Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lake O

We are under way westbound across Lake Okeechobee, surrounded by "the real Florida" ™. The lake is the calmest we've ever seen on a crossing. From here we are making a leisurely way to the west coast, and north to Tampa Bay.

Friday morning we ran ashore briefly in West Palm for a breakfast sandwich from the bagel joint before weighing anchor to continue our northbound trek. As we approached the commercial port of Palm Beach, a swoopy expensive yacht emerged from the port, a security zone normally forbidden to pleasure craft. That can mean only one thing, and as we passed the port we could see the deck cranes working to offload the next yacht from the deck of a large freighter.

It's pretty much impossible for us to time the opening of the Parker Bridge in North Palm Beach when coming from the Flagler Memorial Bridge in West Palm, and so we ended up dropping a lunch hook for 15 minutes at the north end of the lake. The gauntlet of timed bridges was behind us after PGA boulevard, at least until the very end of the cruise.

This time, armed with better information, we made it through the tricky shoals of Jupiter Inlet without any problems, although a downeast was anchored right in the deepest part of the channel immediately north of the turn, and he may have had to change his shorts after I passed him just a few feet away. He had passed us earlier in the day, throwing a huge wake, so I did not feel bad at all.

Offloading yachts in Palm Beach. Most likely new deliveries, but might be some trans-shipped.

A wicked thunderstorm passed over us just as we passed through Hobe Sound, bad enough that we had to turn the fog horn on due to low visibility.  Considering we were struck by lightning in nearly this exact location a couple of years ago, I had a little PTSD until we emerged from the storm.

Steaming up the St. Lucie I had to slow considerably to time the Old Roosevelt Bridge, where we made the last opening, at 4pm, before the afternoon lockdown. We had the hook down just a few minutes later in a familiar spot in the lee of Arbeau Point (map). After cocktails we splashed the tender and headed ashore at Shepard Park in search of dinner.

We were taken aback by how busy Stuart is. We knew it would be moderately busy on a pleasant Friday evening, but the first couple of places we checked had no outside tables left just a few minutes after 5. We walked into old standby The Gafford, whose outside tables were mostly empty, right at 5:30, and they told us all the tables were reserved. Some of those reservations were for 6:30; we promised to be done in less than an hour and they agreed to seat us. The server was happy to get another turnover.

We bashed our way home from dinner in heavy winds to find the boat swinging directly on its anchor chain. The last time this happened, the chain hook had disintegrated, but this time the snubber itself had parted. We hooked an old line onto the chain as a temporary snubber until I could deal with it in the daylight. It was wild and wooly all night, and that line was mostly chafed through by the morning. The dangling part of the broken snubber had also worn through the paint on the bow down to bare metal.

Our tender Flux at the park dock, behind Lily.

Saturday morning we pulled the tender around to the bow and I installed our emergency backup snubber, an old one we had previously retired. That should hold us until we can source a replacement. In the afternoon I made a pilgrimage to Publix, the last nice grocery we'll see until the west coast, to replenish the larder. I also walked around a bit; lots of places have gone under.  On my way home I passed the schooner Lily at the park dock boarding a load of tourists. In the evening we returned ashore for dinner at Spritz, where this time I had made a reservation.

Winds were a bit lower on Sunday, but still 15 knots on the beam as we proceeded through some very skinny water up the St. Lucie River. The tide swing here is just three quarters of a foot, and we waited until we had at least a half foot of help. We made it all the way to the lock without brushing the bottom.

Years ago we resolved never to let anyone else give us directions when tying up. We don't let dock hands take lines unless we have physically handed them across (seldom), and we always secure a center breast line first, before any other lines. But coming into the St. Lucie Lock we let our guard down; the lockmaster wanted us on the windward wall, and wanted us to take a stern line first, and we foolishly agreed.

Of course, once I had the stern on, the wind started pushing the bow away from the wall and I had no way to recover it. I had to have Louise quickly let go the stern, but it jammed in the cleat under the pressure. In desperation I tried to use what was left of the bow thruster to check the swing, but it just screamed in anguish. We ultimately got the stern off and I had to spend a few minutes repositioning. What the lockmaster got out of all this is that we were newbies who don't know how to drive or lock; in fact, it was our 118th lock (heretofore without issue) and our fourth time in this exact lock. We insisted he let us get a center on first before I left the helm to tend a line.

I was ready to read him the Riot Act by the time we were locking up, but it is never a good idea to upset lockmasters. The very next thing I needed to do was ask permission to anchor in the basin just upstream of the lock. We dropped our hook in a familiar spot (map), immediately across from the Corps of Engineers campground, complete with low-cost docks (too small for us). On this occasion the docks were empty all night, the first time we've ever seen them unused.

Corps of Engineers docks empty. We've stayed in the campground in Odyssey.

Louise wrapped up a quilt she was finishing and cleared off the guest berth, and after tipping the mattress onto the sole I descended into the thruster bilge to remove the motor and the drive coupling. I also cracked both bolts the hold the drive leg in, and pulled each out separately to inspect for any water ingress. I put them both back in just snug. The bolts as well as the coupler all came loose with no issues; the first time we did this we had to drill the set-screw out of the coupler and tap it for a new one.

Yesterday morning the yard called first thing to say they were ready, even before their official start time, and we weighed anchor before 7:30 and proceeded the mile to their basin. We pulled right into the lift, and they hauled us out with us still aboard, preferring us to disembark by ladder rather than to try to get off the boat in the lift slip.

They pulled the boat right over to the wash rack for a pressure wash; the hull looked pretty good for 15 months since being painted. The shop guys got started on the drive leg right in the wash rack, and another got to work touching up the damaged paint from the snubber episode. With a short haul, we had to settle for zinc spray on the drive leg rather than a full antifouling treatment, but that should carry us to our next haulout. We're trying not to spend any discretionary time in boatyards until we are vaccinated; the fact that neither the workers nor the office personnel in this yard were masked confirms our decision.

The guys had the new drive leg prepped and in place in short order, and I again descended into the bilge to insert and tighten the bolts. We've done this enough times now to know that the bolts that are supplied with the leg are 5mm too short, and I had correct-length items shipped to the yard from McMaster-Carr. They had us back in the water by 2pm, freeing up their lift for its other tasks. We would have gotten out of the yard at just under a boat unit for the haul, wash, labor, and shop supplies, but we opted to then spend the night at their dock (map), which pushed us just over.

Vector in the wash area at River Forest.

That let Louise run six loads of laundry. Yard power was just 208 volts, so the dryer took eleven hours to dry them all. Between the dryer, the air conditioning, charging the batteries, and taking on some 700+ gallons of water, it was not a bad deal. We wanted a pumpout, too, but their sewer was broken, so we'll be looking for a pumpout when we reach the coast.

This morning we got an early start out of the yard and locked through at Port Mayaca just after lunch. As we came out of the lock on the west side, our friends Julie and Glen on Star Dust were approaching the lock eastbound. We just missed meeting up with them at Roland Martin's, where they were docked last night. They have a schedule and cousins aboard, or else I'm sure we could have managed a meetup somewhere along the waterway for at least coffee if not a meal. I'm sure we'll run into them again somewhere on the east coast.

Update: We are anchored on Lake Okeechobee, just north of Route 1 on the west side of the lake (map). The bottom is rocky here so it took us a couple of tries to get set. The lake has never been calm enough on any of our previous crossings for us to just anchor in the lake; the last time through, we tied up to the dolphins in the rim canal at Clewiston. This was easier by far.

I had to stop typing mid-lake when Louise, sitting behind me and working on our 2020 taxes, handed me a 1099-R from some retirement plan that I did not recognize at all. A taxable retirement distribution that we did not request was throwing her for a loop; the amount was less than $32 but it will cost us far more for our tax preparer to file the relevant forms. Neither of us could find a corresponding deposit to any account.

Those who know me well or have followed me for a while know that I am a computer engineer by training, and my career was spent in telecommunications, computers, and networking. Many also know that I have been a volunteer for the American Red Cross, where I worked mostly in those same disciplines. What fewer know is that I've had a few side jobs over the years, and one of those was as an instructor in the California state motorcycle safety program administered by the California Highway Patrol (neither Ponch nor John were involved).

This chair was on sale in the yard office for just 1.2 Boat Units. I had to pass; we just don't have the room.

Instructors were trained by the state, using curricula supplied by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, but the actual safety program was conducted at private or public facilities around the state, including on military bases. At one point I taught a few advanced classes at a small college in Gilroy, California. In order to work on the campus I signed employee paperwork and got a paycheck from the college.

Apparently, and unbeknownst to me, that enrolled me in some kind of employee retirement plan. I moved away from California and the address they had on file back in 2004, and I've had four different addresses in three states since then. The pittance that was in that account sat there for nearly two decades until the administrator, unable to mail anything to me, disbursed the funds into "unclaimed property." I'm not clear on how they knew to send it to unclaimed property in Florida, as opposed to California, but that's where it ended up.

I've now filed a claim to get my 32 bucks back, which still won't cover what it will cost to file the form and pay the tax. But that sent Louise on an unclaimed property hunting spree, and we've learned that I also have a c-note in Washington (refund from Princess Cruises) and one in South Dakota (refund of insurance premium overpayment). She kept going and learned that numerous family members and friends have unclaimed funds in various states.

I expect we'll have a nice sunset on the lake, and a lovely dinner aboard, and in the morning we'll head into the rim canal at Clewiston and then north toward Moore Haven. In a couple of days we should be in Fort Myers, and a few days later, St. Pete.


  1. I don't know why I never thought of you guys on the Florida Treasure Hunt (aka abandonded funds at the comptrollers office). Since I found the site, I have found about $7,000 for others, just by a simple search protocol. You guys are perfect candidates to have such a thing, with your nomadic lifestyle. Here is the FL site, but there is generally one for every state. https://www.fltreasurehunt.gov/

    1. Behind on my comments here... Louise hammered on pretty much every state where we've had any kind of legal presence, and found I have unclaimed funds in a couple that I am in the process of recovering. Florida actually makes it particularly easy.

  2. Interesting to seeing boats craned off a deck instead of being floated off a semi-submersible transporter. There's a documentary series on boats on Amazon that does a full hour episode on one of the semi-submersibles (Superships, S1E5). It looked kind of fascinating, but the crane-only system seems like less work for the shipping crew than the system used by the semi-submersible method.

    1. I'm pretty sure more yachts travel as normal deck freight on bulk or container ships than via dedicated yacht transporters. Of course, above a certain size, it becomes impossible to lift them off even with shoreside cranes, and so there is always a market for Dockwise (the original player) and the like with the semisubmersible transporters. Dockwise also has the advantage of providing power connections to the yachts so that the crew can travel on board. None of the crane-on/crane-off transporters does that, afaik.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!