This AGLCA Forum report by Skipper Healy is prompted by a discussion of the Okeechobee Waterway which mentions Clewiston, Florida, which has long been a good source for checking depths in Lake Okeechobee. See http://cruisersnet.net/?p=147224. Peg and Jim Healy are longtime contributors to SSECN.
What’s interesting about Lake “O” is NOT the datum for the surface of the lake – which can be very misleading – but the actual depth of the water on the navigation routes. As a reservoir for Southeast Florida, lake datum is important as a measure of water reserves for the Palm Beaches. But to boats, water depth is all that matters. This really matters in the spring, as the annual “dry season” progresses toward summer. Today’s lake datum is 14.72 feet, but the Route 1 (cross-lake) water depth is only 8.66 feet and Route 2 (Rim route) is only 6.86 feet. Here’s the USACE website for nav route WATER DEPTH data: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml. The good news is, that status in early March should make for a comfortable season for spring crossings this year.
Also be advised, the basin at Roland Martin is VERY shallow, and the bottom is sticky mud. If the cross lake route gets to 5 feet, the basin in Clewiston will be less; maybe 4 ft. One who gets stuck in there is thoroughly stuck. Roland Martin is a bass boat marina, not a cruising boat marina. Careful consideration of water depths is advised for cruisers.
There is a definite wind-driven “tide” on Lake O. Prolonged winds from the south can make the lake quite lumpy with short period seas and drive water depths on the south end of the lake a foot less than the datum would otherwise suggest. Which leads to my last point. The most “risky” part of the cross-lake route is the channel out of Clewiston leading into the Lake. That is a dredged channel that’s about 100′ wide on the south end. Most people think Florida is a big sand bar, but the bottom of lake O is limestone. Limestone is soft stone, but plenty hard enough to hurt props and rudders. It’s extremely important to stay in that channel and not get blown sideways; the channel edges are VERY unforgiving, like the “Rock Pile” in Myrtle Beach. That channel is probably 5 StM in length to G”1″. The farther out of Clewiston one gets, the farther apart the markers become. The prevailing winds on the lake will try to blow boats sideways out of the channel, SO PILOTS MUST BE ABLE TO BACKSIGHT THE MARKERS TO BE SURE THE BOAT STAYS IN THAT CHANNEL. Otherwise, there will be this very
disheartening crunching sound… And, there are no Tow BoatUS/SeaTow services on the lake.
Hope this is useful!
Peg and Jim Healy
We would add this to Jim’s excellent observations. A few other points in looking at the COE website for navigational depths. An 8.66 depth on route 1 does not mean that the entire route is 8.66 feet. It means that 8.66 is the shallowest depth you will find if you stay in the channel along route 1. The same goes for route 2, the Rim Route. There are only two areas that you will find the shallow depths. Along route 1, that will be in the approach channel to Clewiston. Along route 2, it will be in the channel immediately after turning south out of the Port Mayaca Lock. The shallow depths can be avoided on route 2 by heading out into the lake and turning south. Then re-enter the route 2 channel at Pahokee. Depths in the Lake will be 10 to 14 feet and the rest of the route 2 depths will be 12 to 20 feet based on today’s reported depths. There is no alternative for the route 1 shallow area and the advise is simply, stay in the channel and go slow until back on the rim route. Across the Lake, depths will be 10 to 15 feet, and deeper once back on the Rim Route.
Chuck Baier and Susan Landry
My Navigational Notices