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Summer Boating 2007 in Martin County

Summer in Martin County means even more boating than usual. In my few years of navigating the St Lucie River from Palm City to Jupiter I've learned a few good beginner tips for getting through the various obstacles including bridges and Manatee Pocket.

The St Lucie River, the Intracoastal waterway, and the Indian River will be packed with boats on weekends all heading to the favorite local spots.  Part of boating is getting through the obstacles both fixed (bridges and markers) and moving (other boaters). Here are a few tips for getting around the Stuart, Jensen Beach, and Palm City area by water.

Getting From Palm City to Anywhere

To get anywhere (except lake Okeechobee) from the south fork of the St Lucie River you have to go under the Roosevelt bridge, the railroad bridge, and if you are a bigger boat you will have to wait for the draw bridge to open.  Getting past the bridges is typically uneventful but you never know when you are going to encounter a really stupid boater that wants to race through (in a no wake zone) and pass you (where there is no room to pass) so be prepared.

Last summer I was heading out for a long haul down to Islamorada and when I arrived at the railroad bridge at about 7:15am and it was down with about 20 boats waiting. Turns out the bridge had been struck by lighting the night before and was stuck in the down position.  This was July 8, 2006. We finally got the Coast Guard to call the railroad authority that indicated the bridge could be fixed in a few hours or a few days. We really needed to get moving before the seas kicked up so we got creative.

Sneaking Under the Railroad Bridge
We inched up to the railroad bridge to see how much clearance we had. Turns out that we were about 2 inches too high – our radar dome was the only thing keeping us there. So we unbolted the dome, laid it ion the canvas top and snuck under the bridge. After a quick reattachment we were off to Islamorada. The seas were 2 feet or less, which made for a quick 6 hour run.

Railroad Bridge Standard Procedure
Typically this bridge is in the up position and you just cruise through. The exception is when a train is crossing, which in my experience is right around 5pm to 6pm. If you get stuck waiting it could be 30 to 45 minutes.

Roosevelt Bridge

The Roosevelt Bridge runs north south on Federal Highway from Stuart towards Jensen Beach.

Manatee Pocket a Common Destination
Manatee Pocket is a busy traffic area for boating in Stuart. There are several marinas full of really big and impressive boats. Combine that with the handful of waterfront restaurants including Shrimpers, Finz, and Barebones, and there is a lot of boat traffic. The pocket sits at the busiest and most dangerous intersection for boaters in the Martin County / Stuart area. There is always a steady stream of boats leaving the pocket heading east out the St Lucie Inlet or south towards Stuart.  And there are just as many boats heading in to the Marinas and restaurants.

If you are approaching the Manatee Pocket be prepared to slow down and avoid other boats, jet skis, and the ever-changing markets. The channels surrounding Manatee Pocket are constantly shifting. The result is a variety of markers (posts and floating cans) that can be very confusing. So slow down at the Pocket.