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LaBelle to Stuart Florida - Okeechobee Waterway

Sunsets are magical!
Leaving Fort Myers after a pump out, water and gas, we were glad we decided to cut across and take the Okeechobee Waterway. The waves on the river were easily managed by adapting our speed (meaning we were going "slow").

It's hard to tell, but there where a lot of waves going on here!
We traversed one lock (Franklin) on our way to LaBelle, the first on this waterway, and we are happy to report - we did not have to wait for any of the bridges. (Some of our buddy boats have to wait for many of the bridges to open because of their "air draft".) There was one spot available when we arrived to the free dock. I hesitate to say a slip because their is no "finger dock' coming off the main dock. You need to tie up to dolphins (post). We secured Sea Loons bow first, and had to climb out/get off the boat by going over our anchor! That was a first for us. LaBelle is a nice small town, it's not a rich community, but it had everything we could have needed (ie: groceries, barber shop - for Papi, ice cream...). Boaters are limited to three days at the free dock, and I can understand why... they also provide free electricity and water at the dock! 

LaBelle free docks

On our way to Clewiston, we crossed another two locks (Ortona & Moore Haven), and saw so many alligators in the water that we lost count.... You could see the eyes and snout of the gator, then they would just sink/ disappear under the surface of the water. Yikes! You do not want to fall in the water in the Okeechobee waterway! 

We were told (and explained how) you can tie up to the dolphins (near Clewiston) before you cross Lake Okeechobee... They looked pretty intimidating when we first saw them... But, hey... we aren't  scared of a little challenge (and we like to save a bit of money too, lol) so we decided to tie up and spend a night there. We ended up tying extra lines together so that they would be long enough to reach the cleat. It went surprisingly well, and we spent a quiet afternoon and evening watching the gators watching us... No dinghy rides here!

Approaching the dolphins... 

Can you see the gators in the next two photos? 


We've been watching the wind/weather carefully and picked our day to cross Lake Okeechobee. According to the lock master at Moore Haven, we would see at lease six feet of water in the lake, (we never saw less than eight on our depth finder) so good depth and low winds. It was a good day! When we arrived on the other side, Port Mayaca, we were both smiling.

Lake Okeechobee has been crossed! Looking at Port Mayaca
The water level in the lake has been lowered in preparations of the spring rains, so when we arrived, Port Mayaca Lock was open - we boated right through... no wait. But, we did have to wait for a railroad bridge not long after to open for us! 

Opened lock

Horses on the shore, much better than gators!
We stopped at the St. Lucie Lock Campground and marina. A small marina (eight slips) with water and power, and access to the campground showers/restrooms. It was a great stop right before the last lock on this waterway.

We went through the St. Lucie lock and made our way to Stuart. The Sunset Bay Marina and Anchorage was highly recommended by boaters, and we can see why. It's a great marina. We stayed one night at a slip, and then decided we wanted to stay here longer and moved to a mooring ball. We had never stayed on a mooring ball in a marina before.  It's not bad at all! We're going to start looking for marinas with mooring, it's a safe place to be - you have access to the dinghy dock, showers, laundry and it's less expensive than a slip, but you don't have power/electricity, and you need to fill up on water at the main fuel dock... Not that big of a compromise really.

Sunset Bay Marina is huge!
On a mooring ball!


Stuart has been  a great stop for us. We have caught up with fellow Loopers, we've been catching up with them, learning about their travels, and enjoying their company before we all go our separate ways again. The wonderful thing about the loop, is you know it's never a good bye, but until next time!

Photo bombed! 
Tomorrow we'll be leaving Stuart and the Okeechobee Waterway and starting our trek North on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). 

We're now looking forward to discovering what the East Coast has to offer! I am sure, it will not disappoint us.

Tina & Papi

"In life, it's not where you go, it's who you travel with" 

– Charles Schultz


  1. I love reading your updates! I don't own a boat but each update makes me want to own a boat just so I can make the same trip! I lived in myrtle beach for awhile so please post pictures as you go thru the intracoastal waterway there! I can't wait to see pics of the Atlantic!!!

    1. :) There should be lots more pictures as we head up!

  2. what is your draw and what date did you cross the lake?

    1. We crossed Lake O on April 1. Our draft is only 3'5", so we weren't very worried about the depth - the wind however was another thing... :)


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