Our chosen route home would take us directly north from Key West, into the Caloosahatchee and east to Stuart. We had made the transit before heading both east and west. Departing at 0700 on Saturday 7 March, at the end of the day we found ourselves 15 Nm south of Chokoloski in the open, east of Cape Romano. It had been a long day and we were going to lose an hour to daylight savings time in the morning. The anchorage rolled a bit, but with tummies full of lasagna, we slept like babes. The next morning we navigated around the shallow tip of Romano, past the beaches of Marco Island and into Naples. The Naples City Dock hadn't changed in years: a little worn, but was still at the center of this affluent city. Old Navy friends, Ned and Sharon were there to meet us and we headed off for a night on the town. Ned's choice of the Ridgeway for dinner proved spectacular. Wonderful meal and a great chance to catch up.
Our departure on Monday allowed for a short leg as we anchored near Lofton Island in the Caloosahatchee just off the Fort Myers waterfront. The water here is a coffee color from all the local trees. It will stay dark brown up thru the fresh water Okeechobee and down into the St Lucie canal on the eastern side. We had called the Army Corps of Engineers to confirm that the lake water level was up, because the return around the Keys would have been a long one. We had two up locks on Tuesday before arriving at the Moore Haven lock on the west side of the lake. Calling the master we had confirmed an opening when we heard a yell from the City Dock. Old friends, Bud and Elaine on Diamond Girl were comfortably moored to the wall and we did a quick turn to join them. Our intended stop in Clewiston was cancelled as we settled in to a nice evening with friends, We had met them four years ago as their boat was unloaded from California in Port Everglades and seen them each year since as our paths crossed.
On Wednesday we hit the Moore Haven locks as the first entree. The trip around the rim to Clewiston and then outbound to the lake proper, was uneventful save the numerous bass boats and occasional alligators that excited our transit. The lake is really very peaceful and when you exit there is a sense of regret that the calm will soon give way to the twists and turns of the busy St Lucie. Along about dusk it was time to find a spot for the nite. And, it was just short of Stuart that we found a huge mooring field. Diving into the books, the explanation became clear. The good folks of Stuart grew tired of anchoring cruisers and passed a city ordinance to prohibit the practice. In compensation, there has emerged a great mooring field, out of view of the fair citizens of Stuart. Far be it from us to foul the fair sight of the city founders; we quickly picked up a ball and settled in for the night. As no one came to collect and with our currently faulty dinghy, we can assume that the night's stay was for free.