A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

End of stage 1

The day after our arrival at Ft Myers, we walked down to a farmers market adjacent to the marina. On the way back we stopped in at a restaurant/bar across from the road for a drink and had lunch cause it smelt good. We finished up staying until 7.00pm, playing the owners brand new Epiphone guitar that he was given (but can't play) and chatting with the stand up comedian that works there. It turns out they were having a charity show the following night and their resident young country singer/guitarist couldn't make it (we heard him sing that day and he's real good!), so guess who got seconded to replace him - with the promise of free beer! Unfortunately that night was unseasonably cold with a howling wind and only around 35 people turned up, but it was a good night all the same.
We spent a wonderful Christmas with our good friends Jack, Denise and Beatriz from JADE and Denise's family in Orlando. We had dinner with them on Christmas eve and lunch on Christmas Day, with the usual exchanging of presents and we were honoured to feel part of their family for the occasion.

Boxing day is not a public holiday in the USA (neither is the day after new years day) and the roads were crowded on the way back from Orlando - in fact we ran into a 1 hour jam caused by a truck broken down on a bridge. We departed Ft Myers the following day and headed up the Okeechobee waterway across Florida towards the Atlantic side. Past the first lock, and after the "No Wake Manatee zone" signs had all gone, we finally came across two of them swimming downstream and managed to follow them for 15 minutes or so to satisfy Carolyn's curiosity in seeing them in the wild. The waterway is stunningly scenic compared with the Gulf ICW and had one more surprising attribute - it is relatively deep, 20 -24 ft for much of the way to Moore Haven (where we stayed overnight) and to Lake Okeechobee. The lake itself, however is quite shallow, with 6-8ft much of the way and the deepest part around 10-12ft. It also has a 50ft high dike all the way round it to prevent hurricane surges from the lake flooding the surrounding countryside.
The trip across the Okeechobee (or more correctly, up the Caloosahatchee river) gave me the opportunity to confirm something I had been suspicious of since the beginning of the trip. The speedo on the Tridata has been reading in MPH and has generally been the same numbers as showing on the chartplotter, which reads in knots - indicating that the instrument is reading 15% slow. As the sumlog (distance recorder) derives its data from the same source, it suggests that the distance travelled will also show as 15% less. Using the mile markers on the waterway, I could confirm that this is the case, so can adjust the figures to establish "real" mileages. (It also make the fuel consumption look better). So far we have travelled about 2600 NM (almost 3000 statute miles), so future trips around the New Zealand coast may not seem such a long way as they have in the past.

Another thing I was able to confirm was my growing suspicion that something was drawing off Stan's starting batteries when the engines were stopped, which caused them to go flat after an extended stay in a marina. After 3 such episodes (Aqua Yacht Harbour, Panama City and Tarpon Springs - even after replacing the batteries), I decided to switch off the start batteries at Ft Myers for the duration of our stay. When they were turned on again, Stan started perfectly after 8 days sitting idle, without charging. This would not normally show up in a standard Silverton configuration as the batteries are always being charged when connected to shore power. I suspect it may be the Electronic Diesel Control, which remains energised while the batteries are switched on and is powered by Stan's batteries It is back lit but would not have thought that the lighting alone would draw enough current to flatten 2 start batteries in a week.
Indiantown is about 10 miles down the St Lucie canal and is separated from the lake and the Atlantic by locks, so is considered a very good "Hurricane Hole" We arrived in the early afternoon and realised quickly that the plan to haul out on New Years Eve and depart to Ft Lauderdale on the 2nd January had a few flaws. The local hotel was booked out over the period and as there was no other accommodation, we decided to leave the boat in the water during our return to New Zealand and haul it out on our return to prepare for Stage 2. This not only gave us accomodation while we packed up, but is also marginally cheaper for the 3 months. The Canadian couple, Ron and Donna, whose slip we occupied when they left to another marina in Stuart, have also kindly offered to take us to Ft Lauderdale tomorrow to begin our journey home. Last night the marina put on a Barbie and a few of us (mainly Canadian snow birds) sat up to see in 2013.

Tomorrow we leave for "home", but it feels rather weird as Loopy Kiwi has now become very much our home and there is a definite sense of "unfinishedness" about leaving her at this time. Hopefully everything will go smoothly when we return to sort out our affairs in NZ and we can get back pronto to continue where we left off.

Next stop NZ (via Ft Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles)....see you then and