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    • LNM: Coast Guard publishes revised temporary deviation for Okeechobee Waterway, St. Lucie River Railroad Bridge


      MIAMI – The Coast Guard is seeking comment on the updated temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Florida East Coast Railroad Bridge, across the Okeechobee Waterway, mile 7.41 at Stuart, Fla., published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, February 6.

      This deviation is effective starting at 12:01 a.m. on February 12, 2024.

      Click here for Coast Guard publishes revised temporary deviation for Okeechobee Waterway, St. Lucie River Railroad Bridge

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    • LNM: UPDATE on Comments on FEC RR Bridge, Stuart, FL OWW MM 7.41


      See NAV ALERT: UPDATE

      FLORIDA – OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY (ST LUCIE RIVER) – FEC RAILROAD BRIDGE: Rulemaking / Temporary Deviation UPDATE: 10/27/23
      UPDATE: The Coast Guard is reopening the comment period to solicit additional comments concerning its notice of temporary deviation to the regulation governing the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad Bridge, across the Okeechobee Waterway (OWW), mile 7.41, at Stuart, FL. The expected increase in  railway service was delayed and did not commence until late September 2023. The original comment period for the temporary deviation that was
      published on August 11, 2023 (88 FR 54487) will be reopened and published in the Federal Register starting Friday November 3rd, through November 30th. The notice is identified by docket number USCG-2022-0222 at https://www.regulations.gov. Additional information is provided in the online document, Please read.

      The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a temporary deviation to drawbridge operation regulation, 33 CFR 117.317(c), that governs the FEC Stuart Railroad Bridge, across the Okeechobee Waterway (St. Lucie River), mile 7.41, at Stuart, Florida. The temporary deviation authorized on June 6, 2023, effective on June 21, 2023, is hereby cancelled as of 11:59 p.m. on August 8, 2023. Under this revised temporary deviation, the FEC Stuart Railroad Bridge will
      operate as follows from 12:01 a.m. on August 15, 2023, through 11:59 p.m. on December 17, 2023:
      1. The FEC Railroad Bridge will be maintained in the fully open-to-navigation position, except during periods when it is closed for the passage of train traffic, to conduct inspections, and to perform maintenance and repairs authorized by the Coast Guard.
      2. The bridge will not be closed for more than 50 consecutive minutes in any given hour during daytime operations (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and for more than 8 total hours during daytime operations (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
      3. Notwithstanding condition #1 and #2, the drawbridge will open and remain open to navigation for a fixed 10-minute period at the top of each hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. In addition, the drawbridge will open and remain open to navigation for a fixed 15-minute period as outlined in the table below:
      Monday through Friday 8:55 a.m. through 9:10 a.m.,
      Saturday and Sunday:
      8:55 a.m. through 9:10 a.m.,
      9:55 a.m. through 10:10 a.m.,
      10:55 a.m. through 11:10 a.m.,
      12:55 p.m. through 1:10 p.m.,
      4:55 p.m. through 5:10 p.m.
      4. From 10:01 p.m. until 5:59 a.m. daily, the drawbridge will remain in the fully open-to navigation position, except during periods when it is closed for the passage of train traffic, to conduct inspections, and to perform maintenance and repairs authorized by the Coast Guard. The drawbridge will not be closed more than 60 consecutive minutes.
      5. If a train is in the track circuit at the start of a fixed opening period, the opening may be delayed up to, but not more than, five minutes. Once the train has cleared the circuit, the bridge must open immediately for navigation to begin the fixed opening period.
      6. The drawbridge will be tended from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. The bridge tender will monitor VHF-FM channels 9 and 16 and will provide estimated times of drawbridge openings and closures, or any operational information requested. Operational information will be provided 24  hours a day by telephone at (772) 403-1005.
      7. The drawbridge owner will maintain a mobile application. The drawbridge owner will publish drawbridge opening times, and the drawbridge owner will provide timely updates to schedules, including but not limited to, impacts due to emergency circumstances, inspections, maintenance, and repairs authorized by the Coast Guard.
      8. Signs will be posted and visible to marine traffic, displaying VHF radio contact information, application information, and the telephone number for the bridge tender.
      A single crane and a single material barge are located on the water at the site of the FEC Stuart River Bridge lighted IAW Inland Navigation rules. All equipment is moored outside (south) of the channel fender system, and not expected to impede navigation. There is a bridge app and website for the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad Bridge, across the Okeechobee Waterway (St. Lucie River), at Stuart, FL. This app and website provides mariners with real-time information about the FEC Railway/Brightline rail bridge openings and closures. To download the
      bridge app, search for “Bridge Schedule” in the Apple and Android app stores or visit http://www.bridgeschedule.com.
      If you have questions on this rulemaking, call or e-mail Ms. Jennifer Zercher, Bridge Management Specialist, Seventh Coast Guard District, telephone 305-415-6740, email Jennifer.N.Zercher@uscg.mil LNM 23/23

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    • Brightline Update: Train Service to Double Between Orlando and Miami

      This increase in train service will double the wait time for boaters in the Okeechobee Waterway due the increased number of RR bridge waterway closings. 

      BRIGHTLINE TO GO FROM 16 T0 30 TRAINS BETWEEN ORLANDO AND MIAMI

      15 Round-Trips to Begin October 9

       

      Orlando, Fla. (October 3, 2023) – Brightline, the only provider of modern, eco-friendly, higher-speed rail service in America, will double its train service between Orlando and Miami, just two weeks after opening the highly anticipated route. Brightline will begin running 30 trains daily starting October 9, with 15 daily departures from Miami and Orlando. 

       

      The new hourly schedule begins with the first train leaving Orlando at 4:38 a.m., arriving into Miami at 8:11 a.m. The final train leaves Orlando at 8:54 p.m. The first train leaves Miami for Orlando at 6:41 a.m., arriving at 10:19 a.m. with the last train leaving Miami for Orlando at 9:41 p.m. Additional early-morning and late-night trains will operate between Brightline’s five South Florida stations.

       

      Media Contacts:

      Katie Mitzner, director of public affairs

      katie.mitzner@gobrightline.com

      407.502.3587

       

      Vanessa Alfonso, director of media relations

      vanessa.alfonso@gobrightline.com

      305.744.2293

       

      About Brightline

      Brightline is the only provider of modern, eco-friendly, higher-speed rail service in America. The company currently serves Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Orlando. Brightline was recognized by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in Travel and included in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2023 Hot List for the best new ways to travel. Offering a guest-first experience designed to reinvent train travel and take cars off the road, Brightline plans to bring its award-winning service to additional city pairs and congested corridors across the country that are too close to fly and too long to drive, with immediate plans to connect Las Vegas to Southern California. For more information, visit www.gobrightline.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

       

       

       
      Katie Mitzner​ | Director, Public Affairs
      11885 Boggy Creek Road
      OrlandoFL 32824
      C: 407.502.3587
      katie.mitzner@gobrightline.com | gobrightline.com
       
       
       
      CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE: The information contained in this transmission is privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. No addressee should forward, print, copy, or otherwise reproduce this message in any manner that would allow it to be viewed by any individual not originally listed as a recipient. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized disclosure, dissemination, distribution, copying of this transmission or the taking of any action in reliance on the information herein is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please immediately reply to sender that you have received this communication in error and then delete it. Thank you.

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    • LNM: USACE: Corps suspends operations at navigation locks as of 6 a.m. Wed. Sept. 28

      Click here for  News Release: Corps suspends operations at navigation locks as of 6 a.m. Wed. Sept. 28 due to Hurricane Ian

       

      Erica Skolte

      Public Affairs Specialist

      Corporate Communications Office

      U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District Palm Beach Gardens

      Cell:  561-801-5734

      erica.a.skolte@usace.army.mil

      Twitter @JaxStrong

      Jacksonville District Facebook:

      https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict

      Jacksonville District: A team of professionals making tomorrow better “Keep Calm and Essayons”’

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    • South Florida blue-green algae health alerts in Lake Okeechobee

      Health alerts have been issued for blue-green algal toxins found in Florida waterways.

      The toxins were found in water samples taken, according to the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

      Lake Okeechobee:

      • Dozens of spots on Lake Okeechobee

      South Florida: Blue-green algae health alerts – WPBF
      WPBF

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    • How AICW and OWW Boaters will be Affected by FEC RR Bridge Work


      The increasing number of bridge closings due to increased rail traffic has been a concern for some time.  See All Aboard Florida Protest by Jim Healy. The St Lucie FEC RR bridge with 6 ft vertical clearance crosses the Okeechobee Waterway and connects Britt Point with Stuart. See Concerned. The Loxahatchee RR bascule bridge crosses the AICW at MM 1005. See Replacement.

      How Brightline work on Loxahatchee, St. Lucie railroad drawbridges will affect boaters – TC Palm
      TC Palm

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    • 2022 Letter #4 from the Bahamas by Greg and Barbara Allard

      Our sincerest thanks to Greg and Barbara Allard for once again sharing their thoughts and beautiful photography from their Bahamas cruises. These photos and descriptions will have you aching to follow in Meander‘s wake! For more this excellent photography, type Allard in our Homepage search window for letters from previous cruises. For more on the OWW, see Greg Allard on the Okeechobee Waterway, June 14, 2022.

      Hello everyone – This will be our last Letter from our 2022 cruise to the Bahamas.  After two years of not visiting the Bahamas due to the pandemic, we were thrilled to return in March.

      This trip was not without its challenges, as it was one of the windiest times in the Bahamas that we can recall. 

      “People who live on continents get into the habit of regarding the ocean as journey’s end, the full stop at the end of the trek. For people who live on islands, the sea is always the beginning. It’s the ferry to the mainland, the escape route from the boredom and narrowness of home.”

      ― Jonathan RabanCoasting: A Private Voyage

      Towards the end of May, a larger than usual number of fishing boats, center consoles and larger sportfish boats, appeared in the Bahamas from the U.S. This group had landed a beautiful yellowfin tuna. From the opposite side of the fish, they have already cut out the two large fillets which are on the table in the foreground.

      Any time fish are being cleaned, sharks show up for the discarded pieces. The shark on the right is a nurse shark, relatively harmless as sharks go. However the shark on the left is a bull shark, one of the most aggressive sharks; Bahamians fear them. The bull shark has a wound on the right side of his head, likely from a spear. It is illegal to take sharks in the Bahamas.

      Children on the way to school. All children in the Bahamas wear uniforms to school. With the troubled educational system in our own country, this would not seem to be a bad idea. No flaunting of expensive or trendy clothes. Every child, regardless of economic status, starts off at least on the same foot.

      Bahamian Steve Johnson, the manager of the Great Harbour Marina. A hands-on accomplished professional, as well as an all around good guy.

      Takiya, our waitress for lunch at the very good local restaurant Coolie Mae’s. A great smile and a terrific personality.

      Once the hurricane season arrives on June 1st , cruisers in the Bahamas need to have a plan. If you are several hundred miles from the U.S., some very fast boats can “run home” if a hurricane threatens; other cruising boats do not have the speed to outrun such storms, and must find a safe harbor, dock, or anchorage. We watched as Alex, the first named storm of the season, developed into a Tropical Storm and passed over Florida. The eastern edge of Alex produced winds where we were to over 40 knots.

      So it was time for us to say goodbye to the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, and begin our voyage back to the U.S. For us that meant two long passages over open ocean waters, each trip about 9-10 hours total. You can’t just leave on any day; you have to constantly monitor the weather, in particular the wind, waves and thunderstorms. Sometimes the actual weather doesn’t match the forecast, and it gets a bit “salty”, a euphemism for nasty and rough. If I am ever reincarnated, I want to come back as a weather forecaster, where I can be wrong 50% of the time, and still be paid.

      After a successful passage back to the east coast of Florida, we cross to the west coast using the Lake Okeechobee Waterway. In 1937 the government created a waterway to cross the center of Florida by using the St. Lucie River (on the east coast of FL), Lake Okeechobee (a large lake in the center of the state), and the Caloosahatchee River (on the west coast). Five locks had to be built, since the lake is about 15’ above sea level, and as the boats traverse the Waterway, they have to be lifted up the level of the lake, and then down on the other side. In some places the rivers were just too small and shallow so they had to be dredged and many portions were converted into straight canals. By using the Lake Okeechobee Waterway, we save about 150 miles, instead of going around the southern end of Florida (through the Keys) and then up the west coast. With the current cost of diesel, that means a savings for us of about $1,000. The Waterway itself delivers a time-warp view of old Florida, and it’s a fascinating place.

      Along the St. Lucie river portion of the Waterway, we stayed for an evening at the Indiantown Marina, a true “old Florida” boatyard. There are literally hundreds of boats stored there, on land. Some are being worked on, and are in nice condition. Others, many others, like the one in the above photo, are well past ever again going to sea.

      Here is a close-up of the bow of the boat in the prior picture. The boat is made of steel, and as you can see there is “some” rust in the area of the anchor pulpit. Surprised it just hasn’t fallen off.

      Along the St. Lucie, we came upon this eagle. The eagles are returning to this area, and to many other places in Florida.

      We were docked in the Caloosahatchee River, part of the western Waterway, when a huge thunderstorm came through; thirty minutes later, this was the view.

      ____________

      As you know, we avoid politics in these Letters; our purpose is to let you meet the people we encounter, and to see some of the beautiful places where we cruise.

      That being said, we will end this year’s Letters with this wonderful quote:

      “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.” ― Mark Twain

      We hope you have enjoyed these Letters and we are pleased that you could join us on this journey.

      Warmest regards.

      Greg and Barbara
      M/V Meander

      Copyright Greg Allard 2022
      FV: 6/21/2022

      Comments from Cruisers (1)

      1. Joseph Nekola -  June 24, 2022 - 11:40 am

        Greg,
        I thoroughly enjoy your missives and look forward to reading them both here and in our DeFever Cruisers site.

        Reply to Joseph
    • Greg Allard on the Okeechobee Waterway, June 14, 2022

      Once again, Greg Allard shares his photography and insights in a way that delights the eye and also provides current local knowledge about a transit that many of you must make to head north and for many of you who are making the voyage for the first time. Thank you Greg!
       
      Okeechobee Update – June 14 2022
      -Greg Allard, M/V Meander
       
      The level of the Okeechobee lake has been good, and rising with recent rains.  We are in the middle of a westerly crossing now, stopped at Moore Haven.  The US Army Corp of Engineers report for today shows the depth in Navigation Route #1 at 6.96’  In my experience this means that is the shallowest depth is in the buoyed cut which runs from Clewiston out into the lake. What we saw confirmed that depth. If you take that route, be certain to stay in the channel; some of the ATONS are far apart, and with a little wind you could be unknowingly pushed out of the channel.  The edge of the channel is rock, not mud.
       
      There was no sign of green slime or algae.  However, the Okeechobee waterway has a good many patches, masses, almost “islands” of water hyacinth drifting around. These are tightly tangled webs.  One boater, who came through the Ortona lock yesterday, reported that the lock was filled with them, and some of them wrapped around his props, almost stalling the engines.
       
      Most of the time, in open water, you can steer around these “islands”, but yesterday, at both the Indiantown and Moore Haven railway bridges the floating masses blocked the passage.  See photos below.
       
      We have a strategy: when we are forced to go through a bunch of these floating masses, we approach slowly, look for the weakest spot, and then apply a little power to gain momentum;  then, before contact, we immediately put the boat into neutral, and let the momentum of the boat push us through the mass. We do not go into forward again until the stern is entirely clear.   We do have cutters on our shafts, but do not know if they are effective on the hyacinths. Don’t want to know.
       
      In these times of high gas and diesel prices, if a cruiser wants to reach the east coast of Florida, taking the Okeechobee Waterway can save miles, time and fuel costs.  Plus, it is a trip like no other.
       

      At the Moore Haven railway bridge. The good news, the bridge was open, not always the case. The bad news: almost completely blocked with water hyacinth.

       

      A “modest” size clump goes floating by.

       

      A view at the Indiantown railway bridge (near the marina); not as dense, but enough loose ones floating around to mess up the engine water intakes. After passing through such an area, suggest you check the engine strainer basket at any sign of the engine(s) running warmer than usual.

       

      A close up of one of the densely tangled patches.

       

      The hyacinths will come and go but the appeal of the Okeechobee will remain. It is like a step back in time, a true time-warp, across central Florida. On a power post along the St Lucie stretch, we spotted this eagle, who had certainly spotted us too.

       

      Just east of the Moore Haven lock are these intriguing cedar sentinels.

      Enjoy the Okeechobee

      Greg Allard

       

      Comments from Cruisers (1)

      1. Gene Fuller -  June 22, 2022 - 2:34 pm

        Just came across the lake and to Fort Myers on June 21 and 22. Lots of water hyacinth along the shore, but none at all in the main channel or in the locks. Probably varies day by day.

        Reply to Gene
    • Slow Ride through the Okeechobee

      Our thanks to Captain Chris of Captain Chris Yacht Services for sharing his excellent article on the Okeechobee Waterway. The OWW has been closed since January but is scheduled to reopen at the end of March, see OWW Closure.

      Slow Ride through the Okeechobee
      Captain Chris Yacht Services

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    • LNM: OWW MM 60 Low Cable Restriction Cancelled, Torry Island Swing Bridge, FL


      Cruisers Net has been reporting this problem since 2017, see Low Cable Continues to Restrict.  The notice below is a 2/24/21 LNM on the low cable and that Notice has been cancelled. This USACE cancellation does not make clear if the cable has been raised or removed. Either  way, it is good news for our tall-masted friends. Our thanks to Specialist Erica Skolte for this notice.

       

      This Notice to Navigation on the Okeechobee Waterway Route 2 has been CANCELLED- there is no restriction to navigation at the Torry Island Swing Bridge.

       

      Erica Skolte

      Public Affairs Specialist

      Corporate Communications Office

      U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District Palm Beach Gardens

      Cell:  561-801-5734

      erica.a.skolte@usace.army.mil

      Twitter @JaxStrong

      Jacksonville District Facebook:

      https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict

      Jacksonville District: A team of professionals making tomorrow better “Keep Calm and Essayons”’

      Click Here To View the Okeechobee Cruisers Net Bridge Directory Listing For Torry Island Bridge

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Torry Island Bridge

       

       

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    • LNM: USACE: OWW MM 94 Width Restriction, Ortona Lock, FL


      The Ortona Lock and Dam will have a width restriction of 23 feet until further notice. This restriction is due to mechanical failure. Crews are currently assessing the situation. No estimated time of repair currently available. Ortona Lock is located at Okeechobee Waterway Statute Mile 94, just east of unlighted daybeacon #1 and flashing daybeacon #2. Our thanks to Specialist Erica Skolte for this notice.

      Notice to Navigation: Okeechobee Waterway – Ortona Lock width restriction to 23 feet

      Erica Skolte

      Public Affairs Specialist

      Corporate Communications Office

      U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District Palm Beach Gardens

      OFFICE PHONE 561-340-1527

      Cell:  561-801-5734

      erica.a.skolte@usace.army.mil

      Twitter @JaxStrong

      Jacksonville District Facebook:

      https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict

      Jacksonville District: A team of professionals making tomorrow better “Keep Calm and Essayons”

      Click Here To View the Okeechobee Cruisers Net Bridge Directory Listing For Ortona Lock

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Ortona Lock

       

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    • An Interesting Day by Jim Healy

      Jim and Peg Healy are full-time cruisers and very experienced boaters who regularly ply the waters of the Intracoastal Waterways. Our thanks to Jim for sharing this adventure! Editor’s note: the links inserted below are from Cruisers Net’s library of postings.

       

      Sanctuary and crew came through the bridge Tuesday, 5/18. Following is my report to family and friends list,

      “The best of times; the worst of times!” 

      Today was an “interesting” day. 

      The goal was to cross Lake Okeechobee (success) in the early morning (success) to avoid strong winds (success). We departed Clewiston at 06h05, and got to witness the birth of the new day:

      The Indiantown RR Bridge is undergoing an extensive renovation. (See Temporary Opening Deviation.),  Our plan was to run the 36 miles from Clewiston to the Indiantown RR Bridge to arrive by the bridge opening at 11h00. So all throughout our crossing, “the computer” said we were “on plan” to arrive at Indiantown at 10h30. That gave me 1/2 hour “slop” to get through the lock at Port Mayaca. Getting through the lock all worked fine. 

      Well… Then it got interesting… Really interesting…

      About one mile east of the lock at Port Mayaca is the RR lift bridge that stops sailboats from using the lake crossing. It’s 49 feet open. And as we were pulling up to it, it closed. Closed, we can’t get through. Oh, crap! That’s not in the plan…

      And of course, no phone number posted, and no response on VHF09. Just a closed bridge and utter silence…

      After some minutes, I called the Port Mayaca lockmaster, who says “a train must be coming;” but, dead silence; except my wailing. So, I then called the Indiantown RR Bridge to ask why his colleagues closed on me. He reports it’s a different RR company that runs that bridge, and he doesn’t have the number for them. But, he know we’re coming, and he said, “don’t panic yet!” Or was it, “don’t panic; yet!” 

      So now I’m fumbling around looking for a phone number for the US Sugar RR Bridge (FEC owned) dispatcher. All of a sudden, there were horns sounding, and two guys in hardhat and safety vest came out onto the bridge. They look at me and then at each other and then back at me. Bewilderment all ’round…  

      And then, a miracle happened…. all of a sudden, the bridge begins to open. There’s no damn train. These bozos just closed the bridge without checking for boat traffic.  As we used to say in the city, “Oye veh!”

      OK. Now it’s petal to the metal to make Indiantown. Sanctuary arrived at the Indiantown bridge at 11h05… Having tested the engine’s cooling system (success) for that hour…

      …To a long line of boats backed up in both directions. So we waited about 15 minutes for the bridge to open. This morning, both the eastbound and westbound draws were open, so traffic made it through smoothly. The bridge is that big, black hulk in the center of the picture… 

      There was one poor sailboat I felt badly for. We were at the end of the line (literally). In the picture, in the distance to the right of the bozo with the dinghy, you can just about see the sailboat. He’d anchored there for the night, waiting for the opening. When it came time to haul the anchor and move through the bridge, his anchor was foul and he couldn’t get it up. When we went through, he was in his dinghy and his lady was on the bow and they were working hard to get freed up. And of course, the bridge is asking them if they plan to come through. I was focused on the traffic, but Peg tells me they made it…  Don’t know if they freed the anchor or abandoned it…  

      It was an interesting day!

      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

      AND BY THE WAY, the bridge on the St. Lucie River at Stuart – the “Roosevelt Bridge” – used to be “on request.” It was “temporarily restricted” because of high rise bridge repairs, but was supposed to return to “on request” status. Well, folks… The Roosevelt Bridge is now PERMANENTLY restricted during the day. (See Update: Old Roosevelt Bridge Change of Schedule.) What used to be one of the easiest bridge on the east coast has turned nasty. Their opening schedule varies during “commuter” hours, but during the day, every 1/2 hour on the hour and half-hour. Those of you who know that bridge know there is a single leaf RR bascule immediately next to the Roosevelt Bridge. If the RR bridge there closes, you can be hosed, because that would cause you to miss Roosevelt’s next upcoming scheduled opening. Be attentive there, and be sure to have your patience stores fully stocked, especially in the afternoon when there are more trains. It’s a very busy area, right off a marina (Sunset Bay) and mooring field, and a lot of residential surroundings. Patience is not a plentiful commodity amongst the locals in that area.

      LETTERS to the mayor of Stuart and the USCG Bridge Division are appropriate. The Okeechobee Waterway conditions there are very difficult, and made worse by those bridge restrictions.

      Jim

      Monk 36 Hull #132

      Click Here To View the Cruisers Net Okeechobee Bridge Directory Listing For Mayaca Railway Lift Bridge

      Comments from Cruisers (3)

      1. Greg Allard -  May 24, 2021 - 11:27 am

        Jim – I have not been able, with a little research, to find anything which officially codifies the right of the bridge operator to proceed with a delayed opening "off schedule." If I can find it, I will post the link to it. But we did observe it happen several times (from Sunset Bay marina).

        Both bridge operators I spoke with also said that in their experience, if a second train is planned to come through within 15 minutes of the first, then the RR will leave their bridge down. Again, the bridge operators have no way knowing if there is a second train.

        I fully agree with you that this continues to be a dangerous situation. Those bridges in Stuart are without question a high-traffic and potentially dangerous area. With reduced openings, the boats pile up on either side of the bridges, waiting for an opening. Once the bridges are open, it is bedlam, since there is no "pecking order": boats enter from both sides simultaneously, and the pinch-point is at the RR bridge, which is extremely narrow. Very few boats yield. I would like to see a procedure where the bridge operator directs the order of passage for the waiting boats: "All westbound boats will go through the bridges first."

        Cruise safely.

        Best regards

        Greg Allard

        Reply to Greg
      2. Jim Healy -  May 22, 2021 - 12:20 pm

        Hi Greg,

        Thanks for the reply. Do you happen to know if that word-of-mouth procedure is actually documented anywhere? It looks like both FDOT and the USCG both had to sign-off on permitting that change to become permanent. I would assume that agreement language was in the approved/adopted change order. I would feel slightly better with that. I have been trapped at that bridge by trains, and although they say that they raise the bridge after a train has gone through, I found from my infinitesimally small sample size that is not always the case. It depends on the discipline of the RR dispatcher, and it may not happen if another train is coming through in short order. Add a fixed schedule at Roosevelt Bridge to that mix, and the lack of communications with the RR company and the Roosevelt bridge, and the result is not good for cruisers OR LOCAL TRAFFIC. I can't imagine how that change got approved. I would think local people would have been in revolt. That's why I question whether there was ever a public comment period.

        Reply to Jim
      3. Greg Allard -  May 22, 2021 - 6:45 am

        Jim – Great report – but not so much fun for you in trying to make the reduced schedule at Indiantown. Another example of how the Okeechobee crossing can often have some unpredictable moments.

        One comment on the Stuart bridges (adjacent to Sunset Bay Marina). We came through them a couple of times in in March and May, and I spoke to two of the bridge operators of the Old Roosevelt Bridge (which is the one which needs to open.) They said that if the regularly scheduled time for their bridge to open could not occur because the RR bridge was down, as soon as the RR bridge opened, they would proceed with an opening of the Old Roosevelt Bridge for waiting boats, even if it was past the scheduled opening.

        The bridge operators stated that they have no idea when the RR bridge will open or close. There is no regular schedule, and they have no communication with the RR about when the trains are due. The only notice they have is some flashing lights and horn which will apparently sound when the RR bridge will soon go down.

        Enjoy the rest of your cruise.

        Reply to Greg
    • An Okeechobee Waterway Crossing by Greg Allard


      Once again, Greg Allard has blessed us with his descriptive narrative and beautiful photography as he and wife Barbara crossed Lake Okeechobee on April 27th. For more of Greg’s work, type Allard Letters in the Search Window of our Homepage. Thank you so very much Greg and Barbara!

       

      We crossed the Okeechobee Waterway from east to west, departing on April 27, 2021. The Route 1 Lake Level was at 14.07’ which means that the Navigation Route 1 level (directly across the lake) was just over 8’.  Our boat has a 5’ draft. The depth report from the Corp of Engineers was accurate, as we never had less than 3′ under the keel.

      Currently (as of the report on May 5, 2021) the level is at 13.88’, or 7.82’ for Nav Route 1.

      We used the Aqua Maps charts with the US Army Corp of Engineers depth shadings.  The shallowest part of the crossing is generally in the Clewiston cut, in the SW corner of the lake.  If you carefully adhere to channels, and do not stray or drift out of them, you will maintain the reported depths under your boat.  Don’t let the wind push you sideways between the aids to navigation – the outside edges of the Clewiston channel are unforgiving rock. The lake level can change, so be sure to check the current depths on the Corp of Engineers site before your crossing:  https://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml

      We saw minimal evidence of algae:  in the St. Lucie section, there was only one area with very small patches of green algae along one short stretch along the edge of the canal, on the south side.

      In the Port Myacca lock (which was a mere 6” lift into the lake), there was light green line at the upper edge of the 6” water mark, along the north lock wall, but no evidence of algae in the lock.  We saw no other  algae on the entire Okeechobee Waterway.  One boater did report that his sea chest had some showing of green color but it had not affected anything.

      RIVER HOUSE MARINA: In 2021 we have stayed twice at the newly refurbished docks in Moore Haven at the River House, which is immediately west of the Moore Haven city dock.  The location is a perfect layover stop for cruising boats – almost equidistant from the west and east coasts.  For years we had stayed at the city docks ($1 a foot, with electric and water).  But the River House now offers so much more, for the same price:  $1 a foot includes free WiFi, (which is decent, but the owner intends to improve it), 30A & 50A electric and water, a swimming pool, bathrooms and showers, security gates onto the docks, and most importantly, they accept reservations through Dockwa.  This is a huge benefit:  if you have used the Okeechobee Waterway and wondered if you would find a place at the city docks when you arrived there in the afternoon, having a reservation at River House eliminates that concern.

      The docks at River House have been completely refurbished.  There are two fixed docks.  The easterly dock is good for 40’+ boats, with drafts about 5’ or so;  the westerly dock is for larger boats, and will hold three 60’ boats. The water depth there is 10’ plus.  One small concern is that the new pilings on the westerly dock are low, so if your boat has a flared bow, you need to be certain that your stern is first brought against the well-cushioned pilings, to prevent the bow from going up against the tops of the pilings.  The attentive owner of River House, Bob Holden, understands this issue, and is always on-hand to assist in docking.  Again, you can make reservations through Dockwa, or call Bob Holden directly at 863-946-0466 to discuss your needs.

      We have used the Okeechobee Waterway dozens of time, and it never disappoints us.  It is always interesting – a step back in time to old Florida.  Don’t worry about the locks; once you learn the basics of using them it becomes routine. Just tell the lockmaster if this is your first trip – they are very helpful.  The Waterway also allows you to travel in conditions which would be prohibitive in the Gulf or through the Keys, and it saves time and fuel.

      Some highlights of this trip:

      A fiery sunrise on the Caloosahatchee portion of the Waterway.

      After an early morning lock-through at Moore Haven. (photo by Ellen Pope).

      Often there are cows, and sometimes horses, by water’s edge.

      A small alligator “blocks” our exit from a lock. Manatees often go through the locks. One dockmaster told us that manatees hated the sound of a bow thruster, so giving it a short burst or two is a good way to safely move them along, out our your path. It works.

      The affable bridge keeper at Fort Denaud. The day before this picture was taken, she had a lot of fun, when someone drove through the road gate, which was in the down position. The gate crashed through his windshield. The driver was not injured. He didn’t speak any English, so the dockmaster managed to have him call a friend who could translate. The translator said that the driver was texting. The bridge was closed for several hours.

      The Okeechobee Waterway is always full of surprises. Along the western stretch, on April 29, 2021, we came upon this American bald eagle, peering down into the water.

      He immediately threw himself into the river, and came out with a rather large fish, which is in his talons (not visible in the photo). He then flew off, with the fish in tow, to eat somewhere in peace.
      Some people have told us they would never use the Okeechobee Waterway; they are missing a lot.

      Greg Allard
      M/V Meander
      Text and Photos copyright by Greg Allard, 2021

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

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    • NAV ALERT: LNM: OWW MM 39, Port Mayaca Lock Width Restriction due to Mechanical Failure


      Port Mayaca lies west of Stuart, FL at Statute Mile 39. There is no estimate for the completion of repairs. Stayed tuned for updates. Our thanks to Specialist Erica Skolte for this notice.

       

      OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY PORT MAYACA LOCK AND DAM 25-FT WIDTH RESTRICTION

      REFERENCE:
      a.     33 CFR Navigation and Navigable Waters
      1. Notice to Navigation

      Notice is given that the Port Mayaca Lock & Dam currently has a 25-foot width restriction due to a mechanical failure of Sector Gate #1. Maintenance crews are onsite doing repair work but currently have no estimated time of completion.

      1. Contact Information
          Edwin Marshall, Supervisor, Okeechobee Waterway East, 863-398-9363.

       //signed//
      Gary L. Hipkins
      Chief Navigation & Flood Risk Management
      South Florida Operations

      Contact

      Erica Skolte
      561-801-5734 (cell)
      Erica.A.Skolte@usace.army.mil

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