The Winnie W. has turned the southernmost corner on our Great Loop cruise. Traveling down the Gulf IntraCoastal Waterway on the west coast of Florida, we passed Sanibel Island and turned left (east) toward Cape Coral . As you can see on the map, this is not quite as simple as negotiating a cloverleaf on the highway. For one thing, there are strong tidal currents in San Carlos Bay and across the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Many boaters are swept by the current out of the channel & have some trouble in the shallows.
Birds of a feather do in fact flock together. Pelicans calmly sitting along bridge fendering... probably waiting for the next fishing boat.
The Caloosahatchee River forms part of the waterway across southern Florida via Lake Okeechobee. There are several sets of locks, although the overall rise & fall is not large. Franklin Lock was our first on this waterway, and its total lift was only a foot or two. However it keeps the tidal & salty estuary waters out of the fresh water system. The Lake Okeechobee basin provides irrigation & drinking water for most of southern Florida. This is why the Everglades is drying up, although the record drought hasn't helped.
Shortly after we 'rounded the corner at Cape Coral, we met up with our friends Wayne & Diane. To save trouble of explaining how to navigate in his neighborhood, Wayne simply drove out in their runabout to meet us... this is the first time the Winnie W. has had an escort!
After a great visit, we headed further up the river. Passing the city of Fort Myers, we couldn't help but comment on this classic bit of Florida architecture. To be fair, it should be noted that the buildings on the left aren't finished yet.
Continuing up the Caloosahatchee River, we visited with Jerry & Rosalie, who own an orange grove. They cruised the Great Loop earlier this year, completing the trip last month in time to begin harvesting. They were also very glad for the rain!
Jerry, Garrett, Doug, & Hank in the orange grove. We picked a few bushels of oranges, although Hank didn't really help much. This picture does not do justice to the bright color of the oranges or how thickly they grow... some trees seemed to have just as many oranges as leaves!
Here is a cute cruising boat. It could be the Winnie W.'s little sister.
Locks on the Okeechobee Waterway are a little different. Instead of a system of valves & conduits, they just open the lock doors a little and let the water pour through. The rise & fall of the water level is always 6' or less. Part of the reason for these locks & dams is to protect the drainage & irrigation canals from hurricanes.
After traversing our third set of locks & dams on the Caloosahatchee River & Canal, which forms the western part of the Okeechobee Waterway, we arrived in the "mountain region" of central south Florida.
This system of canals was begun in the 1850s, chiefly for drainage of the marsh for use as farmland.
Here is Kathie's cousin Andy trying out the famous dinghy. It was a chilly & windy day but we rowed most of the way to the next lock, along the waterfront of Moore Haven. Hank watched anxiously, as he considers the dinghy to be *his* sports car.
Tomorrow we plan to continue across Lake Okeechobee itself, maybe through a couple more locks. We are about 900 waterway miles from home and starting to get the itch to finish the Loop!
Our best to you all, Doug and Kathie