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    • 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

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