Okeechobee Waterway (OWW)

154 miles Gulf of Mexico to Atlantic Ocean. Three locks on the Caloosahatchee River, and two locks on St. Lucie River.


Most Loopers will want to take the cut across (shorter) route from Clewiston, as there is shallow water on the eastern perimeter route.

We tied up at Ft Myers [municipal] Yacht Basin for the Thanksgiving holiday. Several Loopers here with us. So, we are a long day’s cruise to Moore Haven on west shore of Lake Okeechobee. That should happen Friday.

USCG Local Notice to Mariners reports that the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close St Lucie Lock from January 2 to March 31.

So traversing the whole waterway will not be possible for a few months after January 2.

Friday’s Addendum:

Speed Limit is 25 mph, most parts of the Caloosahatchee River. (We didn’t get stopped for speeding.) But there were a number of places to slow down and be mindful of our wake.

Hours of operation of the locks: 7:00am to 5:00 pm with the last locking commencing at 4:30pm. There are no lock fees.

Bridges are on VHF-9

Locks are on VHF-13

Interestingly, some might notice that the lock masters of these locks do not have valves to open and close to fill and empty the lock chamber. They actually crack open the mitered gates a bit instead.

The gates of the two locks are a very different design than other locks we’ve seen in other parts of the country.

Above, the first eastbound Franklin lock as seen on Google Earth. Its lift today was only about 1 foot.

The second in Ortona FL had a lift of about 8 feet. Notice how the gates of both locks are arch-triangles (pizza slices!) presumably a stronger structural design giving them the ability to be “cracked open” a controlled amount to control the flows into and out of the lock chamber.

The lock master at Ortona must not like talkin’ on the radio much. If he does not answer your calls, don’t take it personally.

There were very few aids to navigation in the Caloosahatchee River and Canal, and it seems there was little need. There was plenty of depth on the sides and in the middle, rarely less than 15 feet.

The municipal wall is first-come-first-serve. (Photographed below looking back Saturday morning.)

This on the LEFT before the big bridge, if you are heading east.

They may have had room for us there, but because of the sunset hour closing in, we were happy to take the first spot we saw, right behind Sparky whom we locked through with earlier today.

This was at the River house Marina (unattended, uses Dockwa) wall and once secured, we were invited to docktails aboard the brand new Krogen Express 52, Sparky. Newlywed-owners, Jim and Carol and friend Capt Anthony Russo loved giving us a tour, the men dreweled in the new engine room sporting twin Yanmars with all the trimmings… while the ladies admired all corners of the floor plan above, and fine workmanship throughout.

This crew of three could not name a single disappointment in the newest craft navigating this river today.

At various times through the night, the train whistles in Moore Haven might have you reaching for ear plugs. Locals must get used to it. I didn’t.

Saturday’s weather looks good for crossing Lake Okeechobee! Stay tuned.


Saturday Addendum

To Lake Okeechobee!

Above, a sign inside the Moore Haven Lock gave some helpful references in both directions.

It took a long time before Okeechobee looked like a LAKE! Shelly kept calling it the Okeechobee RIVER!

Approaching the big left turn at Clewiston.

Clewiston requires an extra lock to the right…

We went left.

Everything was well marked. Out in the middle, the nav aids were quite some distance apart… beyond visual… but that is no worry with the most basic of chart plotters / or apps. (Otherwise, make sure your deviation card and skills are up to snuff for some good dead reckoning!) It’s all minor compared to the Gulf crossing a week or two ago.

We had dozens of gull friends for the lake crossing.

I suspect the churned up water behind us got their instincts all fired up.

In fishing ports, gulls follow the fishermen in as they clean the day’s catch. The cuttings are jettisoned and make a great “free lunch” for the gulls.

But there are no ports or boats like that on this lake, and we had nothing to throw. So, their behavior was difficult to understand; (especially since we both used deodorant that morning). A westbound cruiser whom we passed halfway across also had a large following.

Finally, on the other side, the tiny spec which was Port Mayaca Lock grew into a full sized chamber for us to enter. I image this entrance would be challenging on a rough day.


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