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Old 06-12-2010, 09:36   #1
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Okeechobee Cut to the Keys ?

Looking for a little advise, we have sailed down to Lake Worth Florida to visit an old friend, and would like to head to the keys this winter. We are thinking about going to the keys by making the cut across the Okeechobee. We only draft 4.9ft and mast height is 45 so we know it shouldnt be an issue. Has anyone gone to the keys from the Lake? Any advise, bad news, or tips would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 06-12-2010, 09:52   #2
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We crossed the Okeechobee west to east about three weeks ago with no problems. 4.5 foot draft, 48 foot mast height. This site has daily current information on minimum water levels for the lake route or rim route and minimum bridge height:
http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports/r-oke.txt

We did the Ft.Myers to the Keys trip a few years ago and it is a great trip. You can do an overnight trip direct to Key West or the Dry Tortugas. Or you can day hop down the west coast stopping in the area of Naples, Marco Island, Everglades City, and the Little Shark River. There are good anchorages in all those areas. Ft. Myers Beach has a decent mooring field with EZ access to the gulf, or there are some anchorages just prior to the end of the Okeechobee waterway that would be a good place to hang out while waiting for fair weather and avoid the mooring field fees.

We are currently anchored at the north east corner of Lake Worth. Stop by and see us if you are still in the area.

s/v Zydeco.
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:07   #3
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my sail partner crossed that way-- loved it--watch mast height. there is a fellow who tips boats for 150 dollars-- mast height 50 ft. my sail partner has a sloop with 55 ft mast.....he said was worth it.....
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:30   #4
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The trip from Lake Worth to Ft. Myers shouldn’t be much of a problem provided the locks are all operating. We made the trip a number of years ago in our (then) Cal 2-29 without incident. We stopped at Indian Town for a night, at Moore Haven, and then, finally, Ft. Myers muni marina. The Caloosahatchee—on the west side of the Lake—is not difficult to navigate but southwest of Ft. Myers it can be a bit of a pain in the neck as shoals do seem to move around quite a bit. The run from Sanibel to Key West is pretty straight forward, about 120 miles, and, if necessary one can stop in Naples or Marco Island and then at the Snake River although we generally prefer to sail straight through as the side trips add a lot of mileage. Additional information is available at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Divisions/Operations/LakeOWaterways.htm
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Old 06-12-2010, 10:50   #5
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Did the waterway this Spring with 54 ft mast and 6 ft draft. No problems at all. There were a few well documented areas of shoaling in the Stuart area where you enter the waterway. If you do your homework and pay attention, you should be fine. We stopped at Indiantown Marina, then made the trip across the lake the next day. We had to do the "Limbo" at the railroad bridge mentioned in some of the other posts (Port Mayaca Railroad Bridge - 49 ft clearance). Only issues there was that the guy showed up two hours after we had agreed to, so I had to hover in an area of the waterway which isn't much wider than 100 ft, and had to keep out of the way of power boats that didn't have clearance issues (and their excessive wakes). There was plenty of water in the lake along the "Route 1 Route" across the lake. Key is to stay on track and watch behind you as much as in front. We had a stiff northerly wind and a 2 - 3 ft fetch which was setting us south pretty hard. Once across the lake, we tied up at the free dock at Moorehaven. I think they are being renovated, but there is a very cheap dock right next door you can tie up at for a nominal fee. I've heard Roland Martins is a great place to stop also. We would have continued on to Ft Myers, but the wait to do the limbo at Port Mayaca set us behind schedule. Next day, we made the remainder of the trip to Legacy Harbour marina in Ft Myers. Easy trip and very scenic.

We've made the trip from Ft Myers to Marathon twice. Both times we anchored the first night in Marco Island (Watch out for the water cops). On one of the trips, we went non-stop from there to Marathon. The other time, we were delayed by weather, and about 10PM, we just dropped the hook in Florida Bay about 20 miles from land (10 ft of water). We had gotten our fill of avoiding crab traps, and called it a night. The crab traps are probably the biggest issue with this part of the transit. I think if you took a more westerly route towards Key West, you could probably avoid them.

Great trip! Enjoy!
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:03   #6
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If you just want to go to the keys I don't see any advantage to crossing over to the west coast. By the time you get from Lake Worth to Fort Meyers you could already be in the keys. Southwest FL is a nice place to visit and Florida Bay is also nice.
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:27   #7
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Agree. We've gone both ways. All depends on whether you want to access the cruising grounds in SW Florida, which are beautiful.
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:49   #8
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Have made the crossing a couple of times and it is lovely. Highly recommended but as mentioned, it's not a short cut to the keys, especially from Lake Worth.
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:58   #9
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Boatsmith makes a good point. The "ditch" is a long,mostly booring,trip that is almost always "motor all the way". If you head south,you can sail and the only trouble you might encounter is the Gulfstream which you'll probibably meet around Palm beach. It will be slow going if you meet the stream but it's only for less than a day and by the time you reach Miami,you'll be in the clear. South of Biacane bay you're in the keys and can sail all the way down the Hawk channel which is a much nicer trip than crossing the state in canal 43.
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Old 06-12-2010, 11:59   #10
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I wouldn't do the Okeechobie to save time, because you won't. I would do it to enjoy the cruising delights of SW Florida which rival the Keys. Here are some favorites:

Boca Grande- A real jewel of an anchorage. Can't be beat.

Cayo Costa State Park- Huge anchorage and you can tie your dinghy at the state dock and walk over to the Gulf.

Ft Myers Beach- Reasonably priced mooring field and the Gulf is a 10 minute walk from the dinghy dock.

From there I would work my way down to Marco Island and spend the night in Factory Bay and then leave mid day for an overnight passage to Key West. Time your leaving to arrive after dawn.

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Old 06-12-2010, 12:53   #11
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.............one can stop in Naples or Marco Island and then at the Snake River although we generally prefer to sail straight through as the side trips add a lot of mileage. Additional information is available at ................
Maybe we'll get a word back from svHyLyte, but I think he meant to suggest Little Shark River instead of "Snake River" or possibly Snake Creek on Windley Key, but that doesn't seem likely. I don't know of a Snake River in the area....'but then, I've not known things before! Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 06-12-2010, 13:47   #12
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Thank you for all the information. Time isn't an issue at all. We aren't trying to get there faster, we just want to see a more scenic/natural Florida. Between to "Mc Condo's", and being in the "super water-highway", I think we would like a more relaxed, less expensive route, oh.... and some peace. We just don't want to take that route if it's a big headache. We decided not to go to the Bahamas this year and don't need to be back up in MD until end of spring.... so the keys and the Dry Tortuga's will be our winter spots. We thought "hey, Okeechobee might be something cool to do." We are leaning that way unless we hear a really good reason not to.
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Old 06-12-2010, 14:21   #13
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Maybe we'll get a word back from svHyLyte, but I think he meant to suggest Little Shark River instead of "Snake River" or possibly Snake Creek on Windley Key, but that doesn't seem likely. I don't know of a Snake River in the area....'but then, I've not known things before! Take care and joy, Aythya crew
Oops! Brain slip! I had just been reading about fishing on the Snake River--thanks for the correction!
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Old 06-12-2010, 14:43   #14
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Thank you for all the information. Time isn't an issue at all. We aren't trying to get there faster, we just want to see a more scenic/natural Florida. Between to "Mc Condo's", and being in the "super water-highway", I think we would like a more relaxed, less expensive route, oh.... and some peace. We just don't want to take that route if it's a big headache. We decided not to go to the Bahamas this year and don't need to be back up in MD until end of spring.... so the keys and the Dry Tortuga's will be our winter spots. We thought "hey, Okeechobee might be something cool to do." We are leaning that way unless we hear a really good reason not to.
If that's your idea I think you will like the Okeechobee. It is long and straight in sections but mostly undeveloped and wild. Definitely not condo land.
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Old 06-12-2010, 14:49   #15
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I have done that trip on my jetski,,, Port Saint Lucie to Fort Meyers, then up to Tampa and back to Port Saint Lucie,, The trip is lovely but i know that i would never want to do it on a vessel doing 6 knots. the canals are interesting but after an hour of motoring on a sailboat,,, boring,,, personally i would head outside and down to miami for a nice sail,,, you can always go into the icw in ft. lauderdale or lake worth if it is too bumpy. doing the crossing on the lake you will be motoring most of the way,,,,,,
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