LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO FT PIERCE

I was a bit concerned about leaving Roland Martin marina. We were tied up to a long face dock rather than in a slip.  The face dock was next to and parallel to the bank of a long narrow dead end canal. There’s room for 20-30 boats depending on boat lengths. It’s sort of like parallel parking next to a curb on a dead end street.  After I had docked another bigger wider boat was docked behind me. Though I can rotate my boat 360 degrees on a dime the canal was not wide enough to turn the boat meaning I’d have to back my way all the way out of the canal and having a big boat behind me meant more maneuvering in an even narrower space.

Lucky for me I’m a later riser than the other boater and it was gone before I needed to leave.  Backing the length of the canal to a point where I could turn around presented no problem and I was soon back though the Clewiston Lock and out into Lake O.  There are basically two routes between Clewiston on the southerly east side of the Lake and Port Mayaca on the southerly west side – maybe 35 miles as the crow flies.  There is the south rim route which follows the southerly shore.  It is a longer route but well within sight of the shore and a good segment within a ‘ditch’ much like the intracoastal.  However it is even shallower in spots and with the Lake level so low, it is too shallow for the Last Resort.

The other alternative is to go “straight” across the lake though “straight” is a misnomer.  There are many significant jogs and turns to avoid shallows, shoals and other obstructions.  The channel is actually quite narrow and shallow and often sand bars rose above water level just outside the channel.  If they didn’t raise their “head”, you could be sure they were still there next to the boat waiting to ground you.  Overall though, never saw less that 2.5’ feed of water under the keel/props. 

The electronics aboard the boat are old, some if not all probably nearly 20 years old.  There is quite a bit of screen burn which makes viewing difficult and I found the depth sounder to be fickle as to whether it worked at all and when it did, difficult to read.  That is complicated by the fact that I haven’t had my cataracts taken care of yet.  So staying in the channel by means other than relying on the depth finder was critical.  Both myself and my navigator have up to date charts on our iPads but while on the fly bridge the iPad glare is too much for me.  So while I ran the boat, my navigator kept an eagle eye on the IPad chart (AquaMaps Pro).  I would set a course on the auto pilot (I love it) and the channel turned my navigator seeing the boat progress on the iPad would tell me to go to port 5 degrees etc and I would just push the auto pilot button 5 times to accomplish it (a total of 6 buttons on the auto pilot 1) On; 2) Off; 3) To Port 1 degree; 4) To Port 10 degrees; 5) To Starboard 1 degree; and 6) to Stbd 10 degrees).  When auto pilot is engaged, the steering wheel is disengaged.

It was a beautiful day and a good crossing.  Came into the channel, marked with the red and green bouys, for the Port Mayaca Lock and requested a lock opening.  While waiting and still well within the marked channel, there was a THUMP, WHUMP, horrid noise and the stern of the boat bucked and the engines shut down.  The lockmaster comes on the radio and says “Captain, I forgot to tellyou that some of the limestone blocks have shifted into the channel right by you”.  I replied “I found them!!! ☹”  The lockmaster complained that they’ve been asking the COE to clear the rock or the USCG to re-mark the channel.  Not comforting to me.

The hull of the boat was above the rock but the lower part of the props were touching as they would go around.  The lockmaster described to me where good water was just to my stbd.  I could restart the engine and engage the transmission and as the next prop blade touched rock, the engine would shut down again (4 blades on a prop = 4 shut downs per full revolution), So by first running one engine one blade forward and the the other engine one blade backward and using the bow thruster to stbd, the boat crab walked itself back to good water.  Crew verified we were not taking on any water and all appeared well below decks.  Through the lock and tenderly run the boat to speed, then reverse.  With relief, all went well with no vibrations or hiccups and so we now entered the St Lucie Canal which connects the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to Lake O.

Compared to the tightness and skinny water of Lake O, the St. Lucie Waterway was a breeze and very relaxing though for the most part quite desolate.  About 15 east down the SLWW we saw a house on our stbd side.  Not a very big or fancy place by any description but at a dock in front was a large old yacht.  What a surprise.  It was Kennedy yacht – the Honey Fitz.  Beautiful old boat but it must be an immense amount of work!

Another 15 miles or so came Stuart, FL where apparently the boaters are unable to either read or comprehend No Wake signs or practice courteous boating.  Just beyond the FL Tollroad, I-95, US 1, A1A and all the other bridges lay the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway but before that is the St Lucie Inlet.  The St Lucie Inlet to the Atlantic is a very treacherous inlet.  I remember it well from 40-45 years ago taking water over the boat going through the inlet.  The boat was only 22’ but it made sense to find a local fishing boat and follow it in or out of the inlet.  Just a tremendous amount of shoaling (Ft Pierce is so much safer).  The routing through the St Lucie inlet is best described as circuitous – where you need to go due south in order to go due north!

And finally, we were in the ICW – generally on the route which will be followed for the next thousand plus miles.  Running out of daylight, we abandoned the plan to get to Ft Pierce and a strange marina and instead anchored on the north (lee) side of the Jensen Beach Causeway bridge.  Have seen this anchorage for years between Jensen Beach and Nettles Island RV Resort.  We joined another 10 or so boats just offshore of popular Conchy Joe’s and Hoffman’s waterside restaurants.  It was a great place to anchor/sleep.

Morning found us leaving the anchorage and heading the final 20 miles north to Ft Pierce where I was going to have the new electronics, I had ordered 2 months before, installed.  I pulled into the Ft Pierce City Marina to fuel up and get a pump out. I wanted to fill up the tank so I am able to get a better sense of the accuracy of the fuel gauge and tank sight glass.  630 gallons later, I had a full tank (total capacity = 850 gal).  I’ll have to do the math later. It was just a short 1 mile hop from there to Pelican Yacht Club on the Ft Pierce channel and ‘home’ for the next week.  Rec’d a great sunset reward that evening!

Within an hour of docking, Island Marine Services of the Treasure Coast came aboard to look at the scope of their electronics install, cable routing etc.  It’s amazing all the panels that come of the walls and ceilings revealing cable paths forward, aft, up and down. 

This is how the lower, pilot house helm looked before

Lower helm within the “Hump”;  Lower left small grey square is the depth sounder display; upper left grey rectangle is the VHF radio. Upper right grey rectangle is the GPS, lower right small grey square is the autopilot display and middle large grey square is the chart plotter

New install

New “Hump” layout:  Black panel background, Mid left is the new VHF Radio, Mid right is the new auto pilot display and mid panel is the new 16” muli-function touch screen display incorporating charting, depth finderr, engine room and stern camera displays and much more

Buried out of sight is a new larger auto pilot pump, micro card readers, an AIS transponder and receiver (it receives identifying signals with exact location of all vessels that also have AIS – all commercial vessels must have it and many pleasure boats  well – and displays the vessel on the chart much like radar but clearer and transmits my signal to all other receivers.  Helps you “see”, for example, a tug and barge around the bend and out of sight and vice versa.  Similar upgrades were installed on the fly bridge. 

Our iPhones and iPads have apps that connect them to the entire system and can communicate commands to the system and receive all the info from the system.  For example, I can be in my stateroom at night and pull up on my phone or iPad the live images from the stern of the boat or from down in the engine room.  Not sure why one would want to do it, buy could sit in the salon and send an instant signal to the auto pilot to turn the boat.  It is easy to plot your route for the next day including all waypoints and course changes on your iPad and Bluetooth it to the plotter at the helm and the boat can execute the plan.  Need to keep awake though lest you make a mistake and plot your course over land.  Still have to watch for other boats, for low bridges etc 😊  Touch a location on the chart plotter and it will pull up the marinas available, whether or not they have fuel, phone number, prices etc.

Have been living with a broken air conditioner compressor for the pilot house.  The other three AC systems (salon, main stateroom and the two other staterooms) have been replaced in the last few years and the pilot house compressor which was original to the boat, finally failed several weeks ago.  Fortunately, was able to find a replacement unit in stock and an installer put it in the next day.  So the boat is under full air again!! 😊   After all the workman that have been in, out and around the boat in the past few weeks, it was filthy.  Had Stanley Steemer come Friday and clean the carpets and the boat got a good bath today.  It’s been a busy week in Ft Pierce with pool time only twice.

3 thoughts on “LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO FT PIERCE”

  1. Great commentary and photos ! Looks like your luck is changing for the better; keep it up ! See you soon.

    Barb & Jack

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  2. I assume you are a frequent customer at Dave’s Dinner ! You should get some SMAK, a locally made fish spread in ft pierce…. Seaway Market in the cooler at the rear of the store on the right and club crackers! All in same strip center as your electronic store, I believe….

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    1. I like breakfast at Dave’s. Also like the 1/2 nachos at Hurricane at the corner of Seaway and A1A. Thanx but I think I’ll pass on the fish paste Walked across the street to the market a couple of times this week for supplies.

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