If you are looking for a different kind of adventure on a powercat, then look no further. We recently had the opportunity to take a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to St. Petersburg, Florida. We achieved this voyage by crossing through the center of Florida—locks and all.
We have to say, it was an enjoyable experience, and we could not think of a more perfect yacht to have experienced it on than our Leopard 51 PC. This particular itinerary will give you the perfect representation of all that Florida has to offer, from sunrise on the east coast, to sunset on the west coast, and everything in between. We will cover it all on this journey.
A few things to know prior to your departure
- Communicate with lockmasters on VHF Channel 13.
- Communicate with bridge tenders on VHF Channel 9.
- Plan to complete all bridges and locks prior to 4:00. While most locks claim to be open until 5, it’s is better to play it safe.
- We kept our fenders on our port side through each lock, but be aware that this can be subject to change at any time. Always confirm with the lockmaster.
- During our time of passage, we never had to tie on our own lines in any locks, but it is always good to be prepared. Have a line ready on your bow and on your stern just in case they are needed.
- Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina is the name of the marina in Clewiston. Call ahead to secure a slip— 863-983-3151
- Ft. Myers Municipal Yacht Basin is the name of the marina in Ft. Myers. Call ahead to secure a slip— 239-321-7080
- St. Petersburg has a few options but we recommend the Vinoy Marina. Call ahead to secure a slip—727-824-8022
Day One: Ft. Lauderdale to Clewiston
Starting from South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale) we decided to leave at around 2 am. This was done for two reason, 1. In order to make it to our destination before sunset and 2. To see the sunrise over the Atlantic. When you arrive to Stuart, Florida and enter the St. Lucie Inlet you will also want the sun out to ensure safe navigation, as this area can become very shallow very quickly. As you can see, we planned our trip around the position of the sun. Well, that and we may have slightly been slaves to the clock, as we had to ensure that we made it to the locks before closing time. If you make it to bed fairly early on the evening before departure, while a 2 am may sounds exhausting, once you are on the water you will feel rested, refreshed and ready for an exciting day of power boating.
On this particular day of passage, we made our way through three locks and went under approximately 13 bridges, two of those bridges required us to radio for opening, the other bridges were fixed. The first lock, the St. Lucie Lock at Mile Marker 15, is the highest lift of the waterway, around 15 feet up. From the Lucie Lock you will continue on until you reach the Port Mayaca Lock at Mile Marker 39. We don’t recommend racing from one lock to the next, but instead cruise at a moderate speed and enjoy the view. The final lock of the day will be the Clewiston Lock, which will provide passage to your overnight stop—Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina. At the tiki bar hey serve up tasty tacos, large beers and live music. Make it a point to visit the gift shop to check out their quirky collection of knickknacks and don’t forget to check your fuel levels.
We enjoyed ourselves for the rest of the evening and rested up for an easy cruise tomorrow.
Day 2: Clewiston to Ft. Myers
We were up ready to launch at around 9 am this morning. To get back on track you must exit the Clewiston Lock and head west. For the first part of this day you will feel like you are in the Everglades, be on the lookout for gator sightings, as it is likely you will see some. Today, depending on your boat’s bridge clearance, you will pass through four or five bridges that you may need to radio for opening. When you arrive at Mile Marker 78 you will pass through your first of three locks, the Moore Haven Lock. There is nothing tricky in this lock, you will move down about 2 feet. Not too far after that, at mile maker 93 you will find yourself at the Ortana Lock where you will be brought down around 8 feet. Your last lock of the day will be the Franklin Lock at Mile Marker 121. You will go down about three feet before they open the gates. Journey on to the Ft. Myers Municipal Yacht Basin and rest up there for the evening. We relaxed with the breeze on the flybridge for sunset, and then went for a wander. Just north of the marina the streets of Ft. Myers had plenty of restaurants and bars to keep us occupied for the evening.
Day 3: Ft. Myers to St. Petersburg
This morning we had to briefly navigate through the channel until we arrived to the Gulf of Mexico. We were enjoying the views so much so that we missed our turn for the gulf, fortunately not too much time went by before long we realized our error navigation. Once in the gulf we were able to set the auto pilot to a moderate pace and enjoy the ride.
The highlight of this leg of the trip was approaching and clearing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. In addition to seeing this massive modern architectural work of art up close and personal, the best part is you won’t have to pay the toll.
Once we made it to the marina in downtown St. Petersburg, we were able to enjoy what was left of the day in a charming city. If you find yourself here, we would recommend a day visiting the Salvador Dali Museum and then dinner and sundowners on the roof top bar at The Canopy.
If this trip has piqued your interest, we recommend obtaining any further information on this passage using the Okeechobee Waterway Cruising Guide.