Category Archives: Trawler

Tales of the St Johns – Palatka to Sanford

East Palatka, St Johns River selfieHow does one tell the story of the St Johns River?  Believe it or not, the St Johns River starts close to home in the western marshes of Indian River and northern St Lucie counties. Drained and destroyed for agriculture and now in the process of being restored, the waters of these wetlands wind north, melding with springs, creeks, and rivers finally exiting into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville. This is the mighty St Johns!

When Ed and I began our trawler excursion this year, I really didn’t know what to expect. I read as much as I could, asking my mother to share history, but even so I was really unprepared for the experience. The St Johns is so long (310 miles) and covers so much territory. It runs through twelve counties. I couldn’t even find it on one map. With the Mainship’s ¬†four foot draft, only a portion of the river was navigable (Jacksonville to Sanford) but it is much longer than that. So again, how does one tell the story of the St Johns River? A part at a time.

  1. Stuart to Ortega
  2. Ortega to Palatka

Today’s part, 3, Palatka to Sanford, is longer than the previous two and will be the final tale of our journey. By the way, as 1st Mate, I didn’t miss a line! ūüôāOn September 11, 2021, Adrift departed¬†the shores of East Palatka headed for Sanford. We were excited. There would be famous things to see along the way like, Rodam Reservoir, Lake George, Welaka State Forest, Astor, Hontoon Island, Blue Springs State Park, and Lake Monroe. We had overnighted at Corki Bells¬†close to the 2,757 acre Horseshoe Point Conservation Area the night before. As with the entire St Johns, in some areas the water appeared¬†impaired and in others not. By the conservation area the water looked healthy. The fish were jumping. ¬†It was this morning that we saw the first eagle.

“Ed is that an osprey or an eagle? It has a white head. Oh my gosh! It’s an eagle!”

Over the course of the next two days, Ed and I saw a total of sixteen eagles, mostly in pairs.  They were staring down at us from tall cypress trees; they were sitting on channel markers eating fish; they were swirling overhead. It was incredible! None of my photographs are good enough to share, but I did take a photo of a mural at Corki Bells that gives the feel of these soaring majestic eagles, especially on Patriot Day. -Map showing St Johns River cut of Cross Florida Barge Canal to the Ocklawaha River

PALATKA

One cannot tell the story of the St Johns without telling the story of the Ocklawaha. Not¬†too far south of Palatka’s conservation area lies a cut from the St Johns River into the Ocklawaha River¬†-scared by the history of¬†Rodman Pool and Kirkpatrick Dam. In the 1960s and 70s Marjorie Carr and Defenders of the Environment garnered public and political will to halt the ecological nightmare of the still infamous¬†Florida Cross State Barge Canal. Today activists calls continue to free the damed Ocklawaha.

I had read so much about the 1800s Riverboat trips to Silver Springs and how they define the history of Florida itself -so much so that there is a giant painting by Christopher Still in the state Capitol entitled “Ocklawaha”and historic documents and photos of the river are housed in the archives of the University of Florida. She is a part of the St Johns we must never forget.

-Dredged cut ¬†into St Johns River- the beginning of the Cross Florida Barge Canal-Historic postcardsRiverboat mural of the Ocklawaha, Florida State CaptiolUFLibrary Theodore Hahn’s Ocklawaha historic documents and photos

LAKE GEORGE

The winding waterway south of Palatka is treed with cypress, sable palms, and other trees I didn’t know with only a few small towns along the way. We saw turtles, alligators, wading birds and more eagles! ¬†After about five hours we made it to¬†Lake George the second largest lake in Florida and interesting enough, although the river is fresh at this point miles from the ocean, the lake is brackish -due to salt water springs- leftovers of an ancient Florida sea. The first clue we were in a different ecology was the abundance of hundreds of seabirds: seagulls, terns, and smaller birds I did not recognize. It was as if we were at the ocean! Shallow, eleven miles long, and six miles wide, Lake George is known for quickly- rising dramatic storms. Sure enough, when we entered the lake it was a beautiful day, by the time we were exiting, cumulonimbus had developed over the eastern edge forming thunder, lightening, wind, and white caps.

-Seabirds line the wooden guide to exit Lake George

ASTOR

Just south of Lake George lies Astor, a small hamlet that friend Captain Paul, who we’d met in Ortega, recommended. Ed and I stayed at Astor Bridge Marina. After a creative docking assignment, Ed and I exited Adrift stumbling upon the gigantic¬†William Bartram Memorial Oak that had almost been obliterated by Highway 40 -basically cutting this little town in half.

As most of us were taught in school, in the mid 1700s William Bartram returned as he’d first come as a boy with his father to famously document the St Johns River Valley’s flora and fauna. The records remain a baseline today. For me it was serendipitous to find the ¬†memorial tree and learn that Astor was a location that William Bartram had actually overnighted. Between all the eagle sightings and the memorial oak, I was feeling inspired to continue my own ¬†journey for the St Lucie River. -William Bartram Memorial Oak, Astor, FL

AN ACCOUT BY WILLIAM BARTRAM

There was an exquisite sunset that evening. Sitting on the upper deck, as Ed sipped a vodka, and I drank white wine, I read Ed an excerpt from William Bartram. An account of a storm on Lake George as shared in Tales on the St Johns River, by Hallock. ¬†Behold the little ocean of Lake George!” How absolutely full of wildlife the St Johns River Valley must have been when the Bartrams visited Florida in the 1700s! His accounts of birds, alligators, deer, bears, wolves, fish, the tannin-clear waters, and native people is especially amazing . I started to realize the St Johns Valley is equally important to the Everglades.

SANFORD

-Ed fixing the water pumpOn the morning of September 12, 2021, we departed for our final St Johns destination, Sanford on Lake Monroe. Docking was easy at Monroe Harbor Marina.¬†Ed wanted to go get a pump as our water pump was failing, so I looked around ¬†while he went to the office. Immediately I recognized ¬†something because I’d been reading that William Bartram book. I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of dime sized¬†banded mystery snail¬†shells.

The grackles had eaten the mollusk and thrown the shells aside. I remembered Bartram’s account about the native people of Lake Monroe eating these by the millions to sustain themselves, creating middens, and that some of these middens remain today. What a name: Banded Mystery Snails…

-Lake Monroe approaching Sanford-Banded Mystery Snails from Lake Monroe, Sandford, FLWhere is Sanford anyway?To the east of Sanford lies Cape Canaveral and to the west Mount Dora. My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Dell Rawls Henderson, was born in Plymouth, Florida, not too far southwest of Sanford, close to Lake Apopka. The metropolis of Orlando lies south and Sanford International Airport, once a naval air station, now operates worldwide. Sanford has had its up and downs but now it is growing!

It was a fun change from being anchored out. There were good restaurants. There are great historic districts. Goldsboro was interesting. It was the second black incorporated township in the Inited States! ¬†And the Sanford Museum?¬† It told the story of how the city grew up from agriculture south of Lake Monroe and Swedish immigrants role in its success. Once the citrus crop froze in the late 1800s, Sanford became the “Celery Capital of the World.” I never knew that!

-Sanford Museum with celery columns¬† -Sandford’s famous downtown clock -St Johns Riverboat tours ¬†on Lake Monroe a big hit since 1850! -Downtown is historic and modern¬†-The best pancake breakfast and coffee Ed and I ever had! Colonial Room Diner-Having fun! Many homes had natural yards for butterflies and birds in the historic¬†district. -Veterans Memorial Park, Lake Monroe It’s hard to share everything so I have just noted highlights. What a great experience the 2021 St Johns trawler excursion had been! ¬†It was sad to leave but it was time to get back to the St Lucie. Our farewell was a ¬†beautiful and crystalline day and Ed and I shall cherish ¬†it forever. “Goodbye St Johns! Thank you for sharing! Thank you for educating! Thank you for un-plugging us from social media! Now please safely take us home.”

So on September 15, now tried and true, Ed and I left Sanford to head back up the St Johns and then down the Indian River ¬†towards “Stuart on the St Lucie.”

-Heading out of Lake Monroe-A mirror of beauty, the St Johns… -Returning home…

Watch a video of the beautiful St Johns River 

Tales of the St Johns-Ortega to Palatka

-Suspension bridge, Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka.Today’s blog post continues the story of Ed my recent trawler excursion along the St Johns River.¬†It was September 9 and we had been Adrift¬†for eight days. Definitely starting to “mellow out,” the world as we knew it seemed a million miles away.

In order to reach Palatka, we’d departed¬†Ortega at dawn. With the wind at our backs and overcast skies, Ed guided us past some of the most beautiful small towns and shorelines of the St Johns River: Mandarin, the home of Harriett Beecher Stowe; Hibernia, where Margaret Fleming taught her slaves to read; and Green Cove Springs, location of the famed “Fountain of Youth, and the “Mothball Fleet.” ¬†So much history and Palatka would offer even more.¬†St Mary’s Episcopal Church built in 1878, shoreline, Green Cove SpringsGetting from Ortega to Palatka took about five hours. As we nibbled on apples and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we looked down on a tannin colored, wide, curvy, and heavily treed St Johns. I had to wonder how much different it looked during the St Johns Riverboat era, long over a hundred years ago. The river’s path was taking a significant swing west. Dark clouds had formed and the ominous Seminole Power Generating Station gleamed like a dark sentinel as we slowly approached Palatka.“Is that Georgia-Pacific?” Ed pointed from the upper deck to what looked like billowing smokestacks.

“Yes, the area of the paper mill, and a coal-fired power station I think.” I yelled back from the bow.

“Isn’t Palatka the place you read there was once a giant lumber yard?

I shook my head up and down. “Wilson Cypress Company, established 1891-the second largest cypress mill in the world! I can’t imagine cutting down all those giant trees!”

-AdriftWith a few squalls but no major issues, we pulled into the Boathouse Marina, where Craig, the dock hand, greeted us with firm direction and a friendly demeanor. ¬†As were tying up, I saw the remains of an old riverboat along the shoreline; a gator slipped into the water. “I’m gonna love this place.” I thought. And we did!

Before we went exploring, Ed wanted to take the dingy out and go across to East Palatka. It was windy and clouds were in the distance but I agreed. We made it across and explored but on the way home the engine sputtered and died.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Ed said.

I remained silent. Ed fooled with the battery. Watching the clouds rolling in from the west and checking my phone, I could see it read: “Lightening in Area.”

“There is lighting Ed. You better start rowing!” Ed looked sternly into my eyes. “That’s why I have the paddles!”¬†he replied. I knew this was not the time for discussion. So like a modern Cleopatra I sat looking at my phone while Ed rowed across to Palatka proper. Luckily, Ed did a great job and we made it safely across. Ed immediately got a beer and went over to look at the old riverboat and see if I could find the alligator. Paltka is like a time-capsule of Florida history: railroads, riverboats, and wonderful historic homes. Our favorite excursion was¬†Ravine Gardens State Park, one of nine 1930s New Deal state parks in Florida. The park is an ancient ecological wonderland with two ravines up to 120 feet deep featuring walking paths, gigantic trees, and wildlife. Its springs and waters trickle to the St Johns. It is part of the famed Bartram Trail of 1773-1777. It was a quite a hike and beautiful!¬† -Court of States,¬†“Hi mom and dad!”I was born at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, 1964!¬†-The Amphitheater¬† We also enjoyed the “The Hammock,” part of Palatka’s authentic Historic District. These homes were built during the city’s hay day of railroad crossings and Riverboats. Palatka is the City of Murals.¬†All together there are twenty-three! On the way home from Ravine State Gardens we followed the on-line guide and visited almost all. A great way to share the past. Palatka has a great historic downtown right in the middle of the murals and the homes. They have not taken down their Confederate statues but the conversation is alive and well!Before I close on this chapter of Palatka, there is one more story I must tell. The public docks were within vision of the marina. For two days and nights Ed and I had seen crowds of locals throwing cast nets off the dock and this went on for hours. One night there was thunder and lightening and I awoke around midnight. I got up and looked outside. To my surprise the people were still throwing their cast nets! I woke up Ed.

What do you think they are catching?” I asked. “There must be something really incredible in those waters! What do you think? Catfish? Mullet? What could it be?”¬†

Ed kept snoring and when we awoke the next morning, the fisher people were still there. When we went to dinner that evening at a great Mexican restaurant, the fisher people were still there! On our walk home, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

“Let’s go visit the dock Ed!”We walked in the dim light onto the dock filled with people. Old folks, children, women, men. They were casting their nets into the water methodically, one throw at a time. Ed and I watched, walking along the far side of the dock, trying not to get in their way. We strained our eyes to see.

“Shrimp Ed! “They are catching shrimp!” They were not bring up many, maybe ten to twenty at a time. Each person had a five gallon bucket. Little kids would pick up the shrimp that got free and place them back into the bucket. I saw one they’d missed at the edge of the dock that certainly would have shriveled up. ¬†I snuck it into my hand. I looked at the people working.

“May I take a picture?” I asked one of the sitting men.

“Sure,”¬†he said. “Are the shrimp here all the time?” I inquired.

“No mam. They are here just once a year. This is the St Johns River shrimp run.” Ed and I smiled. We walked to the end of the pier. “I can’t believe it!” Ed said, “I never would have guessed!” I threw the shrimp that had been snapping in my hand as far off the dock as ¬†possible. “Stay low.” I whispered, hearing the shrimp are caught as they ride a rising current.

“Incredible,” Ed said grabbing my hand.

So many things we didn’t yet know about the wonderful St Johns River. Next stop Astor.

Watch a video of the locals shrimping!

Shrimp Op-Ed 

 

Tales of the St Johns-Stuart to Ortega

So my blog has been quiet for a while. I have been away, but today I look forward to sharing with you Ed and my recent journey. On September 2, 2021, Ed and I began our trawler excursion number two. ¬†Last year we christened “Adrift” by completing the Southern Loop. This year our goal was something a bit more unfamiliar, the St Johns River.

Always worried about leaving in the heart of hurricane season, we were pleased that the weather was nice leaving “Stuart on the St Lucie.” Inching around the southern tip of home, the peninsula of Sewall’s Point, we headed north on the Indian River Lagoon. Honing our skills, we anchored-out the first night in Wabasso, and again the second night in Titusville. The third night we docked at the Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona; and the forth at St Augustine Municipal Marina.

St AugustineIt was St Augustine that awoke us from our South Florida slumber. Historic St Augustine lies at the intersection of what is named the Matanzas and Tolomoto Rivers and sits directly across from the St Augustine Inlet.

Docking at the marina went well, but our departure, not so much. In the pastel clouded morning, as wading birds and rock pigeons flew in every direction, Ed and I pulled away to continue on to Jacksonville. As we were slapping ourselves on the back for “an exit well done” the strong current pushed our craft aside sending us in the direction of two enormous yachts. We were headed for collision. Time froze, Ed and I could not believe our eyes. It happened so fast!

I followed orders grabbing a starboard line, but realized there was really nothing I could safely achieve. The force of the tide was overbearing. Ed’s instincts kicked in, he exercised full power, stern hitting a lone piling that swung wildly as we pulled away.

I heard a gentleman holding a cup of coffee yell to Ed: “Nice save!”

Ed and I looked at each other incredulously, both knowing it was more luck than skill that saved us. Miraculously, there was no damage other than our egos. From here on out, Ed and I paid great attention to the tides and currents of the region.We didn’t talk much that day, and the Tolomato River region revealed its most beautiful residents to sooth our spirts. At one point along the miles of bright green marshes, forty-two roseate spoonbills flew past! It was spectacular! Eventually we entered “the northern part of the ditch,¬†better known as the Intracoastal Waterway and suddenly we we entering the mighty St Johns River.

Jacksonville

The Intracoastal and the St Johns intersect just west of the inlet at the Atlantic Ocean and Mayport, one of the largest naval stations in the United States and historic fishing village. As we veered west, Jacksonville came into view. It was impressive and intimidating. The river was wide and ships the length of skyscrapers filled the shorelines. I kept looking down, thinking I could “see” the tide. This river made the St Lucie look like a brook. In spite of the size of the river and the heavy industry, I kept noticing what appeared to be Monarch butterflies flying low across the water to the other side of the St Johns.“Unbelievable,” I thought. “How do they do that?”Everywhere I looked there were tugboats and container ships. A pod of dolphins joined our wake to say “hello.” Ed and I laughed and for a moment in time, nothing else existed. Just joy! “I can’t believe there are dolphins here!” Ed exclaimed.The dolphins finally pulled away and Ed shifted his eyes to the horizon. Our destination was an historic neighborhood, Ortega, about eight miles away located on the western bank of the St Johns River. Ed slowed down, called on the radio and little Ortega River Bridge slowly opened. The horn blew – a sound from a simpler past. “Thank you!” I waved from the bow and shortly thereafter we slid into a slip at the Ortega Marina.That evening we met Captain Paul, the Ortega Marina Dock Master, who became our guide, friend, ¬†and confidant. ¬†In the evenings he held court on his boat, “Passages,” telling stories of tides, time, and fishing tournaments.

The next morning Ed and I used the marina bicycles and rode throughout the historic district of Ortega. It was stunning! Oak trees and mansions the size of dinosaurs filled the landscape. Ortega got its start in 1769 so history includes many tales. I enjoyed seeing that Florida has many live oak trees that can compete with our northern neighbors. Breathtakingly beautiful trees, branches to the ground! Almost back at the marina, we visited nearby classic¬†Chamblin Bookmine, Highway 17 – wonderful to browse for hours as most in Stuart are now long gone. After a final cool down and walk to Publix where we met displaced Canadian Geese¬†searching for last year’s wetlands, Ed and I ¬†visited again with Captian Paul. I informed him I had researched and found out the beautiful flowers growing in the Ortega Marina were swamp lilies; ¬†we were already fast friends even though I was a “tree hugger.” Ed was looking to Paul as a mentor. Planning for tomorrow, we ¬†talked tides and weather figuring out our departure.

Night fell. Ed and I slept like babies with the sound of the train echoing in the distance. I dreamt about Henry Flagler, riverboats, and Canadian Geese. I was excited about our next stop, September 8: Palatka.

 

 

Meeting up with Cinnamon Girl to Document the IRL

Friday night, August 6, 2021, Ed, Luna, Okee and I spent the night on Adrift, after meeting up with “Cinnamon Girl,” the craft of Dutch and Mary Radabaugh. Their name may ring a bell as Dutch and Mary were the face of Central Marine during the infamous toxic algae outbreaks of 2005, 2013, 2016 and 2018. Fortunately, there is no blue-green algae bloom ¬†in the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon today as they ACOE has not discharged from Lake Okeechobee since April 10, 2021 due to algae sitting at the gate of Port Mayaca.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, the rains have begun, rainy season is upon us, and although stormwater runoff and C-23/24 are tainting the river brown, it is remains beautiful and safe so Ed and I decided to take Mary and Dutch up on their offer to meet and anchor in the IRL near Boy Scout Island. We had done this two years ago. How time flies!

It turned out to be a wonderful weekend and we got to observe. The seagrasses were no where close to as thick as they were in 2019, but they were there, and and recovering. ¬†Macroalgae coated everything. This is disappointing but is happening across the entire Indian River Lagoon due to nutrient conditions. Nonetheless, thankfully, at low tide the wading birds were abundant. We also saw manatees, sea turtles, stingrays, snook, hermit crabs, one large conch and hundreds of shiny minnows. I was impressed! ¬†I think there is no more beautiful place that the Indian River Lagoon at sunrise or sunset. Glorious…

We must remain vigilant.

Lake Okeechobee reached 13.87 feet over the weekend, eyeonlakeo, thus the C-44 canal with its surrounding runoff will start flowing to the St Lucie once the lake achieves 14 feet. So is the operation of the Central and South Florida System. This will certainly affect the clarity of our waters. Thankfully there is still #NoLakeO.

I share these photographs to document and to celebrate a good year thus far in 2021. Let’s continue “Riverlution” to keep it that way!

-St Lucie River -headed southeast into Indian River Lagoon Indian River Lagoon. There’s Cinnamon Girl! -Ed with Luna going to say “hi!”-Dutch with Holly-Okee stays inside Adrift. She likes sitting on maps.-IRL at sunset, silvery. -After a peaceful night’s sleep under the stars, Okee awakes to watch a golden sunrise -Sun’s up! Time to paddleboard and check out the conditions. JTL, Mary, Dutch and Ed. -Ed takes a break-Water brownish from rain and canals C-23/24. Greenish in bright light. -Mangrove island in the area known as the Sandbar. Many birds roosting! Mostly ibis. -Bare bottom with a some seagrasses surrounding mangrove island and sandbar area. Mary noted in 2007 this area had very lush seagrasses that have since been destroyed by Lake O discharges. Today there are sprigs. -Water looking greenish in bright light¬†-Ed checking out the conditions and happy as a clam-Macroalgae (below) coats everything ground and seagrasses- not good. Many believe this system is replacing seagrasses through out the IRL. Water quality is key to keeping seagrasses!¬†After our journey out we return to Cinnamon Girl. There are visitors!-Nic Mader and I relax. Nic is a dolphin specialist. ¬†Bottlenose dolphins like all creatures of the IRL are intricately connected to the seagrass habitat and the life that grows there.-Getting some exercise-Rains are beautiful falling in giant sheets from the sky! -Nic paddles towards home while looking for dolphins.¬†

-Mary Radabaugh is a very good photographer always carrying her camera. She captured these images. The roseate spoonbills and American egret were on the sandbar along many other wading birds. Wonderful to see! Watch the link below (in red) to watch a manatee video Mary took as well.

What a place of beauty. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon ¬†was once considered “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” Let’s continue to fight to regain that status! We are on our way back. Such a stunning, special place! Thank you for getting us on the ground out to see. ¬†We love you Cinnamon Girl!

MANATEE SWIMMING IRL  IMG_0638

-Saturday afternoon, on our way back to the Harborage Marina in Stuart. Another memorable sunset…

Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3

Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4    

Tales of the Southern Loop, Marathon to Key West, Part 5

Tales of the Southern Loop, Key West to Cape Sable, Part 6

Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart, Part 7

I’m a bit late in getting this final Southern Loop¬†published. Between the presidential election, Tropical Storm Eta, seemingly endless overcast skies, ACOE discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and resurging Covid-19, I have had a hard time keeping myself on track!

This post is split into seven sections for dates 9-17-20 though 9-22-20. It shares highlights of the second half of the Southern Loop along the waters of Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, and back to Stuart. A fantastic trip! 

I. MARCO ISLAND, GULF OF MEXICO 

 Having left Cape Sable, approaching from the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island looked like a city rising from the water. It is actually the first and largest of a chain, that beyond it, comprises Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge and is adjacent to Everglades National Park.

Well¬†before the era of high rise resort hotels, the island’s beach was surrounded by mangrove forests, and the Calusa Indians thrived here for possibly thousands years. Docking at Marco Island Marina was one of Ed and my most difficult experiences with the winds tearing along the seawalled canal as we struggled for direction. Once there, it was paradise. We wish to go back.

-Approaching Marco Island in the Gulf of Mexico-Marco Island is part of 10,000 Islands

II. FT MEYERS, CAPE CORAL, CALOOSAHATCHEE 

The following day, after running just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Adrift arrived at Tarpon Point Marina, and docked with out issue- a familiar spot as this is where Ed and I had taken trawler classes in 2018. We had reached the Caloosahatchee!

That afternoon, Ed and I arranged a visit with Cape Coral resident, friend, and long time River Warrior pilot, Dave Stone. Also joining us was advocate and west coast fishing expert, Captain Chris Wittman, Captains for Clean Water.

Dave and Chris reminisced their history together documenting the blue-green algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee that exacerbated the horrific red tide in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018. Dave and Chris’ Facebook Live ¬†images helped turn the tide with the election of Governor Ron DeSantis and Executive Order 19-12.-

-Dave Stone and Chris Wittman visit Adrift¬†In the following days, Ed and I made our way to Moore Haven. The channelized Caloosahatchee is 67 miles long with quiet, rural towns “Olga” and “Alva,” and two locks (Franklin and Ortona), along the way. During the course of this lasting and beautiful day, I actually heard Ed say:¬†“I think I could retire here.”¬†That was a first!¬†

Of course like everything else, although there remains great beauty, from an ecological view, the¬†story of the Caloosahatchee is a bit depressing . In the late 1800s, it was the first water body altered as Hamilton Disston plowed through the oxbows to change its course and blew up the rapids to drive the river through the sawgrass marsh at Lake Hipochee and then on to Moore Haven. This unnaturally connected the Caloosahatchee to Lake Okeechobee. Like the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee has been plumbed to drain diked, and polluted Lake Okeechobee. This drain the swamp¬†“progress” of the time, affects Florida’s waters today at great cost.

-The Caloosahatchee connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee-The Olga bascule bridge-A lovely home along the channelized Caloosahatchee River-Cows cooling off. Hey! What about Best Management Practices? ūüôā-Ed talking to the ACOE at Franklin Locks¬†¬†-Historic swing bridge at Fort Denaud, near La Belle; prior to dredging and drainage, just north of here were the rapids of the Caloosahatchee-Ed and I hold the ropes, Ortona Locks and Dam, near¬†Ortona Prehistoric Village

III.MOORE HAVEN AT CALOOSAHATCHEE & LAKE OKEECHOBEE 

By the time we reached Moore Haven at the mouth of Lake Okeechobee, the sun was getting ready to set over the Moore Haven Bridge. Hospitality was in the air and Ed and I ¬†were immediately assisted to dock by fellow travelers John and Susan Brady of Kemah, Texas, ¬†who now live on their boat Sunset Drifter. We had a delightful visit and got great tips for “living aboard.”

As I looked out towards the lake, I was ecstatic to see the famous “Lone Cypress”¬†tree was only a stone’s throw away.¬†This tree has been a Lake Okeechobee landmark for hundreds of years. I found it rather ironic that it now has a sprinkler next to it! Considering it was living in a sawgrass marsh in more than a foot of water 140 years ago, this is the ultimate metaphor for Everglades’ change.

-Visiting with the Bradleys at the Public Docks of Moore Haven-Sunset over the Moore Haven Bridge, also known as, Highway 27-Me standing with the Lone Cypress today, 2020  -A sprinkler!? -Historic marker-Post card of the Lone Cypress at mouth of Lake Okeechobee ca. 1880, Florida Memory.

IV.MOORE HAVEN LOCK ENTERING LAKE O RIM CANAL 

In the morning Ed and I waved goodby to the Lone Cypress and to the Bradleys. Then the craziest thing happened. We were going through the locks at Moore Haven and there was substantial floating vegetation. To my surprise, I saw many marsh rabbits floating on water hyacinth or actually in the water literally up to their ears. We have marsh rabbits at home along the Indian River Lagoon, but I have never seen them in deep water. My emotions got the best of me and I did the unthinkable. I abandoned my post.

“Where is the net?” I shouted¬†as I climbed the stairs leaving the rope hanging against the lock’s tall cement wall.¬†“Ed I’m going¬†to save the drowning rabbits!

Ed was not pleased, yelling, “Jacqui, rule number one, never abandon your post!”

The trawler banged against the lock, the waters rushed in, and I could not reach the bobbing rabbits, so finally I gave up and re-grabbed the line. We passed through the lock into the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee.¬†I silently watched as the rabbits floated by. Ed gave me that look that means he is “not happy.”¬†

-Marsh rabbit with only ears and face above water