We got up this morning and checked a couple of weather, wind, and waves websites; and they still agreed that in the middle of Lake Okeechobee we would see wind gusting to about 24 - - and that is not a nice ride - especially in water that is so muddy it looks like chocolate pudding. Worse yet, the winds only come down a few mph tomorrow, so it was time to come up with an alternate plan. I knew that if we took the Southern "Rim" route around the lake, it would be at least 10 miles longer and I did not know how fast I could go - - so I looked for places to stop once we got around. I noticed that you are allowed to tie up to the "dolphins" as you exit the locks - - these are a cluster of posts bound together and used by barges to tie up while waiting to go through a lock. So the plan was to make our way around to the Port Mayaca Lock and tie up at the dolphin for the night after we got through the lock. We departed Moore Haven shortly after 8 (0810) with a flexible plan. I ran on plane when we could to keep more options open. By late morning, I knew that we might be able to make it all the way to Stuart (the end of the Okeechobee Waterway on the East coast of Florida) if all continued to go well. Once we got through the Torry Island swing bridge (the last totally manually operated bridge in Florida) - I was encouraged:
Notice the man in the middle cranking the bridge open with a long pipe.
When we got through Port Mayaca Lock around 1300, I knew that Stuart was an easy target - - here is a pic of the "dolphins" we had considered tying up to for the night;
You can see a hint of the winds from the right side of the picture, but the current is coming from the left, due to the high lake level - - this would not have been a fun evening. So again, I lit it up and pressed toward Stuart after I confirmed that they still had room for us. We exited our third and final lock of the day(and for the Loop; and possibly forever), the St Lucie Lock, shortly after 3 PM and had a leisurely 7 mile stretch left to the marina. We made our way into the Sunset Bay Marina (very nice) at 1600 after a run of over 82 miles (now 5425 miles total); and I had a nice cold beer. We just returned from a very good dinner and will spend two nights here - - life is very good aboard the Jolly Mon this evening.
Stuart is another one of those quaint little Florida towns that has a rejuvinated restaurant, shopping, and theater district. We walked around town today and had a great lunch at one of the restaurants recommended by someone who lives here. The marina we are in (Sunset Bay) is quite upscale and clearly caters to the LARGE boat crowd that migrates south for the winter - - we have recently started referring to them as "Snow Boaters". They are just "Snowbirds" who generally live on their boats, although some here also have homes in the area or commute for weekends, holidays and breaks away from the cold weather. You know the boat is large when they have an Extra Large "Big Green Egg" sitting behind the fly bridge - - who cares that you are not allowed to grill on boats in the marina, and I doubt that they anchor out much:
Tomorrow morning we will depart and work our way north and closer to home - - we shall see where the anchor drops tomorrow, probably depends much on the wind which continues to blow pretty hard.