Join Date: Jan 2011
Thanked 19 Times in 19 Posts
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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.