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.


8 thoughts on “Across Florida – East to West

  1. Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa is one of our all time favorite anchorages. I am always amazed when we see other PDQ MV34’s anchored in there along with us. Once there were 3 of us (known of use knew each other), amazing how only 115 were ever made in Canada and none in more than a decade. We are local to SW Florida and not retired yet, so we don’t get too far for now, but we always find a sister ship or two when we do.

    Safe travels on your trip North, we will be following.


    • Hello there sister ship! We saw a PDQ34 entering Cayo Costa on March 28, just after we left. You? We also one at a house dock somewhere east of Ft Myers Shores. This season we have encountered more than ever!
      Living in SW Florida helps make up for not being retired 😊.
      Nice to have you along; I’ll get on Russ to post another update soon! Lori


      • No, that was not us this time, we are usually only out on the weekends somewhere though, otherwise she is high and dry on her lift in our Cape Coral backyard. I am assuming the one you saw on the river was Dave and Barb’s – Miss Our Money. They also have a lift I believe, I thought theirs was still up North somewhere (Maine????) but perhaps she came home.


      • Ah, so we have more to meet then. Wasn’t MMM, she’s up in Michigan. We stopped to visit with David and Barb on our return.
        On our way west we saw Taryn Aweigh, who were headed east and had just visited with David and Barb.


  2. 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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