The crew of Viridian slipped her lines away from the mooring ball in Ft. Myers, FL as a grey, early morning fog covered the entire area. The radar was switched on but by the time we got back out to the channel we had at least one mile visibility and the fog was burning off pretty quick. Most of the Okeechobee Waterway leaving Ft. Myers is designated "Manatee Zone" so we eased along in the still, cool morning seeing no other boats on the water glad to have a cloud cover since we were cruising directly into the rising sun.
Our passage took us 42 river miles east of Ft. Myers, FL to the River Forest Yacht Center near Moore Haven, FL. We will leave Viridian on the hard there with a short list of repairs while we fly back home to visit for the month of March. We passed through two locks and seven lift bridges to get to our destination. The first lock was the W. P. Franklin Lock that had a 2 ft lift. We shared the lock with another looper boat and had no problems maneuvering Viridian without the bow thrusters. The lock master was very helpful and talked with us during our short time in the chamber. We only had to request one bridge, the Alva/Broadway Bridge, for an opening. Viridian's air draft is 22 feet. We gained some confidence passing under all the low bridges on the east coast of Florida so we cruised on under these bridges today with a few feet of clearance, but still felt like a submarine crew waiting for the next depth charge to go off. At the end of the day we still have our mast and rigging and we have more confidence in our number, and theirs, when it comes to clearance.
We had the good fortune to meet the Looper Boat "Slow Hand" as he was headed west to Ft. Myers. If you recall, Slow Hand is the man who organized the 16 Looper boats so we could lock through the Wilson Lock in Florence, AL following the Looper Conference at Joe Wheeler. After clearing Wilson Lock, we never saw or heard from Slow Hand until now. We Chatted a while on the radio and updated each other on our plans as we parted ways once again.
Soon afterward, the bilge pump light in the upper helm came on. The first mate came up to inform me that the fresh water plumbing had sprung a leak and drained all our water into the bilge and pumped it overboard. (We have been making incremental repairs to the fresh water system since Key West so it looks like we have more work to do). It turned out to be an easy fix by simply reconnecting the loose hose back to the pipe and snuging it down good. This has happened before so we knew where to look for the leak.
On the way to the last lock of the day, Ortona Lock, there is a long straightaway in the canal where we wanted to run Viridian at wide open throttle, (WOT). It is good to do this from time to time with the CAT diesel so when we get to a good place then its wide open for about 10 minutes. While doing this all vitals with respect to the engine parameters are monitored closely for signs of excessive heating. Everything performed as it should so after about 8 minutes we pulled her back to cruising RPM and then that red bilge light came on again. I knew it was not the fresh water system because it was empty. I turned the helm over to the first mate and went below to open the hatch to see what was going on. Opening the hatch I immediately saw that the problem was a blown water hose on the output side of the heat exchanger. It was spewing seawater through a 1 inch slit just behind the clamp where it attaches to the heat exchanger output fixture. Viridian was pulled down to an idle as we monitored the temp gauge and prepared to drop the anchor. Once we set the anchor we killed the engine and went below to the assess the problem. I keep a roll of silicon tape in a drawer by the engine compartment and in 10 minutes we had a patch on the hose that stopped the leak. Viridian was fired up and the patch held while we locked through Ortona and eased into the marina and tied off to the sea wall. Now we have another item to add to our list of things to get fixed. All of the water hoses on the engine will be replaced before we begin our journey next month. The other items are: fix thruster, leaky generator water pump, and battery replacement.
We have cruised over 1000 miles of the Florida coast, including a trip deep into the Everglades, and have yet to get a glimpse of an alligator, until now. There are at least two alligators living here in the marina. They are only about 6 feet long and cruise around peeping with their eyes just above the water. Maybe it was just too cool, after all we were here during winter months and I'm sure that had something to do with us not seeing any. But now we have seen a couple and are glad we are not leaving Florida without at least laying eyes on a Florida alligator. And another thing we haven't been seeing, and glad of it, is the mosquito. Not sure what all Florida is doing to keep them away but whatever it is, it's working. We surely don't miss the mosquito but you see, we bought this electronic mosquito repeller and were anxious to test it out and it just sits in a drawer so far. Oh well! That's the news and here are some views.
Cruising Up the River
A working Boatyard
Weird albino lizards around here
Large cruiser being hauled out
Viridian tied to the wall for a few days while we wait for our departure day
A new piece of boat furniture