Snow Cat

Snow Cat

Thursday, November 22, 2012

End of our Journey!!!

 We left Franklin Lock Dock at 7:40 on Sunday morning, Nov. 18th, for the last leg of our journey! Four locks left…and how different they are from the river locks! First of all, they are much smaller since the maximum lift on the Okeechobee Waterway is 14-15 feet. 

There are no "floating bollards". You grab lines, usually scuzzy ones, that hang down the lock wall. Also, they don't use valves to change the water level in the chamber.The lock gates are just opened about a foot, and the water runs out! What a difference in the colour of the water…since yesterday's pictures of the Gulf of Mexico! 

The landscape along the rivers and canals is very rural. 

 Construction of some sort made for a narrow passage just before Clewiston.

We usually see alligators, but the high water may have them resting elsewhere.

To cross Lake Okeechobee we headed into 15 mph winds and waves. 

IN the channel approaching Port Myaka Lock were white stakes and floats...We asked the lockmaster about them, and his advice was, "Keep comin'!"

 This railroad bridge definitely limits the size of work barges!

We got to say "one whistle" one last time!

At 4:45 pm we turned off the South Fork of the St. Lucie River to our final destination…Stuart Yachts, the end of our amazing adventure. 

Since Hurricane Sandy, the high tides almost reach the top of the docks!

Arriving there, emptying and cleaning the boat, and putting her up for sale has been quite overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. But what a way to end…after our 6,000+ mile journey up the east coast of the United States, through the Trent-Severn Waterway and Georgian Bay, to our home dock in Tobermory, on to Lake Michigan, the rivers through America's heartland to Mobile, AL, and finally, back to Florida. 

We have cruised for the past seven years, putting 1800 hours on Snow Cat. We will always treasure the experiences we have had in the Bahamas, the US, and Canada, and the wonderful people we have met along the way. So… it is with a heavy heart that we end our blog….on this Thanksgiving Day, as we spend time with our son, Jeff, and his family in Sarasota. We are thankful that you came along with us…sharing our day-to-day wanderings along this "Great Loop" that connects, not only our countries, but our spirits as well!

Safe travels to you all, and God bless you!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Offshore again!

 Our 3 days in Sarasota went SO fast! The only problem has been my sinuses…my head seems totally congested, and I am feeling terrible. If anything does drain, it's clear…so I'm starting to wonder if it's allergies. I have not even had a cold in years….oh well, we'll see if it goes away when I'm back in cold Tobermory!

                                        Can you figure out what I am doing in this picture???

The push-button lock on the cap of our truck was jammed, and we couldn't open the back of the truck. So....I suggested climbing through the two little windows between the truck and cap. Don's shoulders were too wide, and he doubted my hips would fit through! Was he wrong???? Yep!

I made it through...unlocked the tailgate...and Don made sure he lubricated it well!

On Friday the twins had a family birthday party! Oh, to be six again!

Snow Cat behind Gone Blue

On Saturday morning, it was time to leave. Jeff, Ellen, Abby, Caroline, Will, Daisy, and Ellen's parents, Bob and Jane, came to say "bon voyage." It was Snow Cat's shortest visit at Jeff's dock in 7 years!

We left Siesta Key at 9 am, went out Big Pass to travel offshore, and arrived at Boca Grande Pass at noon. There were small wind-driven waves coming off-shore, but the predominant waves were large swells coming from our stern. It was a great ride, and we successfully dodged the numerous crab traps.

At noon, we were taking the "shortcut" to Boca Grande Pass Channel, coming very close to this old pier, and saving us many miles!

Boca Grande Light 

When we got into the ICW channel at the bottom of Charlotte Harbor, we had to take a second look at this boat...It looks like Gone Blue!!! Such a pretty boat!!!

At San Carlos Bay, we turned into the "miserable mile" towards Fort Myers. The channel is very narrow, and usually busy with fast boats. But today, early Saturday afternoon, there wasn't much traffic! Boaters were already at their destinations...and it was too early to return home!

We fueled up and had a pump-out at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin, and were back on the Caloosahatchee River by 3 pm. These were buildings north of downtown.

We had many Manatee Slow Speed Zones...that took effect Nov. 15th...just a few days ago!
Soon the high-rises gave way to "normal" homes.

After the Franklin Lock, that raised us a whopping one and a half feet, we pulled into the Franklin Lock docks at the campground. With my Golden Age Pass, the slip cost $12, incl. electric! Yes, it was a great day on the water, and we were tied up by 4:30...and I couldn't wait to take a nap!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Offshore to Sarasota

Our fuel filters were NOT clogged! The fuel pump is fine...the fuel looks good...the injectors are all fine...but there was a clump of "something" in the fuel line, between the tank and the Racor filter, partially blocking the fuel. The port engine was working fine so we connected the port fuel line onto the starboard engine, and it ran just fine, with full power! We used an air compressor to "blow out" the starboard line...and we even heard a small "thump" as a small mass landed in the small portable fuel tank. Problem solved! We will not let our main tank get below half-full before transferring fuel, and will see about getting the tank cleaned out.

Tuesday, November 13th, was the twins'...Will and Caroline's...sixth birthday. And with all systems go, we went out the Clearwater Pass, heading to their home on Siesta Key, in Sarasota. We have done the ICW in that stretch many times, and since the small waves and wind would be behind us, we had a great cruise down the coast. We came in through Longboat Pass and headed to Sarasota Bay, cruising 16-17 knots the entire time!
When we passed this dock on Jewfish Key, we reminisced about the very first night we spent totally on our own, on Snow Cat, at this dock, before the house was built. It belongs to a friend of Jeff's...and he was so kind to let us stay there and get used to all the new systems on the boat, back in Dec. 2005. We've come a long way since then......
Another pirate ship....

 Downtown Sarasota

The Ringling Bridge over Sarasota Bay

Another sunset just as we were approaching Siesta Key

Will beat Caroline blowing out the candles! Friday is the big, family party!

We left Florida last April....and I'm still wondering why Don needs all these reading glasses within three square feet of each other????? There are more in the stateroom!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Do You Want to See Dolphins???

We had a wonderful day playing "tourist", AND I finally got some decent pictures of dolphins!!!

But, first, a few more comments about Friday's crossing. I forgot to mention that I spotted a very large sea turtle, near the surface, right next to the boat while I was driving, about 30 miles south of Dog island. 
This turtle looks like the one I saw.

We saw fewer crab traps off Tarpon Springs than we had seen in our last two trips. We had hoped that coming in on more of a 90 degree angle from the deeper water would produce those results…and it seemed to have worked. The traps were strung north to south, and even when it was getting towards dusk, we could easily see them ahead of time using the binoculars, and the spotlight was charged and ready! The channel markers with flashing red and green lights, combined with our GPS, were easy to follow. Our biggest concern were the crab traps…Happiness is having the Captain have "new" eyes thanks to his cataract surgery last year!

This morning we walked about a mile to the mainland to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and arrived at 8:55, five minutes before it opened, and there were only four people ahead of us. Sometimes they have 3-4 thousand people in a day…but today, lucky for us, they only had about a hundred by noon. Of course, the main attraction is Winter, the dolphin rescued in Dec. 2005 near Cape Canaveral, after getting her tail caught in the ropes of, of all things, a crab trap!!! Life would be a lot easier if crab tasted yucky!!! But it was very fortunate for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium! The resulting movie, Dolphin Tale, with its tremendous publicity, has turned them into a #1 tourist attraction, and they are raising money for expansion. This sign shows their main mission!

This is Winter without her prothesis. She not only lost her flukes, but she lost her bottom two vertebrae. Her spine is abnormally curved, causing extra muscles to form on the sides of her "peduncle", the part where the flukes would attach. She wears her special tail as part of physio-therapy to counteract the muscle build-up caused by her swimming sideways, like a fish. It is hard work, and she didn't have it on when we were there. Just like us...she doesn't do physio 24/7.

This is a "picture of a picture" so you can see how the prothesis fits. The company that designed it also developed a brand new kind of material that is very soft and stretchy, yet grips firmly. This "gel" not only helps the "fake fluke" feel good to Winter, but it is now being used to help humans!!!

 Winter was only a few months old when rescued. She is still growing, and molds of her peduncle are taken every 6 months to see if she needs a "new tail."(Sorry about Don's thumb at the top.)

 You might remember Rufus from the movie, the white pelican, another animal I have been trying to photograph!!! Rufus was actually played by two different birds, Lucy and Ricky! They do their "tricks" as reliably as a dog does its tricks!

Hope loves chasing bubbles. Her rescue call came just seconds after the last "It's a wrap!" for the very last scene of the movie. The movie crew was still applauding when the phone rang!

  Nicholas was rescued on Christmas Eve, beached with his dying mother. Those white patches on his back are scars from the third degree sun-burns he received from being out of the water. It took 9 months for the burns to heal. Now he is thriving, and a typical dolphin-adolescent!

Panama, named after Panama City Beach where she was rescued, is the 40...and a pseudo-mother to Winter and Hope.

We were so happy that we saw the movie last year with our grandkids from Sarasota, and that they told us to be sure to visit the Aquarium!!! We will be with them this week, and we want to watch the movie again to check out all the scenes and animals from the site, including Oscar and Cooper, the river otters. We don't even remember them!

In the evening we walked to Pier 60 for the sunset celebrations. There wasn't much going on tonight, not like what we have seen in Key West. Maybe Saturday nights have more action.

The sun has set, but look how much you can see at dusk!

This street performer was excellent!

Tomorrow, Monday, after checking the weather, we hope to go offshore from Clearwater Pass to Longboat Pass in Sarasota, and then to our son's dock on Siesta Key! And we will see if the new filters get clogged!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Successful Crossing Ended with a Glitch!

We left our Dog Island anchorage for our 142 mile crossing...but not as early as planned. Some of the forecasts had changed...the wind was blowing fairly strong at our anchorage...and it looked really dark outside at 4 am. But I must say, the stars were spectacular! There wasn't any light around to diminish their shine! We procrastinated...and finally hauled anchor at 8 am...should have left at 6! Should-a, would-a, could-a... Hindsight is marvellous!

The first three hours were relatively calm.

The next three hours had two foot plus waves with white-caps hitting on our beam. The boat handled it well, but we were not always comfortable. I never went out on deck to take a picture!

The last three and a half hours were calm again, with waves on our stern quarter. Nice...except for the glitch. I was driving when all of a sudden the starboard engine started slowing down and losing rpms. Then the port engine slowed just a little. Our 15-16 knot speed dropped to 9-10 knots, and the clock was ticking....sunset was at 5:41. That time is permanently etched in my brain! We still had over 20 miles to go.

The fuel, sloshing around in the tank, must have stirred up residue that clogged our fuel filters. It's a common occurrence and just a part of boating. The only thing has never happened to us in 7 years of cruising. Just another part of  "the adventure."

We changed course to Anclote Key, off of Tarpon Springs, since it was closer than Clearwater. We were out of sight of land all day....and it seemed to take forever to see Anclote Key since it is so flat. But about 10 miles out, we spotted the huge power plant on the mainland.

I know this is pretty bad...but if you use your imagination you will see a dolphin...actually mother and baby. As we were heading towards Anclote Key, we were surrounded by dolphins who must have been feeding. They really amused us and helped the time go quickly!

Dodging crab traps, we watched the sun sinking in the west. We made it to the channel in the dim light at dusk, and then got to our anchorage when the curtain came down!!! We made it! And didn't bring any crab traps along with us!




How do you spell relief???? Successful Gulf Crossing! We made it!

Saturday morning, we slowly went on to the Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina where we will stay until Monday morning. We have boated in the area for years, but never came here before. We always went a few miles north to Caladesi State "natural" compared to Clearwater Beach. But they both have their merits and meet our different needs!

The sand here is like powdered sugar, and it is wonderful to see such public access to the beaches, even in front of the huge hotels. People were playing volleyball...sunbathing...and a few brave souls were swimming, but they were mostly the athletes registered in the Trirock Triathlon that will be held here tomorrow. 
I love sandy beaches!!!

 Turtles were atop the various rinsing-off stations off the beach.

Tomorrow we will go to the Clearwater Aquarium to see Winter, the dolphin who wears a prothesis for its tail and starred in the movie, Dolphin Tale.