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.

 

Vaccine Shots – Done & Done!

Well, at least the first doses. Florida last week announced opening up ages 60 – 64, so the wait is over! Lori & I both received appointments for the first day of our age group eligibility. We actually ended up with two sets of first dose appointments. We canceled our Walmart appointments as (besides not being fans of Walmart) getting rental cars is difficult with tourist season in full force. We kept our local Publix grocery/pharmacy appointments as we could simply walk there from our marina. We also have our 2nd dose appointments scheduled so we can begin to relax – a little.

In the meantime, we have just enough time for a 3-week cruise across Florida! We had hoped to be across to Sarasota Bay celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary last May, but COVID put a halt to that.

There is a short-cut across Florida thru the Lake Okeecobee Waterway for boats without tall masts (there is one low bridge along the way). On our last trip to the west-coast 10 years ago we were on our sailing catamaran so we had to go down & around the Florida Keys. This time we take this shortcut.

After 4 months of being mostly hunkered down here are our marina, it will be great to be underway once again!