We left the North Palm Beach Marina and traveled less than a mile to anchor for a few days in a nice quiet spot off of the ICW. After being in the Bahamas for a month, we needed to catch up on paperwork and a few maintenance tasks.
As we continued north, we passed the Jupiter Inlet Light, first lit in 1860. The tower is 105 feet above the water and can be seen for 25 nautical miles.
We passed through the St Lucie lock at Stuart and stopped at the River Forest Yacht Center along the Okeechobee Waterway. We left the boat there for a little over a week while we drove to Cocoa to visit family and friends, then flew to Indianapolis for a follow up doctor appointment (which resulted in a clean bill of healthJ).
The weather was kind to us as we continued west crossing Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida, and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. Its maximum length is 36 miles long and 29 miles wide with a surface area of 734 square miles. This is a huge body of water, with an average depth of less than 9 feet and a maximum depth of 12 feet. A windy day can make this crossing very uncomfortable. There are two marked navigational channels to follow, one cutting across a portion of the lake, and another channel, known as the Rim Route gives some protection from the open water. When traveling east in January, we took the lake route and planned to take the Rim Route on the way back. An emergency repair to a bridge on the Rim Route was not going to be completed until March 31st so we took the lake route coming back.
After crossing the lake we stopped at Clewiston Florida, the location of Roland Martins Marina. Roland Martin is a professional sport fisherman and is the host of “Fishing with Roland Martin” on the NBCSN television channel. Roland Martin was the first professional bass fisherman to be inducted into all three Halls of Fame (IGFE Hall of Fame, Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, and the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame).
To enter the marina, we had to pass through the Clewiston Lock; the lock is normally open unless the lake level rises to a point that could cause flooding. The marina is mainly designed to accommodate fishing boats, but a long dock, along a narrow canal is provided for larger boats.
The only problem with the long dock is we have to back out from the dock and pass between the rock shoreline and other boats tied to the dock. Backing up a narrow channel is not my favorite mode of operation……but we made it without any issues.
We continued on the waterway then passed through two locks on our way to La Belle, Florida.
The La Belle City dock provides boat slips, power, and water without a fee. This is a good stop to provision and to visit local restaurants. It’s also a good place to hang out for the weekend to avoid weekend boat traffic on the waterway.
We left La Belle and stopped about 9 miles from Ft Myers to visit our friends David and Barbara Dolye from “Miss My Money”. They have a house along the waterway with a dock, so we stopped for a great visit and spent the night at their dock. The next morning we continued on to Ft Myers a calm sunny day without a cloud in the sky. The smell of grapefruit was in the air as we passed a few groves along the waterway.
We approached a railroad bridge located a few miles from Ft Myers and after passing through, noticed what we thought was fog, but instead was smoke. This area of Florida has been very dry and several fires have plagued this area over the last few months. We’re not sure if this was a control burn or not, but it defiantly engulfed the city and waterway.
We reached the city marina just after the smoke cleared, and met our friends Merrill and Jan from Terre Haute, for lunch. We had a great visit, and topped the afternoon off with ice cream at “Scoops on First”. Our plan was to leave Ft Myers early the next morning and head to our favorite anchorage at Punta Blanca Island, but when we woke up, we were surrounded by fog.
After a couple of hours or so, the fog lifted and we were on our way. We arrived at Punta Blanca Island with our fingers crossed that no other boats would be anchored here. Luckily we have the whole place to ourselves. This is a small anchorage, room for two or three boats; we anchored here in January and saw a huge crocodile, a sea otter, Manatee’s, and Dolphins.