It finally happened Thursday morning. I managed to get up in time to tune into Chris Parker's website at 6:30 a.m. for his daily weather discussion. I noticed that Diva Di who had traveled with us for a few days was signed in, as well as Jim and Barb on Tam Dam, who are currently at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos. Jim and Barb traveled with us for about a week last year before they headed to the Bahamas and we headed north for the last shuttle launch. Chris Parker was not too optimistic about the weather for the next few weeks and he was correct. Quite windy here, with showers predicted, and to continue into next week. Ideally, we are looking for the wind to clock to the south for a couple of days to allow the Atlantic to calm down and then to cross. Right now the Gulf Stream is reported to have 5 to 8 foot seas. That is only the average. So we will continue to wait at Stuart.
Actually, we were going to have to wait until Friday anyway. Yesterday morning, Patty noticed that part of a back molar had broken off. In stead of ignoring it or using a temporary fix like Tempdent, we were off to see a dentist Thursday afternoon. His office was in walking distance and treats many cruisers staying here. He stayed late to do a temporary cap and is expediting the permanent cap by personally driving the mold to the lab Friday morning. He told us that relying on a Bahamian dentist could be risky. Oh, the aging process.
On the way back to the boat we had to walk by Duffys so we took advantage of Happy Hour, by self-medicating both of us with margaritas, and splitting a cheeseburger.
One of the great innovations to cruising in a sailboat, without solar panels or a wind generator, is the Honda generator. The size of a small suitcase and running very conservatively on gasoline, it keeps our battery bank adequately charged, runs our water heater, and even allows us to watch a little television such as American Idol. We do like to watch the news and weather in the evening.
We heard from Tom and Maureen on Cantagree. They were going to head south along the coast, go through the Keys, and up the east coast to position themselves to cross to the Abacos. Because of the weather predictions, they have decided to cross Florida, across Lake O, and meet us here on Monday. Then we would all cross together, including Bob and Mary on DoraLee.
One thing is certain in cruising - nothing is certain. You always have to just go with the flow.
Wednesday morning started off like Tuesday as I had plans to get up early to listen to Chris Parker. I may have mentioned previously that he has a simulcast on the web where he uses weather charts to help him discuss weather conditions/predictions. However, once again, I failed to get up. When you are so busy during the day doing what I don't know, you need your rest.
The excitement for the day was the trip to Walmart. Sunset Bay Marina, where we are on a mooring ball, runs a shuttle bus to Publix, Home Depot, West Marine, and Walmart, two days a week. So off we went with some other boaters. One item we decided to get was an off the counter digital television antenna. Our boat came with a mast mounted antenna. When the television signals went digital, our reception became sketchy. So, we decided to try this route as we no longer live aboard and, quite frankly, do not want to incur the cost of replacing the mast mounted antenna. Besides, American Idol was on Wednesday night. It worked! We may not get all of the standard stations but it is much better.
Duane and Diane on Diva Di left Wednesday morning for their seven month cruise up the coast toward Maine. You can follow their trip on the same blog site - www.sailblogs.com and Diva Di. We had a fun few days with them.
Weather does not look good for a crossing anytime soon. There is a northerly approaching and passing through this weekend with winds of 15+. The speed is not a concern as much as the direction. So, we are going to wait here for now. This is just part of cruising and the one thing we have learned is that you can not travel on a required schedule and if you do, you will probably regret it at some time.
After a long Sunday, Monday was very quiet and restful. Except for the one layover day in Clewiston, we all had been on the move to get to Stuart. Now, it is up to the weather as to when we move on south to West Palm, except for Duane and Diane who are heading north.
We did check in at the marina and then Patty and I went into town to check things out and to make sure Duffy's was prepared to receive us that evening. Not much different in town except for a few businesses had changed. Most disturbing was the fact that one of the ice cream stores had closed. When cruising, you must learn to adapt.
We all headed in to Duffy's for Happy Hour and dinner. Monday night is always special there as everything on the menu is one price, which makes the full rack of ribs a great deal. To show our appreciation for Duane and Diane's insistence that we could get under the bridge, and for Bob and Mary's moral support, as well, we bought the first round of drinks. Good news is that it was two for one. The ribs were terrific.
Back at the marina, while everyone else headed back to their boats, Patty and I went up to the boater's lounge to catch The Voice on television. There we visited with another couple from Canada who were heading to Indiantown to get their boat pulled for the season. Cruisers are always interesting and it is easy to make friends and share stories.
I had planned on getting up early to listen to Chris Parker and the weather. I just could not force myself to do so. Guess I was more tired than I thought. Maybe tomorrow. It is time to start watching the weather for a window of time to cross over to the Bahamas.
Easter Sunday was quite a day. After laying over for a day to allow the winds to subside, we left Clewiston at 8:45 AM, with mild winds predicted and light chop in Lake O. That was fairly accurate. With the front having passed through, the air was cool and dry.
The bad news was that Billie the Tipper could not tip us until 4:00 PM. Therefore, our boating companions left before we did and we intended to meet up at Indiantown Marina. We weren't in any hurry to leave because we figured we had to wait several hours once we reached the railroad bridge for Billie to arrive.
The day before, I had told Patty that if the slightly changeable (due to water level) bridge height was currently reported at 52 feet, I would try going under it with our now-known mast height of approximately 51 feet. It seems like there should be no problem but how much confidence do we have in that measurement of the bridge?
Before we completed the four-hour crossing of the lake, Duane called from Diva Di and confirmed he had just gone through the bridge with no problem. His boat is the same as ours. So, the decision was made--go for it.
Then, the next good news was that as we approached the lock on the far side of the lake, we were informed that the lock would be completely open on both sides and we could pass on through. We would not have to take the time to enter, tie up, and wait to be lowered, even a few inches.
We passed through the lock and immediately approached the railroad bridge. We had a good head wind on us which allowed us to better control our speed as we inched our way up to the bridge. Patty stood on the side of the walkway, looking up. No problem! We cleared it easily. On we went.
We called the others to advise them of our success. Because our intended destination of Indiantown had no room for us, it was decided to push on to the 5:00 PM opening of the last lock and then go on to Stuart. The race was on for us to catch up with the others and to make that opening. We had four hours to do it and it took us 3-½ hours. Bob and Mary on DoroLee joined up with us through the 12-foot drop in the lock. Duane and Diane on Diva Di decided to wait till morning
We arrived at Stuart at 6:30 PM after a long-ten hour day of motoring. Shortly after tying up to a mooring ball, the beer was opened. A great tradition on Two If By Sea, as most of you know.
Now we will stay for a couple of days and begin checking the weather for crossing to the Bahamas. Besides, Stuart is a terrific place to wait.
We made the right decision to lay over for another day due to the wind. It seemed like it continued to build during the night before it moderated and changed direction to coming from the north. One good thing about these fronts that come through Florida is that it cools the temperatures and the air is less humid. We could turn off the air conditioner this morning. Unfortunately, the wind started to build again mid-morning and it seems like we are right back to where we were last evening, Oh, well, maybe tomorrow.
So, you might ask what we cruisers do in Clewiston during the day, besides complaining about the wind? Duane and Diane, who are on an extended cruise, brought their folding bicycles and offered them to us for a ride. Of course, we took advantage of that.. Because of the design, and the short wheel base, they take some getting used to but the exercise was good and we returned without incident.
The other activity of mine was to try to contact Billie the Tipper. We need or want to have our boat tipped to make sure we get underneath a railroad bridge on the other side of the lake. Communication has been lacking for a variety of reasons. I finally reached him and he will tip us tomorrow afternoon. The fact that tomorrow is Easter has been a problem but all of us are making concessions for us to continue our goal of crossing over to the Bahamas. I was about ready to give up on reaching him and start heading back to the west coast. Duane and Diane plan on leaving around 6:30 a.m. and Bob and Mary around 8:00.. We are thinking about 10:00 a.m. It takes about four hours to get across the lake and Billie said he would be there around 4:00 p.m. So we plan on anchoring by the bridge for a couple of hours to wait for him. A plan is coming together, we hope.
We left Bimini Basin early Thursday morning for a 1:00 p.m. lock opening. We made such great time that we were over an hour early. Instead of floating around or dropping our anchor until the scheduled opening, we tied up to a "dolphin" . we turned off the engine, had lunch, and enjoyed the quiet surroundings. Once through the lock, and several bridges, we arrived at LaBelle around 4:30 p.m. The wind had increased throughout the day and was blowing about 18 knots. Instead of anchoring in the waterway, we repeated what we did last year and tied across several slips at the docks located at a nearby dock. We then walked down to visit with another couple from Punta Gorda who were also heading over to the east coast, Duane and Diane on Diva Di, a Catalina 36.
On Thursday morning, we got a later start due to restricted bridge openings. We had a concern about the predicted weather that called for showers and thunder storms. Using our new XM weather receiver, we could follow the showers, which were primarily to the south of us. So, off we went. Again, the wind built during the day with a maximum gust of 25 mph. After two more locks and some bridges, we arrived at Clewiston around 3:00 p.m. Because of the wind, the dock master, Little Man(that is what he is known by) and Duane were there to catch our dock lines and secure us to the dock. Unbelievable! Duane and Diane who left early this morning were at Clewiston waiting for us and Duane got his exercise in helping us tie up.
Our plan has been to go across the lake on Saturday. Having second thoughts. The prediction is for 23 mph winds with rough conditions. Because of the shallow lake levels and what would probably be waves of four feet or more, we will most likely wait at least another day before heading across. Cruising is supposed to be fun and an adventure, not dangerous.