I did the Okeechobee 'Limbo' in our Ericson
38 with a 52' mast
height. Back in 2007 it cost $150 for the guy to come meet you at the bridge. He brings a helper and a bunch of those blue plastic 50 gallon drums. He situates the drums inside your lifelines
along the deck
on one side, then pumps them full of water with gas powered pumps.
He has a 'gauge' that he hauls up the mast
that acts like a pendulum. When the boat heels over and the weight reaches the water, you have clearance. We powered through on our own engine
. Once on the other side, he just pulls the bungs, drains the water and off you go. Takes maybe an hour, hour and a half.
From our experience, I'd guess that 53' might be the maximum but maybe not. We were at 52 feet after I removed the wind
bird, windex, vhf antenna
, etc from the mast head
. The VHF antenna
we just turned upside down on it's bracket so that it still functioned for calling bridges, locks, etc.
We drafted 5 feet which is normally not an issue but during periods of drought the lake level can get down to impassable for all but small outboard
The Okeechobee Waterway saves about three days over going the long way about (via the Keys) when going from one coast to the other. We've gone both ways any number of times on various boats.
Indiantown Marina is a good stopover just to the east side of the lake. It's also a favorite storage
yard for boats that winter in the Bahamas
. The marina is inside two locks on the St Lucie side and so is not threatened by high water from storms. The yard is also expert at tying boats down so they can survive a storm. In hurricane
Charley (2004 I think), about 3 dozen boats were tipped over (a few with significant damage) the other 375 boats stayed put with very minimal damage. Ours had no damage other than a shredded grey plastic tarp.
You can also get to Indiantown from the east without going under the RR (49 ft) bridge. However as I recall
there are 55 ft bridges along the route
. Bridge clearance also depends on Lake levels which are controlled by the Corps of Engineers with the locks and other flood control structures.