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Old 04-12-2015, 06:13   #1
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Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

I will be headed through the Okeechobee waterway on my way from Ft Pierce to St Petersburg. Leaving the morning of the 15th.

All the locals are telling me to plan on a 7 day trip. Assuming that nothing major goes wrong, the math on that just does not add up. I'm calculating about 4 to 5 days.

I've checked the waterway's official nautical guides/depths/bridge and lock operating hours/etc etc. Mast will fit under the 49' RR bridge at Port Mayaca lock.

Attached is the schedule I have planned. Sailors who know the waterway, help shoot holes in my plan!

Also, if anyone knows where there are mooring balls or anchorages along the way, please let me know!
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Old 04-12-2015, 06:49   #2
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

The Okeechobee Waterway stretches 134.3 NM (154.6 SM or 244 KM) from its intersection with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Stuart on Florida’s east coast and its intersection with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Punta Rassa on Florida’s west coast. There are (5) locks on the Okeechobee Waterway. There are as many as 26 bridges that cross the Okeechobee Waterway depending on the route chosen. Of these, 10 are operating bridges; some with restricted schedules. During normal lock operations, the Okeechobee Waterway passage will probably require a little over 30 hours at 5 knots, with no undue bridge delays. Nighttime navigation is not recommended, because shoals and deadheads are obscured.

Accordingly, I agree with your plan for a 4 - 5 day (or even as little as 3) day passage plan.

Okeechobee Waterway Distance Tables for Trip Planning

NTN130318 OWW Anchoring and Mooring Policy ➥ http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portal...g%20Policy.pdf

Charts showiong marinas:
7 ➥ Okeechobee Chart
6 ➥ Chart Six
5 ➥ Chart Five
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Old 04-12-2015, 06:55   #3
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

You sire, are a gentleman and a scholar

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Old 04-12-2015, 08:23   #4
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

This just in: Notice is given that Ortona Lock will have scheduled lock closures 7:30AM to 11:30AM and 12:30PM to 4:30PM Monday through Friday starting 14 December 2015 to 17 June 2016. Scheduled closures are to support east and west lock approach guide wall replacement. During construction Ortona lock oper... Read More
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Old 04-12-2015, 08:25   #5
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
I will be headed through the Okeechobee waterway on my way from Ft Pierce to St Petersburg. Leaving the morning of the 15th.

All the locals are telling me to plan on a 7 day trip. Assuming that nothing major goes wrong, the math on that just does not add up. I'm calculating about 4 to 5 days.

I've checked the waterway's official nautical guides/depths/bridge and lock operating hours/etc etc. Mast will fit under the 49' RR bridge at Port Mayaca lock.

Attached is the schedule I have planned. Sailors who know the waterway, help shoot holes in my plan!

Also, if anyone knows where there are mooring balls or anchorages along the way, please let me know!
When we moved to the Sarasota area I brought our (former Cal 2-29) across the State via the Waterway. We generally were able to cover 35 to 40 miles a day. It took us a day to travel from Jupiter to Indiantown Marina, another from Indiantown to Moore Haven (we were going to stop at Clewiston but got there early because of favorable winds crossing the Lake and so continued on as we had plenty of day-light). From Moore Haven to Ft. Myers muni marina took another day. From there the next day we only got as far as South Seas Plantation on Captiva where we had to wait out a storm, otherwise we would have made it to Boca Grande. From Captiva we made it to Venice in a very long day and, with another long day, made it from Venice to the Manatee River on the south end of Tampa Bay. From there to St. Pete would be another, short, day as it's only about 22 miles. Given the foregoing, 7 days is pretty likely unless you are delayed by weather (watch the fronts coming across the country and plan accordingly).

The only Locks that were somewhat problematic was the St. Lucie Lock and the Pt. Mayaca Lock, both up-locks that can move the boat around pretty good. One needs big fat fenders (they will get fouled) and a stout boat hook to help hold oneself away from the wall as much as possible (I was worried about our spreaders banging into the walls above us but we escaped unharmed). The down Locks from there on are easy. Note that the trip down the canal is long and boring except when some power boater decides he wants to pass you at speed and close aboard. When that happens (and it will) slow down while he passes and then power up and angle into his wake to minimize roll.

Note that although the weather has gotten cooler, the mosquitoes along the waterway can still be fearsome from sunset to sunrise (hopefully you have screens, yes?) Bring plenty of Deep Woods Off (or equal) and a Thermacell Skeeter Repellent device or two (we have several including the "lantern" type) can make life a little more endurable. (We did our trip in late October but the bugs are no less fearsome now.)

On Navigation, the only problem areas are the "Miserable Mile", across San Carlos Bay, where there can be strong cross currents and the pass at Boca Grande which should only be taken at slack water or on an inbound tide (before the maximum flood), although that will slow you down, to minimize wave action, which can be pretty exciting in that Pass. Remember that on the River, you'll be using Inland Rules/Markers (if you don't you'll run yourself aground for sure!).

It's an interesting trip. Good Luck!
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Old 04-12-2015, 08:34   #6
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

That is excellent information!!

I hope to make more than 40 miles a day, since my boat can cruise about 7.5 knots under power.

And thank you so much Waterway guide for the notice! It may slow us down a bit, but doesn't sound like too big of a deal.

Being next to the salt water I totally forgot about the bugs issue with inland florida. That is great advice!
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:18   #7
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
That is excellent information!!

I hope to make more than 40 miles a day, since my boat can cruise about 7.5 knots under power.

And thank you so much Waterway guide for the notice! It may slow us down a bit, but doesn't sound like too big of a deal.

Being next to the salt water I totally forgot about the bugs issue with inland florida. That is great advice!
Note that there are speed/wake limitations on much of the canal/waterway for safety sake but moreso because the embankments/levies are unshored "natural" earth and wakes can/do cause erosion and may also damage adjoining residents' boats/docks/bulkheads as one passes. (Residents will contact the Sheriff's if they see you zooming by at speed ignoring the limits.) Moreover, banging up on a mud-bank (you likely will sooner or later) at 7-1/2 knots can be much more problematic than doing so at 5. (On that count, it would be wise to join BoatUS and opt for the "Unlimited" Towing option before you leave. It will be cheap insurance.) If I were you, I'd count on being able to average only 5 knots and maybe not that if one gets stuck waiting for bridge opening/Lock schedules. It would also be wise to carry a light weight fluke anchor (e.g. Fortress) and a goodly length of rode to allow you to kedge yourself out of the mud if/when you go aground.

FWIW...
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:35   #8
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
That is excellent information!!

I hope to make more than 40 miles a day, since my boat can cruise about 7.5 knots under power.

And you might, but I wouldn't plan on it as you won't be able to make way all the time, and the days are shorter now than in Summer. I think the 7 day guys are smart to plan on 7 days, then they make it in less, without any hurry and stress and relaxed and if something breaks, they still make it.
3 days I don't think is possible except maybe if your underway before dawn and hit every thing just right, but I did not take that route myself so I don't know.
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:43   #9
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
I will be headed through the Okeechobee waterway on my way from Ft Pierce to St Petersburg. Leaving the morning of the 15th.

All the locals are telling me to plan on a 7 day trip. Assuming that nothing major goes wrong, the math on that just does not add up. I'm calculating about 4 to 5 days.

I've checked the waterway's official nautical guides/depths/bridge and lock operating hours/etc etc. Mast will fit under the 49' RR bridge at Port Mayaca lock.

Attached is the schedule I have planned. Sailors who know the waterway, help shoot holes in my plan!

Also, if anyone knows where there are mooring balls or anchorages along the way, please let me know!
Make sure that you check with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to your departure to find the controlling depth of the lake. Many years ago (1990, I think), we called and the controlling depth was only 3', which made our trip up to Gloucester, MA by road instead of by water. This was after my 10 month leave of absence, when I asked for another 2 weeks, and my boss' response was, "if you're not back here in 2 weeks, don't come back!" Trucked the Pearson 35 back...
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:49   #10
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
All the locals are telling me to plan on a 7 day trip. Assuming that nothing major goes wrong, the math on that just does not add up. I'm calculating about 4 to 5 days.
I felt the same way before departing through the canal. My log shows that it took us 6 days from St. Petersburg to Stuart. These were long days of no-fun. 26.25" waterline monohull. We depended very very heavily on the 20hp inboard diesel. We saw several other boats having problems with their small outboards, making navigation pretty scary looking in some places.

Watch for scheduled lock closures. Anchorage near the locks is pretty good.

I don't recall seeing any mooring balls. There are a few out-of-the-way places to pull to the side and anchor. We spent a night in the bend in the canal near Port LaBelle, where there's a spot off to the side with plenty of space. There's also a small crook near Fort Denaud where you could anchor. Don't miss a chance to visit the very unique and homely Caloosahatche Jack's just inland of Fort Meyers.

The canal was pretty scenic, but the Gulf Coast ICW is incredibly congested with inexperienced, high-speed small boat traffic, serious shoals, a very casually operated car ferry, and very narrow channels. Venice might be the worst. I will never willingly enter that part of the ICW again. I've seen much of the waterway, and that part is the worst i've experienced.
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Old 04-12-2015, 09:58   #11
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

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Make sure that you check with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to your departure to find the controlling depth of the lake. Many years ago (1990, I think), we called and the controlling depth was only 3', which made our trip up to Gloucester, MA by road instead of by water. This was after my 10 month leave of absence, when I asked for another 2 weeks, and my boss' response was, "if you're not back here in 2 weeks, don't come back!" Trucked the Pearson 35 back...
===

The Army Corps of Engineers has a website which gives up to date information on channel depths:

USACE Jacksonville District

Route 1 is the relevant channel. Since it is at 8.44 ft as of this morning, you should have no trouble at all. We have run the waterway many times and have had no depth issues at all with a 5.5 ft draft. The Active Captain web site has very good information on dockage and anchorage opportunities.
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Old 04-12-2015, 10:03   #12
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Also, be sure that if you have a small dog, keep them away from the edge of the water. Lots of alligators love them for dinner!
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Old 04-12-2015, 11:10   #13
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Free dockage at LaBelle and you can tie up to the dolphins on both sides of the locks as you go for an over night. Franklin locks has full hook ups and if you have a national park pass over night dockage was $12.00. Might need a reservation.
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Old 04-12-2015, 11:50   #14
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

I moved my boat from Titusville to St. Pete in the end of sep. 28 hrs. running and We spent the night on the hook just east of St Lucie lock. the last lock through was at 4:00 pm on all the locks. We made it to Clewiston by night fall and motored north to just past Moore Haven lock and spent a night on the hook with the bugs all around. We just made it through the Franklin lock before 4:00 pm. and set the hook late just north of Lofton Island in Fort Myers. we spent the last night on the hook in little Sarasota sound south of Stickney point Rd. bridge. I found most of my anchorages on Waterway Guide on the net with my phone. Good luck I had a grate move I hope you do to. 5 days to St Pete thats with no playing around or problems.
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Old 04-12-2015, 12:33   #15
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Re: Any sailors out there familiar with the Okeechobee Waterway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrNoSmiles View Post
I will be headed through the Okeechobee waterway on my way from Ft Pierce to St Petersburg. Leaving the morning of the 15th.

All the locals are telling me to plan on a 7 day trip. Assuming that nothing major goes wrong, the math on that just does not add up. I'm calculating about 4 to 5 days.

I've checked the waterway's official nautical guides/depths/bridge and lock operating hours/etc etc. Mast will fit under the 49' RR bridge at Port Mayaca lock.

Attached is the schedule I have planned. Sailors who know the waterway, help shoot holes in my plan!

Also, if anyone knows where there are mooring balls or anchorages along the way, please let me know!
I would call to see that they are not shut down for lock repair. The state has a great, or did have, a pamphlet. There was or is a quant marina in Labell.
Write for the pamphlet or ask at the first lock.
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