Friday, December 29, 2017

Rough ride on Lake O

I am typing underway across Lake Okeechobee. Today's forecast was for winds N at 7kt and light chop, but what we have instead is winds N at 15-20 with fifteen miles of fetch giving us two foot breaking seas on a short period. It's been a rough ride since we left the protection of the rim canal.

We weighed anchor first thing Wednesday morning to catch the last of the flood up the Caloosahatchee. I'm sorry we did not get to spend a little more time there; with the holiday, we barely scratched the surface, and we did not have time to try to connect with friends in town. If slack tide was not so early, we might have gone ashore for breakfast.

Vector anchored in LaBelle, with the river so calm it is reflecting our holiday lights.

As it stood, we arrived at the Franklin lock on the last of the flood. Once past the lock, the current only runs downstream, and we had perhaps a half knot against us the rest of the day. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed a very nice cruise upriver to LaBelle, where we anchored just upriver of the bridge, between the channel and the right descending bank (map).

The LaBelle bridge at sunset. City docks are visible under the bascule at left.

The LaBelle Bridge is an old metal-grate bascule bridge that gets a lot of heavy-vehicle traffic, including farm equipment and semi-trailers. It is, hands-down, he noisiest bridge we've encountered, and we were very close. Fortunately, it was little-used overnight. This is a very rural part of the state, "the real Florida" as locals like to say, and LaBelle is what passes for a big city here.

The city maintains a set of docks, complete with power, water, and trash collection, free to use for up to three days. They are very nice, having just been completely reconstructed in the last few years. Sadly, the depths at the slips are not maintained, and it's already silted in to less than four feet, so unusable for Vector. Instead, we tied the dinghy up there. There are also dinghy docks at a city park on the other side of the bridge, and some at another park across the river, so plenty of opportunity to get ashore.

Main Street, LaBelle. Wish we had more warnings like this one in Odyssey.

Our early departure in the morning had us arrive in LaBelle mid-afternoon, and I made a solo excursion into town for provisions. I walked a little over a half mile to the intersection of FL-80 where I picked up a couple of bagels from the Dunkin' Donuts and groceries from the Dollar General Market, the first time I've been into one of Dollar General's new full-on grocery stores. I also stopped into Save-a-Lot grocery, Dollar Tree, and Goodwill.

We returned ashore in the evening and walked the quarter mile to Forrey's Grill. We both had the excellent soup and salad bar along with a draft beer. We saw a few holiday decorations on our walk, and enjoyed meeting Katherine and Craig, aboard a Greenline down-east, at the city dock. When we returned to Vector we found the large oak in the park across from us nicely lit, although we had to wait until the Klieglights at the tennis courts went off to appreciate the view.

Tree in the city park across from Vector.

Yesterday we weighed anchor and continued upriver, uplocking at the Ortona lock and again at the Moore Haven lock, which put us in the lake. We proceeded south along the Rim Canal to Clewiston, our planned stop for the night. The last time we stopped in Clewiston we exited the lake to spend the night at Roland Martin's marina, which also has a restaurant. Having no need of marina services, we opted this time to spend the night on the lake side of the dike.

First gator of the trip, in the Rim Canal. He submerged just as I was trying to snap this.

Our guide suggested we could tie up to a free dock near the boat ramp, but upon inspection the dock was well-used by fishermen launching and retrieving their boats; Vector would literally take up the whole dock and then some.  We opted instead to tie to the dolphins along the canal (map). We had an easier time of it in less wind than at Port Mayaca, and this time I got some photos of the arrangement. The dolphins are over 100' apart, so we had perhaps 30' of line out each end of the boat suspending us in the middle.

The view astern...

... and ahead.

We could easily have dropped the tender and run around the corner to the Tiki Bar at the marina, as the lock gates were open at both ends. But our recollection from our two meals there last visit was that the food was just OK, and, as tiki places go, this one is nothing to write home about. It just happens to be the only restaurant in Clewiston. Instead I grilled a couple of fillets that I had picked up at the Publix back in Cape Haze, and we had a nice dinner at home after a beer up on the flybridge, where we had a view all the way across the lake. The lake was quite calm yesterday; it seems we are a day late.

Update: We've just locked down at Port Mayaca and are happy to be in the calm waters of the Okeechobee Canal. Tonight we should be anchored just upriver of the St. Lucie lock, which will make for a short run to Stuart tomorrow. We'll anchor in Stuart, and I have a rental car booked for Sunday to take us up to Vero on Monday to visit friends. We'll return the car Tuesday and weigh anchor for Palm Beach.


  1. I just found your travel blog and enjoyed reading the post today. I have never met anyone who lives on a boat full time and found it fascinating. Wish I could be a little bird on some of your travels. I love fishing and traveling is in my blood. Wishing you good weather and calm waters.

  2. Saw Vector steaming by my house in Stuart yesterday, heading south on the ICW. My house looks northeast toward St. Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point. Vector looked very snappy.

    Alas, my camera was not at hand -- I would have taken a photo and sent it to you if I had your email address.


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