27:40.000N 80:22.000W West coast to East coast Florida – Okeecho bee Waterway

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Mon 4 Apr 2016 20:17

West coast to East coast Florida – Okeechobee Waterway

Saturday 26 March 2016– Richard brought Beth (SV Slow Dancing) down to Fort Myers, we left at noon and started the 150 N Mile motoring trip across Florida.  Specifically for which I had taken out Boat US Towing policy, just in case.

As this was motoring I was anxious about the engine and, with the exception of a few little issues, it performed brilliantly.  There were many fixed bridges, all except 1 were modern and high enough to go through without problem.  There were also lots of opening bridges which opened on request, usually with no or very little wait.  The exception was the Fish Camp bridge, which was nearly an hour.  Sprinkle in the 5 locks, which we were very lucky, arriving in time for the final transit before the man went home.  The lock with only one opening at the start, middle and end of the day because of construction work was opening on request because it was Easter and there were no contractors.

We anchored Saturday and Sunday evening along the side bank of the river. 

On Monday afternoon we went into Roland Martin Marina at Clewiston.

Tuesday – decision time, across the lake or continue round the Southern Rim route, which is an additional 10 miles. There was some bad weather coming and this could make the lake uncomfortable and shallower with the wave action.  Always bearing in mind the engine, being close to the shore was my choice.  This was the end of the lake, the last lock and the dreaded railroad lifting bridge.  This has no gap at the top and is 49’ maximum, with less at higher water and the lake was high.  Boats can be pulled over to get through, but the bridge span is so narrow only masts up to 55’ can make it.  We asked the lock operator and he said it was 48’ and some inches.  When we got to the bridge there was no clearance marker, on the most important bridge on the entire waterway.  I had measured, measured and re-measured the mast, plus deck to waterline and add the aerial.  We made it with probably several feet to spare.   That night we anchored just outside a small canal which had room for one boat, but two were already raft anchored in the opening.

Wednesday we went past Indian Town, which had been my original destination for haul out.  We went through the last lock and made it to Stuart and pulled into Loggerhead Marina – with a spa. 

The Hokule’a arrived, we went to check it out.  This is a Polynesian primitive sailing double hull canoe, with a huge oar for a tiller.  They don’t like going to windward any more than I do, less by the looks of things as their masts were down and they had been towed across the lake.

Thursday - the end of the Okeechobee Waterway and join the Intracoastal Waterway.  I got all the way to the last marker buoy and found a shoal; reversing did the trick, but it wasn’t nice.  The channel was wide, but the navigable channel was very narrow and shallow.  The wind was behind and the genoa was partly out to help us along.  We did so well that we did not stop at Fort Pierce, but continued on to Vero Beach.  We got in at 5pm and attached to the dock that was North Stand’s, which we had passed in the boatyard in Fort Pieerce. 

I am not a keen motor boater, but it was different.  The scenery was varied, although the water was very brown and unattractive. I saw several alligators. I took a video of one large alligator crossing behind me in an anchorage.  Lots of birds, including 2 bald eagles.  A few manatees, including one that came through a lock transit with us, but I didn’t see the animal itself.  Even a few dolphins.

Thank you Beth for coming along and to Richard for providing chauffeur duties. 

I have booked in for a month and now to do repairs!