Crossing Lake Okeechobee

On Tuesday night February 28 we had to say goodbye to Janic and Russ Pouliot.  They are residents of Fort Myers Yacht Basin on their boat DREAM CHASER.   Janic said ” the boat will never be cold again”.  I am glad we became friends during our stay in Fort Myers.  It was always nice to stop and visit with them and have dock tails.  Saying goodbye to new friends we have made is not easy but the memories will last forever.  I know there will always be new friends to meet as we travel.

Wednesday morning bright and early with the sun rising we untied our lines, with the help of Mark and Kent.  We said goodbye to Fort Myers which had been our home since Thanksgiving.  I have very mixed emotions, sad to leave but excited about traveling once again.

We are traveling with Kent and Jane from Rising Tide traveling on the Caloosahatchee River heading to Lake Okeechobee.  The river is beautiful and so nice to be traveling again.

We have three locks before we cross Lake Okeechobee the first one is Franklin and we’re back to holding onto lines.  We are still traveling on the Caloosahatchee River but it is now called the Okeechobee waterway, and the Caloosahatchee Canale, or spillway.  We are navigating in a very winding and narrow waterway.  The closer we get to the Lake the more marsh we see.

The next two locks Olga and Ortona don’t use a valve to raise and lower water levels, instead they open the door in the direction you are navigating.  It takes longer and you better have a hold on your lines, as it produces a turbulence when they let the water in. We were going up so I could hold the line around a cleat.  When they opened the doors in lock Ortona the turbulence caused Kent and Jane (Rising Tide) trouble keeping their boat on the wall. Kent did some great maneuvering  his boat and did a 360 in the lock.  My Kent wanted to know if he was practicing backing into his slip when he got to Stuart. Finally after a long day we were at Clewiston lock and it was opened.  You have to go through this lock to get to Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina in Clewiston, Florida.

This marina is very narrow and only has a very long dock for transients.  Either you need to turn your boat around or back all the way out when you leave.  We were greeted by Sam the dock hand who helped us turn the boat around before we docked.

I was sure glad to see him on the dock to throw the lines to.  After we were all tied up and greeted by other loopers we went up to the TiKi bar for dinner and a cold beer.

We had dinner with Kent & Jane (Rising Tide) Dave & Kim(Overtime) and Doyle & Christy (Abaco Lady).

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We had a storm following us all day and we just sat down for dinner and it poured down rain.  I hadn’t seen rain that hard in so long I forgot what it was like.  We had a palm tree above the boat, not a good thing when it rains.  We had a mess of seeds to clean off the boat the next morning.

Here is some information about Clewiston, it’s a city in Hendry County Florida the area beside Lake Okeechobee and was once used as a fishing camp by the Seminole Indians. The first permanent settlement began in 1920 by John O Brien and Alonzo Clewis  when they purchased a large tract of land and establish a town.  They built the Moore haven and Clewiston Railroad to connect the community to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad at Moore haven. Clewiston was incorporated in 1925 and noted for its sport fishing particularly of large-mouth bass.  Large sugar plantations were established around Lake Okeechobee.  In the 1950’s and 1960 the cultivation of citrus , vegetables, and cattle were also important to the economy but US sugar corporation remained the dominant manufacturing in Clewiston which is known as “American’s Sweetest Town”.

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Early Thursday morning we had to say goody to Kent and Jane Overbeck on Rising Tide they are gold loopers, meaning they have completed the loop.  They will be traveling with us when we leave but stopping at Stuart Ship yard.  They are having some work done to their boat before heading to the Bahamas.  This is the same shipyard that John Short is at, also having some work done on his boat.  Kent and Jane were our neighbors at Fort Myers Yacht Basin for the past three months. img_5903When we left Clewiston along with four other boats it was bright and sunny what a great day for crossing Lake Okeechobee.  Now we have heard horror stores about crossing the lake with high winds and low water.  I can tell you it was smooth and beautiful not a problem.

Here is some history about lake Okeechobee.  Lake Okeechobee 6,000 years ago was dry land.  As sea level rose and rainfalls increased wetlands formed building up peat deposits.  Eventually the water flows into the area created a lake drowning the wetlands. Along what is now the southern edge of the lake, the wetlands built up the layers of peat rapidly enough to form a dam until the lake overflowed into the Everglades.

The name Okeechobee comes from the Hitachi words oki (water) and chubi(big).  The oldest known name for the lake was Mayaimi (big water) in the 16th century.  On the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee are three islands Kreamer, Ritta, and Torey were once settled by early pioneers.   In 1926 the great Miami hurricane hit Lake Okeechobee killing over 300 people.  Then in 1928 two years later Okeechobee Hurricane crossed over the lake killing thousands.  In both cases the catastrophe was caused by flooding from a storm surge when strong winds drove water over the 6.6 foot mud dike, that circled the lake at the time.   After the two hurricanes the Okeechobee waterway construction of channels, gates and levees opened on March 23, 1939.  The dike was then named Herbert Hoover Dike in honor of the president.   During construction of the dike earth was excavated along the inside perimeter resulting in a deep channel which runs along the perimeter of the lake.   In most places the canal is part of the lake , but in others it is separated from the open lake by low grassy islands such as Kreamer Island.

Lake Okeechobee locally refereed to as the Lake Florida’s Inlet Sea or Big O.  The lake is the largest freshwater lake in the State of Florida and the seventh freshwater lake in the United States.  The lake covers 730 square miles half the size of Rhode Island and exceptionally shallow, with average depth of 9 feet.  The lake is divided between Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach and Hendry counties.  All five counties meet at one point near the center of the lake.

img_8172Once we were off the lake and entered the St Lucie Canal it became very narrow again. We also experience the ashes from the burning of the sugar cane fields on our boat.We said goodbye to Dave and Kim on Overtime, as we are stopping at River Forest and they are continuing on to a marina at Stuart.  We are hopping to travel with them again on our journey.

The River Forest Marina we are in is also a shipyard with long concert docks.

We have now traveled 118 miles and are only 17 miles from the Atlantic ICW.   They have no amenities, not even a bag of ice.  There is nothing around here I have walked for two miles one way and only found a church and school.   Rick and Prudi from ( Rascals Retreat) who we were next to in Joe Wheeler on the Tennessee River is also here.

img_5955We will be staying here until maybe Wednesday morning due to high winds and no boat traveling advisory.

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Tuesday night Prudi (Rascals Retreat) asked if we would like to join them for dinner at Guanabanas they were celebrating Prudi’s birthday.

Prudi was told that Guanabanas specialty is seafood.  The restaurant is island themed which features a tiki bar, live music, and intercostal waterway view.  However, it was dark so we didn’t get to enjoy the view.  The food was very good and the atmosphere made you feel like you were on and island.

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