Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lock and Load

August 19, 2013 - Lock and Load

There was a bit of a learning curve for the lock system even though we had done our homework.  Some locks are open on the even hours, some on the odd hours, meaning if you miss the opening you may have to wait 2hrs which in turn shifts your whole schedule with the domino effect of missing the following lock's opening.  It was added pressure we didn't need.

Franklin Lock - It was so exciting and nerve racking to reach our first lock.  We had to maneuver the bumpers a bit to keep from banging the sides, the lock tender was super helpful and patient with us.  We got situated and then experienced the magic of the lock :) Pretty cool to watch the water spill in and us move on our way down the channel.  
Passing a tug to enter Franklin Lock
Exiting Franklin Lock
We were settling into boat living nicely.  The girls would alternate between watching the scenery, playing on tablets, watching movies, sitting on deck and napping.  
Ortona Lock - By the second lock we were pros!  
Ortona Lock
The girls would help with lines and always wave at the lock or bridge tender.  We stopped just in front of the Moore Haven Lock to fuel, water and provision before crossing the lake because we knew we wouldn't make it out of the St. Lucie lock and there was very little docking options as far as we wanted to go.  
Moore Haven city docks.  Railway bridge and lock are just around the bend
So the girls and I walked to the store while the guys topped off the tanks.  The store was much further than we had expected and I was feeling the time crunch.  We grabbed what we could and headed back down the road.  The girls were troopers, they kept pace and even though it was hot, they never complained and understood the rush we were in.  We got back to the boat at 2:40pm.  Andrew hosed us down to cool off, we loaded the 20lbs of ice and 2 gallons of water, etc on board and shoved off.  Just as we pulled away the railroad bridge between us and the lock started to close. 
I couldn't believe it - all the rushing and efforts to make the 3pm lock now foiled by a bridge that never closes closing!  But God had mercy on us and although it was agonizing to watch it inch closed, the truck cross (not even a train) and it eek back open, we made it!
Moore Haven Lock
Moore Haven Lock - This was our last lock before Lake Okeechobee and possible open water sailing.  Note - the exit out of the Moore Haven Lock immediately comes to a "T" not indicated in our books or chart plotter.  Our instincts told us to turn left, but we were wrong.  Our friendly lock tender radioed us with the course correction, "if you're headed for the Atlantic, you won't get there that way!"  

We were excited for this leg of the trip.  Reaching the lake, knowing the next lock was wide open for us to continue on our way, and we would only have the final lock the next morning before reaching the Atlantic, we were over half way!  It was good sailing on the lake, everyone was doing well aboard.  
As dusk set in, we approached the east side of the lake and had the lock in our sites.  The darker it got, the more difficult it was to decipher the lighted beacons.  With the Lock open and water being pushed out of the lake to the Atlantic side, it was like going down a set of rapids entering the east side of the waterway.  Andrew did an amazing job navigating into and through, even with a swift current pushing us along.  

It is on this final stretch of the waterway that we approach the dreaded 49' railway bridge, the lowest point we will ever need to cross and it is in conjunction with another bridge.  It makes for a very tense half hour and I wouldn't recommend passing in the dark but we were not to be deterred.  We passed with only our antenna binging the top (our mast measures 46' -too close for comfort).  Everyone was on alert as we traveled the channel at night.  No issues and we arrived at the park just west of the St Lucie Lock around midnight.  There was much debate as to whether we should dock at the very shallow park or motor back a ways to the nearest marina.  Andrew insisted and got his way, mostly because he was at the helm and otherwise out voted by Dylan and I, but successfully and safely backed us into a slip.  The park was very nice with RV parking and facilities.  We slept well and were ready to head out when the lock opened at 7am.
St Lucie Lock in the background
Our journey continues in "Breaking Point"

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