We left Fort Myers on 2/1 bound for the east coast of Florida via Lake Okeechobee. We cruised up to the Caloosahatchee River and Canal to our first stop for the night, the small town of Labelle. There is a free city dock there but our boat was too large for the slips there. Instead, we anchored across the river in the lee of the lift bridge spending a very quiet, peaceful night. The next day, a Saturday, we intended to stay at the Roland Martin Marina in Clewiston on the western edge of the lake but learned that even though we had called two days earlier to confirm space, the marina could not accommodate us because of an on-going bass tournament. That explained the dozen bass boats racing up the canal at 50 -60 MPH, maybe more. Instead we tied up at the Moore Haven City dock for the night.
The next day was a short day, just 12 miles to Roland Martin where we stayed two days. The tiki bar there was very nice. It seems to be a destination for landlubbers and boaters like. Even on a Monday night, there was a good crowd there.
Our boat is not small at forty-four feet. After we pulled in, a 60-foot DeFever arrived and docked just ahead of us. See the pictures to get an idea of the size difference. A talk with the owners revealed that they have owned and operated that boat for only four days and that their only previous boating experience was on small boats. That was a very bold purchase for an a captain with no previous meaningful piloting. Even after five years owning an operating our 44-foot boat, we would be intimidated operating such a large vessel.
Leaving the marina put us directly on the lake. The four-mile channel leading out to the lake is notorious for catastrophic groundings. Lake Okeechobee’s bottom is limestone. This requires attention to detail. Boaters must stay in the very narrow marked channel which, in some places, is no more than 6.5 feet deep. Our boat draws 4’9”. We cleared the channel with no bumps and the water the rest of the 25 miles across was sufficiently deep. At the eastern end of the lake we went through a lock and entered the St. Lucie Canal.
Ordinarily, we prefer not to cruise any more than 35 – 40 miles in a day. Remember, our boat cruises at no more than 8.5 MPH. This day we chose to continue all the way to Stuart, 62 miles to an overnight anchorage, five miles from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). The St. Lucie Canal was as pleasant and quiet and easy cruising as was the Caloosahatchee Canal. Of special note, at about twenty miles east of Stuart, we passed close by the yacht “Honey Fitz”. Some readers will recognize the name but, for those who do not, the Honey Fitz was the presidential yacht used by Truman through Nixon. The boat was named by JFK after his grandfather. Research showed that it was purchased and restored by a private individual. This boat is a historical treasure.
After Stuart we moved on to an anchorage (Faber Cove) in Fort Pierce one mile east of the AICW. Faber Cove is reached by a winding channel through a neighborhood of waterside homes terminating a large water cul-de-sac surrounded by modest homes, modest as compared to the many McMansions one encounters on so many of America’s waterways, and Canada’s. We anchored las night (2/6) and will stay here for two more nights before moving over to the Fort Pierce City Marina.