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The Okeechobee Limbo

So, here we are, snug and safe in a slip at “Pink Shell Resort and Marina” on Estero Island, located on the Gulf of Mexico,  just south of Fort Myers, Florida.  We arrived here on January 20th after a three hour run from “Legacy Marina” further east on the Caloosahatchee River .  And we arrived there after a cross state passage on the Okeechobee Waterway from our boat’s summer home “on the hard” at Indiantown Marina, just west of Lake Okeechobee itself.

When we left “Sylestial Star” at Indiantown on April 26th of last year, we did so with some trepidation.  Even with a monthly on-board inspection by the marina staff, we were concerned how it would fair during a brutally hot South Florida summer and uncovered exposure to the elements.

Some local cattle paid us a visit in Indiantown.

The yellow “Hurricane Straps” withstood Hurricane Matthew’s 99 mph winds.

 


“Sylestial Star” was covered by a layer of slippery white and black ash from the burning of nearby sugar cane fields.

“Sylestial Star” at Indiantown Marina, post launch and pre a much needed bath.

After thoroughly cleaning “Sylestial Star” inside and out, removing some mold from the aft lockers, loading all soft items onboard( these were kept in climate controlled storage during the summer) and completing our commissioning checklist including a check of all systems; we continued our journey west on the Okeechobee Waterway from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico.

There are 26 bridges( including some signal bridges), 5 locks and 26 mile wide Lake Okeechobee to cross before one reaches the west coast.  Our biggest challenge was getting our boat, with its 53′ high mast( including masthead fly and antenna) under the 49′ high Port Macaya RR bridge.  This was accomplished early on the morning of January 14th with the help of “Billy the Tipper”. Billy Owens Jr.was assisted by Billy Owens III and Billy Owens IV.


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The Lake Okeechobee water level was acceptable and so we crossed the lake by the more direct “Route 1” without seeing anything less than 8′ and no alligators or pythons, although we had been guaranteed to see the former.  After an overnight at the City Docks in Moore Haven, we completed our crossing the next day with a 4pm arrival at Legacy Marina on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers.  The crossing allowed us to see much of what is beautiful in south central Florida, and at a very stately pace of around 7 to 8 mph.  Well worth the crossing!


Through the Port Mayaca Lock and onto Lake Okeechobee.

The W.P. Franklin Lock

Bridges and more bridges on our way west.

Enjoying a sunset from the Pink Shell Resort and Marina on Estero Island.[/caption]

Day and night, the Fort Myers Shrimper Fleet passes by our slip at Pink Shell Marina.

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And like clockwork, the “Key West Express” passes by daily at 8:20 on its way to the Keys.

Exploring Fort Pierce

An advantage of being located here in Fort Pierce is the nearby class “A” inlet. We took advantage of that today and made the half hour run to the Atlantic for a day of sailing. As the currents are very strong both here in the marina and at the inlet, one must time departure and return for slack current so as to avoid any difficulties. Just yesterday two boats ran aground leaving the marina and a third completely lost control and crashed into another docked boat – resulting in a visit from the Marine Police.

We had no difficulty and enjoyed 6 hours of off-shore sailing in NNE winds at 15kts, changing to E later in the day. Sea state started at 2 to 4 feet, laying down as the day progressed. Not sure why, but “Sylestial Star” was the only sailboat in sight all day.

The Admiral enjoying a beam reach

While we remain in Fort Pierce we have continued to explore the area. We attended the Grand Opening of a new Art Gallery, owned by Lisa Jill Allison, who is a friend of our friend Kari McCoy. Kari lives in nearby Port St. Lucie.

Spending some time with the artist.

We visited the nearby “Heathcote Gardens”, home of the largest publicly owned Bonsai collection in the country.

Just about any plant can be a Bonsai.

Some are trained for many decades.

Such beautiful artwork!

Quiet places to sit and relax.

Not on your life!

The aptly named Monkey No Climb tree.

We visited Fort Pierce City Hall to view a collection of paintings by the “Highwaymen”. So named, as they were black artists who painted and sold their paintings along highways in the old segregated south.

Some of the Highway Men artwork.

Every Saturday Fort Pierce plays host to Florida's largest Outdoor Food Market and Craft Bazaar. The Festival, held along the city's pretty waterfront, was enhanced this week with the “Cracker Riders” who spent 8 days crossing the state on horseback and then mingled with the crowd. There was a bluegrass band at one end of the Festival, a rock band with dancing at the other end and plenty of open air Tiki Bar dining and munching around the tents. Pretty Cool!

Horses, Boats and a Blue Sky.

Lots to choose from under blue skys.

At the Fort Pierce Farmers Market.

Part of our daily Walking Trail.

Waiting patiently for lunch.

Enjoying some ice cream with Mike and Bejay.

 

Florida, East & West

Today marks a full month that “Sylestial Star” has been in The City Marina in Fort Pierce, Florida. During that time, we or just Sylvia, have regularly been making the 3+ hour trip cross state drive to visit with Sylvia's 90 year old Mother in Fort Myers on the west coast. So I guess you could say we are “bi-coastal”.

Who invited the Big Bird to the convention?

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We were able to combine one of our west coast visits with a 2 night stay with our friends Brian and Marj in their lovely new home in Sarasota. As always when we get together, we had a great time. While we were there, Brian and Marj hosted a Super Bowl party for 16, fellow Corinthians all, who have migrated to south Florida as either new homeowners, renters, guests or snowbirds. So many of us are now here or nearby, that there is semi-serious talk of adding a 6th Corinthian fleet. It was great to get together with so many friends far from home!

16 Corinthians enjoying Super Bowl Sunday.

 

 

How can you not love Sophie, Julian and Jill's new golden?

So, for now, our 2016 Bahamas plans are on hold. We will miss adventuring on the other side of the Gulf Stream with Mike and Bejay but this year it looks like we will be confining our adventures to the coast of Florida.

The Sunrise Theater is a landmark in downtown Fort Pierce.

 

When in Fort Pierce we have worked on several boat projects. Bellow you can see a failed and broken pin used to support a gas controlled strut that supports our companionway steps when raised. Replacement parts arrive tomorrow from the OEM and Beneteau. We will buy new fasteners here and install the assembly while hoping that all parts fit our 10 year old boat.

The failed pin is to the right, bracket to the left and strut below.

 

Here is what it should look like when assembled.

 

Post Hurricane, $40 million has been spent to build artificial islands and other features to protect fro flooding.

 

Some Weather arriving.

Who knew that the National Navy Seal and UDT(Unerwater Demolition Team) was in Fort Pierce, Florida? We did not but were excited to visit it the other day. It seems that UDT training for storming enemy beaches during the Second World War was conducted here. And UDT morphed into the Navy Seals during the Vietnam War. So it was decided to build this terrific museum in Fort Pierce. While we were there a class of newly minted Navy Petty Officers were also touring the museum. Watching their reactions to the various exhibits was pretty interesting!

Following are some pictures from the museum.

You've got to love the baseball cap below. It was sold in the Museum Store.

 

Sylvia beside a Quick Insertion boat.

 

 

The Trident is proudly worn by all Navy Seals.

 

The Lifeboat from the Captain Phillips raid.

 

So many don't make it.

 

Some Navy Seal weapons with descriptions below.

 

Their stories are amazing.

 

A Navy Seal who is also an Astronaut. Wow!

 

A Navy Seal Cap.

 

Tornadoes & Chilling in Fort Pierce

So where in the world is Sylestial Star? She is quietly biding her time, safe and sound, in the newly renovated Fort Pierce Marina.

Sylestial Star at rest at the Fort Pierce City Marina

So far, we have seen no sign of these smoking pets in Fort Pierce.


Fortunately, no one was injured when this boat crashed through the wall of this high and dry.

We, on the other hand, are 3 hours away in Fort Myers, tending to Sylvia's 90 year old Mother for a few days. Last night, we were awakened 4 times by NOAA radio, announcing tornado warnings for a nearby county. I pretty much ignored them. Sylvia and her Mother were awake part of the night, waiting to see if they might become more localized. They did not.

When Sylvia was with her Mother for 8 days ending last week, the “Watches” did become “Warnings” and were forecast for her specific neighborhood! Mother and daughter spent time in the bathroom covered in pillows for protection. Unfortunately, one tornado did develop and struck about 10 miles away. Several days earlier an EF2 tornado also struck nearby, damaging over 200 homes in nearby Cape Coral.

Everybody here is perplexed over the thunderstorms and tornadoes happening now in southwest Florida. They are not supposed to happen this time of year!

We have not progressed very far since launching Sylestial Star from Whiticar Boatyard in Fort Pierce on January 8th. Kudos to Whiticar, Tom Berryhill and Lori Maxwell in particular, for their care of Sylestial Star and quality of work performed on her keel, stanchions and elsewhere. And we splashed on time!

Sylvia, in red, as Sylestial Star splashed on a rainy January day.

After spending some time at nearby Harbortown Marina, we motored 15 minutes south to the City Marina. We had not spent time in this city previously so we have spent quite a bit of time exploring on foot- one of our favorite things to do. And spending time with our friends Mike and Bejay and Elden and Susan with whom we spent a day in the Fort Pierce Farmers Market – the largest such market in the state. And visiting with our friend Kari, who lives in nearby Port St. Lucie.

The Manatee population in Fort Pierce is quite sophisticated, even taking free art classes.

While at the Fort Pierce Farmers Market, we bumped into fellow Corinthian Bob Osborne and his wife Brenda. It never ceases to amaze me how, while on long term cruises, we can run into either a fellow Corinthian or meet a sailor somehow connected to our Chesapeake Bay sailing days.

Bob and Brenda, were on their way south for their Bahamas crossing after which they plan to cross to Cuba. Very lucky! We are not planning a Cuba run until possibly next year. Bob was very helpful in filling me in on the process for State Department approval for “exporting” and then “importing” one's boat to make this happen.

Bob also put me in touch with Chris Parker, the guru of weather forecasters in the Carribean. Last year, without a strong single sideband radio, we were limited as to availability of quality weather forecasts in the Bahamas (we have a small single sideband, VHF and Internet forecasts when connected). Chris was very helpful when I spoke to him and we identified several good options for taking advantage of his forecasting program.

Well, it is pouring rain now in Fort Myers, but it appears that the worst of the storms are behind us. So tomorrow, we will drive back to Fort Pierce and continue our journey south and meet our buddies, Mike and Bejay, in Palm Beach Gardens.

On the Fort Pierce Waterfront

 

 

Back on the Water Again

Green Cove Springs Marina, located on the Saint John's River, 25 miles south of Jacksonville, Florida was Sylestial Star's home for the last 6 months. After spending the summer at our landlubber home in Pennsylvania, we drove south, picked up new Macralon dodger Windows in Maryland and arrived on December 2nd in GCS, to find her, fortunately, much as we left her.


Not really a Marina. More a rustic DIY Boat and Storage Yard.

Need a part? See Monkey Fist Marine.

Sylestial Star on the hard. Re-installing our back stays after launch ( required for The GCS travel lift) proved as time consuming as after haul-out in June.

 

Damp-Rid prevented any interior moisture or mold. Top side carried 6 months of dirt and grime.

All soft items including sails, cushions, mattresses, towels and papers had been removed to climate controlled storage.

Pre-launch checks included all clamps, seacocks, hoses, running gear and installation of a new pump and Zinc.

As planned, immediately after launch on December 3rd, we motored 23 miles north on the St. John's to the Ortega River Marina, just south of Jacksonville. There we further inspected and cleaned the boat, inside and out and prepared it for the run south to Fort Pierce. It was our intent to go to Fort Pierce and leave the boat with Whiticar Marine for some additional work while we returned north for Christmas. All went as planned except that repairs on the nearby Jacksonville RR bridge necessitated closing the St. John's River to all navigation, thereby delaying our departure for 5 days. So we explored the Jacksonville area and spent some time in one of our favorite places, Saint Augustine. Not bad under the circumstances!
 

We have enjoyed each of our 5 visits to this historical city.

We toured the city's impressive Christmas Light Displays, in 3D!

Approaching Jacksonville on the St. John's River.

Traffic on the ICW. Weather prevented an offshore run.

An entrant in the St. Augustine Boat Light Show.

Making the 7:30am Bridge of Lions opening on the way south.

It took us 5 long days to reach Fort Pierce. We benefited from very little traffic and some very quiet and peaceful anchorages.

Sylestial Star after Haul Out in Fort Pierce. We made it back north just in time for Christmas.

 

Sylestial Star “At Rest”

June 3, 2015

It is time to return to our landlubber home.

Sylestial Star is now in dry storage at Green Cove Springs Marina which is located on the Saint Johns River, about 30 miles south of Jacksonville, Florida.  She will remain there while we return home ahead of hurricane season and the heat of a Florida summer and to attend to various family matters.

Waiting to be hauled

Waiting to be hauled

It took us 6 days to bring her north from Palm Beach Gardens and then south on the St. John’s to Green Cove Springs. As we passed through Jacksonville, we kept a sharp lookout for a “39′ submerged pipe in the St. John’s River” that the Coast Guard kept announcing as a “major hazard to marine traffic”.  Its announced location seemed to change periodically so the Admiral and others called the Coast Guard for updates and we took things very slowly as we headed up River.

Green Cove Springs  “marina” is really just a large storage and small live aboard facility that was a former navy base, with all the long docks save half of one now condemned.  “Haven Harbour” or “River Dunes” it is not!

One of the attractive benefits of “GCS” is that it allows owners considerable latitude in working on their boats. Many Canadians store their boats here and there is a prevailing attitude of helping one another in the yard.

As this is our first time entirely decommissioning her ourselves and the first time she has been stored in the harsh conditions of a Florida summer, we did a lot research and prep work to try and do this right. Just about everything has been removed from inside and outside the boat, all thru-hulls have been plugged, “heat” netting has been installed, moisture control is in place, all cabinets and floor boards are open, necessary engine and mechanical work done and so on. The only glitch we encountered in the process was the need for us to remove our backstays to enable “Sylestial Star” to be hauled by the yard’s 30 ton lift.

Getting ready for haul-out, Green Cove Springs

Getting ready for haul-out, Green Cove Springs

Boat insurance requirements are rather onerous for a sailboat stored in the state of Floida during hurricane season.  So we have arranged for hurricane tie-downs and regular boat checks as part of a detailed “Hurricane Plan”. One of the reasons we choose Green Cove Springs for storage is its relatively sheltered location inland and 17′ height above sea level. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Oue adventure began when we left Rock Hall, Maryland on October 11, 2014.  Since then, we have traveled 2,103 statute miles on “Sylestial Star”.  We saw a lot of new, interesting and beautiful places and some places we have enjoyed in the past.  We sure learned a lot along the way. We met a lot of interesting and fun people, made new friends and, despite some of the ongoing work involved on a cruising sailboat(and the attendant body soreness) had a thoroughly good and adventurous time.  We continue to consider ourselves “BOLD” – Beneteau Owners Living the Dream.

Our Water Home in storage

Our “On-Water Home” in Dry Storage