great job getting us to the mooring in spite of the slight breeze and we tied up. After two or three hours of working on the boat, the cooling system seemed to be moving water and the nuts and bolts for the rudder were tight. I had to put on my snorkel gear and get in the water to check that the rudder was still there. Fortunately, it was. It was well past noon by the time I finished getting everything fixed.

Lesson learned, do not assume the electronics did want you wanted. Also, a big reason we ran aground was the shoaling near the inlet was not charted. I did not want to take a route through the Gulf because inlets south of Tampa Bay are too narrow and there is too much shoaling.

Until we get the boat moving at a higher rpm, I will not know whether the cooling system is working properly. We could have taken a test run in the afternoon, but Linda did not like how windy it got and did not want to pick up the line to the mooring ball for her first time in this much wind. We will find out tomorrow.

When the wind died down later in the day, Linda sat on the front of the boat and took hundreds of pictures of pelicans. She claims they are all bad, but she did get a few she liked.

Juvenile brown pelican.
Juvenile brown pelican.

St. Petersburg Beach to Sarasota

Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

We woke up before light while anchored near St. Petersburg Beach and got an early start to the day. By the time the first rays of light were on the horizon, we were lifting the anchor. As soon as it was up, Regis took off, while I secured the anchor. A dolphin showed up immediately as the boat started to move, halting my progress. I watched the dolphin until it departed and then finished the task. I will never tire of watching them.

On Sunday, the waterway was congested with boats. As we left on Monday morning, we saw few boats. The water was calm, and it was quiet and peaceful. We started to see more wildlife and continued to see more birds as we worked our way south on the intracoastal waterway. This is the stuff I like best. It was a pleasant ride to Sarasota.

Shortly after leaving our anchor site, the water was calm with few boats.
We continued to receive dolphin escorts. At one time, a mother and her baby showed up. Too cute.
We are beginning to see white pelicans which spend the winter in Florida.
Brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants perched on what appears to be the remains of a boat.

There are numerous bridges along the intracoastal waterway (ICW) and Regis’ boat is too tall to go under some of the bridges, requiring us to request or wait for a bridge opening to pass. Regis told me the boat is 24 feet high and Sunday and Monday we traversed the ICW at mostly low tide, which helped with bridge clearance. The bridges have a gauge near the water showing the clearance under the bridge to the waterline. Most of these markers are either difficult to see, broken, or encrusted with enough stuff that the numbers are unreadable at low tide. We usually have to get close to the bridge before we can read the gauge with the binoculars. The charts tell us the height at mean high tide which is often enough information to know we can make it. Sometimes, it is too close to know without checking the water level in relation to the bridge. On one bridge, I read the water level at almost 20 feet. The bridge had an additional 4-foot clearance in the center. That made it less than 24 feet. Regis said he was going for it and to watch the mast. As he approached the bridge, I was certain he was going to hit and tried to get him to stop but he plowed through. The mast was a few inches below the top of the bridge. I recovered from my panic to Regis telling me the height of the boat is really 23 1/2 feet but he uses 24 to be safe. I was ready to exit the boat for the nearest airport. Following is a short video of two bridge openings.

These bridge opening videos have been sped up.

After passing through one of the bridges, we saw the Sarasota police hauling this “sunken” sailboat. They had attached air bags to get it off the bottom. The coast guard has been warning about a specific sunken boat since we got on the Gulf of Mexico and another unmanned one.

We arrived in Sarasota in amazing weather. We are in a beautiful marina with a great restaurant. After we arrived, we both got showers and headed to the restaurant for a wonderful meal looking out over the water. Then, Regis walked to Whole Foods for stuff to take with us on the boat (water and proteins) and I did the wash. After running two loads of wash through the dryers for almost an hour, they were both almost as wet as when I put them in the dryer. We wound up stringing the laundry all over the boat to dry it. Although efficient, it looked tacky.

Sunset in Sarasota.

Krakens (Collies) Update: By Jason

Sunday, we went out again for a morning walk, then over to the restaurant for attempt number three. Raven snagged what looked like a pinecone along the way. “Drop it” was not working so I shoved my finger into his mouth to get whatever he had found. It was not a pinecone. It was poop. Gross! Thankfully the park bathrooms were only about 30 feet away, so I dashed over to wash my hands. Unfortunately, they were out of soap. Damn that dog. Off to the restaurant for a real bathroom and a good hand scrubbing.

Restaurant behavior is improving. They’re still a little antsy when we first get in. I think they want to explore and meet every unknown person there. They are calming down even more quickly now. One remaining challenge is them getting excited about every new person who walks in the door. One of the workers dogs was there as well. They all said their hello’s, which went smoothly, but later the dog laid within eyesight of Clover. She was not happy about that and started whining and biting at her leash. Raven remained calm. She was not super obnoxious about it, so we got to finish our meal and head back.

The afternoon was spent hanging up the holiday lights. That was generally smooth sailing. They spent the entire afternoon out in the yard with us, never going in for a nap. Clover decided it was time to start pruning the Japanese coral bark maple. That is not the gardening choice I would have made. There is a good chunk snapped off the winter daphne as well but I’m pretty sure that one is just from rough housing. I am sure the solar lights that line the walking path are a lost cause. They are strewn throughout the yard now, in separate pieces, and crushed. Oh well. We do not get enough sunlight for them to work in the winter anyway. The holiday lights will have to do. Given the lack of naps all day long they unsurprisingly slept like rocks for the rest of the evening.

Monday, we transitioned back to a work schedule. It was an uneventful day today. Clover decided she was ready to get up around 6:30am. I explained to her that that was far too early for a Monday morning. She seems to have accepted that… for today at least. We will see how the remaining week goes.

Clover and Raven lying out in the dark.