Hutchinson anchorage to the Roosevelt bridge: Prior to picking up Belle in November we drove to the Lauderdale boat show in October to shop electronics. In doing so I decided to take the scenic route. From I-75 south out of Tampa we picked up Hwy 80 Then Hwy 27 and drove east to Moore Haven. For most of the drive the Caloosehatchsee River, the western side of the ditch, is within eyesight. Knowing we would cut days off our trip using the Lake Okeechobee crossing, we stopped at several spots along the way checking marinas and anchorages. It was great to make that drive veering off here and there checking out the waterway and old Florida backwater from the sound perch of land. At Rowland Martins we were assured depth across the lake were holding at 13-feet. That was our ticket to use this wonderful cross-over on our way home.
So, we left our anchorage across from Hutchinson island with the singe minded effort of making it to Mary Ann and Rowland Martins fish camp and marina before dark, which meant a 4:30 arrival. First we had to get past the Roosevelt bridge in Stuart. This bridge caused me to come up with a new boat phrase; just because it was doesn’t mean it is! That’s because for the entire trip when a bridge tenders told us to keep up our speed and they would have the bridge open for us to pass without having to slow our speed they meant it. So, when the Roosevelt bridge tender told us to bring it on up we did so. At this location the Roosevelt bascule bridge is the eastern most bridge of three closely spaced bridges. You have a 65-ft bridge, a rail road swing that’s open then the bascule. Noticing the bascule had not begun to move I idled past the first two bridges then realized the tender didn’t even have traffic stopped. I later measured the space between the RR and bascule bridges and there is 105-feet between these two – tip to tip Belle is 60-f!. When it became clear that current and wind did not favor holding in this location I turned Belle to escape back to open water just as a 40-footer pulled into the RR bridge span and closed off my exit. I’m saying that I had my hands so full of throttle and shifters that pulling down the mike and asking this obviously oblivious boater to move was not an option. I’m not sure how many 360-degree turns we made but the only way to stay out of trouble was to keep moving. But, that wasn’t the most difficult. Difficulty came when the bridge finally opened and I had to line Belle up for a skewed alignment with the bridge boards and be able to ride the tide without bouncing off the bridge. Good god, I thought boating was to be fun. I guess this is the less glamorous side of yachting!
The bigger lessons I was learning with a 53-foot boat with twin 120 HP motors is; you don’t need help getting into trouble. No, the bridge tender didn’t do this to me, I did this to myself. Another notch on the handle and move on. On to our first lock and more lessons to be learned.