Okeechobee Locks

Delivering the ‘Dip – Part I

Friday June 5, 2015

Matt on Serendipity
At the moment we are sitting at the free town docks in LaBelle, Florida, on the second day of what is to be a 3-4 day delivery of Serendipity to her new home of Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  It’s been a short day, mostly due to lock schedules. Which kind of sucks because we’re just about at the longest day of the year and now we’re stopped at 3pm because the locks shut at 4:30, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

Our delivery began yesterday morning with a hopeful departure out of Indiantown Marina within an hour or two of sunrise.  Of course things still don’t always work out as you hope though and our schedule was now at the mercy of a boat tipper that could only fit us in during his lunch break around noon.>
Boat tipping?

Yup.  Just before entering Lake Okeechobee there’s a railway bridge with a clearance of only 49′.  Since our mast is 52′ you can do the math and figure out that we wouldn’t fit under it without delivering a slightly damaged boat.  In comes Billy the boat tipper to the rescue.  For a fee of $200 he will come out to you in a little skiff of his, filled with 55 gallon barrels and one big water pump.  Fastening the empty barrels on to your deck he’ll then fill them with water from the river until the added weight on the side they’re attached begins to tip closer to the water, thus putting your boat and your mast at an angle. With about 5 barrels full of water on our starboard side our mast was deemed low enough to safely make it under the bridge.

I won’t pretend to know a whole lot about what was going on since my job was to stay behind the wheel and keep us from drifting into the bridge before we had enough room to go under it, while Matt was the one on deck helping Billy and another guy.  All I did catch is there was a stick dangling from a piece of string attached to our mast, and when it touched the water it meant we were tipped far enough.  Only 17 degrees in the end actually, I thought it would have required much more of a heel than that.  Give us a good breeze and we could have done it ourselves!

Jessica in front of railroad bridgefilling water barrels boat tipping

boat tipping into Lake Okeechobee

Okeechobee Locks

entering Lake Okeechobee

 Out in to Lake Okeechobee we were met with something much nicer than we had originally been expecting.  Having looked at photos online before to see if it was a place we wanted to ‘weekend’ with Serendipity on our days off from boat work (before knowing about the railway bridge just before it), I had only been met with images of swamps and fishing boats and crowds that I assume watch Duck Dynasty on marathon.  But as we exited the lock onto the lake we were greeted with a wide expanse of open water and puffy white clouds in a bright blue sky.  Too bad for the fact of that railway bridge (and that after this we will no longer have the ‘Dip) or else I think it would have been a wonderful way to escape the work yard and all issues that I’m sure will arise, to enjoy a life as a freelance cruiser at least a few days a month.

Raising the sails for what may be our last time on Serendipity, we fought the wind left and right to try and get them to fill in 8 knots of wind as we traveled close hauled, and eventually had to accept that we would be motoring across the lake.  True to all of our passages before, given the first opportunity Matt was down below deck for a nap and I happily shut up the companionway to belt out some Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift.  No alone time and fairly public showers does not give one much opportunty to sing at the top of their lungs as they please.  Just another reason to miss the Sailing Conductors and our music nights at the patio.  Sniff….

Enjoying the sun I stripped down to a bikini for the first time in three months and enjoyed the scenery from the bow along with one of the Costa Rican beers I made sure to pack. Rain storms threatened off to the side but never made it close enough to worry. Winds did begin picking up for us as we rounded the maze of channel markers that would eventually lead us out of the lake and as one towering cloud looked to be coming especially close, I had to wake Matt to help me get the main sail down.

When it was tied up we also noticed it was time to anchor.  As the depths before us raised suddenly from 10 feet to just 3 outside the channel we knew we had to take the opportunity to get our anchor down in the lake while we still had the option.  Only 5:30 in the afternoon with plenty of daylight still ahead of us but we didn’t know of another place to drop hook for the night for miles.  It was all fine by me though as I forgot how utterly exhausting a day of travel can be.  Forget working days in a stifling hot boat yard with about 30 trips a day up and down a ladder.  Stick me in the cockpit of a moving boat for over 6 hours and I will be zonked out in minutes.

Throwing leftover pizza in the oven and enjoying the bouncing motion of being on a lee shore, we tried to keep ourselves awake until a reasonable hour of the night.  We did take in an absolutely stunning sunset from the cockpit before moving ourselves below deck again to watch a movie before bed.  All of our little traditions that are about to be sacked, for a time being, until we can gain some kind of semblance of our old life back on a boat.  Which will be months and months from now I’m sure.  But, it’s all part of the adventure.  I can’t say we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

last sail on Serendipity

Lake Okeechobee

sunset on Lake Okeechobee

sunset on Serendipity

sunset on Lake Okeechobee