TRANS FLORIDA OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY
We left the dock at Fort Myers early but not without walking across the street to enjoy our last homemade donut from Bennet’s. The weather was perfect for a change after experiencing for the last several weeks Florida’s bitter record breaking cold temperatures. Today it was different though as fluffy white cotton ball clouds dotted the intense blue sky and the temperature was crawling up just past the 70 degree mark. It was finally comfortable for cruising.
We were going to cross the center of Florida by boat on what some refer to as the Trans Florida Okeechobee Waterway. I guess you could jokingly compare it to Disney ride, a mini Panama Canal cruise which we did the real one back in 2002. We were looking forward to this adventure. Imagine going from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic by way of central Florida on a boat. We would be traveling a total of 115 miles from the Gulf Coast ICW to the Atlantic ICW.
LOOKING BACK A BIT
I wondered how this waterway came about. It isn’t a natural waterway. I did a little bit of fact checking, no serious research but got the basics. Back in the 1880s the Caloosahatchee River was dredged all the way to Lake Okeechobee and provided transportation commerce transport from the Gulf to the lake. Years later the dredging was extended on the opposite side of the lake eventually all the way to the Atlantic and finally after the turn of the 20th century the lake and canals were locked and diked. Who in the world would have a vision to develop and control a mass of swamp land the size of a state? Crazy though it sounds, if somewhere there is a vision with profit at the end of it, many a man will be driven. Some saw this as prime agricultural land but access and drainage was the problem.
The dredged leg we’re about to travel today about 75 miles in length is called the Caloosahatchee River and it will take us all the way to the Westside of Lake Okeechobee which was appropriately named by the Native Americans, meaning “Big Water”. It is indeed big water stretching almost 730 square miles and second in size only to Lake Michigan on the continental United States. Who would imagine this? I never even heard of it before we came to Florida.
A MAN’S DREAM
The first dredging project can be credited to a fellow named Hamilton Dissan who came to this former wilderness from Philadelphia in 1881. Around the turn of the century, his ingenuity along with a couple other enterprising businessmen, who can be given credit or blame, depending on how you look at it, created a commercial waterway that has forever since changed the landscape of the lower half of Florida.
We headed dead East following the markers up the wide stretch of the river just where it starts to narrow down. We passed a huge crowd of blacks along the Fort Myers waterfront that were gathering and setting up booths and sound equipment to begin celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday.
We soon crossed under the 107 foot bridge where Orange River joins our waterway. My telephoto lens was ready. I was intent on getting a good shot this time of some spoon bills that I hoped were still camped out atop the mangroves on a small island just west of the Power Plant. They were there several weeks back when we passed by this way. This area is usually full of wildlife, even the discreet and shy manatees hang out in groups here as they like to huddle together in the warm waters put out by the nearby power plant.
LUCK OF THE EXOTIC BIRDS
Today though there was no sign of the exotic pink spoon bills, just a handful of wood storks and several pelicans. I’m not as excited as I used to be to see wood storks as we’ve seen many the past few weeks and even though they are endangered it seems like there are a lot more of them around than you would imagine. The pink spoon bills seem much rarer. The wood storks have monster ugly heads but beautiful luxurious feathers that used to adorn many a Victorian hat in days long past. Fortunately they banned the horrible practice of killing many of Florida’s exotic birds just so their beautiful feathers could adorn many a silly hat. If not, many of these exotic birds would not still inhabit the wet lands of Florida today. Man can be ridiculous, destroying just about anything for a buck.
PICTURING THE PAST
We continued to coast along at a manatee’s pace through the many miles of idle speed zones for the protection the manatees. It was pretty much the same ride going east as we described in our past logs so wouldn’t want to bore you with a repeat of the same info. The only thing different to me after doing a little research on the history of this waterway was to know picture in my mind the many paddle wheelers that traversed this narrow water way a century ago.
A LOOK OF FALL
The only thing that has changed on this trip other than my imagination is that the shores strangely look like a northern fall had arrived several months out of schedule. The foliage which was and should be plump and lush green now had turned in color to a burnt browns and rusty reds. The leaves were severely damaged from the freezing temperatures Florida has been suffering and got mixed up changing colors and dying back getting ready for hibernation, some may never recover. The many orange groves looked damaged too but we were encouraged to see lots had been surprisingly spared.
WHERE HAVE THEY GONE?
We were looking forward to seeing lots of wildlife today as we’ve seen before along this stretch but the day was eerily empty of bird sightings and even grazing cattle along the high ledge of the banks were absent along with their cute little companions, those little white cattle birds that dutifully follow them around. One area that I’m sure we saw cattle grazing last trip is now blatantly scraped of foliage showing the ancient white sand shelled surface beneath. Only thing left of foliage were huge piles of dry brown branches and tree trunks, a sign of another massive development in the works I suppose reshaping the natural landscape. They just can’t stop the madness.
NO TIME TO DILLY DALLY
Larry was on a mission today and charged down the waterway making good headway and only slowing for the locks and no wake zones. I didn’t realize how long the trip was going to be today and it soon turned into a blur of hog pen cutouts, lily pads, orange groves, hammock islands and palm trees.
It was a long and tiring day actually as I lugged those fenders and lines, in and out, for three locks and it had me a bit fatigued. We had some sandwiches about 11:30 as Bennet’s donut didn’t hold us over for very long. About two o’clock we reached the town of Moore Haven which is at the end of the waterway and perches on the edge of the great lake. Some people take a break and stay overnight here but Larry wanted to continue a little further to a little town on the lake called Clewiston
We glanced over at the Moore Haven public docks as we went by. They didn’t look protected from traffic along the waterway. We headed through the last lock for the day and I noticed on the shoulder of the canal was a small brown sign when we came out which said “Clewiston and Stuart” and an arrow pointing right.
REACHED THE LAKE
We turned immediately into a long dredged channel. One side was a tall long mound of dirt as long and far as the eye could see. It is the dike that holds the water from naturally flooding the Everglades and nearby towns. The other side of the channel faces what looks like a marsh land and is the lake. It is what separates and protects us from the waters of the great lake. The dike is a huge mound mechanically shaped and sloped down to the edge of the water and channel in a boring straight 45 degree manicured angle.
CHANNEL ALONG THE LAKE
You feel like you are headed down one big ugly drainage ditch except for the fact that on our port side is the most amazing landscape, that marsh land with a bounty of wildlife that we’ve not seen anywhere yet in our travels. There were groups of anhinga, egrets, eagles, osprey and ibis and more and in such abundance that it was breath taking. Tall dry burnt sticks of dead tree trunks stood up from the marsh grass and birds precariously perched on their tops. In the far distance were island of palm trees, a hammock of palms. It was so beautiful. I just couldn’t get enough of the image and the abundance of wildlife.
NO GLIMPSE OF THE LAKE YET
To see better I climbed to the very top of the boat to take pictures and to see if I could get a glimpse of the great lake beyond the marsh. I never could see the lake only the lush landscape that filled the horizon and protected us from the sometimes retching seas of the great lake.
This narrow channel that follows along on one side the ugly wall of the dike is a protected five mile stretch that has been carved out with enough depth for large boats to pass through safely. This protected passage ends at Clewiston but an unmaintained channel continues on the southern circumference of the lake for the safety of small little boats and continues all the way to the opposite side of the lake where the main waterway connects again.
NOT MANY BOATERS TODAY
It was a day absent of other boaters on the waterway and here on the edge of the lake it seemed even more isolated. It felt amazing to see all this alone. We did see a couple on bicycles riding the great nature trail that follows the edge of the lake on top of the dike. As we got closer to Clewiston, we passed a concrete boat launch that ramped down the dike to the water’s edge. It was a funky place and had a handmade sign that said Joe’s Fish Camp, nothing else.
BUT THERE IS ALWAYS ONE IDIOT
For the first time that day we did pass coming the opposite direction two other cruisers. It’s a tight squeeze to pass another boat along this canal as it is narrow but we passed each other with room to spare. Just before the final turn that takes us on to the last stretch to Clewiston I turned to look back and a small boat was racing up the canal behind us. I yelled to Larry to let him know it was coming and thinking this boat would slow to pass just continued on instead creating a ridiculous wake in this very small channel. What idiots I thought. There was one old guy in the back cockpit who waved at me as they sped by I’m sure not even knowing we were going to suffer from his enormous wake. What is the stupid rush? Maybe they are hurrying to get across the lake before the day is over. Nope, just a few yards ahead they made a turn in to where we were headed to our destination for the night.
We were near our destination according to the charts and it looked like we had to make a right turn at a fork in the channel. Straight ahead continued the old channel, now over grown on the edges with lily pads and grasses, too shallow and unmaintained now for boats like ours and larger. We headed down the final stretch to Clewiston and behind the dike we could see a strange grove of dead trees, nothing more that dry sticks, masses of them and then just ahead we could see the lock that protects Clewiston and is where we will turn.
WATER LEVELS OF THE LAKE
If the water level of the lake is low they will close this lock to keep water in the lake. Some boaters will avoid this stop because they don’t want to hassle with the lock coming and going. The lake had lots of water, at least nine feet, so the lock was open. We made a quick 90 degree turn and headed into the blind turn not knowing exactly what was ahead and behind the big concrete walls of the open lock.
ROLAND MARINA, CLEWISTON
Once inside you make another turn, quick to port, and just ahead is a long rustic wooden dock and a sign that says “Roland Marina”. We’re here I guess. It looks a bit ragged. “Are you sure this is the place we’re supposed to be?” I ask Larry. “Yes, this is it!”Larry answers.
I warn Larry not to go too far in as maybe there isn’t enough depth in the narrow channel ahead. I’m not sure this dock will hold us but Larry is not worried. He hails the marina on the radio but no one answers even after a couple calls. We decided to pull up to the wobbly docks and dock ourselves. There was an open air bar further down the dock and I suggested we stay as far back from that as possible because of noise. These docks were worse than our docks back home at Snug Harbor.
Larry left the engine on just in case we have to move and headed down the dock to find out if it was okay to stay here. I waited with Ziggy and surveyed the area. This place looked a little like something out of one of those Burt Reynolds movies in the Florida’s backwoods. Well, I guess that’s where we are in Florida back country. I saw Larry coming back down the dock with a big smile on his face. He said this place looks like fun! They’ve got a funky bar and restaurant and Ziggy can come. I wasn’t too sure about this place but was curious.
TIKI BAR IN A SWAMP?
I was exhausted after the long day of lugging those lines and fenders in and out of the boat. I counted five times. No wonder I’m pooped. We headed up the dock to the funky outdoor “Tiki Bar” and passed that rude boater that waked the hell out of us a few hundred yards back. They were just a bunch of old people, not that we aren’t old, but there were even older. Not what you would expect from someone driving a boat like a bat outta hell. I guess they just don’t know better.
We headed up the ramp and decided we’d cure what ails us with a stiff drink and whatever they had to offer for food. I had visions that the food might be alligator the way this place looked. There were about 20 motorcycles parked out front and swamp buggies at the dock and the place was packed. It was 4:00 and already the group inside were drunk yelling and laughing at the bar. The friendly waitress put us on the outer deck just on the backside of the bar overlooking the docks. I guess she was trying to hide us as there as I noticed a big sign out front that said “Absolutely No Pets!” Or maybe it was Ziggy was better behaved than most of the rednecks in this joint.
We joined the crowd and after a couple stiff drinks and hamburgers (I hope) nothing seemed strange anymore. We eventually lumbered back to the boat where I crashed for the rest of the evening except to force myself to stay awake to see the first new season episode of 24. This was a fun stop after all and I was so grateful to see all the wildlife out on the lake as we came in but I recommend when you dock here make sure to get a spot as far from the bar as possible because they really got rowdy as the evening got long. I was too tired though to be bothered much of anything that night.
Tomorrow we were looking forward to crossing the lake and see if it is just as beautiful as the little bit that we saw today. Tomorrow we will touch the water of the Atlantic!
We hit the sack early last night. It didn’t take long before we were quickly dead to the world and all that was going on in the rowdy bar just down the dock.
We awoke just before daylight. Larry was up first evidenced by the aroma and percolating sound of coffee brewing. I carefully maneuvered my way around Ziggy trying not to wake him (as he likes to sleep in) and climbed down out of my bunk. Groggily, the steps were negotiated as I made my way up to the salon. It was the usual routine, plopping down at the banquette and opening the laptop to see what was going on in the world without having to say a word yet to Larry. This is the usual way the morning goes until eventually things become clear helped along by the caffeine Larry so obligingly brings to me in my favorite cup. Larry knows the routine well and on his own initiative refills my cup with java until conversation becomes possible.
HOOKED ON FISHING
The sound of an outboard motor penetrates the quiet darkness. A silhouetted image of a man on a small fishing skiff motors slowly by. He is careful not to wake our boat. The old guy is bundled up and grasping the warmth of his morning cup of coffee helping him brace the chilly morning. Dam it is cold out again. Will this weather ever give us a break?
Moments later another boat goes by. This skiff is crowded with three guys, several generations younger, all with the same intent. They are headed out the lock to go fishing on the big water. It didn’t matter that it was dark & cold or what the weather may throw at them nor what a God awful time of day it is.
The sky now a shade of charcoal colored the sky and soon you knew the sun would begin to peak over the tall dike that obscured all view of the mysterious big water behind it. Zig and I headed down the dock to get his morning constitution ever with and I will take a good look around before we head across the “inland sea”.
Hey, this place is not as back woods as I thought it was. The marina store and office were really nice and had a good selection of resort and sports fishing clothes and gear. The grounds were manicured and neat. Fishing is the name of the game around here. You couldn’t help but notice a big chalk board, the size of a billboard, with lines and boxes neatly drawn the breadth of it and all filled in with an ongoing records of fish caught, by whom, what the catch was and how big. Plaques were hung on the other side of the building proudly displaying names of professional sports fishermen that have been here. It looks like fishing is serious business around here. We don’t fish so we wouldn’t have a clue but it sure looked like a good place to come.
Zig and I headed back to the boat. We figured Larry would be biting at the bit to get going. As usual this was the case. The engine was running and by now had taken the chill off its cold metal and moving parts were lubricated with warm oil. We pushed ourselves off the old wooden dock and backed out the channel to a wider space where we could turn around. That funky dock served us well last night. Even the rusty electrical box gave us just enough power to run our little heater through the part of the night and early morning.
FORECAST KEEPS US MOVING
Thick ominous clouds began to wake up, slowly stretching themselves across the sky. They looked like they were interacting and talking amongst themselves. Perhaps they were discussing how to play the day. The marine report was reasonable though and there was no significant weather forecast for today. Sadly though it looks like we will get blasted again tomorrow as the latest forecast projects a series, like a set of waves, of severe storms headed our way. Though Clewiston would have been an interesting place to linger, just a bit longer, it was wise to get across the lake and settled in a good destination before the next front hits. We have no desire to battle our way across the lake in high winds as it has a reputation.
We proceeded out past the tall concrete walls of the open lock and glided slowly out into the flatness. The long marked channel is dead ahead. Marsh grasses and lily pads lined each side of the well marked channel as far as the eye could see. A handful of rustic flat bottom skiffs were left to lay in grasp and protection of the thick grasses. The skies were dramatic this morning, big and dark, but there punctuation marks in them, holes allowing the sun to shoot down God beams to the surface of the water where they continued to brighten the horizontal plain across the mirror like wet surface.
What a place this is, full of beautiful birds and a strange unfamiliar but beautiful landscape. This morning the wildlife still seems to be sleeping but you can be sure that amongst those grasses are alligators, snakes and abundant exotic water fowl. Ziggy looked so beautiful riding out on the bow of the boat, the wind from surface of the lake combined with the speed of the boat combed his fur back exposing every contour of his body. He too was taking in the amazing surroundings but he has the additional advantage of putting that intelligent nose to the wind, sniffing in all sorts of animal information. I wish I could experience his senses today.
FINALLY WE SEE IT
The marked path opened finally to our first real glimpse of that wide swath of water, the big water, the lake, the second largest body of water in the continental United States. It was kind of a letdown as there was nothing but flatness. There were no more grasses or lily pads and no land in sight. There were no more exotic birds with long crooked necks and legs, just grey water as far as the eye could see.
WINDS PICKING UP
Like imperfect timing, just as we left the fantasy world of the marsh, the winds began to build and with that the seas naturally became restless. The marsh held the water with calm reason but now that we were free of its grasp the water was beginning to flaunt itself silly. This lake is like many large bodies of water with shallow depths having a reputation of retching itself up quickly in response to the winds. Together they can choreograph the water into a wild impromptu dance. It is similar to other shallow bodies of water that we’ve had respect for and also traveled across like the Albemarle and Hecate Strait.
We now had long stretches between markers and still the water was shallow on each side. It was a struggle to keep from crabbing out of the channel as the wind and waves worked together taunting and tempting us the wrong way, cleverly I might say, without us being aware. We gained some momentum by kicking up the speed and maintaining our wits and course by watching aft and forward between the markers, correcting our course when necessary to stay within the marked path.
FREE OF THE CHANNEL
Coming finally to the last marker of the channel we were now free to head across the lake with only a compass course set between waypoints. The water depths were now more forgiving on each side of us and we were no longer constrained in a disciplined channel. We could relax a bit. Now there were just a few markers dispersed far apart across the lake, serving only as a reminder to mariners, warning of shoals and guiding them towards the most commonly traveled path on this lake, that being the most direct route to the eastern shore lock and the entrance to eastern leg of the Trans Florida Waterway that leads finally to the Atlantic.
SONG OF THE LAKE
As we reached the center of the lake the wind and waves were giving us a bumpy ride. We uncomfortably splashed our way through a steep and short and I must say surprising 2 to 4 foot chop across the center of the lake. We were taking a lot of salt spray over the windshield. We endured the soaking as did the three windshield wipers that diligently worked, making crying and scraping noises, as they wiped the salt water clear so we could see out. It was a waning, complaining song they sang across the lake. At least we had good water depths on all sides so it was just a matter of tolerating the discomfort and the good amount of water flying over the bow.
As we crossed I pondered on the little I had read about history of the lake. Long before the dike that obscures all views in or out of the lake, there were other mounds, mounds that lined the northern shores of the lake. They were manmade mounds made by the first peoples (or so it is politically correct to call them), mounds that overlooked the wet swamp lands, providing a dry surface for the Timucuan people to live. Their history is only revealed by modern day archaeological digs those that have uncovered remains and artifacts from their burial mounds. Some of these mounds amazingly are still visible today.
These people plied the water of the great lake and even ventured as far as the Atlantic to bring back Spanish captives and loot consisting of gold, probably salvaged from Spanish ship wrecks that were loaded with gold heading back to Europe. For years the lake remained nothing more than a legend to the Europeans, that of a great body of water in the interior as most never ventured through the swamp lands to find it.
VISIONS OF PROSPERITY
In more recent years, during the mid 19th century, the lands surrounding the lake became to some a vision of prosperity as man bloomed with ideas of transforming the swamp land into agricultural and grazing land to both grow sugar cane and to raise cattle which was becoming a very profitable enterprise first in export to the Cubans and then later as an important food source for the soldiers during war between the north and south. People began to come and settle in areas around the lake.
Up until the end of the 19th century, the lake was still a lake, free to swell with rainfall and drain naturally into the whole lower half of Florida and on into the Gulf and Keys. Where the lake drained swamplands flourished. Because of the great lake almost half of southern Florida was an impenetrable swamp paradise filled only with permanent wildlife and too an important and vital migration resting point for birds.
The major transformation to this mass of land and specifically to the lake and its linking waterways came around the turn of the 20th century. It started with a man named Broward. Today we see his name everywhere across Florida, as it is written on streets signs, highways, buildings and even a town and large county. He had an unscrupulous past but that didn’t stop him from becoming governor of Florida and he can be credited with the unimaginable idea of draining this great body of water all for the advantage of the “common man” and oh yes for enterprising swindlers to make a quick buck.
Broward began by developing these very waterways and canals that we are traveling today. Most importantly he can officially be credited with the beginning of the great drain and the land sales of swamp land to a wave of trusting people. In a mad land rush people came and settled around the lake only to find they had in most cases purchased nothing more than swamp water but still they settled and made the best of it.
A tragic incident in 1926 “justified” the beginning of the big transformation of the lake. On Labor Day, 1926, a hurricane whipped the waters of the great lake into a frenzy causing the waters to rise and drown more than 300 settlers. If that wasn’t enough, two years later another hurricane hit the area. Mother Nature was on a rampage and ripped the landscape with 150 mile winds. In those days there were no prior warning of hurricanes and so people had no time to find shelter.
You’d think these two incidents would be enough to discourage further development but no, instead, a “massive program began to dike and drain the lake” which has now forever changed the landscape of Florida and provided the platform for massive development.
Not only have the water levels of the lake been changed and drained; now too the quality of the lake’s water is being threatened. After seeing all the wildlife yesterday in those magical marsh lands this is a frightening thought. The threat is the result of more development. In the 1960’s the Kissimmee River was transformed from a serpentine free flowing river draining into Lake Okeechobee into a straight and unfiltering waterway, no longer straining out man’s contaminants but bringing the runoff of fertilizers and other chemicals directly into the lake creating devastating algae blooms and other problems for the health of the lake’s fish and other wildlife. There is now a real and present threat of the big water as the first people used to call it, of it becoming the great dead water.
Ah, it is so sad, as it seems everywhere we go, along the shores and waterways of this great nation, these types problems persist and increase. Now even this interior body of water is struggling and not to mention the effect the dikes have had on the Everglades too.
Last year when we were in Everglades City the marsh lands were bone dry and the surrounding areas were suffering from a drought. Normally the lake would water these areas. We were told no alligators were in the area because they had to travel miles inland to reach the fresh water to survive. The impact on wild birds and migration is evident too. Slowly people are becoming aware of the damage done by changing nature so drastically and slowly they are trying to restore the Everglades back in baby steps. It will never be put back to the way it was, it can’t be, too much has been done. Even with the slow progress of restoration improvements could never happen in our life time or even the next few generations to come but maybe someday more and more of the Everglades will be restored and the damaging run-off into the lake of chemicals and fertilizers can be stopped. It will be a long process and I hope it won’t be too late.
We continued for rest of the lake’s crossing with uncomfortable conditions. The mysterious big water was not a pretty lake today. It was ruffled sea on all sides, grey and unfriendly. There were no soft march grasses, lily pads nor beautiful birds flying over head. We crossed its distance in discomfort and with a bit of boredom, much different than I thought the trip would be. Though I can understand why the lake was grouchy and understandably angry.
HERE THEY COME AGAIN
The monotony though was about to change. I could see a boat approaching in the distance behind us. They were heading straight for us. It was a very small boat but putting out a fierce spray and wake and bobbing around like a plastic float on a fishing line being pulled across choppy water.
Geez are they going to pass right next to us in this big wide open space and wake the crap out of us? I just don’t understand some of these boaters. He has plenty of room to give us some berth, miles and miles of it.
It didn’t take long for the small boat to come right up on our tail. Oh my gosh it’s that same idiot that waked us before we got to Clewiston. It’s those old people! They must be completely nuts.
They looked out of control in these seas. I would think he would’ve reconsidered today’s crossing in that little boat or taken the protected southern rim route in these seas and with those old people aboard. It was just plain dangerous.
He was bobbing all over and those inside must be either scared or upchucking breakfast. Imagine all those old grey hairs coming out in this. But I have to say “so much for the weather report” as it was completely off today. I think too that we under estimated the strength of this lake, perhaps they did too. Just because it’s in the interior doesn’t mean it’s not a force to be reckoned with.
He came up behind us like a bat out of hell and just as he was a few yards off our stern he turned to pass us and literally was air borne as he went over our first wake and then bumped terribly over the next set. He never gave us a chance to slow down for them, though why should we after the way he waked us so badly the other day? You have to have some compassion for his companions though as they are at the mercy of this maniac at the helm. Of course he got back at us by waking the dam crap out of us again and in this huge space it could have been avoided. I would really like to give him my two cents worth and maybe a smack on the behind.
So they raced ahead and then cut in right front of us like we were on a highway with painted lanes and he had to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. The even crazier part was once he got in front of us he slowed down to a crawl.
“What the hell is this guy doing???” Larry says talking to himself.
It seemed like for a moment he was lost and was checking his chart. Larry had to change course quickly to go around him and then just when we got alongside, he took off again, full blast. There they went, those four old people, racing out of control off into the grey wet seas, into the stormy horizon banging left and right, slamming into the water. Nothing fazed this guy. We watched in amazement too as he headed into the lock with the same recklessness.
The only thing I can get a laugh at is they were in such a hurry to cut us off yesterday, to get to the marina ahead of us, that they unknowingly parked their boat right next to that loud bar. I wonder how that went listening to the drunken roar the whole night.
BACK INTO THE TRANS FLORIDA WATERWAY
We slowed down to approach the lock. It is open like Clewiston as the lake’s depths are good. We head slowly through and then down the cut leading to the Atlantic. Pretty much the rest of the ride that day was like on the other side from Fort Myers to the lake. We had a bridge to wait for an opening but other than it was pretty mundane. Funny thing was, the minute we left the great lake, the weather changed. Skies were sunny and winds were nonexistent.
We watched two huge smoke blooms in the distance most of the afternoon as we traveled. We wondered if perhaps they were the one of the many “muck fires” that we seeing burning throughout Florida’s landscape. They are started in the dry peat left from draining the lake and many can burn for years. It’s an example of another of man’s follies as he tries to alter Mother Nature.
Photos along the waterway to Stuart
We decided to end the day at Stuart where the Florida Trans Waterway ends on at the Atlantic ICW.
We did it, we crossed the center of Florida by way of boat. We learned a little more about this great state, some good and some disappointing.
Tomorrow we’ll head south to West Palm Beach and stay at their brand new marina. We’ll stay there a few weeks and decide where to cruise next. It will either be the St. John’s River or the Abaco’s in the Bahamas.