Across Florida – East to West

While you may be able to drive a car across Florida in less than 3 hours, it takes a long 3 days to cross by boat via the Okeechobee Waterway.  A total of 179 nautical miles, 5 locks & 1 massive lake!

Lori – don’t look now!  It’s difficult to see in this photo, but there is a 14′ wall of water gushing in! Unlike other locks we’ve used on our way up to Lake Champlain which mostly change level via underwater pipes, these simply crack open the gates. Going up, you can cleat the lines & carefully bring in the slack.  Going down you must carefully keep a only a partial wrap, continually letting the line out. If the line were to jam, serious damage will occur ripping out cleats or even rolling your boat.

Ahhhh… so peaceful on the other side after passing thru.

This RR lift bridge prevents larger sailboats from using this route as it only raises to 49′. However sailboats with masts up to around 55′ can hire a local service which meets you at the bridge lining one side deck with a row of plastic barrels they fill with water heeling your boat enough to sneak under!  Lots of YouTube videos showing the process.

Approaching this bridge & thinking it looks lower than 49′ I suddenly noticed it’s lowering! It lowers so quietly & slowly that I couldn’t even tell.  Later on I noticed a VERY dim red flashing light only visible when nearly at the bridge. Florida is REALLY big on freight trains – many routes have trains every few minutes.

This is the last lock before Lake Okeechobee. From here it’s 25 miles of open water across.
This a sample view of repairs to the 143 miles long Hubert Hoover Dike consisting of levees, hurricane gates & various water control structures surrounding the lake.  Begun in 1930 it is continually expanded & improved with an often conflicting mix of goals.  Originally built to save lives during hurricanes (in 1926 & 1928 flash flooding from hurricanes killed over 2,500 people), it also controls water levels for agriculture.  In recent years, much controversy surrounds the sensitivity of water flow to surrounding estuaries, red tide & other ecological impacts reaching all the way to both coasts & down into the Everglades.
The beach at the Cayo Costa State Park (we’re anchored in a protected cove on the other side). In a few days we’ll continue north to Sarasota.


4 thoughts on “Across Florida – East to West

  1. Looks like you’re having a great time. Good thing that you have that PDQ as your MC41 would have to go all the way around the bottom = much more than 3 days. Phyllis & I are still in the Exumas and are surprised at how many boats are in G-town considering all the complication of getting here. I think I heard that the harbour count was something like 180 a couple of weeks ago.


    • Surprised a bit at G-Town numbers myself, but I think you’ll see even more boats as you head back north. Lots of older cruisers (65+) who already received both vaccines were leaving Vero to cross last week, plus those Florida boats who only cross for April & May.
      Enjoy your time – we’ll see you next year!


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