by Arnold Small
Boaters in Southwest Florida take shallow water as a fact of life. However, the low winter tides, lots of north wind, and the drought have conspired to make things worse than usual. Many Cape Coral residents have been unable to get
boats out of their canals for months and lately it has been touch and go for some boaters passing through the Chiquita lock. The water level in the South Spreader (Camelot) Waterway is as low as its been in many years. One consequence of this is when the east gate of the lock is open, there is,
as of the date this article is written, a little less than 5' 6" in the lock. When the west gate opens then the level in the lock is determined by the tidal level in the river. If its a really low tide, the level in the lock can drop substantially and recently at least one sailboater has had problems as a result. Although he was floating in the lock, as he attempted to exit his keel struck the track which guides the gate as it opens and closes.
According to the lock operator the track extends 6'' above the floor of the lock. Another consideration for those requiring relatively deep water is that there are two shallow spots in the canal between the lock and the river. They are at the first and second corners as you leave the lock..
The canal bottom at these points is about 6" higher than the bottom of the
lock. This leads to the following situations: 1) when you are proceeding from the river toward the lock if you can make it through these two shallow spots, you can get through the lock OK and 2) coming the opposite direction (from Cape Harbour toward the river), even if you can get into the lock OK, getting out the other side and through the shallow spots is problematic and depends on tidal level. You can check the current lock water levels with either gate closed by calling the lock operator at 542-5661.
Addition lock woes exist with respect to the Franklin Lock on the Caloosahatchee. Its openings have been curtailed for sometime because large amounts of fresh water are lost each time the gates are opened for boat passage. The authorities are attempting to minimize fresh water loss in order to maintain the level of Lake Okeechobee. Nonetheless lake levels continue to drop resulting in severe difficulty in transiting the lake. The Corps of Engineers recently reduced lock openings to once per day (noon), Monday-Thursday and twice per day (10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), Friday-Sunday. For additional information call the lock operator at 694-5451 or visit this web site;
- Attention Boater! If you plan to cross Florida by way of the Okeechobee waterway be aware that the Franklin Lock is on a restricted opening schedule.
- Monday - Thursday: Noon only.
- Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use caution crossing as Lake levels are low, watch your depth.
- For waterway information call the W. P. Franklin Lock master at 914-694-5451
Sunset over Cape Harbour