Sunday, January 22, 2017

West End Bahamas Day 3

Total Miles Traveled 1562



This is our 3rd day at Old Bahama Bay Marina, if the weather forecast holds, we will leave here Wednesday for the Abacos.  Hurricane Mathew left extensive damage across the islands, the marina buildings have power, but power at the boat slips is not available.  We have to run our generator for a couple of hours a day to keep the batteries charged.







We spent our first day snorkeling along the beach near the marina.





Then spent the afternoon relaxing at the shore.





We worked on “Rascals Retreat’s” generator with “The Lower Place”  and were able to get it up and running.  They wanted to do something for us for helping them so they rented a 6 passenger van Saturday to take everyone to Freeport and Lucaya.  We stopped at the Ocean Reef Marina and met Randy from “Priorities”.   We met them when they were starting their loop in 2014 when we were wana-be-loopers.  Of course we had to stop at the Marketplace before heading back to West End.





The wind picked up today and by afternoon we had 27 mph sustained winds.  We’re glad we are tied securely in a protected marina, possible severe thunderstorms are supposed to roll through after midnight.




We had another fun day hanging out at the marina and beach. 



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lake Worth, Fl to Grand Bahama

Total Miles Traveled 1562



We weighed anchor at 5 a.m. this morning and left Lake Worth, Florida with our course set for West End, Grand Bahama.  The weather forecast held with calm winds and seas for our entire crossing. 





We learned very quickly that our depth sounders limit is 520 feet, according to our nautical charts, there were several places on our 66 mile crossing that are over 1800 feet deep; we didn’t have enough chain to drop the anchor for lunch.   



The water is an awesome blue.






It took about an hour to complete all of the paper work for customs, and then wait our turn in line.  It was such a perfect day to cross, there were 5 boats ahead of us as we entered the marina.  The entry fee is $300 ….cash, no credit cards, but does include your fishing license.  The marina is located on the northwestern tip of the island; we have a great view of the ocean from our fly bridge.




We walked to the beach and took in the view of Little Bahama Bank.




My best mate





I have enough trouble with chess; I think I would get really confused with this set.




I don’t think we have big enough tackle for these fish…..but we’re going to give it a try. 



A major front will move through this weekend with expected winds between 25-35 mph.  It looks like we’ll be exploring Grand Bahama Island before exploring the Abaco’s.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stuart, Fl to Palm Beach, Fl

Total Miles Traveled 1496

We have spent the last 5 days at the St Lucie Lock Park waiting for a weather window to cross sixty two miles of the Atlantic Ocean to the Bahamas.  During our stay, we attended the Stuart Boat Show and met fellow boaters “Bee Haven”, “Miss My Money”, and “Cat Daddy”.


We met two other boats “The Lower Place” and “Rascal’s Retreat”, both current loopers, that were also at the St Lucie Lock waiting to cross to the Bahamas.  We all travel at the same cruising speed and have decided to make the crossing together. 

Departing the park and approaching the St Lucie Lock this morning.

We cruised 47 miles today and anchored near Palm Beach, Fl at Lake Worth.  We plan to leave at 5 a.m. in the morning from the Lake Worth inlet and cross to Grand Bahama Island at West End.  We plan to spend the next few weeks exploring the Abaco Islands and Cays.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Stuart Fl, St Lucie Lock Day 2

Total Miles Traveled 1448

We are anchored above the St Lucie Lock near Stuart Florida for our second day.  We have a slip reserved for tomorrow, and will be here for a week or so waiting for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas from the Lake Worth inlet. 
   

The smell of bacon frying has a way of attracting new friends.


This alligator swam within 50 feet of the boat and stopped.  We watched him while eating breakfast; he would disappear and then reappear in the same spot.  He finally gave up on a handout and disappeared….but we didn’t see where he went.   I don’t “think” he would mess with the dinghy, but we didn’t take our eyes off of the water while lowering it to the water and when we got in.  From his nose to the tip of his tale he looked as long as the dinghy.

We went across to the marina and met “Willy Nilly III” and two new looper boats “The Lower Place” and “Rascal’s Retreat”.  We spent all afternoon talking about the loop, and sharing our experiences.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Punta Blanca Island to Stuart, Fl

Total Miles Traveled 1448

We have purchased a handheld satellite communicator that allows us to stay connected anywhere we cruise.  If we are out of cell phone or VHF radio range and we have an emergency, we can send a distress signal for assistance; the communicator also tracks our location and can be configured to track our location between 2 minutes and 4 hours.  We purchased the communicator as an additional safety device while cruising but an added feature is MapShare.  MapShare provides family and friends a way to see where we are while cruising by going to our web page and viewing a map and our track.  Here is the link to our site:  https://share.garmin.com/RickVicars  The site is currently set up for viewing our track only, and does not permit visitors to send messages or request our current location. 

We arrived at Ft Myers January 5th; we had a beautiful day of cruising with the temperature around 80 and calm winds.  We passed the boat "Avocet" that we met in New York last year, they snapped this picture of us crossing Pine Island Sound.


We spent Friday with friends that are snowbirds from back home; we had lunch at the Ford Garage a few blocks from the marina, and had a great visit with them. 

We were glad to be in the Okeechobee Waterway as a cold front moved in Saturday morning bringing thunderstorms and high winds.  A small craft advisory was in effect for Saturday and Sunday so we stayed tied to the dock for the weekend.  



We left Ft Myers Monday morning January 9th and headed east on the waterway, it was still windy but the Okeechobee Waterway is basically a narrow canal preventing the waves to build as it does on the open waters.  We stopped by a looper friend’s house “Miss My Money” located on the waterway only a few miles from Ft Myers.  Looks like a nice place to visit on the way back home…if their not away cruising.  We continued east along the waterway, the scenery is quite different than the coastal waters of the Gulf.






We arrived at La Belle Florida Monday afternoon; the city provides several free docks with water and electric. We walked to town, picked up a few things at the Dollar General, and stopped at the Forrey Grill for dinner, what a great stop along the waterway.



After cruising a few miles Tuesday morning, we noticed two boats coming up behind us.  One of them was a boat we met at Waterford, NY “Willy Nilly III” during our loop.   They took the Erie Canal route and we took the Lake Champlain route and didn’t see each other again until today.  We were both heading to Clewiston, Fl so we traveled together the rest of the day.  We had planned to visit the Roland Martin Marina at Clewiston but were told by the marina that the lock was closed for two days and access to the marina would not be possible.  We spent the night on the waterway tied between two dolphins (pilings) with one line connected to the bow and the other to the stern.



Today we crossed Lake Okeechobee; we left at daybreak to get across before the wind kicked the waves up making a bumpy ride. Photo courtesy of Willy Nilly III



“Willy Nilly III” following us across and the birds looking for breakfast in our wake.



The lake water is much different than what we have seen in our travels. We didn't see a depth of over 15 feet during our crossing.



After crossing the lake, the lock doors were open allowing us to pass through at an idle.  A short distance past the lock was an open railroad swing bridge with a 6 ft clearance.  We approached very slowly and could not see a light or any type of building to communicate with so we proceeded slowly through the opening.  After passing through I looked back and saw the swing bridge closing so we are assuming the lockmaster could see the bridge and that we were clear. 

We arrived at the St Lucie Lock this afternoon, there are only 8 slips here and our reservation isn’t until Friday so we anchored across from the marina and campground.  While enjoying the view we saw an alligator swimming across the waterway about 200 feet from the boat, couldn’t get Moni in the dinghy to visit Willy Nilly at the docks   : (





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Punta Blanca Island Day 2

Total Miles Traveled 1292

We had a surprise guest while eating breakfast this morning…..



I happened to look behind the boat and this crocodile was swimming directly toward us….who knew the smell of fried potatoes and scrambled eggs and ham would get its attention.  A crocodile was the last thing we were expecting to see, and we weren’t sure if it was a crocodile or alligator.  This is all salt water around us but thought there may be fresh water on the island.  I checked online and found that one of the differences between the two are when a crocodiles mouth is closed its teeth are exposed, not the case with an alligator. 



It swam behind the boat about 100 feet then turned to an opening on shore where we saw raccoons yesterday.  While it was swimming toward the shore, a raccoon walked across that opening.  The crocodile approached the shore very slowly and lay with its head just on the shore with its body in the water.  I held the camera as long as I could expecting some action when the raccoon returned but we sat for over an hour watching the opening and the raccoon didn’t return.  After another hour or so the crocodile walked out of the water and lay on the shore the remainder of the afternoon.





While watching the crocodile we heard another noise and saw a huge manatee surface about 75 feet from the boat.  I took a lot of pictures trying to get a good one but just couldn’t get the camera focused quick enough.  The manatee would only stick its nose out of the water a few seconds to get air then disappear again for several minutes.  Trying to watch the crocodile and manatee at the same time kept us busy.





The crocodile finally gave up waiting for something to come by and swam back to the north side of the bay.



We saw several different kinds of birds too




And just before dark, two dolphins came in feeding on the fish that have been jumping all day.  It is pitch black now, with only a sliver of the moon shining on the water.  We can hear the water splashing around the boat as the dolphins are still feeding……….what an awesome place to drop the hook!

Oh, we had planned a dinghy ride this afternoon but I couldn’t get Nana near the dinghy for some reason. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sarasota, FL to Punta Blanca Island, FL

Total Miles Traveled 1292

We forgot about all of the “no wake” manatee zones along this section of the ICW, it took a little longer than planned to reach our anchorage at Cape Haze but it was a great day of cruising.  We had to request two bridges to open for us but only waited a few minutes at each one.



I don’t like to back track but after checking fuel prices on Active Captain for Florida, I found that the Cape Haze Marina had diesel for $2 per gallon, the lowest I’ve seen in Florida.  We had a little over a half a tank so we decided to head north three or four miles to the marina and top off our tanks.  Lucky for us it was early morning with little wind, the approach to the fuel dock was narrow with two 90 degree turns.  I had to back out about 200 feet before I could turn around….not my favorite mode of operation with a single screw.

We had another great day with light wind crossing the open waters of Charlotte Harbor, although the harbor covers several square miles, its average depth is less than 20 feet.  After crossing the harbor we entered Pine Island Sound then made a turn around the tip of Punta Blanca Island.  The depth getting in to this anchorage is a little skinny but it is well protected from all directions.  After dropping the hook, we sat back and watched the wildlife appear all around us.






We took the dinghy about a mile or so to Cabbage Key for a cheese burger in paradise.  This is our third visit to this little restaurant and I’m sure it won’t be our last.