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Old 06-07-2019, 10:06 AM   #1
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Cross the lake or go around?

I'll be moving my boat back from the Bahamas at the end of July. Current Lake O levels are barely supporting 4.5' draft. I draw 3.5'

At the current rate, if the rains don't start, I'm worried that I might have to go around the keys to get back to the west coast of Florida.

Looks like West End to WPB rather than my normal GTC to Stuart route.

Any tips on the trip around the keys if I have to go that route? I would rejoin the ICW around Sanibel.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:34 AM   #2
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That time of year - Keys are a good trip.


Evaluating Stuart to Fort Meyers, my rule of thumb is the Keys will add .5 to 1 day travel. We have done both routes multiple times over the years. My preference is the keys route when it works - easy cruising. Better scenery than the Lake.


If you are coming out of Bahamas and come back into the FL Coast south of Stuart that can eliminate the extra time. WPB is helps - but if you decide to go Keys, maybe west End to Miami, or Lauderdale. The further south from Stuart you hit FL, the less the difference between lake and keys wind up.


The challenge with the Keys is weather, you are exposed so if the weather is not cooperating you can wind up having to lay over. In July - if there is not a storm brewing, you pretty well will have flat water.


The lake option is independent of weather. You keep moving.


For the Keys route - I would go Hawks Channel. If you really wanted to go inside, with your draft you could make Marathon on the inside, but there are a couple of areas that in my mind would not be worth the hassle on the inside.


Using Miami as a starting point - my route is out government cut, turn to starboard and follow Hawks Channel all the way. You could run across Biscayne bay - best view out the stern of the boat is the Miami down town. If you did go Biscayne bay, then go outside at Angelfish creek.


Note the Angelfish creek has rock ledges before you enter and after you come out. Inside the water is fine. Sportfisher boats will run through there on plane (captains know where the ledges are).


With your boat, decent weather, just go outside and follow the channel.


Go to Marathon, under the bridge, then head north. Pretty clear on the charts, net is you want to run all the way up to Bullard Bank, take that on your port side, then turn out into the gulf. Go out far enough that you will clear the Marco shoals, then turn back in towards the coast.


No idea on what speed you want to cruise. We think of Miami to Marathon as an easy day (5 hours). Marathon to Fort Meyers Beach ( 5 hours). You can chart the NM, we are cruising 20-22 knots.


No idea if you are thinking run overnight - or short day segments. You could stop over in Key Largo - but plan on an hour in and a hour out.


You could cut a handful of mile by taking the yacht channel which is east of marathon. I have done it - water is fine - but the channel is tight - stay on your toes and inside the channel. The savings is not worth it to me - tight running versus open water.


If you wanted to spend the night in Marathon - marina on the south side or Faro Blanco on the north side.


We were texting a year or so ago - if you still have my number happy to discuss details. If you don't still have my number - drop a message on where we met - and I will send it. Happy to discuss and answer any questions.


Keys is a fun trip.... just saying
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:59 AM   #3
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A couple of members just crossed, one drawing 3.5' and another 4'. The rains have started so if the Lake level stays same or rises you should be fine using the O Waterway



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Old 06-11-2019, 07:53 AM   #4
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We’ve done both routes(the lake once, the keys many times). We just find the Keys route to be much more enjoyable and fun. The sole negative would be that once you leave the ICW in the Keys and head north, you will be dodging crab pots endlessly.

This can be mitigated somewhat by staying east of the Everglades Park boundry when possible. The crab pots also make night travel problematic, so we always stop at little Shark River for the night (beautiful, but mosquito ridden after dark).

Smokehouse Bay, at Marco Island is our next stop after that (just be aware of the Cape Romano shoals that extend way farther south than you would expect).
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:14 AM   #5
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I realize that the defining shallow parts of the trip across the lake are only in a couple of relatively small areas. For me, I would be very uncomfortable making the trip at 1' minimum below the boat and would not even try at anything less than that.


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Old 06-11-2019, 04:28 PM   #6
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Weíve done both routes(the lake once, the keys many times). We just find the Keys route to be much more enjoyable and fun. The sole negative would be that once you leave the ICW in the Keys and head north, you will be dodging crab pots endlessly.

This can be mitigated somewhat by staying east of the Everglades Park boundry when possible. The crab pots also make night travel problematic, so we always stop at little Shark River for the night (beautiful, but mosquito ridden after dark).

Smokehouse Bay, at Marco Island is our next stop after that (just be aware of the Cape Romano shoals that extend way farther south than you would expect).
I agree with your comment about crab pots - when they are out it is a pain.

What is the season? We were on the west coast a couple of weeks ago, didn't see pots we had seen earlier in the year.

Are the seasons the same all around FL?
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k9medic View Post
I'll be moving my boat back from the Bahamas at the end of July. Current Lake O levels are barely supporting 4.5' draft. I draw 3.5'

At the current rate, if the rains don't start, I'm worried that I might have to go around the keys to get back to the west coast of Florida.

Looks like West End to WPB rather than my normal GTC to Stuart route.

Any tips on the trip around the keys if I have to go that route? I would rejoin the ICW around Sanibel.
If you look at the ACE graph, the lake is already rising. I would expect to see a 1 to 2' increase by the end of July. Which way you should go is personal preference. By the end of July Lake depth shouldn't be a determining factor. If the depth still concerns you, postpone your decision till the 1st of July.

Ted
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:44 PM   #8
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I agree with your comment about crab pots - when they are out it is a pain.

What is the season? We were on the west coast a couple of weeks ago, didn't see pots we had seen earlier in the year.

Are the seasons the same all around FL?
I donít know much about Florida crab seasons. Iíve made that run a bunch of times from September through June and I donít ever remember not having to dodge them.
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:21 PM   #9
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Crab season is October 15-May 15. This time of year it shouldn't be an issue.

As far as which route...for me it's 2 days from Stuart to Ft Myers at 8-9 mph across the lake. The same trip through Marathon would be at least 5 days. Problem is if I'm going through the keys I'd have to stop for a while so now we're at 10 days!!
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:41 PM   #10
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Crab season is October 15-May 15. This time of year it shouldn't be an issue.

As far as which route...for me it's 2 days from Stuart to Ft Myers at 8-9 mph across the lake. The same trip through Marathon would be at least 5 days. Problem is if I'm going through the keys I'd have to stop for a while so now we're at 10 days!!
Good point, cruising speed is a big impact.

I am cruising faster - so the time waiting on locks, no wake areas impact total time.

Going the keys route - it is all on plane.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:34 AM   #11
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What Spike says, that's the first symptom of Keysdisease:

"Problem is if I'm going through the keys I'd have to stop for a while so now we're at 10 days!!"



Quote:
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Crab season is October 15-May 15. This time of year it shouldn't be an issue.

As far as which route...for me it's 2 days from Stuart to Ft Myers at 8-9 mph across the lake. The same trip through Marathon would be at least 5 days. Problem is if I'm going through the keys I'd have to stop for a while so now we're at 10 days!!
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:02 AM   #12
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I've got the crossing down to a science but to go through the keys would be all new to me - not to mention a lot longer!

It would add 2 days to my trip as well as an additional 200nm, fuel and three marina bills.

I can work from the "boat office" when I cross the lake. Not sure about going the keys route though.

Hopefully the levels will improve!
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:47 AM   #13
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I’m one of those who just did the crossing. If the lake is raising, you can make it.
I draft the same as you. It was super shallow enter and exiting the lake. I think I might have touched bottom once. As the lock operator said, “hug the green side. You’ll make it but you’ll have only inches below your keel”
I’ll make another thread with some pictures soon.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:09 PM   #14
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Iím one of those who just did the crossing. If the lake is raising, you can make it.
I draft the same as you. It was super shallow enter and exiting the lake. I think I might have touched bottom once. As the lock operator said, ďhug the green side. Youíll make it but youíll have only inches below your keelĒ
Iíll make another thread with some pictures soon.
Was this the Port Myacca lock? Every time I have ever gone through that lock it has been open pass.

I have banged and damaged props in the canal leading up to Moore Haven in the past which is why I am so worried.
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Old 06-12-2019, 01:48 PM   #15
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Was this the Port Myacca lock? Every time I have ever gone through that lock it has been open pass.

I have banged and damaged props in the canal leading up to Moore Haven in the past which is why I am so worried.
Yes it was. It was open, as was Moore Haven.

The canal on the lake side of Moore Haven? It was shallow but it was fine. The whole trip was shallow! My depth finder alarms at 7 feet and I had to keep it off otherwise it would have been beeping damn near the whole time.
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:28 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike View Post
Crab season is October 15-May 15. This time of year it shouldn't be an issue.

As far as which route...for me it's 2 days from Stuart to Ft Myers at 8-9 mph across the lake. The same trip through Marathon would be at least 5 days. Problem is if I'm going through the keys I'd have to stop for a while so now we're at 10 days!!
I forget that not everybody pokes along like we do. Our last trip, we left Mississippi in late November and didnít make it to the Bahamas until March 2.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:03 PM   #17
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:13 PM   #18
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Greetings,
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:22 AM   #19
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I've got the crossing down to a science but to go through the keys would be all new to me - not to mention a lot longer!

It would add 2 days to my trip as well as an additional 200nm, fuel and three marina bills.

I can work from the "boat office" when I cross the lake. Not sure about going the keys route though.

Hopefully the levels will improve!

Keys route - you are in open water running the entire time. If your plan is to run on plane, you will only have to come off plane when you get to your destination for the day. Mileage wise I agree it's longer - time wise on plane not so much longer.

If your running at hull speed, then it will be a longer trip.

Regarding working while underway - you are in open water. Running Hawks channel is very straight forward, however you will have fair amount of traffic which is running in and out at 90 degrees to your course. Lot of these are small boats, people going out or coming in. Who ever is at the helm will need to keep a close eye on cross traffic.

Not a challenge, just you don't have any cross traffic on the lake route.

Cell coverage will be OK from Miami to Marathon. Leaving Marathon you will lose cell coverage by the time you get to Bullard Bank, maybe a bit further based on your carrier. For sure by the time you are out of Florida Bay. Probably 90 NM or so till you are off Marco Island before you get cell coverage back.

At least that has been my general experience.
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Old 06-13-2019, 10:04 AM   #20
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Route 1 is now over 5' and rising.

Ted
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