Friday, December 30, 2022

Closing out the year

We are underway across Lake Okeechobee, bound for the west coast of the state. The forecast says it will be in the 80s this afternoon and I will be back in shorts for the first time in quite a while. There's little wind today and the lake is as calm as I have ever seen it.

Monday evening we pulled off the ICW in Jensen Beach, south of the causeway, and worked our way in toward the south end of the city mooring field to drop the hook (map). That put us in the lee of the causeway and out of the relentless chop that had been behind us all day. We're too big for the moorings, making the city's whizzy new, but gated, dinghy dock unavailable, but we could get ashore at the boat ramp. It was raining and cold at dinner time so we did not even drop the tender, but we've made note of it for a future stop.

Last night's sunset over Lake Okeechobee from our aft deck.

That made for a short cruise Tuesday morning, and by noon we were dropping anchor in our usual spot off Arbeau Point, across from the Sunset mooring field (map). We had to squeeze in -- I have never seen so many boats in this anchorage, which on previous stops we've shared with only a few other boats. The moorings were also completely full, common at this time of year. Many unoccupied boats bespoke the holiday family visits that so many of our cruising brethren undertake, although this year I suspect many wished they had just stayed aboard.

When I had called the Lugger dealer under way in the morning, they told me UPS was scheduled to deliver my parts in the afternoon, and thus I took a chance and headed ashore with the e-bike for the five mile ride to arrive before closing time. I left enough time for stops at Staples for SodaStream cylinders and Chase for a bank errand en route. I arrived ashore to find more dinghies than I've ever seen at the free bulkhead in Shepard Park, reinforcing my observation about the anchorage.

After my other errands I arrived at Performance Power Systems a half hour before closing time, only to find the place nearly deserted, with the parts guy I had been dealing with gone for the day. The lone employee did find my parts in the delivery that had just arrived, but after fifteen minutes of struggling could not figure out how to get them into the parts inventory to bill me. I left my credit card number for the parts guy to sort out later.

Stuart goes all out for the holidays. I liked these festively lit palms.

The pair of thermostats cost me over two hundred bucks, but once I had them in hand I could see they were a pair of $15 automotive thermostats. One was still in a factory-sealed package from Honda. The other, a Balkamp item, was in a cardboard box and had been modified by Lugger, who over-drilled the hole to a larger size. The Lugger tech had told me about this when I originally talked to them, but of course they won't give you the size of the hole or the cross-reference part numbers.

I just expect to pay a markup of 100% for "marine" items that are really just re-branded auto parts, but 400% is really beyond the pale. Still, I had little choice. With no cross-reference ahead of time I'd have to tear the cooling system apart to try to identify them, and then there we'd be with the engine inoperative until we could source them. It's a racket. I have the numbers and hole size now, but will likely never need to replace these again. If either of them is even the root cause of the heater loop issue, which remains to be seen.

Still sealed $15 Honda thermostat and modified $15 Balkamp thermostat. $200 for the pair.

Even though it was already almost 5pm, I made a quick stop at Walmart on my return trip for a few items that are best sourced there, leaving the rest of the provisioning list for a later trip to Publix. I was back at Vector by 5:30, and after heaving the e-bike back aboard we turned right back around and headed for dinner. With a late start we went to the closest place, and old stand-by white tablecloth Italian place called Casa Bella. It's always been quite good, although on this visit I was disappointed with the veal, and I had stomach issues that had me down for the count all day Wednesday, so it may be off the list.

We'd hoped for just a single night in Stuart with a Wednesday departure after finishing the provisioning, but I felt so crummy we decided to just take an extra day. It was mid-afternoon before I felt good enough to go ashore and wrap up the grocery shopping at Publix, a decent walk from the dock. In the evening we walked to long-time favorite The Gafford for dinner, where we were able to dine comfortably outdoors. We both ended up with salads.

Yesterday morning things were back to normal, and we decked the tender first thing and got underway. I had to station-keep for a half hour at the St. Lucie lock, where the operators were their usual imperious selves. We've been through over a hundred different locks, most friendly and relaxed, but this one seems perpetually operated by, shall we say, jerks (because this is a family friendly blog). To be fair, they probably deal with a lot of inept boaters, but that's no excuse.

We passed this boat just before St. Lucie lock. No, it's not sinking; he's heeling it over with a giant water bag to get under a ~55' bridge. Port lights are submerged and the gunwale's awash.

We arrived at the Port Mayaca lock before 3pm. Typically we would tie to the dolphins on the canal side for the night, but with east winds, and very light at that, we decided to get the lockage out of the way and just anchor on the lake side. The lockmaster gave us a 45-minute wait estimate with a vessel under tow coming in from the lake, so we tied to the dolphins anyway to wait.

No sooner had I got the engine shut down than the lockmaster was calling us back to say the eastbounders were having issues and had tied to the dolphins on the lake side, so he would be turning the lock around immediately to get us and another westbounder through. We were on the dolphins just five minutes and I burned more fuel maneuvering than we saved by shutting down. We were in the lake a little after 3, and, with the lake high, we turned south past the dolphins to anchor (map).

Like most of the lake, the bottom here is a thin layer of loose material over solid rock. We got a set after a couple of skips and put extra chain out, which would be fine to hold us for the night. After getting settled we sat on the aft deck to watch the unfolding drama of the eastbounders, who were still tied to a dolphin. It was clearly a salvage, with a small motor yacht that had been submerged to mid-cabin and somehow raised being towed by a bow-rider ill equipped for the task. They had towed on the wire across the lake and were putting it on the hip to go through the lock, a fiddly process that would take a professional tow skipper about five minutes.

Salvaged boat being hip-towed into the lock. Note the canted scum line showing how far she sank.

After the show was over we went back inside to relax, but the anchor chain was scraping back and forth over the rocky bottom. On Vector that sound transmits through the chain and into the steel hull with amazing efficiency, where it then resonates throughout the boat. Not any sort of real problem, but we decided we did not want to listed to it all night, and so before sunset we weighed anchor and just tied to the dolphins (map), as we would have to do at lower lake levels anyway.

We had a sunset dinner on the aft deck for the first time in a long while. Another boat appeared from across the lake and anchored  across the channel from us, awaiting the morning's first lockage. By the time we finished dinner the lake was glass calm.

At this lake level we could take the rim route, which would take us past some different scenery here on our sixth or seventh crossing of this lake. It probably adds two hours and several miles to the trip, and some day I'd like to do it, even though we've spent time down there in the bus. But a couple of weeks ago the Corps of Engineers announced the route was impassable due to tussocks in the water, and while it may have reopened since then, we opted not to chance it. That gave me a good couple of hours in deep open water to type.

This facility has been an empty yard with a lift ways for years. Looks like it's finally accepting vessels.

Tonight we should be in Moore Haven, and we'll finish out 2022 under way toward Fort Myers tomorrow. We're hoping to anchor to visit downtown, where we have friends, but it's unclear if we'll be able to find a place to land the tender. All the marinas and most other docks were destroyed by Ian, and cleanup operations are ongoing.

We wish everyone a safe and happy New Year's, however you celebrate it. I'll talk to you again next year.


  1. The martinets in St. Lucie Lock don't hold a candle to the nitwits at the NC end of the Dismal Swamp. They required that each boat use two lines—one forward and one aft (no mid), which didn't work well for the guy ahead of us soloing a small, classic tug. He ended up sideways when the lock started to fill. I insisted we were better off with a single midship line (and we were). The guy was obviously perturbed that I told him how my boat should be handled. A week later there was a big flap in one of the FB groups about that guy. I hope he was granted early retirement. I think it's interesting that the worst lock staff are nearly always the ones that see least commercial traffic.

  2. All the best for 2023.Thank you for sharing your travels/ adventures & do enjoy the nautical ups & downs.


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