Maule Lake, Florida – ICW Mile Marker 1077
16-18 Dec 2017
Being the only boat moored here our first anchorage was private and quiet all you could hear were the frequent strange sounding horns from freight trains passing through and the distant hum of traffic from an out of sight highway. With absolutely no idea what to expect from this unusual and desolate spot I was feeling a little apprehensive but eager to investigate. Would there be much to explore? Would the people be friendly? Would it be easy getting off the boat?
Its always a little bit nerve wracking getting ashore somewhere new, the water could get really shallow and you don’t want to hit the bottom with the outboard propeller. Then trying to find a suitable place to land and get out of the dinghy, honestly I’ve had to wade through mud, scramble up rocks and climb high walls it can all get a little stressful with a dog, baby and pushchair. Also Simon had already mentioned he’d a warning sign for alligators, which really helped to settle my nerves.
It was a bit of creepy but interesting place with a swampy vibe to it. A couple of rivers lead off past a derelict visitors centre called Oleta River State, run down and deserted it looked like something from a Zombie Apocalypse. There was a dog park close by for Scrumpy’s morning walk but the only way to get to it was a gap in the mangroves at the waters edge. Great, isn’t this the ideal spot for a large reptile to be sunning itself! Luckily not today though perhaps it was off eating one of the Kayakers that disappeared down stream. Tying the dinghy to a tree we wander over to the Bark Park, a fenced off area where dogs are allowed to run free off the lead. Despite the US being massively dog friendly our canine buddies have to be on a leash at all times even in the park unless it has one of these gated sections. A few people are already inside chatting while their pups run around and it doesn’t take long to strike up a conversation.
Everyone is fascinated by our story and inundating us with local knowledge so much so that we all exchange phone numbers. One guy, Jose even wants to take a selfie together to show his friends. What a lovely welcoming start to the trip.
Next it’s time to tick off one the things that is high on our ‘To Do List”, an expedition to Walmart, a giant American supermarket chain which sells absolutely everything. You may laugh but accessing commodities and provisions in the Caribbean is difficult and often expensive. 18 months of rationing has left us with a craving for some retail therapy and we were not disappointed.
It was a mile and half walk along a divided highway past more take away and burger joints than I have seen in my entire lifetime, also passing by a drive through ATM. Its seems that everything here is about convenience, so convenient you don’t have to even haul your fat ass out of the car to get cash out.
Pardon my French but Walmart was fucking huge it put the UK superstores to shame. After trudging around for 2 hours we’d only covered about two thirds of the aisles and were starting to get tired. Then there was still the mile and half walk back to the boat with all the shopping including two crates of coke. “How are we going to carry all this” I say to Simon “just take the shopping trolley with us” he replies confidently. Merrily wondering along with all our goodies Daisy Bean comfy in her pushchair we’re just about to leave the entrance to the car park and the wheels on the trolley all lock. WTF. Both of us take turns in trying to move it but it’s stuck fast and going nowhere. I don’t understand why has it stopped. Then over Simon’s shoulders a sign says:
`Attention Shoppers our shopping carts will lock if taken beyond the parking lot perimeter’
What a couple of idiots I guess shopping carts are pretty popular here, every homeless person seems to have one for their life’s possessions. Sorry Daisy out you get you’re walking and the groceries are going in the stroller.
Bridge Opening Times
The following day it’s time to up anchor and head 13 miles through 6 bridges to Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately we are quickly learning that the bridges are making progress a little difficult, the scheduled opening times are twice an hour either at quarter past and quarter too or half past and on the hour. They alternate these times between bridges, which is fine if you are a fast motorboat or a super yacht but for a sailboat that travels at 4-5 miles per hour not so great. Timing our arrival is not easy it means we either have to go extremely slowly at 1-2 miles per hour or try to go as fast as possible yet still risk missing the next opening in 15 minutes. Usually the slow option is preferred so we can enjoy taking in all our surroundings but that can also mean a long drawn out passage. One thing we are enjoying though is chatting to the bridge controllers and waving as we pass through however with 144 bridges on the ICW in total I’m sure that novelty will soon wear off!