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52. Pelican Bay – Punta Blanca Island Anchorage

52. Pelican Bay – Punta Blanca Island Anchorage
Statute Mile 25
Lat/Lon: near 26 41.015 North/082 14.214 West
Location: found on the 5 to 7-foot cove-like waters well north of Primo Point, jutting into the western flank of Punta Blanca Island
Minimum Depth: 5-feet, but the use of a GPS chartplotter is strongly recommended for safe entrance into this anchorage
Swing Room: sufficient swinging room for vessels as large as 45 feet
Foul Weather Shelter: excellent


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Comments from the Cruisers' Net Community (9)

  1. Marty & Jerry Richardson -  January 21, 2013 - 3:40 pm

    There are two really good anchorages near Boca Grande entrance to Charlotte Harbor. The second is Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa. This is one of our favorites. Many people avoid it because of the shoal at the entrance. Just hug the beach – stay 25-50 feet off the beach and you will be in 6-9 feet of water. We draw 4.5 feet and anchor here a lot. The beach and park at Cayo Costa are great and again the park is only accessible by boat.
    Marty & Jerry Richardson

  2. Jim -  January 21, 2013 - 3:40 pm

    Alan is absolutely correct about Pelican Bay; it’s one of the premier anchorages you will find anywhere. However, “local knowledge” is important getting in there. Neither the approach to the bay, nor its entrance channel, are marked. So, ass/u/ming you are southbound on the G-ICW, turn west at a point south of G “75,” and about 200′ north of R “74.” Note that just off the shoreline, there is a Florida Speed Sign visible. Head toward that sign. Just before you reach the sign, turn SW and follow the line of the beach on Cayo Costa Island there, holding your course parallel to the beach and holding the shore close by to stbd at 50′ – 75′. Yes, a boat length or slightly more off the beach line. That “channel” carries 9′ of water, but it shoals very rapidly to the south, to 3′ or less. Many, many unwary boats go aground there. When you have passed by the beach, you will
    see the Cayo Costa State Park docks at your 11 o’clock, at a distance of about 1/2 to 3/4 miles. Aim at those docks, and set a rhumb line to them until you are past the shallowest water. There are slips there, with no services, but cruising boats generally can’t use them. Only the very outermost slips carry sufficient water depth. The dock tee heads are reserved for tour boats, of which there are several that ply those waters. Plan to anchor. The bottom is sand, and the holding is excellent.
    The gulf coast of Florida has diurnal tides; that is, one high and one low per day. Water depths are lowest in the morning and moderate to high in the mid-to-late afternoon. The tidal range at Pelican Bay is only about 2′. The rhumb line from the beach to the State Park docks will get down to 5-1/2′ at MLLW. By the time you get to the docks, you’ll see 6-1/2′ or more. There is a deep pool correctly charted on the current charts that carries 9′, which is the deepest water in the bay. Some older charts that are still widely circulated do not show that 9′ pool correctly. If you do not see that deep pool, you do not have the current charts of the basin. The basin is actually a “pass” between Cayo Costa Island to the west and Punta Blanco Island to the east. To the south from Pelican Bay, the water appears visually to be open; but, it is shoal, and not navigable by cruising draft boats. The only access back to the G-ICW from Pelican Bay is the one to the north of Punta Blanco Island, described above.
    Armed with this “local knowledge,” you will find Pelican Bay to be a delightful, well protected anchorage with a lot to see and do.
    Hope this is useful.

  3. Bill Dixon -  December 16, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    On Pelican Bay entrance. R 74 is now a nun, not a daymark.
    Bill Dixon

  4. Kim -  November 29, 2012 - 9:43 am

    Eyeball method into PBay is a line from R74 to the entrance sign leaving sign to Starboard; then along the sand spit. Start aiming for the park dock once you are about halfway down the spit.
    Or if you must-plug these into your GPS to route yourself into PBay.
    A: 26 41.940N 82 14.208W
    B: 26 41.745N 82 14.525W
    C: 26 41.600N 82 14,600W
    D: 26 41.100N 82 14.600W
    E: 26 40.900N 82.14.400W
    F: 26 40.950N 82 14.200W
    G: 26 41.100N 82 14.250
    There is small power boat access out the south with local knowledge (uses part of the Punta Blanca channel) – Watch the ferry. Above will get you in (for 5′ or less) on all but an extreme winter low. There are a couple of bars so don’t freak if you think you’re in but start losing depth again. If you are coming from the south you can turn onto the A-B leg close to B. Start cheating about G71 and aim for a point to the right of B. If the depths get scary jog right until you are comfortable. Turn onto the track when you get to it. Once inside the chart is petty good at identifying the deeper areas. Standard rules apply- if there are a lot of boats in the anchorage and no one is anchored in what looks like a choice spot there is probably a shallow reason. You want to be surprisingly close to the beach from B to C. There is a nice hole around ‘E’ and we usually anchor there in about 8-9′. E-F can be a problematic stretch so exercise care. You may stir more mud than you want.

  5. Alan Lloyd -  November 28, 2012 - 4:13 pm

    We are there now and can see why the west coast is Jim’s favorite. We anchored last night at the best anchorage on the West Coast. Even [cruisers] adverse to anchoring out should give Cayo Costa a try. There is more than ample room to swing on one hook. There were 18 boats anchored last night enjoying a full moon and a romantic sunrise. Cayo Costa Island is a state park. We dinghied to the dock and walked 3/4 mile across the desert island to the gulf side beach. (There is a regular tram service and bikes for rent, but we preferred to walk ). We had the whole beach to ourselves! Access Fee is $2.00pp. Don’t pass this anchorage! Oh, by the way, there is also a floating dock where you may tie up overnight for $20.
    Alan Lloyd
    Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes

  6. Marty & Jerry Richardson -  November 28, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa is the best anchorage on the west side of Florida – hands down. We have been in there on a holiday weekend when there were 70 boats and everyone was on a single anchor with plenty of swing room. Easy dinghy ride to Cabbage Key for a ‘cheeseburger in paradise’.
    Marty & Jerry Richardson

  7. Doug Kendrick -  August 28, 2009 - 9:45 am

    We cruised into Pelican Bay to show our guests the anchorage. The entrance depths are in the four to five foot range and we saw similar readings approaching the Park Service docks. No comment on the park as we did not go ashore.
    Doug Kendrick

    Several of us with 6 foot drafts anchor there regularly. I’ve never had any trouble entering Pelican Bay. Just stay close to the north beach where the sign is. Now when you get in, 6+ feet at low tide is limited to a relatively small portion of the Bay, but still enough to accommodate all the boats I’ve ever seen there. The bottom is very gradual in the anchorage area and rises toward the shores predictably.
    Bob Hanners

    With winter low tides, you could easily see 4.5’, but generally, you won’t find less than 5’ if you are careful. The trick is looking at the chart and figuring out where the current comes through the entrance. That’s where you will find the deepest water, and at the entrance, it is very close to shore. Once in, 6-10 depths rule, though there is a small hump in the center, just east of the park dock. The park has a new dock and you can tie up a small boat of dinghy to explore the park. The Rangers want you to stay on the road if you go to the beach, but there is a wagon/trolley that makes the trip back and forth to the beach if you don’t want to walk. The beach is great for shelling and just exploring for miles. The park has some camping and picnic facilities on the beach. There are latrines, etc. on the beach.
    Jake Dye

    Cayo Costa and Pelican Bay are fabulous. We went in keeping well to the starboard side of the channel and found no less than six feet. We went ashore and over to the Gulf beach. There were bathrooms and cold water showers for free. Also, there is a small store on the island with beverages and island souvenirs. Don’t bring any rubbish onto the island.The beach is seven miles of unspoiled tropical beauty. There are picnic pavilions for your use and a free shuttle if you choose not to walk to the beach. There is a $2 per person landing fee which is collected on an honor basis. What a bargain! There are also a few docks available on a first come basis for free, but they are only suitable for shallow draft (under three feet) vessels.
    Bob Cormier

    Subject: West Coast–Pelican Bay anchorage
    Message: We have been anchored in Pelican Bay several times in the last month and found at least 5 1/2 feet at the enterance at dead low (very low do to NE winds). Stay very close to the sand bar on the north side.
    Bob Sween

    At low water, you can carry at least 5.5 ft if you know where to go. Ashore, the ranger station/state park has decent bathrooms, a drinking water fountain, a small museum, and a ranger station where you can buy ice. Hike across or take the crude tram to the beautiful beach on the gulf. There they have camp grounds, some small cabins, and bathrooms with showers, along with a water spigot. Each person pays $1 on the honor system to visit ashore.
    Duane Ising
    s/v Diva Di
    36 Catalina

    We anchor in Pelican Bay numerous times per year. The entrance channel is actually plenty deep, around 7 feet at zero tide. However, the best water is relatively narrow, and it is VERY close to the entrance sign. We have found that it is best to approach from ICW marker 74 and aim to pass the sign board only 50 to 75 feet to the southern side. The depth gets quite a bit worse only 200 to 300 feet from the sign. As you make this “best” approach it appears that you will quickly end up on the beach. It is necessary to turn to follow the beach as you pass the sign, and continue on for a couple hundred yards. The water is actually 9 to 10 feet deep only 50 feet from the beach. After the short, but close run along the beach, head in the direction of the Cayo Costa dock and proceed to your favorite anchoring spot. It is important to avoid cutting the corner outside of the entrance sign. There is a shoal just north of the line from the sign to ICW marker 74.
    There was a major rearrangement of sand in this area in the early part of 2008. The beach has changed a lot (smaller and shorter), and the little lagoon behind the entry beach has opened up. The inlet near the park dock, where the park service boats used to tie up, was completely closed by a newly formed sand bar.
    Best regards,
    Gene and Sue Fuller
    Punta Gorda, Florida

  8. Douglas Kendrick -  August 27, 2009 - 1:49 pm

    Subject: Western Florida Tunnel of Love
    Cruising News: I have an update on the “Tunnel of Love” near Pelican Bay. On Tuesday 25 November we were anchored in Pelican Bay and attempted to explore the Tunnel of Love by inflatable dinghy. The water at the entrance to the tunnel was very shallow when the tide 0.9 feet above MLLW. I had to drag the dinghy across the shallows. Then, we only went down the tunnel about 50 feet. Dead mangroves were everywhere. We stopped in fear that a mangrove stick would puncture a tube in the dinghy and leave us stranded far from our boat. The exploration would best be done at high tide with a hard-sided, shallow draft craft.
    Douglas Kendrick

  9. Jay E Wigginton -  August 27, 2009 - 10:26 am

    Just south of Boca Grand Pass, west of marker 74, in Pelican flay, is an outstanding anchorage, one of the best in Pine Island Sound. The water is shallow, but boats carrying 5 feet can enter by staying close to the Cayo Costa side to avoid the shoal building out from the northwest end of Punta Blanca Island. Inside, depths improve to 6 feet along a broad band.
    Come abeam of marker 74 and set a compass course of roughly 240 degrees through the northern third of Pelican Pass, staying to the Cayo Costa side. Curve slowly around to the south into the main body of the pass on its mid width. Consider anchoring northeast of the docks. From the docks south lie many unmarked shoals..
    Jay E Wigginton


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