It Always Ends All Too Soon

The waterway from Moore Haven to Fort Myers is wide and deep with little in the way of obstacles or challenges. One recent comment on this trip was whether or not we felt bored or lacked any excitement traveling along the many canals that interconnect the rivers, lakes and sounds that we have traveled to get to our final destination. My response is, absolutely not. Every canal and waterway has its own personality and each is to be enjoyed on its own merits. If I had one word to describe our transit of the Okeechobee Waterway, it would be, spectacular.

Titusville To The Big Lake Okeechobee

DSC06729a It was really great to spend a day with our good friend and rest up a bit. Even with the requirement to hose off the decks 3 times a day to clear the love bugs. In all of our years of traveling the ICW and driving back and forth to Florida, we have never encountered anything like this. Even the locals said the same thing. We caught up on the time that had passed with our friend, ran some errands, played with the dog and cat and restocked some supplies. But we needed to move on in hopes that the great weather we were experiencing would hold until we made the crossing on the Lake Okeechobee.

Shallow Waters and Strong River Currents, Plus Missed Anchorages

At our appointed time, we left the docks and headed south into the state of Florida. It was really good to be back and the weather was improving, albeit still windy from the south. We had considered running outside from Fernandina to St. Augustine, but the winds had not lightened yet and the ride offshore would be uncomfortable. In addition, there are some shoaling problems at St. Augustine Inlet and two boats have been lost and one skipper killed. Not the conditions we wanted to subject Beach House to. We knew there were a few problem spots with shoaling south of Fernandina, but it is not like we have not been dealing with this along the way. So off we went, straight into the wind and an adverse current, since the tides were running out at St. Mary's.

Heading South At Warp Speed

When we last left off, we were at the docks in Southport, North Carolina.  After leaving the marina, we saw some interesting and unusual sites, transited a whole bunch of Sounds, met old friends, visited our former home and covered a lot of water in a short period of time. We also found several of the waterway's most severe problem areas and transited them at the worst possible time. But I am getting ahead of myself so let me get you caught up to date.

A Roller Coaster Ride

Feeling a bit relieved that we were missed by the storms and tired from lack of a good night's rest, we slept in another hour and were finally underway at around 7 AM. The trip on the ICW was a fast one since we were on a falling tide. That falling tide and our one hour difference in getting started would be the difference between a comfortable trip and a roller coaster ride. But it would not be the first time for us on the Cape Fear River. They don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing.

Storms On The Horizon

The day was pretty much perfect for cruising the ICW. It was warm but not too warm and the winds were light to moderate. This section is protected waters so we were not concerned that the weather would turn. Besides, the Weather Service forecast a nice day, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the trip. Even crossing the harbor at Beaufort/Morehead City was uneventful and the many, many small boats usually darting back and forth were missing. The sun came out and warmed things up nicely. But that would change somewhat once we settled into our anchorage for the night and checked the weather.

Fog In The Morning And A Surprise At The Next Anchorage

We did have a very peaceful night and the rain finally went away by sunset. A sailboat came in late and shared the anchorage with us. The next morning was clear at sunrise, but we noticed heavy fog in the canal that we needed to transit to head south. It looked as if a large cloud had settled into the canal and was spilling out the entrance. We decided to wait a bit for the fog bank to lift because we had transited narrow canals in dense fog before and it is not a fun experience. We were catching up on some weather information on the Weather Channel when we noticed the fog was getting closer to us. Before we knew it, our entire anchorage was completely socked in. Did I mention that there was not a word about fog from the National Weather Service on the VHF reports? At this point, we had no choice but to wait until the sun was a little higher and burned the fog off. This can happen quickly or take hours.

Hallelujah We Are Down The Bay

DSC05937a We spent 5 days in Reedville, Virginia waiting for the southerly winds to die down so we could get to Norfolk. My friend John Denver once wrote, “I spent a week there one day.” Of course he was writing about Toledo, Ohio. Now don’t get me wrong, Reedville is a very beautiful area with great old houses once owned by Sea Captains alongside new McMansions being built as retirement homes. But a major metropolitan area it is not. We needed to get on our way and make some time. The day did finally come.

What Cruisers Want To Know About The Bahamas

This is not usually the time of year most cruisers think about going to the Bahamas. But this is the time of year that a few adventurous cruisers know the anchorages will be a whole lot less crowded and the marinas will be offering deals. What got me thinking about the Bahamas was a presentation that Susan and I recently gave to the MTOA (Marine Trawler Owners Association) in Stuart Florida for their Southern Rendezvous. This year the Rendezvous was held at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina. MTOA functions are well-attended and this one was no exception. The presentation covered some of the important questions that cruisers heading over for the first time ask.

Trying To Get Down The Chesapeake Bay

Our first attempt to get off the dock and get underway was aborted, once again due to a lousy weather forecast courtesy of the NWS. I don't mean the forecast was for lousy weather, instead it was another forecast that did not come close to actual conditions. There were hints that we should probably postpone our departure, but since we have been tied to the dock for so long, we ignored the subtle hints. The forecast winds were to be 10 to 15 out of the northwest and indeed they were. But much more 15 then 10 and the gust were 20 and increasing as the morning progressed. Eventually the gusts reached 25. The hint we ignored was the fact that the tide on the Chesapeake would be incoming most of the day. This put a north flowing current against a wind blowing from the northwest to the southeast. Any time there is wind against tide or current, the seas are considerably larger. That was the case as we headed out of the Magothy and into the Bay. We had pretty big swells rolling right onto our beam, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Beam seas in a trawler are worst case conditions. A quick decision was made to head back to the slip and try again tomorrow. As we turned to head back, we had seas breaking over the bow and splashing up on the windshield. We were only 30 minutes out, so after we turned around, we were back in the slip in another 30 minutes. But even that was no fun at all and we always say, if it ain't fun, why do it. The wind continued all day and began to ease up late in the afternoon. Forecast for the next day was light southerlies at 5 to 10. We'll see.