Great Loop: Sharks!

Days 8-9: January 25-26, 2023

We finished up the voyage to Hell Gate with “The adventures of Boris and Mayli and the sandbar.” Read the whole story on their blog at “When it rains, the diesel will pour.”   That night we got pizza from a local place in a roundabout way. Delivery guy to hotel, kayak to our boat, and finally dinghy from our boat to the sandbar and Boris and Mayli. The pizza made it safely! A huge thanks to the HOTEL for the restaurant suggestion and allowing us to deliver there for pick-up.

After Saga was free from the sandbar and safely rafted to Lil Sudden, it was time to plan the next step, which included running into Jupiter to get a part to fix the diesel leak and swap out the pulley on Saga’s alternator. Both were accomplished by a dinghy ride, short walk, and a nice mechanic with the correct tools. With Saga repaired we checked out a close marina and they had space for the night.

The JIB Yacht Club and marina is one the intracoastal but also only a few blocks walk to the beach on the Atlantic side. That required a trip to play in the waves. On the path to and from the beach, they had a couple interesting trees. Not sure what they were.

You read all this way and there is no mention of sharks. Ok, here’s the story. Boris found us a little tour company that specialized in shark diving, and we were set. In fairness, they should have been called shark snorkeling but I’m sure they thought diving sounded much more impressive.

We got up early and dinghied over to Jupiter to meet up with the tour company. We had a great weather window, and the trip out was pretty smooth.

Once out a few miles it was time to get into the water. The current was pretty big, so they put out a line tied to a fender so we can hold on and not float away. The line also kept us mostly horizontal in the water, which is key to watching sharks without them getting too close. The way they attract sharks is by putting out bait in a box. It brings fish and sharks up from the deep. Almost as soon as the bait went in the water, we had sharks swimming around.

We were told to keep horizontal and not put our limbs down. Otherwise, the sharks would think we were trying to feed them or trying to attach them, which could cause them to bite. The other thing we were told is to keep looking at the sharks because the sharks would think they could sneak up on us if they knew we weren’t looking. All in all, these bull sharks eat a diet of fish so as long as we were chill, they just went about their business.

And now the actual sharks!

We swam with the bull sharks for an hour and it was a great experience to see them up close in their personal habitat. We’d recommend if you get the chance!

Day 8 Trip Details:
Hell Gate, US to Tequesta, US
Time: 0 h 51 m (13:23 to 14:14)
Distance: 1.91 nm

Day 9 Trip Details:
Jupiter Inlet Colony, US to North Palm Beach, US
Time: 1 h 52 m (13:02 to 14:54)
Distance: 9.47 nm

Great Loop: Gilbert’s Bar

Days 6-7: January 23-24, 2023

Ok, Ok… Not that kinda bar. Well, what then? Gilbert’s Bar was named for the nasty pirate Don Pedro Gilbert, ARRR! So, what’s this post about then? Close to Gilbert’s Bar is the last remaining House of Refuge. Back in the day the area of Florida between Miami and Daytona had a population in the range of 300 people. If you had a shipwreck on a reef or got caught in a hurricane, you could probably get to shore…at which point you would find no water and die a horrible death of dehydration and bug bites. If you did find water, it was full of bacteria, and you would get dysentery. This sounds like the outcomes of the Oregon Trail game.

To combat sailors dying, a major commercial issue, the US government built 10 houses of refuge along the Atlantic coast of Florida. If you survived a shipwreck, you would go to shore and find signs that pointed you to nearest house, which should be no further than 10-13 miles. Upon arrival at the refuge house, you would be provided food, water, and basic first aid. That would last you until the next supply ship passed and you could be transported back to civilization. The houses were stocked with enough supplies to last 25 survivors for 10 days. Each house had a keeper, like the lighthouse keepers of old. They led solitary lives with their sole purpose each day to walk the beaches daily looking for shipwrecks.

In 1915, the House of Refuge was converted into a coast guard station and used during WWII for spotting German submarines. The building is the oldest structure in the county and purchased by the city to be maintained as a historical site. One of the mottos of the rescue boat personal was “You have to go out, you don’t have to come back.” Beyond looking for enemy ships during the war, the station also worked on combating rum runners during the time of prohibition. A local area legend was Bill Macoy. The “Real” Macoy as they say around here!

Next to the House of Refuge is Ross Witham Beach. Mr. Witham was known for his work with turtles, and he had hatcheries next to the House of Refuge for many years.

We finished up the tourist outing by walking down to the Bathtub Reef Beach. It was a cool beach area that has shallow water out to a reef. Since we were there around low tide, it allowed us to see more see life and the birdies pecking around.

On the boating side, we anchored in Seminole Shores close to the ritzy neighborhood of Sailfish Point. The anchorage was interesting as it had very strong current. What’s strong? Well, if you jumped in the water, you were 30 feet away before you came above the water. Boris, Michael, and I did a little swimming behind the boat by holding on to dock lines. The current was almost strong enough you could get up on water skies. Almost! The other issue with the anchorage was the wind. It seemed like it was opposite of the current most the time. Therefore, the boat wanted to go multiple ways at once. We ended up putting out drogue anchors behind the boat. That kept us from swinging back and forth in the wind.

Day 6 Trip Details:
No voyage

Day 7 Trip Details:
Seminole Shores, US to Hell Gate, US
Time: 3 h 5 m (12:19 to 15:25)
Distance: 15.27 nm

Great Loop: Slowing down in Stuart

Days 4-5: January 21-22, 2023

The change in plans to skip the Bahamas has removed the immediate time pressure to get somewhere fast. Our anchorage after crossing over Florida was next to Stuart, FL. It was voted the most beautiful city in 2008 and the wiki universe says it’s cited as one of the best small towns to visit. It also claims to be the sailfish capital of the world.

We were all beat after our long trip across Lake Okeechobee, so we opted to dinghy over to Shephard’s Park and got to the first restaurant we came to. That happened to be Lola’s Seafood Eatery. We were a little skeptical when we arrived as it’s an order at the counter restaurant catering more to the fried food varieties. We were pleasantly surprised, and everyone enjoyed their meals from special-of-the-day Seafood Gumbo to the Cod Francaise.

When we arrived the first night it was getting close to the end of the day, and we anchored by the channel near lots of other boats but unfortunately not in a slow zone. The next morning, we received many “wake” up calls from local boaters and by noon we decided it was a good Idea to move a half mile up down where the slow zone started so we didn’t bob around so much.

On Saturday we took a break to work on some projects. That led us to Best Buy, West Marine, Home Depot, and a bunch of cellular stores. One of the purchases was a toilet seat. For some reason the FomoFleet has a track record of breaking toilet seats, this being the 3rd in a year. In our defense, the plastic holding the seat was 20 years old and very brittle.

Did I mention they have cool lizards running around everywhere! At first it looked like leaves blowing around but no, it was lizards running here and there.

After our errands the unanimous vote for dinner was the Basil Garden Thai restaurant that we scoped out across the street. The food was wonderful, and the server was great to chat with. He had been working there for over 24 years so was very knowledgeable when we inquired about dishes.

Stuart has a nice downtown area close to the St Lucie River. It also has a long-running Sunday Green Market that was fun to visit. They have a nice public pier for all sizes of boats for day-only moorage.

The next destination takes us to an anchorage in Seminole Shores and promise of some beach and tourist activities.

Day 4 Trip Details:
Palm City, US to Palm City, US
Time: 0 h 19 m (12:09 to 12:28)
Distance: 0.51 nm

Day 5 Trip Details:
Palm City, US to Seminole Shores, US
Time: 2 h 13 m (11:07 to 13:21)
Distance: 9.44 nm

Great Loop: Okeechobee Waterway, cutting across Florida

Day 2-3: January 19-20, 2023

Hold up! You can cross through the middle of Florida? Why yes, you can! The Okeechobee Waterway is a man-made channel that stretches across Florida from the Caloosahatchee River at Cape Coral/Fort Myers on the west side to the St. Lucie River ending in Stuart on the east. It was built in 1937 so boat traffic didn’t have to go all the way around the Keys to get across Florida. The channel is 154 miles, has 5 locks, and sports a water depth of 10 feet in most places.

On day two, we traveled from the Franklin Lock to the Moore Haven Lock. We briefly contemplated pushing on to Clewiston on the edge of Lake Okeechobee but decided just to tie up to the dolphins (pilings tied together to create a mooring point) outside of the Moore Haven Locks. That gave us time to do a bit of kayaking and I got in a jog around the lock.

Day 3 had us traversing Lake Okeechobee. Okeechobee is the largest lake in Florida and 10th largest contained fully in the US. The craziness of the lake is the average depth is about 9 feet. But, as we know, 10 feet in Florida is considered deep.

Change of Plans:

Given our start date, our plan was to cut across Florida, bop over to the Bahamas, and do a 2-week side adventure. It seems mother nature doesn’t really approve of that plan as the upcoming wind predictions are not favorable. While there is a weather window to get over to the islands, the wind predictions are forecasted high for the 1-2 weeks after, so we’d be mostly in a port or anchorage waiting it out. We figure the side trip would be about 600 extra miles, which equates to around 400 gallons of fuel and $2000. That’s a large expense of money and time to just hope the weather may be good enough. 

This trip will be about going with the flow. After discussing the above issues, we will stick to the eastside of Florida and check out what there is to see in Stuart, Jupiter, West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Surely, we’ll find some cool things to pass the time.

Day 2 Trip Details:

Alva, US to Glades County, US
Time: 7 h 44 m (08:22 to 16:06)
Distance: 38.62 nm

Day 3 Trip Details:

Glades County, US to Palm City, US
Time: 9 h 10 m (08:12 to 17:23)
Distance: 60.18 nm

Great Loop: The Journey Begins

Day 1: January 18,2003

That’s right! We have begun our Great Loop Journey. Exactly two weeks after picking our boat up from Tarpon Springs, we completed the maiden loop voyage on our new boat “Lil Sudden” — a play on name Sudden Inspiration.

It was a short hop from Cape Coral to the Franklin Lock. While the plan all along was to stay around the locks for the night, we didn’t have a choice when we found out they were closed for maintenance. Guess I gotta get back in the habit of reading the notices again. 😊

Looking forward to the next year traveling with MV Saga ( and MV Coda ( as we complete this ~6000-mile adventure around the US and Canada, with a side trip to the Bahamas to start the trip.

The last four months have been a roller coaster with buying a boat, Hurricane Ian, and doing the final preparations. More on that in future posts!

Day 1 Trip Details:

Cape Coral, US to Alva, US
Time: 3 h 26 m ( 12:05 to 15:32 )
Distance: 21.69 nm