Back on 5/19/14, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net was privileged to publish a superb article authored by my good friends, Skippers Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, about mooring their trawler, “Beach House,” at the inexpensive wet slips immediately west of the Okeechobee Waterway’s St. Lucie Lock (the easternmost lock on this Waterway – see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=140813).
Later we learned that Chuck and Susan had found a similar facility adjacent to the W. P. Franklin lock, the westernmost Okeechobee Waterway lock. And, as you can readily guess, we asked them to repeat the process, and they have kindly done so. The story below is the happy result!
We are once again greatly indebted to Captains Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” (http://www.tgboa.com) for providing this superb, in-depth article and copious photographs! THANKS CHUCK AND SUSAN!
WP Franklin Lock and Dam Park
We recently visited the St. Lucie Park and had written about what a pleasant and unexpected gem it was. Imagine, then, our surprise at what we found at the WP Franklin Lock and Dam Park. It is the westernmost lock in the Okeechobee Waterway out of the 5 locks in the OWW. Initially we had thought we might go ahead through the lock and continue on to LaBelle. However, as we approached the lock, the wind began to gust and we decided it was time to call it a day. I had glanced over and realized that the docks were on the east side of the lock and not the west as I had originally thought. Also, they are tucked up in a protected basin and not right next to the river as the docks are at St. Lucie. We spun the boat around and headed for the docks.
A very nice gentleman, Walt Vliet, who was out for a few weeks cruise with his wife June, came to our aid as we docked with the wind blowing us up on the finger pier. No matter how many years of experience one has, it is still difficult to dock with a single engine and a good, stiff breeze on the beam. Once secure, we had the opportunity to visit with Walt and June. Both are about to turn 80 soon and have been cruising for years. They live in Hobe Sound and often travel back and forth across the Okeechobee on either their small sailboat or their Marine Trader trawler. They were a pleasure to meet.
But the real story is the park. It is truly a beautiful little place. The RV park and marina, situated on its own little island, is located on the northeast side of the river and lock. Slow speed buoys are located at the entrance to the marina basin. There are 8 slips here as there are at St. Lucie, with 4 being first-come, first-served and the other 4 able to be reserved. Very little wake makes it into the basin. Trees and a decent size picnic pavilion are very near the docks, and a short walk west past a number of RV sites, takes you to very clean heads and showers. Recycling bins are available jus t next to the trash.
In the middle of the island is the ranger’s office where you pay your dockage. (Again, the same as St. Lucie – $24 per dock including water and electric, or $12 if you have your Golden Age pass for those 62+.) Just next to the office the ranger’s trailer and little fenced in yard that houses her “babies,” three small dogs. From there, turn and walk due south out to the lock and fishing pier, or turn north to walk over the short causeway to get some exercise or a different view of the island. The other, or west, end of the island has many more RV sites and a larger head and shower facility which also houses a washer and dryer. You can walk beyond that building and find another large covered pavilion at the southern end as well as a bench with a great view to the west.
If the docks are full, no problem. Figure out which direction you need wind protection from. There is plenty of room to anchor in the east basin beyond the docks, then dinghy in to the boat ramp near the heads and showers. Or anchor in the basin on the west side of the locks tucked up near the causeway that leads over to the island for great easterly and southerly protection. On this side, dinghy into the beach near the large trees just behind the building that houses the heads. The ranger is happy to have you come ashore.
You cannot walk across the lock to the other side like you can at St. Lucie Park, so drop your dinghy in the water and visit the beach on the other side as well as the visitor center. The only downside we can see is there are no provisions nearby, so come well-stocked and enjoy this little piece of heaven.