Okeechobee waterway - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 7 Old 08-23-2012 Thread Starter
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Okeechobee waterway

Discussing transiting the Okeechobee waterway with a guy with a 55' mast got me recalling transiting it in my 28' S2 sailboat. After years of being in salt water, th cruise up the waterway from Fort Myers was very different and pleasant. We went two days with the smell of orange blossoms filling the air.

Going thru the locks is an interesting experience for most Florida sailors who have never done locks. At first the lockkeepers almost ignored us but I was sailing with my 25 yr old daughter and once she went up on the foredeck, they nearly fell over themselves being helpful. I think one guy delayed the process "waiting for another boat (that never arrived)" just to chat with her.

Once into the lake, you pass along the SW edge where thousands of gators line the banks, you do not want to fall overboard there.

The little marina at Clewiston was a lot of fun because you meet people going both ways and we met one guy on a small custom made pontoon boat who was doing the "Great Circle of the ICW and Mississippee R.". He had a dog with him that had been trained to go on a tiny patch of artificial grass with a plastic hydrant on the front of the boat. He called it "The poop deck".

Sailing across the lake was weird, it is a vast brown sea that looks like chocolate milk and is very shallow.

I knew my 28' boat could go under the infamous railroad bridge with 49' clearance, or at least sorta knew cuz I thought my mast height is about 48'. Approaching as slow as possible, watching the mast top with the binocs, we slipped under with a LOT of clearance, turns out my mast is 45'.

Stuart was nice and my first experience with what most people would consider normal marina conditions with all these regulations and people concerned with getting their boats out before hurricane season and expensive. My normal marina experience before this had been N. FL fish camps that had a dock and not much else.

Too bad they cannot raise that bridge but it is an old one and I imagine there is no no way it would pay to do it.

If you can do the waterway, I highly reccomend it.
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post #2 of 7 Old 08-23-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

Thank you for an interesting post... I have considered transiting the waterway from Stuart to Ft Myers. My boat, an O'day 35, has a 6' draft, and requires 47' of clearance (+2 for my VHF). While I think that it may be possible, I would be very concerned about the depth, and height requirements...
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post #3 of 7 Old 08-23-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

Did this same trip out of St Pete down to Ft Myers and transiting east to Stuart aboard a 55' Chesepeake Skipjack in '73. Had the same concerns on mast height. Definitely a great bucket list trip to get off the beaten path and see central FL. We have interesting Trent/Severn Waterway system from Lake Ontario thru to Georgian Bay, limited draft & mostly powerboat country. It was originally developed for commerce but trains and highways displaced that and we now have a fantastic cruisers destination. If you have a mast in a tabernacle it's a super trip too. You can also make Ottawa from Lake Ontario via the Rideau Canal.

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post #4 of 7 Old 08-23-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

My wife and I made the round trip from Melbourne to Fort Myers and back in March this year. The water level was high and the locks were on demand. We took route 1 across the lake and maybe saw 1 or 2 other boat going across; not busy at all. Stops along the way included Nettles Island in Indian River, Indiantown Marina, Moorehaven, Rialto Harbour Marina and Legacy Harbor Marina in Fort Myers. I read somewhere that the strong floral scent was native Jasmine plants. Definitely a trip worth while to see a different Florida. Take some good heavy, large bumpers for the lock passages. We have an IP31 with 4 ft. draft and 45 ft. air draft.
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post #5 of 7 Old 08-27-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

The waterway was my first trip after buying my boat in near Punta Gorda and moving it to Ft Pierce. It's a real easy trip and I was able to overnight at the dolphins near each lock.

Here's the bridge everyone is talking about:



Solo through the locks was a bit interesting at first until I got a good system down for handling the lines and dealing with any windage. The people running the locks generally do leave you on your own. They're friendly enough, but pretty much assume you know what you're doing.



Beautiful views, but make sure your hatchways and ports all have netting on them. The bugs at night can be murder.



The waterway itself was pretty well dredged when I went through it. Any draft issues you might have would probably be on the lake itself and if you intended to stop at any marinas along the way.



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post #6 of 7 Old 08-27-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

Some nice pics, Lauderboy. Did you cross the lake via route 1, or the route 2 rim route?
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post #7 of 7 Old 08-27-2012
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Re: Okeechobee waterway

I did route 1.
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