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Old 09-23-2015, 07:01 PM   #1
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Crossing Florida via Lake Okeechobee

We are in Norfolk headed south on our way home to the west coast of Florida in Punta Gorda. We are in a new boat to us that draws 4.5'. My question is at what lake water level should I pass on the crossing and take the long way home via the keys?
Today the lake level gauge is above 14'. Meaning that the cross the lake channel is 8.3' deep. I know that at 12.5' they begin to restrict the lock openings. I watch the lake level at
USACE Jacksonville District
What I don't know is at what level is it not a good idea to try and cross with a 4.5' draft trawler?
Any advice from personal experience would be appreciated.
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Old 09-23-2015, 07:07 PM   #2
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Greetings,
Mr. P. Can't help you with water levels BUT if you're taking the Dismal Swamp route a GREAT place to stop for the night is Lamb's Marina about 5 miles upstream from Elizabeth City. Pretty good restaurant and general store. WONDERFUL staff and owners.
The channel in is a bit narrow but well marked (stay in the middle) with 6'+ in the channel and 10'+ the harbor.
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Old 09-23-2015, 07:08 PM   #3
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I came through there west to east in June with the same draft, stayed in the channel, and had no problems or concerns. I have no idea where the lake level gauge was at that time.

Good luck, whichever path you choose!
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Old 09-23-2015, 07:39 PM   #4
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I crossed by way of the more shallow "rim" route with my 3'2" draft and found a single rub spot on the hairpin turn at the last lock into the lake. Other than that, I never saw anything less than 3.5' under our keel, and our transducer is right next to it and set for keel depth. I don't think the cross-Lake channel would be an issue for 4.5. OCdiver, another of our prolific members will be bringing his Cherobini 45 down from Maryland this fall and I think it sports a 4.5' draft as well. He's already made the trip across once before. Maybe you could follow him through.
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Old 09-23-2015, 07:45 PM   #5
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Two feet under your keel at hull speed works on the cross lake route. But the long way ( via the Keys, not the rim route) is so infinitely much better cruising grounds. Once and done here for the lake for me. I mean, what's the boat for?
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Old 09-23-2015, 08:51 PM   #6
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Lots of rain at this time ,so lake is high and they will more than happy to release more lake water into the estuarys as they lock you through. You should have no problems crossing the lake.
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Old 09-23-2015, 09:12 PM   #7
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Stu,
Call George at Roland Martin Marina 800-473-6766. We crossed the lake back in April and there was no issues at all.
Several large boats passed us, with no concerns for draft.
Safe travels,
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Old 09-23-2015, 09:20 PM   #8
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If survey on new-to-us boat passes muster we will be crossing West to East starting Nov 13th.
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Old 09-23-2015, 09:29 PM   #9
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Have crossed the lake twice without issue with my 4-1/2' draft. Stay in the channel and I doubt you will see less than 7'. The Okeechobee Waterway from Jupiter to Fort Myers will be one of your easiest sections of your trip to Punta Gorda. There's no swift currents or unexpected tidal changes. Shoaling issues would happen slowly over time and be posted on Active Captain and Waterway Guide. Finally, in case I didn't mention it, stay in the channels, especially from below the Franklin lock to Punta Gorda.

Enjoy your trip! It's really pretty easy if you pay attention, know where you are and know where you're supposed to be.

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Old 09-23-2015, 10:01 PM   #10
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If you go the long way, you can visit me in Miami!
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Old 09-23-2015, 10:41 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the advice. I have been through once years ago, but my first mate has not. She's looking forward to it. We've been the long way through the keys about ten times when we had a tall sailboat. This will be new for her.
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Old 09-23-2015, 11:04 PM   #12
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You should be fine.
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Old 09-24-2015, 10:21 AM   #13
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We crossed this month around Labor Day. Lake level slightly over 12.5. We draw about 4' 6" with no problems. Make sure you time your lock arrivals during operating hours. We overnighted at Martins. Dock AWAY from the Tiki bar if you need sleep. Lots nice folks all thru the waterway......Rob.
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Old 09-24-2015, 02:05 PM   #14
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Definitely worth a trip if one hasn't done it. Just the alligators are worth it without all the other scenery. Our first time through, we stopped at Roland Martin and got a fishing boat and guide for a day. That was fun. We've crossed several times with 5' draft and never a problem. We do not, however, take the rim route and would never recommend it. Stay in the main channel and no likely issues.

This site gives you the navigational levels.

USACE Jacksonville District

At 14.49 ft, then route 1 has 8.43' depth and route 2 has 6.63. They try to keep it between 12.5 and 15.5' normally lowering it to around 13' for the summer. Obviously you can see that at 12.5', route 1 is 6.4' and route 2 drops to 4.6', otherwise known as too close for comfort.

If the water is outside the 12.5-15.5' range, then you may find the locks closed briefly until returning to normal range.
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Old 09-24-2015, 05:36 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
Two feet under your keel at hull speed works on the cross lake route. But the long way ( via the Keys, not the rim route) is so infinitely much better cruising grounds. Once and done here for the lake for me. I mean, what's the boat for?
When you say "the long way", where are you cutting through?
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Old 09-24-2015, 05:45 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
Two feet under your keel at hull speed works on the cross lake route. But the long way ( via the Keys, not the rim route) is so infinitely much better cruising grounds. Once and done here for the lake for me. I mean, what's the boat for?
I agree. But sometimes you just want to get from the East coast to the West coast (or vice-versa) quickly. The lake route is good for that. Boring, to be sure, and back when we had the sailboat always a PITA at that doggoned 49' bridge at Port Myaka (we had a 52' mast).
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Old 09-24-2015, 08:37 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by jwnall View Post
I agree. But sometimes you just want to get from the East coast to the West coast (or vice-versa) quickly. The lake route is good for that. Boring, to be sure, and back when we had the sailboat always a PITA at that doggoned 49' bridge at Port Myaka (we had a 52' mast).

It's exciting when they barrel you over to fit under the bridge.
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Old 09-25-2015, 03:04 AM   #18
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We also did the lake route in June when there was about 12.3 feet of water. Depth was never an issue for our 3'2" draft and 4'5" should be no problem either. I really enjoyed the different scenery and not having to worry about a rolling boat at any point.
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Old 09-26-2015, 03:26 PM   #19
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If the water level gets low there will be lots of buzz about it on most boating sites. It did several years ago it was big news.
We have done it twice, mid lake channel, it is a nice trip. We also enjoyed the long way, the Keys, Miami, West Palm, etc
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Old 09-26-2015, 04:29 PM   #20
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If the water level gets low there will be lots of buzz about it on most boating sites. It did several years ago it was big news.
We have done it twice, mid lake channel, it is a nice trip. We also enjoyed the long way, the Keys, Miami, West Palm, etc
We were very disinterested in taking the route for a long time, until coerced by a friend. Now we like to do the Florida loop. Go west either via Key West or the Okeechobee and come back the other way.
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