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Jascat to the Bahamas
Manatee Pocket back to the St Lucie Canal
10/13/2014, Docked along the St Lucie Canal Between the Bridges

Jascat's home for the near future

Our checkout of the marinas in Manatee Pocket didn't go so well. The two prime candidates didn't have any slips left that were wide enough for Jascat. And our Sunday dinghy tour indicated that the other marinas were not as inviting as we had hoped. So we decided to revert back to Plan B which was to consider marinas in the Stuart area outside the Pocket. That led us back to a suggestion by our boat broker that we check out what he called the docks "between the bridges". He gave us a phone number to call Jeff the dock master but no description of the docks or even which bridges he was talking about.

Sure enough, a call to Jeff produced a "sure, we have slips - come on down". Ironically, the dock location he related to us was the first set of docks we saw as we came in to Stuart via the St Lucie Canal. We noted at the time that those docks would be a pretty place to keep Jascat.

That series of events has resulted in us finding a beautiful docking spot for Jascat. It really isn't a marina. It's just a set of docks interspersed in housing along the river. But it makes a really nice setting for selling Jascat.

Crossing the Okeechobee Waterway
10/12/2014, Anchored in the Manatee Pocket, Stuart, Fl

The infamous Port Mayaca Railway Lift Bridge, at 49 ft clearance it limits the sailboats that can cross the Okeechobee Waterway (Jascat's mast is 46 ft tall)

Our crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway turned out to be very pleasant three days of motoring along wide canals (and one big lake) in a temperate, gentle breeze right on our nose. We opened nine bridges and traversed seven locks (there are only six you say - we did the Clewiston lock twice, going in and then out).

Only one of the bridge openings caused any loss of time. We had to wait in Moore Haven about 20 minutes for a train to pass. And the only lock we had to wait on more than about 10 minutes was the last one, the St Lucie lock. This lock does the lion's share of the level change on the east side of Lake Okeechobee at 14.5 feet out of a total of about 16 feet. We got to the lock as it was being configured to fill on the west bound side and so we had to wait for a full cycle before we could lock through. We were there about 45 minutes.

The first day's run was from Ft Myers to Moore Haven, which we accomplished in 9 hours. We tied up at the Moore Haven City Dock which is an easy side tie right on the canal. Moore Haven doesn't offer many amenities but we did manage to walk over to Burger King for supper. We were told that the town also has a Subway but didn't see it.

The next day, we first hopped 7 nm over to Clewiston for fuel. Clewiston has its own private lock which is negotiated by the "wave your hand" or "honk your horn" method. Fortunately, the lock master saw us coming so we only had to wave. The drop is only about a foot so you lock through really fast.

The Roland and Mary Martin Marina at Clewiston is very nice. The fuel dock is easy to get to (if you are the only one there at least, it's in a tight channel). The marina shop has a good selection of goods and tee shirts and very nice rest rooms. They even gave us free guava turnovers as we left.

Leaving Clewiston at about 11am, we set out to cross Lake Okeechobee. The breeze, blowing 8 to 13 knots out of the northeast, was directly on our nose which really compromised our speed. In no wind and flat water, Jascat can motor up to 6 knots at the long range cruise power setting, 2650 rpm. Crossing Lake Okeechobee against the breeze and chop, we were lucky to see 5.5 knots and most of the time were down around 5 knots. The crossing is only about 20 nm, however, so we got over to the Port Mayaca Lock by mid afternoon and back into the smooth water of the canal.

From there, we motored on to the Indian Town Marina for another night at the dock. This marina is another prime stop with good rest rooms, showers and laundry, and an easy side tie transient dock. It looked like an excellent place to store a boat as well.

The third day, this past Saturday, had us making the 25 mile run on into Stuart. We passed up the new Stuart mooring field and went on around to the Manatee Pocket where we anchored at 2:30 in the afternoon completing our crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway.

The reason we have come into the Manatee Pocket, besides that it is an excellent anchorage, is that it is one of the bigger boating centers in Florida with numerous marinas, boat yards and dealers. We hope that it will be a good place to sell Jascat.

Today, Sunday, we ate lunch at Shrimpers, one of the many fine seafood restaurants around the Pocket, and then took a dinghy tour of the marinas looking for a good slip for Jascat. We saw several candidates and so tomorrow we'll be checking them out.

Ding Darling to Ft Myers
10/08/2014, Anchored Between the Bridges

Cayo Costa beach bum, American Oyster Catcher

We left Ding Darling a little after 9am heading across the "miserable mile" (a sometimes difficult to navigate narrow cut through shallow water) and then up the Caloosahatchee River arriving at the "between the bridges" anchorage next to downtown Ft Myers at 12:45. We had the good fortune that the tide was coming in which added a pleasant half knot or so to our cruising speed.

It was all motoring. The morning breeze was very light and mostly on the nose all the way.

We may have had our last sail on Jascat yesterday running down Pine Island Sound. The rest of this trip will see us heading northeast following the Okeechobee Waterway. The weather forecast for the next week has the wind mostly out of the east or northeast and very light. We'll probably have to motor the whole way.

One more word. What do a couple of Texans do when they come into a new port? They look for the closest Mexican restaurant of course. Downtown Ft Myers has a good one, Los Cabos. The resort style shopping in the newly renovated downtown is pretty good too. And they have a Starbucks. What more can you ask.

Pelican Bay to Ding Darling
10/07/2014, Anchored in Ding Darling

Fire in the Sky, sunset in Pelican Bay

Today's sail from Pelican Bay to the Ding Darling anchorage was as good as it gets. The winds ranged from a beam reach to close hauled at 8 to 13 kt for all but the last couple of miles. The seas were nearly flat and the temperature perfect in the low 80's under an overcast sky. The only thing bad was that Ding Darling is only 15 nm from Pelican Bay so we arrived there around 1pm wishing we could keep on sailing. Ding Darling is a traditional stop for us, however, so stop we did. Except for the occasional fishing boat, we have had the entire anchorage to ourselves.

Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage Yard
10/06/2014, Pelican Bay

Serenely anchored in Pelican Bay

Our decision to wait a day at the dock before leaving for Pelican Bay turned out to be a good one. Saturday was blessed with intermittent showers and gusty winds just as forecast. We used the day profitably by rounding up a few loose ends at West Marine and Publix and by getting hair cuts.

Sunday dawned clear and long sleeve shirt cool with a gentle north breeze. Just perfect for a first day back at sea. We left the dock at Charlotte Harbor Storage Yard just before 9am headed for one of our favorite anchorages on the west coast of Florida, Pelican Bay at the north end of Cayo Costa Island. Because the boat yard is deep inside a housing development canal system, the trip started with two hours of motoring to get us back out to the open waters of Tippecanoe Bay and Charlotte Harbor. Once there, the sails went up immediately and we commenced a 3 to 4 knot downwind sail arriving at Pelican Bay around 4pm. It was great to be back sailing again.

Pulling into Pelican Bay, we joined about 10 other boats in the anchorage which is maybe half as many as we've seen in the more popular sailing months. It's a little early but some of these boats may be on their way to spend the winter in the southern Bahamas. The season starts hopping down there in early December.

We took today, Monday, off and read books and rested most of the day. Around noon, we took the dinghy over to the Cayo Costa State Park and went over to the ocean side of the island for a walk on the beach. Ann found the water temperature a little cool but still very pleasant. I saved my dip in the ocean for a jump off the back of the boat later in the day.

Tomorrow, we are "back on the road again" heading down to the Ding Darling anchorage.

Preparing Jascat for Sea
10/03/2014, Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage

Jascat going back in the water

After a four month sailing hiatus, Ann and I arrived back in Charlotte Harbor on Sunday a week ago to get Jascat ready to sail again. Our plans are to spend a week visiting our favorite spots in this area, Pelican Bay, Ding Darling anchorage, and possibly Ft Myers Beach, before making a four day crossing across Florida via Lake Okeechobee to Stuart on the East Coast. In Stuart, we plan to find a nice marina to park Jascat in and put her up for sale. Selling Jascat has been a really hard decision to make and I'm not sure I'm completely settled with it yet. We'll see.

We arrived in Charlotte Harbor to find the area enjoying daily drenching showers which left us thinking if only half of this rain could be transferred to San Antonio the drought would be over. The rain fortunately was of the civilized kind and only started to come down after 5pm which suited our schedule perfectly. The only weather problem we had was the apparent temperature. The thermometer only got up into the low 90's but the humidity pushed the "feels like" temperature up as high as 106 in the late afternoon making work after 2pm nearly impossible.

Our first impression of Jascat's condition was excellent. Her four month slumber in the Charlotte Harbor Boat Yard hadn't appeared to harm her at all. The rains had cleaned up the exterior nicely and the interior appeared to be pretty much the same as we left her. The fiberglass repair work done over the summer by J&R was nicely done as was the new bottom paint they applied just before we arrived.

I only noticed one discrepancy during my initial walk around of the boat. One of the lines steering the drive leg appeared loose. Upon moving the wheel to check that out, I discovered that the port rudder would only turn half way while the starboard rudder wouldn't turn at all. On Monday morning, Pete the mechanic discovered that the helm casting had fractured disconnecting the starboard rudder from the wheel. This fracture also partially disabled the port rudder.

Exactly why the helm fractured is still unknown. Our first thought was that someone must have backed into the starboard rudder while Jascat was up on blocks in the yard. There were, however, no marks or scratches on either rudder. The next thought was that maybe the starboard cable had jammed leading to the helm fracturing when the wheel was turned. The owners manual indicates that the steering cables have a life span of about eight years and, of course, Jascat is seven years old. I don't, however, remember any unusual forces in moving the wheel.

If the cable did jam on its own, then we are extremely lucky to have it happen in the boat yard. Gemini's don't have a backup steering system.

In any case, the steering was repaired by Wednesday morning leaving us plenty of time to get Jascat ready for its scheduled splash date of 9:30am Friday. The major work items before going in the water were: reattach the helm seat, blow-up the dinghy and mount its engine, clean the interior, and mount the solar panel. After splashing, the work items were: bending the sails, washing the exterior, and changing the oil.

We'll be sitting here at the dock until Sunday morning. A cold front is supposed to be coming through on Saturday bringing a 50% chance of thunderstorms and gusty winds. After that, the weather smooths out to near zero chance of rain and mild winds for the rest of the week. So we think we'll delay our departure a day and go shopping Saturday instead of sailing.

The front is also supposed to drop temperatures down into the low 80's daytime and high 60's at night. We certainly hope so.

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