Tips on Traveling the Okeechobee Waterway
Credits for this Article: Bob Stephenson, February 1997
Obtained from: http://www.okeedirect.com/okeechobee_waterway.htm on July 30, 2001
Stuart - West of the Roosevelt Bridge
There is a large anchorage West of the Roosevelt Bridge. The boaters call it the City Dock. The dock has two slips that are usually full, however there is a large anchorage just off of the docks. There is also a dinghy dock here. (Check out the article on Stuart's Southpoint Anchorage)
Locks: Notes of Interest
Remember to call the Lock master and ask which side to put your fenders on. We found mostly it was starboard side to going East and port side to going West. All of the locks will throw you lines for fore and aft. If possible try not to be the first, or last, boat in the lock. The first and last boats gets the most turbulence when the lock is filling or emptying. Move into and out of the locks only on the green light unless the Lock master tells you to move on the yellow. Some of the walls inside the locks are quite dirty and if you have fender covers, and leave them on the fenders, you will need to throw away the covers - take them off before using them in the locks!
Other notes - Have your boat documentation ( or registration) number handy as the Lock master will often ask you for your boat name, your name, your boat number, where you came from, and where you are heading. They do this while the lock is filling or emptying and you're trying to handle the line thus you don't have time to go look for your boat number papers. Also, check at the first lock to see if all the locks are open and working. - sometimes a lock can be damaged or down for repair and this closes down the entire passage. Another option is to call ahead by telephone : Corps of Engineers at Clewiston (813) 983-8101, or Jacksonville (904) 791-2539. Call these numbers before planning your trip - the locks often close for a couple of months each year (in the summer ) for painting and maintenance. That could ruin your trip if you didn't know they were closed until you got there - its a long way back at 7knts !!
St. Lucie Lock
There are dolphins on both sides of the Lock.
Port Mayaca Lock
On the East side of Lake Okeechobee. There is limited anchorage on the lake side although there are dolphins, this area is prone to strong wind and wave action, I would suggest you anchor on the East side of the Lock where it is much more calm.
The Rim Route - Lake Okeechobee
If you take the rim route around Lake Okeechobee you will need to go through the Swing bridge at Torrey Island. This bridge is a hand cranked swing bridge. If the bridge tender does not answer a horn signal then you will need to call the J. Mark Fish Camp on Channel 68 and ask them to land line the bridge tender for you. This bridge adds considerable time to your travel because the bridge tender has to travel by auto to the bridge and then open it for you. Also remember that about 10 miles of the Rim route are really out in the Lake and it can be very choppy in this area.
At Clewiston there are dolphins on the East side of the river just North of the Roland Martin Marina complex. This is just prior to the port turn onto Lake Okeechobee. A good place to spend the night for an early start across the lake in the A.M.
Moore Haven Lock
There are dolphins and a city dock on the West side of the lock, the city dock looks pretty run down, but if you like to tie up instead of anchoring, there seem to be a few lateral slips for transients. No power or water is available. On the East side of the lock there are two choices. North of the lock past a small fish camp, you can drop an anchor in the river and back down to the east bank of the river where we put out a small stern anchor just to keep us from swinging. South of the lock you will find dolphins to tie to. We have done both and either one is a satisfactory solution. Personally I find it easier to drop an anchor than try to lasso a pole.
LaBelle Bridge - Caloosahatchee River
On the West side of the bridge for about ? mile to the bridge is an anchorage on the South shore. After passing under the bridge you will find another large anchorage area on the North shore. We did not anchor here, however we noted a lot of sailboats seem to know of the area.
Between the LaBelle Bridge and the Ortona Lock
There are a couple of Oxbows that you could anchor in for the day or night. There is plenty of water, however there will be no dog walking unless you dinghy to the areas bordering the river proper. These oxbows are areas that you will just need to keep a lookout for. In general, you can anchor most any where you like in the river system - during the day there is usually a lot of midsize boat traffic (and wakes) but as evening approaches the traffic stops (the locks are closed at night) and the river is deep right up to shore. The entrances to the oxbows or side channels are deep and put you just outside of the river proper when you anchor.
There are dolphins on both sides of the lock as there are at all of the locks. No problem anchoring here or tying off to the dolphins - many have cleats on them.
W.P. Franklin Lock
There are docks and dolphins on the East side of the lock on the North side of the river. There is plenty of swinging room in the anchorage and there are picnic tables on shore. (This looks like a nice place to dock or anchor , as are most of the areas adjacent to the locks).
Alva Bridge - Caloosahatchee River
On the west side of the bridge there is a small dock with 9 feet of water. The Alva Supply Store is located here and you can obtain supplies, gas & diesel fuel. There is anchorage on the opposite side of the river from the supply store.