burgeetree.jpg (15266 bytes) The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"

   Florida's West Coast
wheel.gif (3486 bytes)1/20/2005 to 2/13/2005

Leaving Demopolis, Alabama, we headed south to the Gulf of Mexico and arrived in Mobile, Alabama, on Jan 20th.

We tied up across Mobile Bay at a little town called Fairhope. A cute little artist type village. Went to a wine tasting with one of the other boaters. Then the next day headed out along the Florida coast past Pensacola, Panama City, and on to Apalachicola. We tied up at a little place called Scipio Creek Marina. This was our waiting point for the cross to the West coast of Florida.  The 160 mile crossing is notorious for being rough and we wanted to wait for a good weather window.  This crossing from Apalachicola, Fl., to Clearwater, is across an arch of Gulf water known by boaters as, “the armpit of Florida”.  This overnight run turned out to be a rough, unpleasant crossing, although we did avoid seasickness, and just suffered a few broken dishes and spilled vinegar.  Books and CD’s were flying everywhere.  What a mess. Anyway, we were happy to arrive safe and have no more night runs left on this voyage! 

From Clearwater, we headed south down the West Coast Intra-Coastal Waterway. but on this coast they call it the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway, (GIWW). We were amazed by all the hurricane damage. 2004 had an unprecedented 4 hurricanes (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) which affected Florida. No other state had been affected by four hurricanes in one season since Texas in 1886. 3 out of 4 homes and buildings we saw still had blue plastic tarps on the roofs from damage. Most of the boating piers were destroyed and many boats damaged. I include only a sample of the boats we saw still not recovered. 

We crossed Tampa Bay and on February 2, we arrived in Palmetto, up the Manatee River, at an anchorage just off Regatta Point Marina. Here we located our "River" friends from “Long Haul”, Jim and JoAnn, where they currently have their boat docked.  We had dinner aboard Long Haul on Superbowl Sunday.  Wish they were going with us to the Bahamas. We rented a car for a few days and went to the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, which we both enjoyed. We also drove to a town called Lakeland and met with my sister, Dianne and her husband Ray who drove from Orlando to meet us there. On the way back to the boat we stopped at an electrical power plant to view the Manatees, which congregate in the warm discharge water from the power plant.  We made this special stop because we had been in Florida twice now, seeing all these “Slow, Manatees” signs, but never catching the slightest glimpse of one.  There were dozens of the huge, gentle beasts, casting large shadows beneath the surface of the murky water, with only snouts and flippers visible.

At our next stop we spent two days in Venice Florida, a short run down GIWW. We received a phone call from Bob and Barbara Dein, of DeFever Cruisers, (our boat is a DeFever and we are long time members) and they invited us to dock by their beautiful DeFever, “Gondola”.  We did a touch and go at the fuel dock where Bob jumped aboard and guided us through a small inlet into the marina. It was so nice to finally meet them as we have been corresponding with them from the beginning of our trip. Always being a day late and a dollar short, we just missed the DeFever rendezvous again! The Deins were most hospitable, driving us all over town for errands, introducing us to other boaters, joining us for meals out, and even giving us fruit from their very own Florida citrus trees, Yum. 

We enjoyed our short stay in Venice with its tree lined main street. The only negative was the Red Tide that was in full bloom. We see it and smell it in California, but here it made our lungs hurt and caused much coughing, as well as the death of many fish and even though the beach was clear of the tide. 

From Venice we headed south, anchoring by York Island and docking at Moore Haven before entering the Okeechobee waterway at Fort Meyers.  The Okeechobee waterway crosses the state of Florida and connects the east and west coasts.  This waterway consists of the Caloosahatchee River on the west, Lake Okeechobee in the middle, four locks, and the St. Lucie River on the east. Try saying, “Apalachicola, Caloosahatchee, and Okeechobee”, all together. Whew! We didn’t like the looks of our next planned anchorage in the river, so we tried some creative docking. We tried to tie up to a teepee shaped set of pilings, called a “dolphin”, but it caused us to spin on the piling. So, we decided to drop our anchor and back up to the piling and tie off the stern for the night. This worked well and kept us out of the boat traffic. The next day we went through the final lock, (at least for this voyage), and entered Lake Okeechobee.  We decided to cut across the lake rather than take the Rim Route that is longer.  The Lake has been described as a large, shallow, round saucer, and that is exactly what we found. The water is the color of watered down chocolate milk, and the boat looked like it had been splattered with chocolate chips by the time we got to the other side.  As far as the Okeechobee trip is concerned, the deep water and nice scenery pleasantly surprised us. For some reason, what we had read didn’t give us that impression. It was a very enjoyable trip through this waterway.

When we arrived at Jupiter Inlet on the east coast of Florida, Saturday, February 13.  We had officially completed the “Great American Loop”, circumnavigating the eastern portion of the United States via our own boat, after having arrived from Southern California via the Panama Canal!  Another milestone reached, hurray!  From February 13th to 21st, we anchored in Lake Worth, in the Palm Beach area, awaiting a weather window, provisioning, and preparing for our next adventure, crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. 

But the Bahamas is for next time...

Okeechobee Canal

Bald Eagle, Lake Okeechobee


              Jupiter, Florida

                       New DeFever Model 53 Pilothouse

                  Lake Worth Night Skyline


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Mobile Bay, Alabama

Storm from Fairhope Marina, on Mobile Bay

Scipio Creek, Florida

Scipio Creek Marina

Hurricane damage

More damage

Displaced boat from Hurricanes

Dock repairs, with still grounded boat

More damage

Megayacht beached

Docked in Venice, Florida

Lynn at Venice beach, Gulf of Mexico

Lake Okeechobee


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