Leg 3 Log  

Cape Coral to Lake Okeechobee

Len Sussman met us at the airport when we arrived back in Ft Myers on Friday, February 23 and drove us back to the Cosmic C at his dock in Cape Coral. Earlier in the day we had called him from Philadelphia to relate our stupidity in leaving the key to the boat cabin at home and ask him to find a locksmith to open the door. This he cheerfully did, as well as driving us to the supermarket for supplies the next morning. Len, we really appreciate the good care you took of our boat and your many kind favors.

On Saturday, February 24, we cruised the short 20 miles to Sanibel, where we had visited years ago, when the children were young. We docked at the home of our friend Bart Smith, who lives on a quiet canal lined with mangroves and well-groomed homes. Later in the evening, after a delicious dinner of pasta and shrimp, we were reintroduced to his good friend Lee Tauck as the wine and funny stories kept flowing.  The next day we borrowed bicycles from Bart and spent several delightful hours exploring the many bike paths on Sanibel. It’s a beautiful island, thanks to the care taken to control development and maintain as much as possible of the original environment and flavor of the island (although the traffic on Periwinkle Way could be vicious at times.) That evening, we joined Bart and Lee at a fine performance by the Southwest Florida Symphony, highlighted by soprano Mary Wilson singing the Handel Gloria.  Wilson’s performance was awesome, bringing the audience to our feet in loud appreciation of her virtuosity. Our delightful visit with Bart and Lee ended the next morning with breakfast at Jerry’s. Thank you both so much for your great hospitality. Bart, we hope your bicycle wounds have heeled. Lee, we hope that you stay away from those questionable shops in Ft. Meyers. And, both of you, we hope to see you on our turf (or waterways) in the not-so-distant future.

Leaving Sanibel, we set off to cross Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway. The day was overcast, but we had a pleasant cruise up the Caloosahatchee River, stopping to visit LaBelle (which would be a nice little town if it weren’t for the heavy car and truck traffic on main street), and finally stopping for the night at Moore Haven. As we approached, we noticed huge columns of smoke on the horizon and soon learned that the Corps of Engineers was doing a “controlled burn” of the lake grasses around the shore of Lake Okeechobee. Chatting with other boaters (Arnold and Wendy on their beautiful Nauticat Eroica and loopers Bob and Trish, Larry and Trudy, Paul, and Ned on an assortment of sailboats) moored at the town dock, we learned that the fires had been burning for two days already. That evening, as the orange glow of flames only a mile or two away intensified (see our short movie), we began to wonder how “controlled” the situation was and whether we would be able to proceed in the morning.

Lake Okeechobee to Lake Worth

On Tuesday, the early morning fog began to disperse at 8:00 a.m., and all our mooring friends quickly disappeared into the lingering mist. We were much lazier, spending a couple of hours updating this site, reading emails, and enjoying Moore Haven’s hot showers. As we turned into the Caloosahatchee Canal, which borders Lake Okeechobee, the fires were still burning, sometimes only a few feet from the water’s edge, but the smoke wafted over the lake, leaving us in the clear. We stopped for lunch at Roland Martins in Clewiston and found Arnold and Wendy moored at the marina. The Port Mayaca lockmaster had advised them not to cross the lake because the smoke from the fires was so thick and visibility so low that locking through would be difficult. Thus, they had decided to stay at the marina while their sailing companions anchored nearby. Also tied up at the marina was a charming English canal narrowboat. An English couple, Terry and Monica Darlington, had shipped it to the East Coast to cruise the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in preparation for a book on the voyage (see the FAQ photo for details).  

After lunch overlooking the channel and a walk into town, we called the Port Mayaca lock to confirm the advice given Arnold and Wendy, only to be told that visibility was fine. It was too late for the sailboats to make the crossing, but we took off and, a few hours later, arrived at the lock in perfect sunshine, albeit a little dirty from ash that had settled on us on the way. Locking through was easy because the lake was so low that the gates were open at both ends and we simply motored on through.

Tuesday night was spent at a peaceful anchorage on the Four Rivers loop, and on Wednesday morning we stopped at the delightful little town of Stuart. Although devastated by the hurricanes of 2004, Stuart has done an impressive job of revitalizing its downtown and rebuilding its waterfront. Of particular interest were a dozen J. Seward Johnson statues standing, lounging, or otherwise blending in with the locals, and a delightful little museum of Stuart history and memorabilia situated in an old feed supply building. One volunteer was particularly determined that we see (and hear about) every artifact in the five-room display. After a leisurely lunch at one of Stuart’s sidewalk cafes, we headed south on the ICW, where we saw our first manatee (the whole body this time, rather than just a nose tip) and learned that the “controlled burns” were nothing of the sort, but actually a wild fire that had started the previous Sunday and had burned nearly 40,000 acres of undergrowth on the islands that line the western lake shore.  Not long after we entered the ICW we passed Brent and Dixey in their Tomcat Discovery heading north with Jim and Joan in their 25-ft C Dory Wild Blue. Both had been around the Florida Keys. C Dorys are getting to be a common sight nowadays! That night, we anchored in the northeast corner of Lake Worth, surrounded by several large boats in the water and graceful mansions along the water’s edge. 

Lake Worth to Lighthouse Point.

On Thursday we cruised south on the ICW past enormous mansions, often with enormous boats moored at enormous docks, arriving midday at the Lighthouse Point Marina near the winter home of our friends Tom and Jodi Hall. Tom and Jodi also have a summer place on the St Lawrence River and have been with us on several trips organized by the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. They picked us up that evening and we renewed our friendship over steaks at a local steakhouse. 

On Friday we spent the morning and early afternoon shopping with Jodi and then were joined by Mike and Marilyn Formicola for a delicious dinner at the Halls. Mike and Marilyn used to own the Blind Bay Marina, where we keep our boat on the St Lawrence River and, like the Halls, return to Florida every winter.

On Saturday the Halls insisted that we borrow their car to explore Boca Raton, where we strolled through a large arts and crafts market and then visited the Boca Raton Art Museum. The museum was featuring two special exhibits, one on the life of Marilyn Monroe and the other Graham Flint’s “Portrait of America: Images from the Gigapxl Project.” The MM exhibit was interesting, if a little sad, and displayed many photographs and artworks rarely seen before. Flint’s photographs were extraordinary. He developed a camera that produces ultra high resolution pictures that are then scanned, also at ultrahigh resolution, to generate files that produce incredibly detailed 5-ft by 10-ft prints. Two such prints particularly enthralled us: one a cyprus swamp with moss laden trees beautifully reflected in the still water, and the other a stunning five-panel panorama of the New York skyline at dusk.

In the afternoon we joined Tom and Jodi for drinks on their fabulous new (to them) 65-ft motor yacht Precious Lady, and then went with them to the condo of Tom’s niece Heather Collver and her husband Chuck to watch the lunar eclipse. Their 16th floor, oceanfront condo was an ideal location to watch the eclipse; although clouds spoiled the best part of the show, we were excited to see the somewhat hazy final half-hour. Many thanks Chuck and Heather for letting us take over your living room and balcony.

Later, after a great dinner at a local Italian restaurant, we said farewell to Tom and Jodi. Thank you both so much for your hospitality. It was great to see you in your Floridian venue, and we look forward to getting together again soon at the river.

Lighthouse Point to Ft. Pierce.

On Sunday we headed north to the Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, and immediately encountered great kindness again when the mother of the young woman running the marina offered to drive us to the Norton Museum of Art. We really enjoyed the Norton, which was featuring three marvelous exhibits: a major collection of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, twelve impressionist masterpieces from the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, and a stunning display of dresses and jewelry owned (and worn) by Iris Apfel. After enjoying these and the permanent collections of the museum, we walked across the bridge into Palm Beach and visited Whitehall, the winter home of Henry Flagler, a leading figure of Amerca’s Gilded Age and the earliest and most important developer of Florida.

The next morning we continued north into the teeth of  a strong north wind, which made the long haul up the Indian River a bumpy ride. Just before Ft. Pierce we passed Bob and Trish Endicott on Pogopelli (we had moored next to them at Moore Haven) and chatted with them on the radio as we bounced by. We finally stopped at the Ft. Pierce City Marina and walked around town. Ft. Pierce seems to be “almost revitalized”; although it boasts delightful murals and miles of beautifully laid brick sidewalks, many of the buildings stand empty. We particularly enjoyed the pink 1920s Arcade Building, which has been beautifully restored and features whimsical murals inside and out. We hope the revitalization continues so that Ft. Pierce can follow in the footsteps of such towns as Stuart. We ended the day dining at the waterside restaurant at the marina before retiring to the boat where, believe it or not, we ran our heater to take away the chill the north wind had brought.

Ft. Pierce to Daytona Beach

On Tuesday we continued north, stopping for the three free hours one is allowed at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina for lunch and a walk on the beach, which was impressively clean. Before leaving we visited the Vero Beach Art Museum and enjoyed the delightful kinetic sculpture of George Rickey both indoors and in the garden. That night we moored near Melbourne, Florida at the dock of Ed, a neighbor of Carl Woughter and Anne Nichols. Carl used to own the island next to ours on the St. Lawrence river (he actually owned ours too in the distant past), and once again it was great to see old river friends in their winter habitat. We stayed two nights and rented a car on Wednesday to tour the Kennedy Space Center. 

On Thursday we cruised to the Halifax River Yacht Club in Daytona Beach, where Dock Master Brian Fitzpatrick managed to squeeze us in. Brian gave us a royal welcome, with a grand tour of the new club house and lots of advice on where to go in town. He also warned us that, because it was Bike Week in Daytona, the town was overflowing with motorcycles and riders. This was a major understatement; never before had we seen so many motorcycles (or tattoos, leather pants, etc.). We were later told that Daytona and the surrounding area hosted nearly a million bikers that weekend. They whizzed by in all shapes, colors, sizes, and designs (riders as well as bikes), day and night creating a constant background noise. Talk about rolling thunder!

That night we dined at the club’s restaurant and were surprised to see Sue and Pete Wheeler, friends from our Chippewa Yacht Club on the St Lawrence. Yet another “it’s a small world” experience. After dinner we stood on the dock to watch the launch of a Saturn V rocket putting several satellites into orbit. Even from as far away as Daytona the sight was impressive.

Mary needed a quiet work day on the boat, so I rented a car on Friday and drove out to Daytona USA, the big NASCAR exhibit at the Daytona International Speedway. Bike Week includes motorcycle races at the speedway, and the bikers had taken over the entire facility. Motorcycles and interesting characters everywhere, amidst a sea of shining chrome and stands promoting motorcycle builders, customizers, and accessory suppliers, yet all very orderly and friendly. In the afternoon I fought the traffic (motorcycles) back to town and drove on the historic (to U.S. auto racing enthusiasts) sands of Daytona Beach.

In the evening we joined Don and Clarissa Chester, to whom the Wheelers had introduced us the previous evening, for drinks and dinner at the club. The Chesters have recently built a house on Wellesley Island on the St Lawrence - yet another Florida/St Lawrence connection. Back on the Cosmic C we were watching an episode of “24” when there was a loud banging on our cabin roof. The owners of the slip Brian had put us in had unexpectedly returned, so we had to make a quick move to another empty slip. Someone called Brian, who came rushing over from his home to apologize, but we were certainly not put out. We loved the yacht club and would have gladly moored at their service dock without power if necessary. 

As we headed north towards St. Augustine the next morning we passed close by the Chester’s Florida house, and there was Don to wave us on our way.

Daytona Beach to Moon River

Saturday took us north to St. Augustine, where we moored at the Municipal Marina and immediately took a trolley tour of the town. St. Augustine is a beautiful town combining historic Spanish influences with early 20th century gilded age masterpieces, where even the tourist district is not objectionable. We spent two nights in St. Augustine, visiting the Lightener Museum, Flagler College (once Flagler’s elegant Ponce de Leon Hotel and now surely one of the most architecturally interesting places to go to school), the Presbyterian Memorial Church where Flagler lies, and even a thriving alligator farm. 

On Monday we were northward-bound again, anchoring that night in Alligator Creek. We saw no alligators but did keep ourselves well within the confines of the boat. Tuesday morning we docked at the pretty little town of Fernandina Beach, where we were greeted by Joe, who had been following the Cosmic C’s progress. We also enjoyed meeting the lively lady at the toy store, where we bought a gift for our granddaughter Jules’ third birthday, and the walrus-mustached post master, who delighted in covering the package with 39-cent “Happy Birthday” stamps instead of using the meter. Later we stopped at unspoiled Cumberland Island, previously the Carnegie’s island estate but now a National Park.  We walked down beautiful paths under majestic live oaks to Dungeness, once a very grand home but now a romantic ruins, with wild horses roaming its gardens and vines taking their toll of the walls.

We stopped for the night on Jekyll Island, dressed up, and chose not to dine in the huge Grand Dining Room in the Jekyll Island Club Hotel but rather in Courtyard at Crane, a more intimate restaurant in the Club’s Crane Cottage. Jekyll Island Club began as a club for the very rich; members built cottages (read mansions) for themselves on the grounds but were expected to eat all their meals in the Grand Dining Room. As a result, Crane Cottage (built by Richard T. Crane of plumbing fame), like all the other cottages, had no kitchen.

Before we left on Wednesday morning, Shannon and her horse Dallas took us for an informative carriage ride around the historic district. When we returned to the boat, we found it almost aground at the dock. The marina’s dock master had warned us that it would become shallow at the dock at low tide, but there was so little water that I was afraid that the engine would suck in a lot of mud when we started up. The situation was solved when the dock master and another helper held the Cosmic C nose in perpendicular to the dock so that the engine was out in deeper water.

Wednesday was mostly cruising through Georgia’s salt marshes, narrow cuts, and wide open stretches, where the weather favored us with light southerly winds and calm waters. We stopped a few miles before reaching Savannah to anchor on Moon River (of the song fame), and remarked on the absence of the biting gnats (no-see-ums) that had become an annoyance in North Florida and Georgia. The gnats must have heard us because they arrived in their millions on Thursday morning, and several thousand of them found their way into the boat through an open vent.

Moon River to Charleston, SC

We arrived in Savannah late Thursday morning, having stopped first at Thunderbolt Marine where we arranged to have the Cosmic C stored and bottom-painted while we returned home to attend to work and other commitments. All the marinas in the city and nearby were full for it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and Savannah hosts a huge St. Patrick’s day parade and celebration. We learned that boaters make reservations for this weekend a year in advance, but we were finally offered a spot for one night at the River Street Marketplace Dock when one such reservation was cancelled at the last minute. This dock is perfectly positioned for visiting Savannah, but unprotected from the wakes of all the tugs, huge freighters, and ferries that pass close by at all hours of the day and night. We were certainly rocked to sleep that night.

We love Savannah, and once again enjoyed strolling through the squares and parks of the city, where the azaleas were in full bloom. We visited the Thomas Owens house, had cocktails on the balcony at the Hyatt, and ended the day with a tasty meal at Bellfords.

We had to be out of our slip by noon on Friday, so after breakfast at Huey’s and a leisurely stroll to visit Savannah’s famous waving lady statue, we were off. Preparations for the weekend were in full swing, with barriers here, booths there, and sound stages with enormous amplifiers and speakers everywhere, so we were not sorry to have to leave what was evidently going to be a very loud and commercial celebration. We took the Cosmic C back to Thunderbolt Marine where we spent the afternoon packing, cleaning up, and generally preparing to fly home the following morning.

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, was a day this Patrick would like to forget. We took a cab to the airport only to find our flight was delayed due to problems created by the big snowstorm which hit the northeast on Friday. After several hours the flight was cancelled. “When could you get us on another flight?” “Oh, maybe Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday. And forget about a hotel room; every hotel is full because of St. Patrick’s Day.” So back to Thunderbolt Marine we cabbed, back to Tubby’s restaurant for dinner we walked, and back on the loop we decided to go on Sunday, with Charleston as our new lay-over destination. Thunderbolt Marine was very gracious in scrapping our work and storage contract, and promptly returning our keys.

On Sunday we cruised north again, stopping for lunch and a stroll around Beaufort, and arriving in Charleston in time for a delicious dinner at Poogan’s Porch. On Monday we took the boat to the Charleston Boatyard for storage and bottom painting, were driven by them to the airport (thank you!), and caught a flight home to the snow and ice of Bucks County.

So ended Leg 3 of our Great Loop cruise. We’ll probably be back aboard the Cosmic C in early June, when Leg 4 will take us at least to the Chesapeake if not all the way back to the St. Lawrence.

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