We woke up fairly early and decided to leave right away as high winds were forecast and we thought it would be pretty difficult to get off the dolphins if it was windy. As we went along the water way there was this wonderful smell like someone baking porridge bread. We figured it must be the sugar factory. We went through the first lock of the day before the rain started, so it was pretty uneventful. When the rain started it really started and it poured rain! Fortunately we didn’t have too long a day and the rain was a warm rain. It came in bands so it was off and on. We thought we were going to get through the second lock of the day during a dry spell, but it was not to be, the rain started again as we were locking through, but it wasn’t as wet as some of the showers we’d had. The wind was piping up too, and when we got to LaBelle we decided to tie up to the face dock at the old motel rather than try to dock Mediterranean style at the free town dock. (To do that, you have to drop your anchor out in the channel, and then back into the dock and tie your stern to the dock.). There was a pool at the motel (unheated) so the kids went for a swim and I got the laundry done. Mid-afternoon we thought we’d walk to town to see if we could find a restaurant where we could watch the football game. It started to pour rain again so we got pretty wet. All the restaurants we found were closed on Sunday. We went to the movie store to see if we could rent a movie, but it turned out that we could actually buy pre-watched movies for less than the rental of a new release – so we bought a few. We went to the grocery store and got a roast chicken for supper and went back to the boat.
Dec 1 – 2 – LaBelle
We planned to spend a couple of days in LaBelle, so when it was calm in the morning we moved across the river and did our med mooring to the town dock. It actually worked out pretty well as the dock was a great height for getting on and off the stern of Bird. It was nice to see the sun again. The kids got some school work done, and I took Kristen to the library to do some research for her Bird Watching badge for Girl Guides. In the afternoon we walked back up to town to get some groceries. We spent quite a bit of time in LaBelle 15 years ago and really liked it, and it was pretty much as we remembered it. It is still very rural. Unfortunately, hard times have hit to some extent and some of the shops are closed. It doesn’t have the same charm as some of the towns we have been to like Fernandino or Beaufort SC, but there is something kind of nice about it. After we got the groceries put away we walked back up to town and went out for supper. On Tuesday the kids got their schoolwork done and Dave did chores around the boat. Kristen and I went back to the library to get more info on birds. In the afternoon we went for a walk/bike ride through town. Kristen made a yummy desert for supper – no bake key lime cheesecake!
Dec 3 – LaBelle to Franklin Lock
We left LaBelle around 8:00 and travelled about 20 miles to the Franklin lock where we tied up at the state park – very similar to the one at the St. Lucie lock. It was an uneventful trip, although it was pretty cold. Overnight there were temperatures in the 30’s along the coast. We were all tied up by 11:30 so it was a really short day. After lunch I took Kristen on a bike ride and we saw all kinds of neat wildlife. In addition to the herons and egrets we see everyday, we saw a turtle, two sandhill cranes, and a huge flock of woodstocks. We also passed a goat farm and stopped to pet some really friendly horses. In the evening we walked out on the fishing pier and watch two guys that caught a Tarpon that was over 5’ and 100lbs. It took them about 45 minutes to get the Tarpon tired enough to get him close to the pier that they could cut him free. They did all that on a light weight (although expensive) fishing rod with 20lb test fishing line. After that we lit a campfire and roasted marshmallows.
We puttered around the campground in the morning. Dave waxed the hull on the boat and the girls got their schoolwork done. We left around 11:30 and went through our final lock for this leg of our adventure. We went through the lock with two manatees, they were pretty hard to see, but the lockmaster had seen them. We saw lots of manatees as we went down the river to Ft. Meyers. They aren’t as much fun to watch as the dolphins as you only see their noses and their backs. When we got to Fort Meyers we picked up a town mooring. As we prepared to go to shore a manatee came right up to the boat and swam along the length of the boat – unfortunately I was in the dinghy and I didn’t get much of a look L but the kids and Dave got a great look. After that we went for a walk in town. There wasn’t much to see. There is a really nice little restored district with restaurants and art galleries, but it was pretty much deserted. When we looked through the Misty log our comment about walking around Ft. Meyers was " we had a great time walking around the non-existent downtown of Ft. Meyers" and that pretty much sums it up.
Dec 5 – Fort Meyers to Cape Coral
We left Fort Meyers at 6:00 to try to get to Cape Coral by 8:00 – as close to high tide as possible -- with the hope that we might be able to get the boat up the canal and into the dock at the house. We really had no idea how much water there would be but we knew it would be tight. A number of people we talked to thought we could probably do it at high tide (there is only about 1’ of tide here so not a lot of difference between low and high). We gave it a valiant effort and made it up to the house. We could feel the mud sucking against the keel a couple of times as we went up the canal and we were seeing readings on the depth sounder less than 5’ (and we need 5.5’). When we were off the house, Dave got in the dinghy to see if there was water at the dock, and by the time he got back to the boat we were stuck in the mud. There really wasn’t much water at the dock so that wasn’t going to work. We got the boat unstuck once by putting out the anchor and pulling towards the anchor. By this time we had several neighbors come out to say "hi" and see if there was anything they could do to help. We tried to get up to the neighbour’s dock, but we got stuck again. Finally we called TowBoat to come and pull us off (fortunately we had insurance for just such an occurrence). By that point the anchor was so stuck there was no way we could pull it out. When TowBoat arrived, he didn’t think he could get us out until the tide came back up, so he didn’t even try. He did help us get the anchor back.
At that point we all piled off the boat and into the dinghy and went to the house. The house is great! It was probably built in the 60’s and it’s really funky. It is huge too – probably more square feet than our house at home – all on one level. There are four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, family room, playroom and three bathrooms. There’s a great pool that is lovely and warm. We got ourselves organized in the house and waited for high tide.
At supper time we called TowBoat again and arranged to have them meet us at 8:00. We went out to the boat at 7:00 and were able to move it a little, but we were still stuck. At 8:00 TowBoat arrived with a different operator. He pulled us off, no problem, and we had him tow us the 2 miles back down the canals to the marina. Bird was all settled safely in her new home by 9:30 and we dinghied back "home".