My least favorite part of anything is the end (unless I’m running. In that case, the end is my favorite.) The end of our time in Florida also meant we were getting dangerously close to the end of our Great Loop adventure.
Naturally, we put it off as long as possible (see The One In Fort Myers.) However, with hurricane season looming, it was time to move. Most insurance companies charge much higher premiums if you don’t get your boat out of Florida before June 1st.
Our first step was to move our boat to the East Coast. Rather than boating around the bottom of the state near the Keys, we opted to cross Lake Okeechobee.
This particular stretch became the most talked about portion of the whole Loop. It really isn’t THAT big of a deal. We’ve certainly traveled more difficult waters. But there are some timing issues with the locks since they close everyday at 4:30PM. The lake also tends to get treacherous on windy days because it’s so shallow.
Everyone who crosses from one coast to the other on the 120ish mile path seems to take a different approach. Some power through, and others take their time. The locks become a huge variable, as you never know exactly how much time to budget.
After too much debate, we decided to leave Fort Myers in the afternoon in time to make it through the first lock. We planned to spend the evening on the LaBelle City Wall. This plan proved more adventurous than we anticipated when we arrived and didn’t really fit. Undeterred, Brent wedged our boat in as far as possible and I managed to tie us off.
The next day we traveled through 2 more locks, crossed the lake, and then made it through the final 2 locks just before they closed. At that point we were in Atlantic waters for the first time since mid-August when we turned up the Hudson River.
The next couple of weeks traveling north out of Florida were the most unplanned and somewhat unorganized of our entire Loop (by no fault of our own!)
Right after we crossed Lake Okeechobee we scheduled a quick, last minute trip to Charlotte. Just as we were getting on the road, some parts of the country began experiencing a fuel shortage. Thankfully, Brent had the foresight to top off our boat fuel tanks before we headed north.
Almost as quickly as we arrived in Charlotte the gas disappeared completely. Brent had several full days of work meetings scheduled and quickly had to adjust. My visit went from hoping to see a few friends, to sitting at the hotel unable to go anywhere. We prioritized a trip to the orthodontist for Mary Grace and Brent’s work stuff, but otherwise the trip was a total bust.
We waited in line for gas for over 2 hours late one night in the hopes that we’d be able to make it back to our boat.
It was easy to find humor in the situation. We started the Loop in a pandemic, dealt with country and lock closures, and then were poised to finish during a fuel crisis. SERIOUSLY?
Thankfully, we all know the end to this story and it goes well. We did indeed make it back to our boat.
Our next goal was being in prime position for the rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center. This was a huge bucket list item for our Loop and I couldn’t believe when the timing actually worked out.
We spent two nights anchored in the most ideal (viewing) location hoping for a favorable launch window. When the first one got scrubbed we were very disappointed. However, on day 2 all the stars aligned and the launch went off flawlessly.
From the Space Coast we headed towards Daytona for a visit with our former neighbors. Herb and Shannon lived next door to us in Orlando, Florida when Mary Grace was a baby. From holiday dinners, to 911 calls, to first birthday parties- they were there for all of the milestones in Mary Grace’s first year of life. They also set the bar ridiculously high for all neighbors to come!
After Daytona we moved to our last official Florida destination, St. Augustine.
St. Augustine has been a favorite place of ours for a long time. When we lived in Orlando it was often our little weekend getaway spot. Visiting for the first time in many years was really special. We opted to stay on a mooring ball right next to the fort. Miller loved it!
We spent time strolling the city streets, eating ice cream and visiting the fort. It’s definitely a place we could stay for a much longer time. However, plans for our wake crossing were starting to develop.
Our final night in Florida was spent in a beautiful state park near Jacksonville. The only way I can describe that night is weird. After arriving in Florida on December 4th, we’d called the state “home” for almost 6 months. We also knew we’d cross our wake the next day. Emotions ran high and I don’t think either Brent or I slept much.
I’ll save all of our finishing-the-Loop details for my next post. We are so grateful for everyone who’s kept up with our crazy adventures. For those asking, we might be finished with our first Loop- but the adventures won’t stop! You may enjoy reading about some of our other travels:
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