Okeechobee Waterway, it would be, spectacular.
We left the Moore Haven City Dock at 9 AM. The entire day's run would be dictated by the 4 PM lock schedule at the Franklin Lock. Due to the low water levels, Franklin is on a twice daily schedule, just as St. Lucie is at this time. There was no need for us to head out at the crack of dawn and then sit and wait when we arrived at the Franklin Lock too early. By 11:30 AM we had passed through the Ortona Lock, but that one, as with others, would open on demand. We would not motor through Ortona since this lock would drop us 7 feet. We were the only boat in the lock and, unlike St. Lucie, had no problem with turbulence since the gates were opened in front of us to let the water out and we did not have to deal with it rushing in. The whole process went very quickly, and before we knew it, the gates were opened and we were heading west once more toward our destination.
We looked at a couple of possibilities on the charts and in our guide books, and it was after deciding to try one that we discovered another. After passing through the railroad bridge on Beautiful Island, yes that is the name, we turned at red marker "22" and took a channel with private markers that leads to some man-made canals. As we proceeded down the channel, we found plenty of depths in the 8- to 9-foot range. The turn into the canal looked very narrow and not very inviting. We noticed that there was a lonely red marker "12" well past the turn toward the canal and then nothing beyond that. We decided to continue on toward that marker and see how the depths held. We stayed in 8 to 9 feet and when we felt secure that we were not going to block any traffic, we dropped the anchor, GPS coordinates 26 41.415' N and 081 49.875' W, in 9 feet. We were, in fact, behind a small spoil island that was apparently a nesting ground for a large group of Wood storks. These endangered white birds with black wing tips and gray or black heads made quite a bit of noise and were coming and going until the sun went down. Being gregarious and friendly, they also shared their island with a few pelicans and cormorants. It turned out to be a fabulous anchorage. We had a nice breeze coming down the Caloosahatchee that cooled us for the evening and the birds quieted down at sunset. We probably would not recommend this anchorage in heavier weather since it is pretty exposed.
Ft. Myers Beach. Once inside the harbor, the entire area is an Idle Speed, No-Wake Zone. We called the marina where we would be staying and advised them of our location. At idle speed, it would take another 20 minutes or more to reach them. Just after noon, we were tied up at the Snook Bight Yacht Club and Marina in Ft. Myers Beach. This would be our destination, for the next several weeks at least. Susan is excited because there is a Publix supermarket right next door and the beach access is just across the street.