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Old 08-08-2017, 06:13   #1
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St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

Hi everyone and thanks for taking your time to read this post and hopefully provide some useful information. Several years ago we did Naples to Miami going south via key Largo and it was quite an adventure but we had an amazing sailor with us so no issues. (Thanks Opa!). Now we're on our own with our three kids ranging 15 to 20 and we want to do the safe route as we bring our new boat (it's not new it's just new to us) from St. Pete to Miami. It has an engine that works and it has sails that work and we're relying on both. My husband wants to do this over several nights taking breaks along the route so if you have ideas suggestions anything we'd love to hear it. And no the boat is not a Catalina 340 foot long it's only 34! No imagination this early in the morning for a better username. THANKS!!

BTW. We have no electronics so suggestions for what we should have including models are much appreciated!
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Old 08-08-2017, 07:24   #2
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

You have to be able to clear 5 fixed bridges with a height of 55 feet. I believe yours is only like 48 feet or so.

With no electronics you will certainly need a handheld VHF radio, and navigation software or apps on a laptop or on an iPhone. Navionics and Garmin Blue Charts are very popular choices.
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Old 08-08-2017, 07:38   #3
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

[QUOTE=David Hughes;2451967]You have to be able to clear 5 fixed bridges with a height of 55 feet. I believe yours is only like 48 feet or so.

Don't forget the train bridge! I believe it's 49' but less with high water level from rains. You need to call and check.
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Old 08-08-2017, 07:39   #4
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St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

I always predicate it with if money is an issue, cause to some it isn't and they seem a little offended when told an inexpensive way.
I have an IPad and IPhone running both Navionics and Garmin Blue Chart.
In truth they are both more accurate and better due to updates etc than my B&G chart plotter, however neither is really marine Grade so keep them out of the weather.
You do not need an IPad with a cell phone in it, a Bluetooth GPS is more accurate than the IPad built in one and runs off its own battery so the IPad will last longer between charges, if you have one with built in GPS, great , it's plenty accurate enough, no need to buy a blue tooth one. In other words if you have an IPad, no need to buy another one.

A good handheld radio is sufficient in my opinion, and you need Nav and anchor lights of course.
Personally I'd have to have a depth finder, I would not want to have to use a lead line.

Going around is not so bad either, and I assume the bugs in the lake may be fierce this time of year?

I went around myself

Of course if money is no object go pick whatever whiz bang plotter / Radar combo with autopilot that you like and have it professionally installed.
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Old 08-08-2017, 07:51   #5
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

In addition to the bridge clearance issues, there are depth considerations. Army Corp of Engineers publishes daily updates on water levels for the two routes around. As I understand it, the southern route is preferred due to better depths. We have had a lot of rain lately, so the lake levels may not be much of a factor if you are leaving very soon.

There are threads about this transit if you do a Google search.
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Old 08-08-2017, 08:11   #6
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

Just out of curiosity, what was it about the Naples-Miami trip that made you not want to do it again without the assistance of an amazing sailor? That's a pretty safe route, with lots of nice scenery, plenty of sheltered anchoring options in a 34'. I haven't done the OKW canal except to parallel it by car, and I can't imaging ever wanting to do it by boat. Then there are the technical details like bridges, etc.

Like a64pilot said, smartphone navigation software (I use Navionics) and a handheld VHF should be more than sufficient either way, and I agree with him on the depth sounder as well, although you could probably sneak by without it if you are careful with your charts.

Pete
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Old 08-08-2017, 08:23   #7
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

I've done the Okeechobee Waterway trip a couple of times. Going through the locks is an interesting experience. The rivers/canals east and west of the lake are very protected, calm waterways. The lake is just a big body of water if you go straight across. The rim route is more interesting but a little longer. It's a nice trip either way.

The Florida Bay/Keys route is also pleasant. Lots fewer bridges, no locks, but more open water. The route through Florida Bay is pretty well marked and the inside route from Long Key to Miami is easy to follow.

Either option is enjoyable if you have good screens and lots of DEET or mosquito coils for the hours between dusk and dawn.

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Old 08-08-2017, 08:45   #8
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

We have a 60 ft mast and 5'10 draft so we did not choose that route. Also decided to avoid dodging crab traps so we sail from St. Pete to Key West doing one overnight sail. We motor when we go below 5 knots so we can get there in daylight (really important)! However, you could sail the entire way and drop anchor at the mouth of the NW passage and wait for daylight to enter it. The first time we entered at night, and some of the channel markers are not lit up and we ran into one 😟. Spend a night ir two in Key West - it is really fun, then take the Hawk Channel to Marathon/Boot Key where we have anchored several times. Next day stop and anchor at Key Rodriguez, a very pleasant stop. Then into Miami via Key Biscayne and No Name Harbour. Have a pleasant trip!
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:04   #9
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

The published mast height of the Catalina 34 is between 48 and 50' - so it is possible with some creating healing (fill the dinghy with water and hang it off one side of the boats - or have your kids hang on the main halyard) to get under the railroad bridge on the Okeechobee Waterway.

The waterway is my favorite route through old Florida - several nice places to spend the nights, some free, and several places to eat. It takes several days, but they are comfortable and, weather permitting, the sail across the Okeechobee is fun. If the wind is up and the lake is rough, the rim route is passable by your boat - also fun.

If you go to Marithon and turn toward St. Pete, you face an overnight in Shark River - the absolutely buggiest place in Florida. Even with the Air Conditioning running, it is buggy.If you don't have A/C and a generator, buy one - or get a good lawyer, the bugs will break up any relationship.

In the fall when bugs are worst, just don't stop at Shark - an overnight isn't so bad and it will save your sanity.

Read about heeling your boat on the waterway, if you have a "tall rig" you must do this procedure or pay someone to do it - not hard, but you should plan in advance.
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:19   #10
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

We're dirt dwellers now, so my memories of the Miami to the Gulf coast is a bit dim.

You might find some hints in the Cruisers Wiki - http://www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/Florida_State

A depth sounder is important going across Lake Okeechobee in a keel boat - depending on the time of year and rainfall, the channel can be very narrow in times of low water levels.

We've done the trip around the Keys and across Okeechobee several times and enjoyed it whichever way we went.

Enjoy.
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:27   #11
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

I've been through the canal many times, The railroad bridge at the north east end of the Lake is 49, I made it under with 54 and lots of healing, read and see it on my website. If you want, when you go by, say howdy, you'll find my boat one mile east of the Fort Denaud bridge, on the south side of the canal in the first old river channel. The free city dock at Labelle makes a great stop for the evening with wifi and computers if you need them at the city library, closest building to the dock, just before you get to the bridge. 863 517 6960 Jon
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:35   #12
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

The Okeechobee ditch is a nice trip. I would second the need for a radio so you can contact the locks and brides. If you're spending the money, get a real radio not a hand held, just for safeties sake.
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:38   #13
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeanneP View Post
We're dirt dwellers now, so my memories of the Miami to the Gulf coast is a bit dim.

You might find some hints in the Cruisers Wiki - http://www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/Florida_State

A depth sounder is important going across Lake Okeechobee in a keel boat - depending on the time of year and rainfall, the channel can be very narrow in times of low water levels.

We've done the trip around the Keys and across Okeechobee several times and enjoyed it whichever way we went.

Enjoy.
Taking the trans Fl. Route across Okeechobee is always interesting! Crossing can be rough! As a commercial skipper, I crossed it with pasengers aboard and you had to brace yourself for a portion of them getting sick! I have on occasion encountered ten foot seas on the passage. Believe me you would much rather have ten footers in the ocean. The reason being the average depth of the lake is right around ten feet. (Depending upon time of year and the Corps of Engineers.) That makes ten footers on the lake a lot steeper with a very short wavelength! Uncomfortable and dangerous! My advice if it's real windy or the lake is rough, take the rim ditch instead of crossing directly!
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:01   #14
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

Assuming mast under 55' including rigid wind meters etc and draw of 5' or less you are essentially unlimited in your choices. St Pete to Key West is over 250 NM. To do it in 36 hours requires averaging 7 kts. Not realistic and has you entering port at night. A better plan would have you sail 3 days and one night spending one night anchored offshore. As the boat is unfamiliar, you might take 4 days and anchor out every night. Unless dead set on Key West you could save 100 miles crossing at Marathon then going Hawks Channel for speed or the ICW for scenery. You need electronic charts but it is cheap to use a tablet or laptop with GPS hard wired. Free software (Open CPN or Seaclear II) is available on line as are free NOAA charts. I don't think a depth finder does much good, far better to rely on navigation markers. Of course you need a good compass and at minimum, a hand held VHF radio in addition to your cell phones. You also need a 12 v charger for your electronics. It's nice to have mosquito netting and a hand held search light plus all the USCG requirements. In planning you need to know your range under power so you can plan fuel stops if needed. You never know how long you can avoid motoring because winds shift. You also need to know how long you can go on batteries without charging and how many hours motoring is needed to approach full charge. It should be a nice trip if you plan ahead and take it slow.
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:07   #15
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Re: St. Pete to Miami via Lake Okeechobee

From Charlotte Harbor these stops: Pelican Bay, St James City, Franklin Locks, LaBelle (free first come first served), Clewiston (marina), Indiantown (marina), Stuart (mooring ball). Then south with about 1000 bridges!. I would not do this trip without a radio and depth sounder. Last time I went through you called Indiantown to be tipped under the RR bridge and it was $200. I made it with no trouble at 47 feet.
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