To Lake Okeechobee

 

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Horses and birds (Ibis?) along the east Okeechobee canal.

We had a quick two day rental car trip to Sarasota and got back yesterday. We left Sunset Bay Marina at 7:30 and started up the canal toward Lake Okeechobee. That east wind was still with us, but not so much as a few days ago, and going its way made it not so noticeable.

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Dredgers and work boats along the canal bank

We went through the St Lucie and Port Mayaca locks. All the bridges were high fixed ones except for two rail drawbridges that are usually open and were open for us. The second rail bridge looked abandoned as we approached it, but as we passed through I thought it might still be working. The last lock came just before the big lake.

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You can tell fishing boats come out here on the lake. No one else right now so they followed us.

Okeechobee is very shallow. There is a 25 mile long channel for larger boats (they don’t get much larger than ours here, maybe up to 65’) to follow that has four straight sections connected by sharp turns. This ends at the bottom shore of the lake where you turn hard right to continue the channel which is along the south shore of the lake for 12 more miles before turning west. This time we stopped after the first 25 miles and went to stay at Roland Martin’s marina just behind the Clewiston lock. Seems strange to have a lock here. It serves only two very small marinas and a short canal that goes into the small town. There is a large sugar and citrus processing plant there, so maybe the canal services boats for that somehow, although I’ve never seen commercial boats in this canal except a few related to maintenance of locks and bridges.

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Clewiston lock from the lake. Big processing plant off behind the town to the right.

The Clewiston lock was a surprise. A 65’ boat would touch the gates at both ends. We’ve never seen anything close to this short. We dropped only a foot or so to the other side, and it’s usually left completely open unless the lake is higher than normal, like it is now. Even with the small drop, the lock walls are very high. They pass ropes down from the top for us to hang onto. How do you hold a 25 ton boat in place by pulling down on a rope? Pull hard enough and you can lift yourself off the deck, for what good that does. I just used the engines and thrusters to hold us.

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Our marina. Several smaller and one larger boat (a work boat) came in later. They had a rip roaring Halloween party in the “Tiki Bar”. We didn’t go.

We got in about 3:30. The marina was a real backwater place and is popular with area fishermen. I think we’ll pass this one by next time unless the lock is fully open.

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