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Old 09-12-2014, 10:18   #1
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Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Hi folks, one perhaps for the Floridians to answer? Though I need to make a decision quickly:

Having reached Fernandina Beach and sat out a couple of days that're too windy/rough for our tastes on the outside, it now looks like the winds will be completely flat for a week. Sat around this morning the Okkechobee waterway caught my eye, as somewhere 'different' to go whilst we can't sail, but is this a realistic passage in a sailboat drawing a designed 5.5', which in freshwater and overloaded probably draws closer to six feet?

I know about the bridge restriction of 49' and that's not a problem; we've an air height of 48'6", which includes 3' of VHF aerial scheduled for renewal (the replacement's onboard already) it's the depths we're worried about. The official depths website we found has been updated recently and says there's 15.53' feet in the lake, which is apparently high and presumably helps along the canals/cuts/rivers either side too?

So, should we be able to get through and how big a pain in the backside would it be to manage it?
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Old 09-12-2014, 10:41   #2
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

check out this info: Roland Martin Marina | Lake Okeechobee Current Water Levels


We did this route a few years back with a 5ft draft, and also with our Tartan 33 with 4.5 ft draft. With the 5ft draft, we had only 6 ft showing for actual depth, and we never had any problems. Look at this site today, and it seems you've got at least 9ft for your lake crossing - should be no problem. We stayed at Indiantown after leaving Stuart, and made out way to Labelle and thence to Pine Island. At least you won't have to be tilted over for the Port Myaca bridge, which was the scariest/strangest part of the whole trip. With your situation right now, I wouldn't hesitate.
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Old 09-12-2014, 11:43   #3
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Your freshwater Draft will probably be less than 2" difference from your saltwater draft. Maybe not even an inch difference. Mine does not change enough to notice at all, actually, so probably about a half inch, tops. You can of course calculate it but I would simply ignore it.
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Old 09-12-2014, 11:51   #4
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Go real slow under the bridge, that high water level just may make it less than 49'.
I have not done it, but there is supposedly a service that uses barrels or something to heel you over.
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Old 09-12-2014, 12:24   #5
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

I sailed the Okeechobee and the ICW from Stuart to the Gulf this past spring. I draw 4'11" and in most parts there were no problems, but I did 'bump' bottom a couple of times. Make sure you stay in the channels, and keep a good eye out on your depth finder.

The ICW is wide enough that I found no problems anchoring a couple of nights. It is a good trip, and you should enjoy it.
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Old 09-12-2014, 13:55   #6
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

The Okeechobee Waterway is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Here is their official website--kept constantly up to date--that shows the current depths for the two routes and the height for the bridge. This is the resource that you want to use.

USACE Jacksonville District

Good luck.
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Old 09-12-2014, 14:24   #7
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Quote:
Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
The Okeechobee Waterway is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Here is their official website--kept constantly up to date--that shows the current depths for the two routes and the height for the bridge. This is the resource that you want to use.

USACE Jacksonville District

Good luck.
Yep, that's what I've been looking at, along with Active Captain shoal/obstruction/hazard flags; they all seem to suggest that we're good to go.

Thankyou
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Old 09-12-2014, 14:39   #8
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

I did this passage a few years ago as well on a 35ft sloop with a 5ft 6in draft. We were sailing from Clearwater to Daytona Beach. It's a very scenic route and we enjoyed it. Two concerns... 1. The Bridge- It sounds like you will be close on the height. I motored up to it and things didn't look good so I pulled off to the side and re-measured everything. We made it through but it was close. 2. The Lake- Pick a good weather window for your crossing. It's about 45 miles across the lake and you need to stay in a very narrow channel. The channel markers are a couple of miles apart. A small craft warning blew in while we were on the lake. I wasn't too worried about it because we spend most of our time in the open ocean. Big mistake we had 8 ft square waves the whole way across about 8 ft apart. The prop was coming out of the water at times. We were fighting a 30 knot NE wind and very worried about wandering outside of the channel where it is only a couple of feet deep. Probably the most dangerous conditions I have ever been in during 40 years of sailing. As I said before- go early in the morning and pick a good weather window.
Other than that I would recommend this route.
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Old 09-12-2014, 15:19   #9
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Bob,
As others have said you're most likely good to go with your resonanble draft and mast height....but...
But, I'm wondering what weather forecast you're looking at that says the winds will be "flat" for a week...('cause they're not going to be, nor even "unfavorable")...
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobnlesley View Post
Having reached Fernandina Beach and sat out a couple of days that're too windy/rough for our tastes on the outside, it now looks like the winds will be completely flat for a week. Sat around this morning the Okkechobee waterway caught my eye, as somewhere 'different' to go whilst we can't sail...
If you're still in Fernandina Beach, here is the current US NWS/NOAA Marine Coastal Weather forecast...
Quote:
SYNOPSIS FOR ALTAMAHA SOUND GA TO FLAGLER BEACH FL OUT TO 60 NM-

252 PM EST TUE DEC 9 2014

SYNOPSIS... NORTHWEST WINDS WILL DECREASE BRIEFLY THIS AFTERNOON BEFORE RAMPING UP AGAIN TO NEAR 20 KTS IN THE NEARSHORE AND 20 TO 25 KTS OVER THE OFFSHORE WATERS AROUND 00Z AS UPPER LEVEL TROUGH AXIS SWINGS THROUGH THE AREA OVERNIGHT. SMALL CRAFT HAS BEEN EXTENDED FOR THE NEARSHORE FLORIDA WATERS THROUGH LATE TONIGHT AND WILL CONTINUE FOR ALL OFFSHORE ZONES THROUGH LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT AS SEAS SLOWLY DECREASE. WINDS WILL COME DOWN BELOW 15 KTS ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON REMAINING OUT OF THE NORTHWEST AS HIGH PRESSURE BUILDS IN. THIS PATTERN IS EXPECTED TO PERSIST THROUGH THE END OF THE WEEK.

FERNANDINA BEACH TO ST AUGUSTINE FL OUT 20 NM- ST AUGUSTINE TO FLAGLER BEACH FL OUT 20 NM-
252 PM EST TUE DEC 9 2014
SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE TONIGHT

TONIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET WITH OCCASIONAL SEAS UP TO 8 FEET. INLAND WATERS CHOPPY.
WEDNESDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET WITH OCCASIONAL SEAS UP TO 8 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET WITH OCCASIONAL SEAS UP TO 6 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
THURSDAY WEST WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 3 TO 5 FEET WITH OCCASIONAL SEAS UP TO 6 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
THURSDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
FRIDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
FRIDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
SATURDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
SATURDAY NIGHT NORTH WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
SUNDAY NORTH WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET. INLAND WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.




And, if you're further down / nearer to the Okkechobee Waterway....here is the current US NWS/NOAA Marine Coastal Weather forecast...
Quote:
SYNOPSIS FOR FLAGLER BEACH TO JUPITER INLET OUT 60 NM-

320 PM EST TUE DEC 9 2014

SYNOPSIS...A STRONG HIGH PRESSURE RIDGE OVER THE EASTERN U.S. WILL COMBINE WITH A SLOW MOVING SURFACE LOW NORTHEAST OF FLORIDA TO PRODUCE A PERSISTENT NORTH TO NORTHWEST WIND OVER THE ATLANTIC COASTAL WATERS THIS WEEK. BOATING CONDITIONS WILL REMAIN HAZARDOUS THROUGH AT LEAST MID WEEK...ESPECIALLY OVER THE GULF STREAM. EVEN AS WINDS DECREASE DUE TO HIGH PRESSURE SETTLING TOWARD FLORIDA... A MODERATE TO LARGE SWELL WILL KEEP SEAS ELEVATED. .GULF STREAM HAZARDS...WINDS NORTH TO NORTHWEST 20 TO 25 KNOTS WITH SEAS UP TO 15 FEET OVERNIGHT.

THE APPROXIMATE LOCATION OF THE WEST WALL OF THE GULF STREAM BASED ON THE REAL TIME OCEAN FORECAST SYSTEM FROM FRIDAY DECEMBER 5TH.
50 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF PONCE INLET.
38 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF PORT CANAVERAL.
31 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF SEBASTIAN INLET.
22 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF FORT PIERCE INLET.
12 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF SAINT LUCIE INLET.
9 NAUTICAL MILES EAST OF JUPITER INLET.
7 NAUTICAL MILES EAST SOUTHEAST OF LAKE WORTH.
7 NAUTICAL MILES EAST SOUTHEAST OF PORT EVERGLADES.
2 NAUTICAL MILES NORTHEAST OF FOWEY ROCKS.


COASTAL WATERS FROM SEBASTIAN INLET TO JUPITER INLET OUT 20 NM-

320 PM EST TUE DEC 9 2014
SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING
TONIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. SEAS 9 TO 12 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD 13 SECONDS. CHOPPY ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
WEDNESDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS DIMINISHING TO 10 TO 15 KNOTS IN THE AFTERNOON. SEAS 8 TO 11 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD 13 SECONDS. CHOPPY ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. SEAS 6 TO 9 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD 13 SECONDS. MOSTLY SMOOTH ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
THURSDAY WEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. SEAS 6 TO 8 FEET. A LIGHT CHOP ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
THURSDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET. MOSTLY SMOOTH ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
FRIDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET. A LIGHT CHOP ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS.
FRIDAY NIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET.
SATURDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FEET.
SATURDAY NIGHT NORTH WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 3 TO 4 FEET. SUNDAY NORTH WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. SEAS 3 TO 4 FEET.


Again, I'm not clear exactly where you are at, nor what weather forecast you're using....but, in my opinion, the above forecasts cannot be considered "flat" winds....(yes, Thursday's forecast for the Stuart/Ft.Pierce area, of NW 5-10kts, is light, but not "flat", and most of the rest of the coming week is 10kts to 10-15kts, in favorable directions...)

And, FYI....a West or NW wind is great for heading south down the east coast of Florida, seas are light, wind is fairly dry and warm, and is a easy sail, even I North wind is good (you're west of the Stream, so no worries there)....as you head out of Fernandina Beach, you stay in about 40' - 50' of water max., and then sail thru water shallower as you move south / head for a point a few miles off Cape Canaveral, and then head for a point a few miles off Ft. Pierce....and then in / thru the St. Lucie Inlet and into Stuart / St. Lucie River / Okeechobee Waterway....


Please let us know where you are at, and what weather forecasts you're looking at...


Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie

P.S. Here's the current forecast for the Lake...
Quote:
LAKE OKEECHOBEE-
433 PM EST TUE DEC 9 2014

TONIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS CHOPPY.
WEDNESDAY NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS CHOPPY.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
THURSDAY NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS A MODERATE CHOP.
THURSDAY NIGHT NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
FRIDAY AND FRIDAY NIGHT NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS AROUND 5 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS SMOOTH.
SATURDAY NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS A LIGHT CHOP.
SATURDAY NIGHT NORTH NORTHWEST WINDS AROUND 5 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS SMOOTH.
SUNDAY NORTH WINDS 5 TO 10 KNOTS. LAKE WATERS A LIGHT CHOP
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Old 09-12-2014, 19:04   #10
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

As long as the elevation is 12' or more a 6' draft should be fine on Route 1. Currently the stage is 15.5' so there's a clearance of over 9' which should provide a little comfort zone. We have been through with a 5' draft and never came within 3'.
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Old 09-12-2014, 19:17   #11
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

You'll have absolutely no problem with your draft. There are no issues along route 1 for you all the way to Ft. Myers. Chuck
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Old 09-12-2014, 19:36   #12
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

YUP. There is a barrel/boat tipping service.
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Old 10-12-2014, 09:26   #13
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Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Made the trip in June. 2 things I will add: #1, call the Indiantown Marina with any questions about height and getting tipped or not to make the railroad bridge. They have the tel# for the guy who does the tipping.
#2, we anchored overnight in the Lake, got caught by a front that came thru and the Bruice anchor dragged. Not a whole lot, but enough to keep us up all night. The lake bottom is not good for holding.
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Old 10-12-2014, 10:06   #14
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Thumbs up Re: Is the Okeechobee a realistic option?

Not to be an alarmist here but I just want to re-state that watching the weather on Lake Okeechobee is very important. The fact that the lake is so shallow causes a stacking of the water. Those "square waves" mentioned earlier also result is LESS water in the troughs. I was managing a 58' Hatterass and the Owner decided to cross the lake in a blow and the result was ripping the wheels, shafts, and part of the bottom out of her when she slid down the wave into "not enough water" The good news was when she sank she could only sink so far.....lol
So.... by all mean DO IT, but just keep a weather eye, and enjoy the trip across. It's about as close to "old Florida" as you will get and is very pretty. Manatees, gators, LOTS of birds down from the cold north, and nice folks. Also this time of year the "skeeters" should be less of a problem.
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