It was 9:36 am, September 3, 2020, and we were preparing to leave the Harborage Marina in our hometown of Stuart. The sun blazed down upon me as I stood on the bow of the Mainship 400 trawler we had christened ADRIFT. The day had arrived. Ed and I were off -for three weeks- to experience our first real boating adventure- the Southern Loop.
Ed yelled down from the helm. “So you know what to do, right?”
“Of course Captain!” I reviewed: 1. Check wind and tide direction. 2. Release the stern spring line. 3. Release the the bow spring line. 4. Release the bow line. 5. Release the stern line. 6. Make sure boat is clearing the dock. 7. Relay message to Captain.
“Aye, Aye, Captain!” I yelled back over the sound of the diesel engine. Then just to tease him, I asked: “Is it the front, or back spring line first?”
Ed did not smile…the motor growled, I moved starboard, quickly, carefully, and methodically removing some lines from their cleats and bringing others on board.
The trawler inched forward like a sputtering whale.
“You’re clear!” I yelled, watching the transom just miss the dock piling.
We slowly motored out against the tide, and our adventure had begun. I walked to the bow looking over the wide and beautiful St Lucie. The trip through the St Lucie, the Jupiter Narrows, the Loxahatchee, Lake Worth, and the canal-like portion of the Intercostal Waterway to Boyton would be familiar, but from there it was all new territory.
- St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon looking towards St Luice Inlet
2. Jupiter Narrows entering Loxahatchee and Jupiter Inlet area
3. Jupiter Lighthouse first lit in 1860, Loxahatchee River
4. Channelized ICW from Loxahatchee River in Jupiter south to Lake Worth
5. Lake Worth
6. Port of Palm Beach just west of Peanut Island and inlet
7. Lake Worth, the Alba Hotel, built in 1926, is today’s Biltmore Condominium
Ed, and I planned for our Southern Loop adventure for over a year. We took hands-on classes. We altered our schedules. We read books. Most important, we promised not to kill each other.
This blog series is meant to share our adventure and learn about our South Florida waterways with the help of an incredible book I read along the way, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, written by five South Florida Water Management District scientists, led by Christopher McCoy.
By the time we arrived at Boyton Harbor Marina the sun was setting. It was time to have a cocktail at a classic establishment, the Banana Boat or TWO GEORGES, historically Lyman’s Commercial Fishing Dock, now part of the Community Redevelopment Area.
A moist breeze filled the air. Ed inquired. “What’s our water lesson today?”
I took a deep swig of my daiquiri, “Well something new I learned is that there used to be a chain of ponds just west of here. Extensive. 20 miles of them! 2 miles wide…
Boyton sits not too far below Lake Worth in Palm Beach County. Chris McVoy’s book notes that in this area, not only was Lake Worth opened up to the ocean, and the gigantic arm of the Loxahatchee Slough -once connected with the Everglades- swallowed up by development, but there was a twenty mile chain of freshwater ponds – also described as a sawgrass marsh- just west of here, and now it’s the area of Congress Boulevard!”
“Really,” replied Ed. He took a swig of his beer. We drained the swamp right?”
My brain was frozen. “Sometimes I wish we didn’t. Not so much anyway…”
The two images above are from Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades and compare the area from the Loxahatchee to the Freshwater Ponds east of the Northern Everglades from 1850 to present. The contrasting images reveal many aspects of the environment that we don’t think about today. Going clockwise from noon. The connection of the C-44 to the St Lucie River; the channelization for the ICW along Florida’s east coast; the cutting of pine and cypress forests; the “disappearance” of the Loxahatchee Slough’s giant red arm up from the Everglades and across Palm Beach County to the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter; the replacement of the sawgrass plains with the Everglades Agricultural Area; the man-made inlets and the opening to the ocean of Lake Worth; and last but not least, the very rarely talked about chain of freshwater ponds that that have been drained and are now the area of Congress Boulvard. All of the drainage allows us to live here and helped agriculture in the past; however we have impaired our waters. Images, pages 48 &49, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, SFWMD, Christopher McVoy and others, 2011.
Red lines equal pre-drainage boarder of the Everglades; yellow lines equal pre-drainage landscape boundaries: primarily sawgrass plains and Ridge and Slough with visible tree islands of which east coast development has heavily encroached. You can see the WCA (water conservation areas) along eastern Atlantic Ridge. You can recognize this because they are the only areas with ridge and slough water pattern remaining. These areas, although protected, are now water impoundments since the ACOE built the Central and South Florida Project after the 1947 flood. Tomorrow, we will learn how the Everglades’ waters once exited to the Atlantic Ocean right through parts of Florida’s east coast when we continue our trip from Boyton to Biscayne Bay/Miami!