We continued up river to Ft Myers, and turned left from the channel into a place called MarinaTown, in N. Ft Myers (O.W. mile 136). Brother-in-law Dennis was waiting there for us and had conveniently selected a slip so we could dock in our preferred nose-in-starboard-tieup method. This was a nice marina, with a sizable live-aboard population and good facilities, even a pool we could use. After Dennis loaded his gear aboard Spray, and a walk for Riggs, and cracking a few Yuenglings, we walked 100 yards down the marina to this waterfront joint and had a nice supper of coconut shrimp and some more of this.
Thursday was a nice easy cruising day up the Caloosahatchee, through the Franklin Lock (O.W. mile 121), which we shared with a large paddlewheeler (see photo below). The lock lifted Spray by about 2 feet, leaving her in fresh water. Then onwards to the town of La Belle FL (O.W. mile 103), where we tied to a free dock at a city park. It was a pleasant walk into town for the 3 of us to have an early dinner at Jonsez BBQ (Dennis raves over their fried shrimp), then buying some groceries, and back to Spray for a restful night.
On Friday we continued east to Moore Haven (O.W. mile 78), where we locked through to rise 3 feet to lake level, then turned right to follow the lake's SW rim. I had earlier expressed to Dennis my amazement at how trouble-free Spray had been over the whole trip (and I knocked on wood, which is abundant), but on this leg we started to notice something amiss: Spray's diesel would drop 100 or so RPM for several seconds and then resume normal speed. This happened more if we went faster and not at all at slower speed, and looked like classic symptoms of a clogging fuel filter. Since we were still in protected water, and since changing the filter next to a hot engine sounded no fun, we continued along to our day's goal of Clewiston FL (O.W. mile 65), and tied along the dock here. Right alongside Spray swam a 7 ft alligator (or was it 17 ft ?) so we were carefull to keep Riggs well leashed.
Our first action to repair Spray's dithering engine was to hit the marina's Tiki Bar, order a pitcher of Yuengling and plan to change the filter early the next morning, when the engine would be nice and cool. Friday's supper was Frittata aboard Spray, and it was very pleasant to sit on Spray's rear porch and listen to the oldies band playing at the Tiki Bar (which was just far enough away).
Saturday was a long and productive day. Up early for breakfast, then changing the fuel filter, which took maybe 45 minutes, and we were off, starting across the 25 mile open crossing of Lake Okeechobee (Big "O"). After the engine was warmed up we ran it hard for a while to assure us that the fuel filter change had done the trick. It did. Big "O" is broad and shallow (about 10 ft deep at center), and can kick up a nasty chop in strong winds, but we had picked a good day and saw nothing bigger than 2-3 ft waves, mostly on Spray's bow.
At about noon we reached the far eastern shore of Big "O" and locked through at Port Mayaca FL (O.W. mile 39) dropping only an inch or two. This was our most crowded lock experience, with 5 other boats, including a trawler towing a runabout that got the tow line wrapped around its propellers and thus couldn't leave the lock. I wonder two things:
- How many times did they ride up and down those couple of inches before they got the problem resolved?
- Who got to dive in and untangle the rope in those gator infested waters?
We still had a lot of waterway (this section being the St. Lucie Canal) to cover before we reached the St. Lucie Lock (O.W. mile 15) which dropped us by an impressive 13 ft to sea level once again. Another 7 miles of travel brought us to the municipal mooring field in Stuart FL (O.W. mile 8) where we have stayed before. After this 50+ mile day we clipped onto mooring ball no. 7, went to buy a few groceries (almost ran out of ... you guess) and had a pasta dinner (with salad!) aboard Spray.
Today is a day of rest. Morning ball play for Riggs, showers and a big breakfast for us, then a walk into old Stuart to tour the Sunday farmers market. This afternoon its computer time and naps. Pizza tonight.
Unfortunately, Dennis is going to have to cut his cruising time short as he has a job interview opportunity he can't miss. So in the next few days we'll make our way up the ICW to Vero Beach and then rent a car to get him to Orlando on Wednesday for his flight back to CT.