10/21/2014, Docked along the St Lucie River in Stuart, Fl
John and Ann say goodby to Jascat
In 2003, Ann, Sarah and I sailed our Catalina 36, Starfish, from Puerto Rico through the northern Caribbean as far as St Barts where we turned around and sailed back through the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas to Key West. From there we made a direct 8 day crossing of the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston. Sarah was just 10 years old at the time, and has many more adventures ahead of her, but for Ann and me, this was the cruise of our lifetimes.
Unfortunately, we have only a few records of that trip. Having fun, along with navigating, keeping house, school teaching, and keeping poor old Starfish running, kept us from keeping a detailed log. Large portions of the cruise, such as the Gulf crossing, have no written descriptions at all. I now find, 11 years later, that much of the 2003 cruise is just a blur.
With that background, the reason that the "Jascat to the Bahamas" blog was written was to serve as a memory jogger when, in my old age (tomorrow?), I pause to reminisce. It's already working pretty well. I can drop into any one of the entries and get hooked into reading one after the other. The visual memories alone that they foster are worth the time taken to write them.
All good things must end and so it is with cruising on Jascat which means that this blog is also ending. Jascat is up for sale and we have made our last cruise with her. This then is the last entry in "Jascat to the Bahamas".
The blog comprises 204 entries over the past five years from locations stretching from Rockport, Texas to Black Point in the Exumas. Along the way, there was some excitement, a few hardships, lots of satisfaction, and a whole lot of fun. Wish we could do it all over again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.