94 Vero Beach, FL to St. Petersburg, FL

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The stone crab exploded into motion as I touched the back of its shell. My hastily retreating finger just managed to stay ahead of the open claws now violently moving up and back. The crab moved with so much force that it ended up doing a back somersault. Ruth, and Barb and Don from Sea Dragon, looked on not sure if they felt sorry for the crab, or relieved or maybe disappointed, that I didn’t get my finger pinched. Slowly the crab turned itself back over and was spared further indignation as an incoming wave washed it back to sea. We suspect it again went off in search of some surf caster’s bait to again clamp onto. That’s how the morning began as we walked the beach after dingying in for breakfast.

Thanksgiving dinner completed we hiked the park boardwalk with Mom to get some fresh air and to walk off the huge meal. A group men and boys caught our attention and we stopped to watch a scene older than the Bible. The man carefully arranged a cast net on his arm. Then with a graceful motion the net was cast out over the water spreading to a full circle before sinking to the bottom. The purse string was pulled, and we watched fascinated as he pulled it in with a few fish caught in the netting. We stayed and watched a number of throws first by the man and then by the boy who accompanied him.

Family business kept us ashore. We went off on a search of a new apartment for mom. Within one day we found a delightful spot. Once found, we set to work moving her to her new location. Mom surprised us by moving a couple of carloads of boxes by herself. We can only hope we are as spry and capable if we reach 87. The big stuff, Jim and I moved while Mom and Ruth got things organized in the new apartment.

In a reversal of roles the kids took the parents on vacation. We enjoyed Jeff and Debbie’s luxury time-share condo near Orlando for a couple nights. Danielle, now actively crawling and walking as long as she can hang onto a chair or coffee table provided hours of entertainment. Quiet walks along paths at sunset provided just the right amount of activity as we soaked up the comfort of the place.

Anita and Frank on Snow Goose helped get us back in a boating frame of mind. We swapped notes on experiences since our last meeting and then they introduced us to Dominos. We had a great evening playing and now understand the reason why it’s such an enduring game.

Just after leaving Vero a failed engine fitting, unscheduled fuel filter changes, and a broken computer happened in rapid succession. Stuart became our rebuild and replace port. Between work sessions we still managed to enjoy the charming character of shops hidden in a confusion of twisting streets in the old historic area. We enjoyed town and our free mooring for several days before the urge to be off away from all the busyness took over. We let the line slip from the mooring and took off to find a wilderness anchorage.

Four miles from town on an isolated channel off the St. Lucie Canal we found what we were looking for. Mangroves surrounded the narrow channel and the bends cut off views and excessive wind. Ruth backed Odyssey down as I hung onto the anchor line to feel it drag and then set deeply in the mud. Engine sound died away to be replaced by the natural sounds of birds, breeze and water. We sat back to enjoy a lovely, peaceful, watery scene of blues, greens and puffy white clouds. The sun faded below the mangroves and a shiny full moon converted the scene to silvery water framed by black and gray mangroves. We felt like we were part of a still life painted by an artist.

Lake Okeechobee is four feet lower than when we passed through in the spring. As we watched and listened on the VHF a sailboat attempted to come into the marina at Clewiston. The dock master, now embarrassed, was explaining to the sailboat, now aground, that he sure though there was enough water, and no, he didn’t have a boat to come and help get them off. I couldn’t resist. In seconds the dinghy was launched, and I was soon along side watching the lady hanging from the boom swung over the side trying to heel the sailboat over. We did introductions as she scrambled back aboard. I quickly explained the offered towline wasn’t needed because the dinghy was much more powerful and controllable pushing instead of pulling. With that I backed off, bumped the dinghy’s soft nose against the sailboat bow and turned them 180 degrees. Pushing on the stern, they were soon free. They headed out into the lake to find deeper water to anchor for the night.

Anchor set, plenty of line out, and with the dinghy tied along side Ruth slowly backed Odyssey toward the dock at LaBelle. Inches from touching I handed stern lines to a helping hand, and Ruth powered forward. I went forward and pulled the anchor line in tight. With that, our first ever Mediterranean style tie up at a dock was complete. LaBelle requests boaters to tie up that way to fit more boats at their free dock complete with water and electricity. We celebrated our new docking skill by renting our first ever DVD (Chicken Run) and tested the new laptop’s DVD player.

“That looks like Cutaway” had just escaped our lips as the VHF began calling “Odyssey.” By then we were passing, and waving. We turned and formed an impromptu raft and let both boats drift along the edge of the ICW while we swapped notes and stories with Ron and Mary. It had been well over a year since our last meeting. Our slow drift toward shallower water finally prompted us to break the raft. They continued south, and we continued north. We’ll find one another again after the holidays and have a proper reunion.

75-degree water made for a comfortable morning swim to clean the hull of its accumulated dirt and slime. We were in no hurry to leave the best anchorage we’d found in Florida. Early morning fog provided a great excuse to linger and enjoy the cove at Point Blanco. As if on cue, dolphin came in and made a leisurely sweep of our tiny cove. We traced down the call of an osprey and found it sitting on a branch enjoying a freshly caught fish. Great blue heron and ibis waded in the shallows. Reluctantly we finally hauled in the anchor and began moving again.

Getting out of the cove at Point Blanco was as tricky as getting in. Our GPS bread crumb trail helped, but we were at low tide and shoals invisible when we came in made the channel seem very narrow and close to shore. We crept out at dead slow watching the depth sounder seemly pull the bottom up toward Odyssey’s hull and skeg protected props. At .9′ Ruth put Odyssey in neutral, and we coasted along trying to read the water and figure out which way to turn to find more depth. Finally, slowly the depth sounder readings began to increase and we continued on out to the ICW channel. We’ll return to the cove at Point Blanco on our way south and spend a few days exploring.

Palm trees silhouetted against the harbor in fading light stood silent in the warm evening air. Christmas lights sprinkled around the harbor edge cast a warm glow. Comfortable wicker chairs on the porch of the Vinoy Hotel provided the perfect setting to watch the evening fade to night and celebrate returning to our starting point having completed 6,000 miles of water travel since buying Odyssey in March. We lingered talking about the fun we had and began planning our next adventures.

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