April 28, 2006 Fort Myers to Clewiston
We were up at 6 a.m., and off the dock at 7, anticipating a long day, with nearly 70 miles to travel, and
three locks to pass through. The day was shorter than we expected, with no waits at any of the locks,
and all the bridges opening on request.
Better yet, the day was sunny, and stiff breezes made the mid-80 degree temperatures perfectly comfortable.
And even better yet, we saw our first daily dolphins within an hour of leaving the dock, and we saw a manatee
Then, just after noon, we had a remarkable half hour of bird sightings, beginning with a Crested Caracara,
a subtropical falcon we have seen in Texas and Mexico, but never in Florida, until this year. Our field guide
says they are scarce here, so we consider this view a special treat in honor of our first day back to living life afloat.
Minutes later, we were treated to a soaring show by a Swallow-tailed Kite, the most elegant and beautiful
flyer of all North American Kites. Its body is white below, with black wings and a deeply forked black tail, looking
as though it is dressed in formal attire to do its sky dancing. The kite we saw soared and circled, spiraled and gently
dove with nary a flap of its wings. It only slightly adjusted the angle of its wings as it soared, and twisted its tail
to steer its course. The toy kites we fly were named after this family of birds, and aptly so.
Not long after we lost sight of the kite, a bald eagle flew over our bow, another very good omen.
We arrived at Roland Martin's Marina (which always makes me think of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in) at
4 p.m, after nine short hours of cruising. Captain Sam, the unforgettable dockmaster, tied us up just behind his floating
home at the end of the dock, and warned us to watch out for the crazy guy on that boat.
The marina's Tiki Hut has live music on weekends, and we were happy to be far from it, where we could enjoy
the band at a sound level that allowed sleep before midnight.
We stopped in Clewiston twice last year, and didn't feel any compelling urge to leave our boat for a return
visit to the sleepy little town that calls itself America's Sweetest City. If you want to know more about Clewiston,
including the reason for its nickname, you can click the link below, and it will take you to the page which includes
our last visit there.
April 29-30 Clewiston to Stuart Southpoint Anchorage
57.4 miles, crossing Lake Okeechobee
The passage across Lake Okeechobee takes about three hours aboard Starsong. The lake is wide
and shallow, so big waves build when the winds blow above 10-15 miles per hour. Cruising guides advise staying ashore
in winds over 15. The weather predictions for today, tomorrow and the following day called for 15-20 mile per hour
winds, so . . . we decided to just get up early and make a run for it while the morning winds were only 15.
Last year, we would have waited out the high winds at the marina. This year, as we plowed through
two to three foot waves, and the 15-20 mile per hour winds carried big plumes of spray up over our flybridge, Dick chatted
on the phone with our friend Lenny aboard Summertime, and I concentrated on solving a Killer Sudoku.
Shortly after we got off the Lake and into calmer waters, our Realtor called with an offer on our house,
which we contemplated as we cruised. We called back a counter, he called back with the buyer's acceptance, and we were
set to receive our contract by fax at the Southpoint Anchorage office in Stuart.
Last year the Southpoint Anchorage mooring field was closed due to hurricane damage, so we weren't able
to stop here. At $10.60 per night, picking up a mooring ball provided an economical alternative to a marina slip, and,
once we took our dinghy ashore, Southpoint had all the usual marina amenities, plus an exceptionally friendly and helpful
staff. They didn't even charge us to receive and send our faxes.
We were in a celebratory mood as we strolled the charming few blocks that comprise downtown Stuart.
The streets are lined with lots of restaurants and upscale shops selling resort wear, tropical decor, gifts, art and
antiques. I couldn't resist a set of day of the week hand towels embroidered to look like hand-stitched 1950s designs.
The daily tasks on these towels matched our life style perfectly: Monday - Go Sailing, Tuesday - Collect Shells,
Wednesday - Ride a Wave, Thursday - Build a Castle, Friday - Catch Some Rays, Saturday - Go to the Beach, Sunday - Relax.
We had a perfectly prepared, presented and served dinner at the Oceola Street Grill, then dinghyed back
to Starsong to enjoy the last of the sunset.
We liked Stuart so much we decided to stay an extra day. We spent a sunny Sunday hunting geocaches,
reprovisioning at Publix, exchanging faxes with our Realtor, and reading the Sunday New York Times aboard Starsong
as we bobbed in the wakes of boats passing at full speed in the nearby ICW channel.
Monday, May 1, 2006 Stuart to Vero Mooring Field
Just twenty minutes after we left the Stuart mooring field, we were joined by two adult and two baby dolphins
cavorting in our side wake. The babies were the smallest dolphins we have ever seen, their bodies padded with baby fat,
and their jumps floppy awkward. The dolphins stayed with us for more than ten minutes, swimming near the
surface, rolling on their sides, jumping and playing with each other, always staying close together. We could
tell them all apart -- one of the adults had a notch in her dorsal fin, and one of the babies had a bright pink belly.
If they had stayed with us any longer, we would have been tempted to name them. This was peak dolphin watching.
We were on the ball at the Vero Mooring Field shortly after 1 p.m., and we spent the afternoon walking about
Vero in pursuit of geocaches and exercise.
We visited a lovely waterfront park on the St. Lucie River, and strolled the beach, where ocean waves sent
white froth high up the gradual slope of the shore. We were surprised to find few other people enjoying the beach on
this sunny day with temperatures in the eighties. There were plenty of available free parking spaces near the beach
access points we used. It is always a joy to walk an expansive beach, and feel it is all ours -- we don't have to share.
On the way back to Starsong an irresistable fragrance literally stopped us in our tracks.
We followed our noses to a gardenia bush in peak bloom, with at least fifty perfect creamy white flowers singing their sweet
scent out to the world. All those flowers, and not a single bee to disturb our enjoyment of their beauty -- we are thankful
to be leading such a charmed life.
Tuesday, May 2, 2006 Vero to Cocoa Anchorage
We were looking forward to our visit to Cocoa -- our 2005 cruising guide promised a charming historic district
with a gourmet grocery, the best hardware store on the east coast, and an historic home where local historical society volunteers
would greet us, tell us about local history and take us on a 14 point walking tour.
We set anchor near Cocoa's waterfront park. A large round patio with many spouts of water that change
in height wlecomes "bathers." An expansive semi-circular raised walkway covered with a pergola and lined with palms and tropical
flowers in planters provides an elegant place to stroll and admire the park and water views. This must be a popular
spot for weddings.
We tied our dinghy to a dock near the park, and set out to explore Cocoa.
We found the hardware store easily. S.F. Travis and Co. was an impressive establishment with a labarynthine
maze of rooms with multiple levels of worn wood and cement floors and racks stacked to the very high ceiling. It was
the second largest hardware store Dick has ever been in, and he is a certified hardware store connoisseur.
We definitely needed a aclerk to help us find what we needed -- and to guide us back to the register.
Our clerk was a perky Southern grandmother who was married in the hardware store. One of the fellows
conferring behind the counter performed the ceremony. The reason we know she is a grandmother is that she had a couple
contact sheets of photos of her three month old granddaugthter at the register, and she shared them with us, enthusiastically
and at length.
We felt badly that all we needed was blue masking tape. It would have been fun to challenge the
staff with some truly exotic need. When we passed the bathroom fixtures area, we did look for a wall-mounted soap dish
to replace the vintage 1986 chrome plated dish that is corroding in Starsong's shower. S.F.
Travis did have a dish like it in a very dusty package, but that dish was already exhibiting pre-corrosion pimples on its
surface, so we passed it up.
Our next stop was the elegant Porcher (pronounced Porshay, accent on the second syllable) House, where we
found no historical society volunteers, no tours, and no one who had any memory of such a program ever being offered there.
The house has counseling and law offices on the second floor and opens the gracious spaces on its first floor to the community
for weddings, anniversaries, and other special occaisions for a nominal fee.
A sheet on a table in the house's front parlor told us that the house was designed by Byrnina Peck
Porcher and built in 1916 by her and her husband, Edwin. Edwin Postell Porcher established orange groves on nearby Merritt
Island in the 1880s, and is credited with inventing a fruit stamping machine, and being the first grower to wash, inspect
and grade his fruit. Byrnina was Merritt Island's first Postmistress.
A woman in a first floor office at the house gave us the latest issue of a local commercial newspaper with
a map inside to help us find our way to the town's Tourism and Information Center. We found the building -- it had a
beautifully painted historic mural covering a full wall touting it as the Tourism and Information Center, but a "For
Rent" sign was displayed on its locked door.
The gourmet grocery was nowhere to be found, either. The only sources of groceries we could find were
two slightly seedy gas stations with lots of beer, but limited supplies of milk. Evidently, no one drinks skim milk
Although our experiences, and a number of vacant store fronts, seem to indicate that Cocoa is struggling
to be a tourist destination, we thought the town was charming, and we were glad we stopped here.
Click here to continue up the Florida coast on Page 2.