We motored eastward through the narrow St Lucie canal, eager to make our way through the remaining Okeechobee Waterway. Once we passed through the last lock, we would be in the St Lucie River which would carry us into the east coast ICW (Intracoastal Waterway).
**We hadn’t been back in the ICW since last December. We were excited to navigate it going northbound and ocean sail when we had good weather to do so.
The St Lucie Canal has some of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. It was so serene and relaxing. The wind and water were calm, making it a perfect last day in the waterway for us.
We soon realized just how much wildlife the waterway held. We passed several cows and wild horses along the way. We even saw two alligators pop their heads up close to the river banks.
By mid-day I looked down and noticed a scorpion right beside of me! It was small and didn’t even run away when I started screaming and launched myself to other side of the cockpit.
Luckily, Willow wasn’t scared of it because I wasn’t going back to the cockpit until it was gone. I didn’t want close enough to find out how fast they can travel or how bad their sting hurt either. I still have no clue how a scorpion ended up in the boat but this thing scared me worse than a spider!
All this time I have wasted worrying about the alligators and spiders while a scorpion was camping out beside of me. It made me want to be back in the ocean. No spiders or scorpions are around that could jump in the boat out there!
Looking back, I realized that I am still glad we took this journey. While the water was nothing like the clear blue water in the Keys, and possibly toxic, it was still worth every mile. Even with a spider and scorpion that wanted to tag along.
Port St Lucie Lock
St Lucie Lock was our last lock to pass through to make it back to the east coast. Once we entered the chamber, we were slowly lowered down about ten feet. Once we reach sea level we were released to go on our way.
We successfully made it through 5 Locks and over 20 bridges, navigating around 150 miles through the Okeechobee Waterway. Many sailors love this journey as it does provide a different route to and from the Keys, or to bypass the Keys altogether.
While we were still in Baltimore last year, a sailor we had met, Al, had told us about this Waterway, and of a method he used to get his sailboat through it.
His sailboat “Salty Spray”, has a height of around 55 feet and the lowest fixed bridge is at a 49 feet clearance.
Apparently, as long as your mast is not over 55 feet, you can use the method he mentioned to get through the bridges.
He said that by using barrels (for weight) to tilt his boat sideways, he could make it through and underneath the bridge without breaking off his mast! I had heard of this technique since then, but still never understood why anyone would want to go a route that has that much risk, until now. It was worth every nautical mile. It would take much dedication, passion and experience to do that dangerous task.
**However, I am not be brave enough yet to try this myself. That technique of dedication to a mission requires much more experience!
After we almost de-masted our boat in Jacksonville last year, I became more aware of clearance before every single bridge. It was the first and last bridge we did not check the clearance on. I still have no clue how we both forgot and took the boat under a 44 foot bridge clearance with at exactly 44 feet from the waterline in Willow Mist. That was a lesson well learned.
Now we check every single bridge on the charts, several times. I still stand on the bow to make sure the charts aren’t wrong. Its better to be safe than sorry on a sailboat.
Much thanks to the US Army Corp of Engineers for their dedication and hard work to the project, which makes it possible for cruisers to experience something so wonderful as this Waterway.
“A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward”.