Tag Archives: Okeechobee Waterway

FLORIDA: EAST TO WEST COAST ACCROSS THE OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY

Okeechobee Waterway - FL Map

Okeechobee Waterway – FL Map

Since arriving back in the U.S., after four (4) years cruising the Caribbean, we have received many inquiries about our next port(s) of call, and go-forward cruising plans. Long story short, after arriving in North Palm Beach, FL, we were at a cross road. Either head down the East Coast of FL, towards the Keys, around the southern tip of FL , and up the FL West Coast, or set a course northwest, to cut across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway.

The Okeechobee Waterway is a man-made waterway that stretches from Stuart, on the East Coast of Florida, to Fort Myers, on Florida’s West Coast. A series of canals, including the Caloosahatchee River to the west, and St. Lucie Canal to the east, link Florida’s East and West Coasts to Lake Okeechobee in the center of the state.

Okeechobee Waterway & Locks Map

Okeechobee Waterway & Locks Map

We opted for the Okeechobee Waterway since it was a shorter route, and we were coming up on some deadlines for re-enrolling the boys in a bricks and mortar school. Hence, we positioned ourselves in North Palm Beach until the next appropriate weather window, and locks’ schedule, allowed us to cross from the East Coast to the West Coast of Florida.

During our E-W Florida crossing, we encountered countless car and railroad bridges: swing bridges, draw bridges, fixed bridges, etc. Some, we could pass right under because they were high enough for us to clear.

Bridge

Bridge

Bridge

Bridge

At lower clearance bridges, we had to hail the various bridge operators on the VHF radio to  have them open the bridge so that we could safely pass through.

Draw Bridge

Draw Bridge

While transiting the “Locks,” (a series of water-like elevators), we positioned the Pilots’ Discretion in the lock basins, which then closed and either added or drained water before opening to let us out at the appropriate water level on the other side.

Along the way, we made stops at Roland & Mary Martin Marina, in Clewiston, Fort Myers, and Venice. We had dolphins and jet skiers hitch rides in our wake along the way, and the sunsets were as spectacular as ever.

Sunset in Venice, FL (2018)

Sunset in Venice, FL (2018)

At long last, we reached the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs, FL. We slowly made our way up the river to our home port, Port Tarpon Marina, which had served as our departure point four (4) years previous.

Theresa refueling, Port Tarpon

Theresa refueling, Port Tarpon

Randy refueling, Port Tarpon Marina

Randy refueling, Port Tarpon Marina

Ronan, Randy & Ryan, back where it all started, Port Tarpon

Ronan, Randy & Ryan, back where it all started, Port Tarpon

Sunset from Pilots' Discretion, back in her home port slip at Port Tarpon Marina

Sunset from Pilots’ Discretion, back in her home port slip at Port Tarpon Marina

To say it was a bittersweet surreal moment would be a dramatic understatement.

Mark Twain has been attributed with having said:

Throw of the bowlines ...

Our family is most certainly not disappointed. We are tremendously grateful for our unique experiences and adventures. We have lived the dream, and will continue to do so. 

Since returning to Florida, it has been a whirlwind of nonstop activity reintegrating as part-time landlubbers. The changes have been quick and dramatic, some of them easy, others more challenging, We will provide updates on the reintegration process after we are more settled. In any event, it is all part of the next leg of our journey, which includes, among other things, a new addition to our crew! More about that in our next post ….

Week 1

One week in

October 1, 2014

We have been underway for one week and we are all beginning to settle in to our cruising routine. We have tried to break up long days of cruising with either a day at anchor or a short leg to keep from working the crew too hard. So far the crew is performing beyond the Captain’s most optimistic expectations. Ryan, Randy and Patton all got a very close look at a 3′ stingray as he cruised silently a foot or so off the beach in Pelican Bay the other night. Leaving Pelican Bay, we had planned on transiting one set of locks on the Okeechobee waterway and then tucking into a quiet cove in Rialto for the night. As is often the case with cruisers, flexibility was required because the cove we planned on anchoring in had been marked off with no anchoring signs. Not to worry, we motored on and found a quaint little harbor in LaBelle where the boys met their first “boat kid”, Nina an 8 year old fellow Calvert home schooled little girl who is living aboard a 45′ Catamaran.

Boat kids in LaBelle

Boat kids in LaBelle

After a quiet evening in LaBelle we pressed on through two more sets of locks. The boys are becoming old hands at dealing with the lock transits and all of the lock tenders have been very complimentary about our crews performance. As I am writing this we are tied to the dock at Roland Martin’s Marina in Clewiston, FL. We got in last night in time to watch the Giants win the National League Wild Card game in Pittsburgh so the Giants fans aboard are indeed happy. Today we will cross Lake Okeechobee and spend the night in Indiantown on the east side of the lake. Not much of a hurry on our transit at this point as the weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream is looking like it may not occur until at least early next week.

October 3, 2014

We left Clewiston yesterday and crossed Lake Okeechobee, transiting the Port Mayaca lock on the eastern edge of Lake Okeechobee around sunset. It has been amazing to watch how quickly the boys have gotten into the routine and duties of very capable deck hands.

The lock tenders at Port Mayaca were so impressed with how they handled themselves that they rewarded the boys with a sack of ice pops as we cleared the lock.

Ronan Franklin lock

Ronan at the Franklin lock

Deck Hand Ryan making preparations to lock

Deck Hand Ryan making preparations to lock

(Lake Okeechobee Waterway Locks)

We continued east to the Indiantown marina to spend the night. We are going to spend a couple of days in Indiantown, taking care of boat stuff and getting ahead of the home schooling program. At this point it looks like we may have to wait until later next week to get a suitable weather window to cross over to the Bahamas so we are truly getting ourselves adjusted to the concept of island time. In the meantime, we are respectfully steering clear of our local Okeechobee Waterway neighbors like the Alligator below who has been loitering about just off our starboard side.

Alligator off our starboard side

Alligator off our starboard side

 

Week 1

Week 1