'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

The Okeechobee Water Way


To close out the old year, we finished “Phase Two” of our butter-melting saga – the Intracoastal Waterway!

Phase one (in my mind, anyway) was the portion of our trip south from Maine to Hampton, VA – which is the beginning of the formal ICW.  Technically the AICW (Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway) goes along the entire east coast, from Maine to Miami, but the beginning of the canal segment and “Mile Marker #1″are in Hampton.  

Sionna morning, Hampton VA

So Phase Two was from Hampton VA to Stuart, Fl, where we turned off the ICW and joined the OWW – the Okeechobee Water Way.  This amounted to 988 statute miles (or 859 nautical miles, for you sailor types). 

The OWW, a less well known canal system, cuts across Central Florida just at the north edge of the Everglades, and includes a crossing of Lake Okeechobee; hence the name.  It terminates 150 statute (130 nautical) miles later at San Carlos Bay and Cape Coral, Florida and there joins the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
So that’s what we did on the first day of the New Year – we closed the book on phase two and the ICW and opened Phase Three. By motoring 35 miles west,  coming to anchor in the shadow of a pair of flood control gates. – which we fervently hope will not open! 

And this day also included crossing the hurdle that keeps 90% of cruising boats from taking this route – the 48 foot tall bridge that crosses the canal.

Now I know exactly how tall Sionna’s mast is.  I measured and re-measured and measured again while she was in the boat shed back in Maine, and the mast was down, so I know that even with all the jewelry (the radio antenna at the top – what cruisers call the “curb feeler”) we’re only 40.7 feet tall from the waterline. And to be safe, I think of us as 42 feet.   And since the bridge is listed as being 48 feet, we would fit without even having to hold our breath.

We held our breath anyway. And slowed down to a crawl. And of course fit through with lots of room to spare.  Not that I could tell, having no depth perception whatsoever…  But what we didn’t hear was the “curb feeler” going “tink tink” on the underside of the bridge.  So all’s well in that department.

Meanwhile it is January first, and while our friends back in Maine are dealing with several inches of heavy snow, we spent the day taking off layers, until it was shorts and a T-shirt and a well-earned shower once we finally got the anchor set, because it was hot! 

January. Hot. Amazing.

So tomorrow we’re set to cross the Okeechobee, and in another three or four days we may be arriving in the Gulf of Mexico! And then, well, we’ll see!

Happy New Year, ya’ll.

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

3 thoughts on “The Okeechobee Water Way

  1. Shame that they didn’t have any room at the inn at Indiantown 😦 Glad you fit under that bridge without any troubles.


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