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Old 03-11-2009, 09:43   #1
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Crossing Lake Okeechobee (FL)

Hi Everyone - We're picking up our first sailboat from Naples over thanksgiving weekend and need to bring her home to Ft Lauderdale. It's a Catalina 30 and it sounds like the Lake Okeechobee route is the best way for us to go since we're inexperienced. Can you recommend any resources online that will tell me about route planning? Are we okay with a 46" draft and 50' mast? Can we drop anchor overnight anywhere along the St Johns River? Is that allowed? How much time should we allow for the trip? Thanks in advance for any advice!!
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Old 03-11-2009, 09:55   #2
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Originally Posted by Phaedra View Post
... it sounds like the Lake Okeechobee route is the best way for us to go since we're inexperienced ... Are we okay with a 46" draft and 50' mast? Can we drop anchor overnight anywhere along the St Johns River? ...
Draft is often a problem on the lake, and the best option is to contact the Corps of Engineers or check online regarding current conditions. The 50 foot mast is another problem since the RR bridge at the east end of the lake is 49 feet maximum, although many will tell you that there are ways around this by heeling the boat, etc. Make your own choice. Finally, if you are planning on crossing the Okeechobee Waterway and somehow find yourself on the St. John's River, you have made a serious wrong turn somewhere.
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Old 03-11-2009, 10:56   #3
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FYI I think you have your dimentions goofed up. The Catalina 30 tall ring has an "I" of 43' which, assuming a 40" freeboard amidships gives you about a 46.34' air draft--assume 47 feet for the sake of the exercise. The (water) draft of the boat is, arguably, 5.25' at most.

More salient is the Port Myaca Railroad Lift Bridge which has an overhead clearance of 46'. To make that with a 2' safety margin in your boat will require a 21º healing angle which will be tough given the relative stiffness of the yacht. (Indian town marina once did have a service whereby they would haul water drums out to a boat and fill them up to force the yacht to heel but whether that is still available is uncertain.) Forcing the yacht to heel down that much can be done but if you are new to the boat...

More information on the Waterway is availalbe at Cruiser’s Net | Content Okeechobee and on the Bridges is available at Cruiser’s Net | BRIDGES - Okeechobee .

FWIW...
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Old 03-11-2009, 11:30   #4
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Crossing Lake Okeechobee

We crossed 2 years ago and from the lock just west of the lake to the the lock past indiantown, it took us a day. We anchored west of the last lock near a campground.

Check with the corp of engineers for the lock schedule and current depth.

eNJoY the trip!
-dennis
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Old 03-11-2009, 11:58   #5
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... More salient is the Port Myaca Railroad Lift Bridge which has an overhead clearance of 46' ...
Not to quibble, but when I wrote earlier above, I quoted 49 feet, my recollection from rather a while back. I checked to find that Claiborne Young gives 49 feet (Guide to Eastern FL, p. 232, 2nd Edition), and the Corps of Engineers also quotes 49 feet:

http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Divisi...on_bridges.htm

This does not mean it will actually be 49 feet when the boat gets there, of course, but if it is the OP should be fine, airdraft-wise. Also, many folks including me would not give Indiantown Marina a second look. Bad fuel (many instances) and smarmy service (many instances).
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Old 03-11-2009, 13:26   #6
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Kerry Deare is correct on the 49' clearance at Port Mayaka Bridge as even the reference I posted indicates. My comment was based upon notes I made during a transit in October '94 when there was some difficulty that prevented the bridge reaching full height! Sorry for adding confusion rather than clarity...
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Old 03-11-2009, 14:13   #7
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Originally Posted by Phaedra View Post
from Naples over thanksgiving weekend and need to bring her home to Ft Lauderdale.
If you decide to go through the Keys, I would try helping you with the route planning.

It is a nice four day sail with no more than 50 miles to cover each day.

Unless there is a west wind blowing the day you leave Naples, you can anchor near Cape Sable your first night. Anchor near Long Key for your second night, north or south depending on wind direction. The third day you will go from Long Key to Angelfish Creek on the outside. It is a nice day sail unless the wind is from NE, in which case you will have to motor to get to angelfish Creek before it is dark. If for some reason you cannot cover this leg in one day you may anchor at Rodriguez Key, approximately half way. It will be rough there only during easterly wind, but still manageable. If you do anchor there, stay far from land, there are many mosquitoes there. The last leg is half way through Biscayne Bay, which you also can cover easily in almost any weather. The last 25 miles from Key Biscayne to Port Everglades inlet may be challenging if there is a cold front in progress, which you can wait over in Biscayne Bay. If the weather is nice, you can go few miles offshore and ride the stream; you may gain 2-3 knots and enjoy the color of water.

If I was making this trip, I would allow extra 2-3 days to wait for a cold front to pass; you most probably encounter one since you cannot time your departure. You can ride a front from Naples to Long Key (but you may have to do it non-stop if there is a west wind component), but it may be difficult for you to continue from Long Key northward during the front passage.

It would make it easier if you time your progress so you go under the Long Key bridge during the day light. If you can't you may use channel markers and your chartplotter to do it at night, but it will be difficult the first time you do it. You should definitely go through the Angelfish Creek at daytime, which means early departure from your Long Key anchorage and motoring if you cannot maintain proper speed under sails. Do not go through a little dredged channel just north of the Angelfish Creek at night, it will be hard to stay within its boundaries. The Biscayne channel is well marked and can be navigated at night, but you will not have to do it. If you get there late, just anchor in the Bay.
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Old 04-11-2009, 07:55   #8
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Hi Everyone. Thank you all for the info. The mast we have is a standard rig, so I believe it is 45'11". So if the Mayaca bridge is 49', it seems as if there is enough variance there to anticipate clearing it safely. Does anyone know if there are dramatic differences in the tides there? Do we need to try to plan on arriving at that bridge at a particular time of day?

I'm also trying to predict the timing of it so I know how many days we need to take off from work. I haven't bought the charts yet, so I'm just estimating, but I think the whole trip from Naples to Ft Lauderdale is appx 300 miles. We have a 23hp engine and I think we should be able to average about 5mi/hr. Does that sound reasonable? So 60 hours or about 4 days. What do you all think? Thanks!
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Old 04-11-2009, 08:18   #9
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Phaedra,
Running 15 hours a day is tough. The amount of daylight is less now than in the summer. I found that the marinas close around 5:00p.m. The locks also close to traffic unless it is a commercial vessel and they need to schedule the nighttime openings. We stopped at Indiantown Marina around 10p.m. Paid our bill the next morning at 8:--a.m. and fueled. I would not try to run the Lake at night. It was a long run with numerous turns with shallow water and some wrecks. It might be better now but I would check with the Army Corp of Engineers.

John
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Old 04-11-2009, 08:26   #10
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We did the Okoochoobee Waterway last April with a 41 ft Islander Freeport, 5 feet draft, overhead clearance 51 feet. A couple of issues.

Comments about Indiantown Marina pretty much on the mark, although the people were very friendly and helpful. They no longer carry fuel, have a few slips and it's mostly a storage yard. Fuel is available at the Roland Martin resort in Clewiston, just on the west side of Lake Okoochoobee.

The Part Mayaca bridge might or might not have been a problem for us, but we chose to be prudent and do the Okoochoobee Limbo with Captain Billy. He loaded 7 or 8 water barrels on out port deck and filled them with water, heeling us 20 or so degrees. We passed through with no problem. It cost $180. If you're interested I have pics.

There are two routes around the lake, one around and one across. My understanding is that the Rim Route was closed to us because of our draft, so we went across the lake.

The water level then was low and on the way down, but we had no problems with out 5 feet. Crossing the Lake is a bit touchy because the water is generally shallow and the channel is minimally marked. Use GPS and you should be OK.

The Waterway was closed for lock work last summer but it should be open by now.

We took three days to get across to Moore Haven, where we are stored. Saturday we head down to re-commission and then off to Cape Coral for the winter. You can tie up at dolphins adjacent to the locks and there are some wide spots where we saw people anchored. I can't give specifics.

All in all, an easy trip and saves a long trip around the Keys. If I can give anything further let me know.

Dick Pluta
AEGEA
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