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Archive For: West FL – 13 – Big Bend Region – Anclote Key to Dog Island & Carr

  • TowBoatUS Tampa Bay Earns “Tower Of The Year” Award

    This just in from our good friends at TowBoat/US. Looks like the Tampa Bay franchise of this very popular service is really up to snuff!
    Notice this franchise has satellite operations on the Western Florida coastline, from Tampa Bay north through the Big Bend region!

    CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla., January 29, 2013 — An on-the-water towboat company that helps Gulf Coast boaters get home safely was singled out for its professionalism at the BoatUS Towing Services Annual Conference recently held in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Tower of the Year honors went to TowBoatUS Tampa Bay, which is owned and operated by Capt. Larry Tieman and Capt. Clayton Tieman. The company has eight locations along the Gulf Coast from Tampa Bay to Cedar Key, including St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Hudson, Homosassa River, Crystal River and Yankeetown.

    The company also received two additional awards – the BoatUS Membership Achievement Award for selling the most BoatUS memberships in the entire fleet, and was honored with the BoatUS Dispatchers Choice Award, given by the dispatching staff at the BoatUS 24-hour call centers for providing members with fast response and utmost professionalism during the dispatch process.

    “We have grown our business to become the largest BoatUS towing service provider in the United States and we are very proud of our accomplishments,” said Capt. Larry Tieman. “With fourteen boats and sixteen captains, we handle over 2,500 requests a year for on-the-water assistance. If you’re broken down or run out of gas near shore, we’re very proud that we can get a bright red towboat with a professional captain to your location in usually an hour or less,” he added.

    “The Tieman’s operation is the standard bearer that many in our towing fleet look up to, showing others how to run a successful on-the-water towing business in one of the busiest regions of the country,” said BoatUS Vice President and Director of Towing Services Adam Wheeler. “And they do it professionally, with the great care that our members deserve, and always with a positive attitude.”

    BoatUS Towing Services offers an “unlimited” towing plan for Florida boaters for just $149 a year, which includes BoatUS membership. Without a towing plan, the national average out-of-pocket cost for a tow is about $600. For membership and towing information visit http://www.BoatUS.com/towing or call 800-888-4869.

  • GREAT Advice About Cruising Western Florida’s Big Bend Region

    I have lost count of the number of times I’ve said this, but it bears repeating. If you get a dozen veteran cruisers together, you will get at least twenty different opinions about how best to cross Western Florida’s waterwayless “Big Bend” region. For those who have never cruised these waters, the Western Florida’s ICW’s northern terminus is at Anclote Key, while the Northern Gulf ICW does not begin its east to west trek until one reaches Dog Island and the charming village of Carrabelle.
    In between is better than a hundred miles of coastline, with a LARGE shelf of shallow water jutting for miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. These shallows are pierced at fairly regular intervals by man-made channels, leading to the Big Bend rivers such as the Crystal, the Withlacoochee, the Suwanee and the Steinhatchee. Some of these entrance passages are fairly reliable, while others are not.
    So, rather than follow the Big Bend coastline, staying several miles offshore, some mariners choose to cut the corner, and head (northbound) directly for Dog Island or Panama City.
    Whichever route you choose, there ARE challanges. Some day I must relate the story of the most disastrous yacht deliver in which I ever participated, all of which took place in the Big Bend region. But that’s another story for another day.
    For now, let’s all give a good listen to the excellent advice offered by veteran cruiser Captain Bob Duthie below. His words are well worth your time!

    I enjoyed reading this post as it sounded similar to our experience crossing the gulf. The unforecasted winds in the gulf on our trip blew up at night unlike what we were used to everywhere else where the winds tend to die down at night. On our crossing the night winds came from the north-east. There are a few things that might make a more comfortable crossing compared to the course that Muddy Waters took. We did the crossing in a 36 Grand Banks with no stabilizers. We had 4 adults aboard and changed the watch after dark every hour. The autopilot did all the steering and we planned a straight line course without any deviations.
    1. Leave from Carrabelle and go staight to Tarpon Springs which is 168 miles vs 180 miles for Appalcahcola to Clearwater. This means less time on the gulf.
    2. Stay 50 miles from shore in deep water to avoid all the crab pots that are found 20 miles from shore. Don’t follow the Big Bend.
    3. With north-east or north-west winds you will be rolling uncomfortably. Since you are 50 miles out, you can turn to the east so the winds are now on the bow/stern or one quarter. This reduces or eliminates the rolling.
    Slow down from 8 mph to 5 mph since you don’t want to get too close to shore at night and the slower speed makes it easier to take the waves. The up and down motion is much easier for people and all the stuff inside than rolling. The autopilot also can maintain a straight course.
    4. I estimated the highest wave at 8 ft when the bow platform was buried once into a wave with green water coming over and along the decks.
    5. At 5:00AM the sun came up and the wind died down. At about 10 miles off Cedar Key we changed course and headed for Tarpon Springs. The strings of crab pots were now easy to see.
    6. Overall it took us 24 hours vs a planned 18 hours and we went 25 miles further due to the change in course.

  • “Druggies” Using Crab Pots In the Gulf of Mexico??????

    OK, folks, everyone has to take a look at this series of messages just copied from the AGLCA forum. All I can add is that this reminds me very much of the lyrics of one of my favorite 1960’s songs:

    “It’s a strange, strong world we live in, Master Jack!”

    Memsahib was stopped by Homeland Security for a routine document check about 10 miles south of Tarpon Springs. The Coasties didn’t even come aboard — we just handed them our papers and that was it. But it was a nice day and they hung around talking about the boat and the trip. etc.
    One of my comments was that I couldn’t understand the economics of the stone crab business because on our Gulf crossing we started seeing pots 32-35 miles out of Tarpon in 50 feet of water. How could anyone afford to fish those traps? The boss security guy became very, very interested and asked if they were rows or singles (singles and pairs), whether there was evidence of any otherpot lines in the area (no), whether we saw any suspicious boats (no — just that night’s Looper Flotilla). Seems that planes are dropping drugs way out and marking them with crab pot floats so nobody thinks anything about it.
    Thanks to a rendezvous with Catmandu to dodge pots, we were exactly on the rhumb line to Buoy R4, so I was able to give them a pretty accurate description of where the pots were, but I didn’t have my tracking feature turned on, so couldn’t give them a GPS fix.
    I would strongly suggest that if any future crossers see single spots way out in deep water, that they plug in a waypoint and phone it in when you land. Also, that’s another good reason to reach Crabland well after dawn,
    since running into a black Cigarette boat full of drug fishermen wouldn’t be any more fun than snagging a pot line.
    Paul

    For what’s it worth, when we came across last week, the crab pots appeared to be in straight lines, typical of normal fishing style. When we saw a single, we sometimes had to really look for its mates but normally saw them. Also, we observed typical lobster boats working those traps. That said, everyone should stay alert to suspecious activity. Cruisers are the best eyes and ears for Homeland Security and they know it.
    Stay safe,
    Tom

    Tom’s right, what appear to be isolated pots could well be in lines so far apart that they are hard to spot. Still, I felt badly that I couldn’t give them a good fix, and hope any ohters spotting really dodgy ones will do so.
    Paul

  • Praise for C-Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, FL, Northern Gulf

    C-Quarters Marina - Click for Chartview

    C-Quarters Marina is located on the Carrabelle River in Carrabelle, Florida. This full service marina features 67 boat slips. The marina has a complete ship store for your cruising and fishing needs. www.c-quartersmarina.com

    Carrabelle is a must stop for preparing to cross the Gulf and two marinas are always highlighted. We have always stayed at the Moorings which is a wonderful, up scale marina and very popular. This trip we tried C-Quarters and found that they too are a wonderful stop. They continued the Carrabelle tradition of caring about their customers and insisted that we give them a safe arrival call when we arrived at our destination. We couldn’t ask for anyone more helpful. Stay safe,
    Tom

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of C-Quarters Marina

  • More Praise for Port St. Joe Marina (Florida Panhandle Between Apalachicola and Panama City)

    The Port St. Joe Marina is at the heart of Florida's Forgotten Coast, on the eastern shore of pristine St. Joseph Bay on Florida's northern Gulf Coast. Located between Panama City and Apalachicola, Fl

    Port St. Joe Marina - Click for Chartview

    The praise just keeps pouring into the SSECN concerning this wonderful facility. It is accessed via the Gulf County Canal, which departs the Northern Gulf ICW between Apalachicola and Panama City, and runs south to St. Joseph Bay. Port St. Joe Marina lies hard by the town of, what else, Port St. Joe. And, these good people are a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!

    Our stay at Port St Joe Marina was ideal. Everyone was so helpful. This is certainly a good stop for getting ready for your crossing. Please see previous tome on that subject.
    Tom

  • More Good Words for Port St. Joe Marina, St. Joe Bay, Northern Gulf

    The Port St. Joe Marina is at the heart of Florida's Forgotten Coast, on the eastern shore of pristine St. Joseph Bay on Florida's northern Gulf Coast. Located between Panama City and Apalachicola, Fl

    Port St. Joe Marina - Click for Chartview

    This wonderful facility is accessed by the Gulf County Canal, which departs the Northern Gulf ICW between Apalachicola and Panama City, and runs south to St. Joseph Bay. Port St. Joe Marina lies hard by the town of, what else, Port St. Joe. And, these good people are a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!

    We have been in Port St Joe Marina for 2 days now and have been told 3 times that the water is too shallow for our 5 feet draft. Folks, that is just not so. We have seen water only down to 8 feet at the transient dock and that is at low tide with a north wind blowing. The marina has even deeper spots available. Give them a try, even Mikie likes it (am I showing my age to remember that?). Stay safe,
    Tom

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Port St. Joe Marina

  • Confirmation of Low Water Shallow Depths at Entrance to Suwanee River (Western Florida, Big Bend Region)

    There have been MANY other postings here on the SSECN about a shallow water bar at the entrance to the Suwanee River, from the Gulf’s waters. Never before, however, have we heard of someone with a draft of 15.5 inches having problems. Looks like Tranqilo found deeper water with a bit of work.
    And, their note about “avoiding all shoals” may be a bit optimistic. I have never found more than 4 1/2 feet of water over the entrance bar a low tide.

    Our draft is 15.5 inches. We had 1 problem with shoaling at low tide coming out of Suwannee River. We are able to pole back into deep water with a boat hook and a zodiac paddle. A route can be plotted that avoids all shoals. Try a mid tide for entry into any of the well-marked channels to these out of the way places.
    Tranquilo

  • Millers Marina and the Suwanee River

    The Suwanee River is arguably, along with the Withlacoochee River, the most beautiful of the Western Florida Big Bend rivers. The Suwanee offers many superb anchorages, and one basic marina.
    HOWEVER, there is an entrance bar which carries a slim 4-feet, or even slightly less, at MLW. Once on the stream’s interior reaches, depths improve considerably, but you may have to work the tides to make good your entry and egress!
    Like Captains Judith and Paul, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the seafood at Salty Creek Fish Company restaurant. Year in and year out, it’s been some of the very best I’ve ever had!
    See you there!

    The wild and beautiful Suwanee River was next on the list, bypassing Cedar Key about which we had not heard good things. We stopped at Miller’s Marina for fuel and a pumpout. This is a very basic place on a lovely pool approached from the river by a leafy narrow canal. A short walk to The Salt River Seafood Company Restaurant provided us with a delicious lunch. We understand they will let you stay the night at their dock for free if you eat there. 350 people call this village home with 750 vacation homes–small is an overstatement. Predicted stormy weather prevented our anchoring out up the Suwannee which we very much wish we had been able to do–you know, the song and all!
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Millers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Millers Marina

  • Twin Rivers Marina (on the Crystal River – Western Florida Big Bend Region)

    Personally, I prefer Pete’s Pier, farther upstream on Crystal River, to Twin Rivers Marina, but, hey, that’s just me, and it is certainly a far longer cruise from the Gulf to reach Pete’s. So, read up on both, and make your decision accordingly.

    After a few hours of being hammered on the open Gulf, we slipped into the first marina on Crystal River, Twin Rivers Marina. They are 6 miles from town, but had a floating dock for us which we prefer, being so small. One
    could stay in town at Pete’s Pier. TRW is a full service marina, and we need a wiper repair and a stove repair after our Gulf ride. Crystal River is home to the largest herd of manatees in Florida. Photographing manatees
    is similar to dolphins–as soon as you focus, they are gone.
    We are waiting here for a window to get down to Tarpon Springs and back on the ICW. We have met friendly people and had quiet, secure havens and would highly recommend Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to complete your Loop experience.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Twin Rivers Marina

  • Sea Hag Marina (Steinhatchee River – Western Florida Big Bend Region)

    Sea Hag Marina is the best facility for cruising size craft on the Big Bend’s Steinhatchee River. While, as is usual with Big Bend Rivers, the Steinhatchee entrance channel is a long, drawn-out affair, from the deeper Gulf waters, it is well marked and perhaps the deepest of the Big Bend river channels.

    Next we went to Sea Hag marina in Steinhatchee. There is a post office, good grocery store and several restaurants. Fiddler’s Restaurant will come to the marina, pick you up and bring you back. Delicious seafood dinner. We took our zodiac up the river for a few hours as the weather was not condusive for anchoring out.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Sea Hag Marina

  • Shields Marina (Western Florida Big Bend Region – off the St. Marks River)

    It’s a long trek down a well marked channel from the waters of the Northern Gulf to reach Shield’s Marina, but it’s worth it. We have always found this to be a superior marina.
    I’m particularly intrigued by Captain Judith’s reference to the “new Shields Marina.” Perhaps there have been improvements here since I last visited. Anyone have more info about that?

    Our first stop was St. Mark’s (20 miles south of Tallahassee), staying at the new Shield’s Marina (showers/laundry/well stocked chandlery/full service) and a couple of anchorages in the beautiful St. Mark’s River. We lunched at the Riverside (Paradise) Cafe, walked the park, museum/fort, and the railroad converted to bike path. The area/fort has been significant historically since the 1500’s (and 12,000 yrs before) under the control of 9 different cultures. The area provided the most important salt for the Confederate troups. They have a post office and a limited grocery store and are the heart of the Stone Crab industry with a festival in October. A man came to talk with us for awhile and loaned us his car to go to the St. Mark’s Wildlife Preserve and The Lighthouse. We saw many alligators sunning. We found out later, the owner will loan you his car for Walmart or the lighthouse/nature preserve tour.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Shields Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Shields Marina

  • Great Account of Cruising Western Florida’s Big Bend Region, North to South

    I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Get a dozen veteran cruisers together, put forward the question about the best way to cross Western Florida’s waterwayless “Big Bend” region, and you’ll get fourteen different opinions. For those not familiar with these waters, it’s basically a question of whether to cut the corner, if southbound, and head directly for Anclote Key or Clearwater (this often involves an overnight passage), or, staying well offshore, follow the Big Bend coastline around, with the opportunity to anchor or moor on one of the regional rivers. Almost all of these are naturally beautiful, but all have long, torturous, and sometimes shallow entrance channels from the open Gulf.
    Captains Judith and Paul give one of the best arguments below I’ve heard in some time as to the good attributes of taking the Big Bend coastline route.

    We opted to travel The Big Bend from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs. The distance is greater than the cross-Gulf trek, but well worth it. This area is of historical significance and is comprised of small/tiny fishing villages among marsh, cypress, fir, hardwoods, palm trees and alligators, not to mention dolphins and a myriad of sea/woods birds. Fishing is the name of the game here. There were large, deep draft boats in all the marinas, but one would have to watch the tides. This would be a much better trip if it were a bit earlier in the year before the northerlies arrive. The ubiquitous crab pots/fishing pots are easily seen and avoided
    as long as the seas are 1-2′ and the sun is not in your eyes.
    Our first stop was St. Mark’s (20 miles south of Tallahassee), staying at the new Shield’s Marina (showers/laundry/well stocked chandlery/full service) and a couple of anchorages in the beautiful St. Mark’s River. We lunched at the Riverside (Paradise) Cafe, walked the park, museum/fort, and the railroad converted to bike path. The area/fort has been significant historically since the 1500’s (and 12,000 yrs before) under the control of 9 different cultures. The area provided the most important salt for the Confederate troups. They have a post office and a limited grocery store and are the heart of the Stone Crab industry with a festival in October. A man came to talk with us for awhile and loaned us his car to go to the St. Mark’s Wildlife Preserve and The Lighthouse. We saw many alligators sunning. We found out later, the owner will loan you his car for Walmart or the lighthouse/nature preserve tour.
    Next we went to Sea Hag marina in Steinhatchee. There is a post office, good grocery store and several restaurants. Fiddler’s Restaurant will come to the marina, pick you up and bring you back. Delicious seafood dinner. We took our zodiac up the river for a few hours as the weather was not condusive for anchoring out.
    The wild and beautiful Suwanee River was next on the list, bypassing Cedar Key about which we had not heard good things. We stopped at Miller’s Marina for fuel and a pumpout. This is a very basic place on a lovely pool approached from the river by a leafy narrow canal. A short walk to The Salt River Seafood Company Restaurant provided us with a delicious lunch. We understand they will let you stay the night at their dock for free if you eat there. 350 people call this village home with 750 vacation homes–small is an overstatement. Predicted stormy weather prevented our anchoring out up the Suwannee which we very much wish we had been able to do–you know, the song and all!
    After a few hours of being hammered on the open Gulf, we slipped into the first marina on Crystal River, Twin Rivers Marina. They are 6 miles from town, but had a floating dock for us which we prefer, being so small. One
    could stay in town at Pete’s Pier. TRW is a full service marina, and we need a wiper repair and a stove repair after our Gulf ride. Crystal River is home to the largest herd of manatees in Florida. Photographing manatees
    is similar to dolphins–as soon as you focus, they are gone.
    We are waiting here for a window to get down to Tarpon Springs and back on the ICW. We have met friendly people and had quiet, secure havens and would highly recommend Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to complete your Loop experience.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Shields Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Shields Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Millers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Millers Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Pete’s Pier

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pete’s Pier

  • Good Words for Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine, Crystal River/Kings Bay, Western Florida Big Bend Region

    Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine is the most upstream facility on the Big Bend’s Crystal River. Moving generally west, this stream eventually widens into a broad basin, known and charted as Kings Bay. Pete’s Pier lies on this bay’s northeastern quadrant, east of marker #29.

    Pete’s Pier, so many good things to say about the people here at Pete’s Pier. Its not swanky, but it feels like home to me. Might not be everything you want here, but it damn well sure has everything you could need!
    BlackOak

    Click Here To View the Eastern Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Pete’s Pier

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pete’s Pier

  • Western Florida’s Big Bend Passage, Apalachiacola to Clearwater

    Clearwater Entrance - Click for Chartview

    I have often said before, but it bears repeating again, “get twelve cruisers together, and you will give fourteeen opinions about how to best traverse Western Florida’s waterwayless ‘Big Bend’ region.” Every time this topic arises, whether it’s here on the Cruisers’ Net, or some other nautical forum, a wide range of often very useful and informative opinions come to light. That’s just the case below.
    Overnight passages can be memorable, especially when the seas cooperate as Capt. MacMahon describes below. The direct channel to Clearwater Municipal Marina from the Western Florida ICW (there is another entrance from Clearwater Pass Inlet), cuts sharply west, just south of the high-rise Clearwater Beach Bridge.

    Calypso (American Tug 34) crossed the Gulf from Apalachicola to Clearwater on September 22-23. Left Apalachicola at 8:30 a.m. and went down the GICW to East Pass. Exited East Pass into the Gulf shortly before 11:30a.m.
    Weather report was for light winds (5 to 10 mph) out of some derivation of the North for all day and night with waves projected to be 1 to 2 feet. It was a little bouncy going thru East Pass and for the next 45 minutes or so until reaching deeper water. Then, it smoothed out into widely spaced two foot swells which the boat glided over. Conditions got even better as the day progressed and as Calypso worked its way further South until it was essentially smooth throughout the night. Made better time than planned so had to slow down several times in order to arrive after daylight. Stayed out in deeper water (40 feet plus) as approached Clearwater so as to avoid expected crab pots in shallower water. As it got light headed into Clearwater Pass and there were no crab pots off the coast there. Dredging
    equipment was at Clearwater Pass but no problem getting by it. Turned left just after going under the high rise bridge over the pass and went up the side channel to Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina. Somewhat shallow (5 feet over the bar) in the side channel (with about one foot of tide. But, once over the bar depth was fine. The marina has fixed docks and there is a little bit of wake from tour boats (but not bad at all). Showers/heads are not climate controlled. Dock master was helpful. And, it is close to the beach and lots of restaurants/bars.
    Mark MacMahon

    We found Panama City to Clearwater area to be the best for us. Leave Panama City in the morning, over night to Clearwater entrance. Anchor between condos and sleep and rest the rest of the day. Don’t like going across that shallow lake east of Panama City. We also found the return trip to Panama City nice also. We would anchor thru the single lift bridge for a day or two. Then there’s the visit to Gano’s bayou for some of the best hospitality ! Thanks,
    Ted Brown, boatless but thinking

    We’ve done the Gulf crossing 5 times, all overnighters. We departed from Tarpon Springs or Tampa/St Petersburg going west. Destin, Panama City, Carrabelle going east. We’ve always done the overnighters as our philosophy is that one over night is one overnighter at our trawler speed of 8 mph (7 knts). Leave in the Daylight from either end and plan to arrive no earlier than mid day going east so that you are not looking into the sun and can see the myriad of trap floats that extend a surprising distance off shore some as far as 30+ miles. Just get into port in full daylight going west.
    Having spent time in the arm pit, Steinhatchie and Cedar Key hold no attractions for me so I prefer to get across and not hassle with the shallow entry channels guarded by oyster/clam bed. If you really want to go to them watch your tides and remember the winter northerlies can and does draw the gulf waters down up to +2′ lower than MLLW where it will remain for several days.
    So beware of entering shallow channels with expectations of leaving when ever. The distance we go(departure to arrival point) when doing an overnighter is determined by the weather window and weather at each end which can vary depending upon wind speeds and directions at the different points i.e. following seas over head seas, vice fetch and durations along the planned route. Contrary to some guides in all our crossings we have never been out of range (VHF) contact with a USCG site. Remember, patience is the key to an uneventful and boring (at best) crossing and daylight
    departures and arrivals.
    Joe
    M/V “Carolyn Ann” GH N-37

    Joe Pica said “and remember the winter northerlies can and does draw the gulf waters down up to +2′ lower than MLLW where it will remain for several days. So beware of entering shallow channels with expectations of leaving whenever.”
    That is some good advice and things to consider. Thanks for posting that Joe. After living in FL for one winter I saw that is true.
    Ralph Yost

    You ask a good question, what is the best destination for crossing the Gulf, Tarpon Springs or Clearwater. Both are good but slightly different. Tarpon Springs is about 5-6 miles closer if the total crossing distance is critical and marinas there will take reservations, more critical in years past when there were more boaters out there. Clearwater is an easier approach and a few less crab pots to dodge but you would be in the deeper Gulf for a bit longer, important if the west wind is starting to pick up as you finish your crossing. Clearwater has their sunset celebrations that are indeed special but Tarpon Springs has that delicious Greek food that can’t be found many other places.
    To decide what is best port, you will have to serve rum drinks to about a dozen cruisers who have done it before but hope that someone passes out so there can’t be a tie vote. Stay safe,
    Tom Conrad

    The information posted is very helpful. I do have a follow up question for the group. Cruising at 9knts aboard my GB 32, how long should I plan for getting from Fairhope AL to East Pass? Thanks!
    Randy Hondros

    Randy,
    Your priorities should be your major guide in planning time from Fairhope to East Pass. On our last trip through that section, it took us over 6 weeks. There are miles of sandy, shell-covered beaches to explore – usually by yourself this time of year. Anchor at Perdido Key, Shell Island, and Cape San Blas. Don’t miss the Naval Air Museum and Joe Patti’s seafood market in Pensacola. Apalachicola is a quaint town with some of the best oysters and shrimp in the world. The Florida Panhandle is a great cruising destination that should be savored slowly. Too many cruisers rush through the Panhandle concerned about getting to a point to cross the Gulf and miss some outstanding experiences.
    Glen and Jill Moore
    DeFever 40 Last Dance

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Clearwater Municipal Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Clearwater Municipal Marina

  • Crossing Western Florida’s Big Bend Discussion

    Those of you who have been following the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida sections for some time are probably tired of hearing me say it, but it’s worth one more repetition. If you get six veteran cruisers together, who have already crossed the Big Bend on several occasions, you will get at least eight opinions on the best strategy.
    So, what’s the “big deal” about this section of the Western Florida coastline? Well, the “big deal” is that the Western Florida ICW’s northern terminus lies at Anclote Key, and moving north towards Florida’s Panhandle, there is NO protected Waterway until one reaches Dog Island and the charming village of Carrabelle.
    Some cruisers argue vehemently that the best plan is to follow the Big Bend coastline (staying WELL offshore to avoid the large shelf of shallows that protrude from this section of the WF coastline), while others are equally passionate that you should cut the corner and head straight from Dog Island to Anclote Key, or the other way around.
    My opinion is that there is NOT any one “best” strategy for every boat, and every sort of weather condition. And, in recognition of that truth, there has been a lively discussion of late on the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association Forum about the correct strategy for this passage. Read the advice below, access your preferences, your boat’s capabilities, and the latest weather forecast, and make your decision accordingly. Whichever plan you employ, GOOD LUCK!

    We are in the planning stage of beginning the loop in the Spring of 2013. I would like other loopers explanations on why so many people cross directly from Carrabelle to the Tarpon Springs area instead of going around the Bend and stopping at some of the places along the way. What I think I am understanding so far is that water depth is an issue during the winter and winds could pick up and prevent you from the next leg. Other than that, I am wondering why it seems so many people take the straight, long
    shot straight over.
    Kenneth and Candice Farst

    There were many excellent statements made yesterday on the wisdom of picking a straight across route to cross the Gulf versus making the Big Bend route. There are only three points I would disagree. First, do not arrive early in the morning at Tarpon Springs or Clearwater as the potential of being blinded by the sun as you go through the numerous crab pots is too great. Plan to arrive at 10am or later.
    The second point concerns the statement of arriving in the Big bend ports of Steinhatchee, Cedar Key, or Crystal River at or near high tide. That is
    a true. The same is true for departing those ports, leave at high tide. In the Big Bend, it is roughly 13 hours between high tides. Unfortunately, during the winter months there is not 13 hours of daylight to depart and arrive at a high tide so something has to give, either risk a grounding at less than mid tide, or travel close to shore at night, NEVER a good idea.
    Third, winter tides are 1-2 feet less and the 4.5 ft concern level stated by another so you could have only 2.5 feet depending on the wind conditions and the moon stage. That will make lots of things to consider before coming to a conclusion.
    Stay safe,
    Tom

    We have made several trips back and forth from Sarasota, FL and Mobile, AL(we grew up there).
    The Big Bend route is a fun route to take. Many quaint river ports and towns and great seafood.
    All the river ports have marked entrance channels and are generally easily accessible for a vessel drawing 4 ft. or less at low tide .
    Hi tide would allow maybe up to 5 ft. draft-some quite a lot more i.e. St Marks ).
    Greater draft >5 ft. would remove a few ports from accessibility even at high tide i.e. Crystal River/ Homosassa River..
    Check out (west to east) after Carrabelle:
    Panacea
    St Marks
    Steinhatchee
    Withlacoochee/Yankee Town(a Coast Guard location)
    Cedar Key
    Cross Florida barge canal anchorage
    Crystal River
    Homosassa River
    Then you get to Tarpon Springs
    On older charts you will actually find a Big Bend Route with markers and lat/lon but they are no longer there.
    You do need to stay farther off shore, but the 20 foot depth line works well.
    Just came back this way on last leg of my great loop in January 2011.
    Enjoy
    Bill

  • Shallow Spots in Cedar Keys Northwest Channel (Western Florida – Big Bend Region), 1/6/12

    Cedar Key is one of a limited number of ports of call along Western Florida’s waterwayless Big Bend region (the Western Florida coastline between Anclote Key and Dog Island). Honestly, this has never been one of my favorite places, with difficult channels, little in the way of really good anchorages, and a downtown business district which exhibits some garish, modern development. Others disagree, however, and many cruisers stop here time and again while crossing the sometimes daunting Big Bend passage.
    Cedar Key is served by two channels, as noted by Captain Gano below. The Main Ship Channel (known to some locals as the “Seahorse Key Channel”), has an “S” turn along its easterly reaches which has to be seen to be believed.
    The other entrance and egress passage, which is the primary focus of Captain Rich’s message below, is known as the Northwest Channel. The shallow spot noted by Captain Gano has been there for years and years, and it’s not getting any deeper. That’s particularly important as it LOOKS on the charts as if the Northwest Channel might be the better entry route for southbound vessels. But, as you will read below, that’s probably not the case!
    We are declaring a navigational alert for the waters!

    In 2009, I ran hard aground (4-foot draft) going out the NW channel at Cedar Key right between markers “21” and “22”. There was a sailboat sitting a couple hundred yard farther out in the channel aimed at us, probably where he’d got stuck. Tide was low. We waited to float free and than went back out the way we had come in the day before – the Main Ship Channel.
    A smarter cruiser than we anchored off Sea Horse Key in open water and avoided the long trek up the Main Ship Channel to the anchorage right off the town. It was calm that night; so he made a good decision and was away early the next morning while we waited to float free.
    Having been to Cedar Key by car before, I knew there was no call to go ashore.
    Rich Gano
    Calypso

    I respectfully disagree with the above poster’s implication that there is little to see or do on Cedar Key. I visited it for 5-6 days this past summer…and..there is a ton of history here…an old lighthouse that gets regular park tours (Seahorse key light) which is off to port on a bluff-like island (Seahorse Key) at the main approach channel. there are old Victorian houses, a many-fingered estuary that practically bisects the island and dries out at low tide leaving all sorts of old boats and docks exposed in a surreal fashion…and it has a few good restaurants and a wonderful small library that is very accessible to get online or find hiustory books about the area, Cedar Key , IMHO, is very much worth the initial tedious Main ship channel and it’s s-turns…if your draft is 5-foot or less and you come in and out on the high tides…there’s lot’s to see and on the weekends there is a guy with a Piper cub at the nearby airport giving $25 airplane rides…what a thrill..try finding that anywhere else….it’s one other jewel in Florida’s Nature Coast and there’s lot’s more of it adjacent..whether south to Crystal River/Weekiwatchee..or a little North and around a bend out the NW cedar key channel to to Suwanee river Wildlife refuge…watch your depth finders folks…and enjoy!
    Morgan R.

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To A “Navigation Alert” Position at Cedar Key

  • Crystal River Depth Problems (Western Florida’s Big Bend Region)

    Sounds like Captains Barbara and Jim, plus Golden Retriever Lily, may have run into some lower than usual tides. I don’t ever recall finding such shallow depths in Crystal River. Have you had a similar or dissimilar experience on these waters? Please click the “Click Here to Submit Cruising News” link on the upper right side of this page, and share your information!

    Our draft is 4.7 and had no problems in Steinhatchee. However, when we reached Crystal River, we had to wait 1 1/2 hours at the entrance to the channel to wait for the tide to come in for enough water for our draft. Boat US heard us talking on the radio to our buddy boats and told us to wait. We docked at Twin Rivers since it was getting dark and did not want to proceed further. The next day we were sitting in the mud. We were told there would be enough water at the docks there, but not so! By the time the tide rose the next day, it was too late to leave. SO, the next day, we headed up to Pete’s Pier. There we had .6 under our keel at low tide. We were lucky to have a good weather window and by leaving at 0900, were able to make it down the river and to the Gulf during high tide. If we didn’t leave that day, we would have had to wait 2 weeks for the tide to roll around with enough daylight to get to Tarpon Springs.
    Both towns were nice and worth the stop, however, the tides would make the deciding factor. It was a bit tricky with the timing.
    Barbara and Jim Benjamin and Golden Retriever, Lily
    Golden Lily, Nordic Tug 42

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To Crystal River’s Entrance Channel

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine

  • Sunken Chain Reported West of Crystal River Barge Canal (Florida’s Big Bend Region), 11/14/11

    We have plotted the reported position of the “sunken chain” detailed in the cherry picked “Local Notice to Mariners” below, and it lies some 1.6 nautical miles west, of the westernmost of the barge canal markings which eventually split into two marked passages farther to the east. All these complicated channels are found between the Crystal and Withlacoochee Rivers.
    Cruisers plying the Big Bend region between the Crystal and Withlacoochee Rivers should avoid this hazard, and be on the lookout for the “danger sign” described below, which marks this obstruction.
    The Salty Southeast Crusiers’ Net is establishing a Navigational Alert for these waters.

    FLORIDA-WEST COAST-CRYSTAL RIVER TO HORSESHOE POINT: Hazard to Navigation.
    The Coast Guard received a report of an anchor 450ft of chain dropped 20NM west of Crystal River Barge Canal in approximate position 28-55.5N – 082-59.9W. A 24” buoy and a danger sign are marking the hazard. Mariners are requested to exercise caution while transiting the area [Ref STP BNM 1148-11] Chart 11408

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To A “Navigation Alert” Position at The Reported Position of the Sunken Chain Described Above

  • Good Report on River Haven Marina (Western Florida Big Bend Region, Steinhatchee River)

    River Haven Marina is the most upstream facility catering to cruising size craft on the Big Bend’s Steinhatchee River.

    We had a very pleasant experience at River Haven Marina Sept.12,2011. We were running late and called and told them we would probably not get there by their 1800 closing and to please give us our slip assignment. They said not to worry they would stay until we got there. As it turned out were were only minutes late but appreciated their kind attention. We actually stayed an extra night and enjoy a dink ride up the river,secure in the advice they gave us about the rocks ahead.
    They also offered to pick up a prescription for us at a pharmacy 20mi away. River Haven will go 20 times the extra mile for their customers.
    Dolores Reinecke

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of River Haven Marina

  • A Good Visit to Sea Hag Marina (Western Florida Big Bend Region – Steinhatchee River)

    We have long held the opinion that Sea Hag Marina is the most cruiser friendly facility in Florida’s Big Bend region. Looks like Captain Dye agrees!

    Cruising News:
    I had a great experience at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, Florida. I was helping the new owner of a 1982 Egg Harbor move his new purchase from Punta Gorda to Destin. Because of weather and maintenance issues, we decided to go into Steinhatchee. The marina isn’t a regular stop for transient cruisers, but Sea Hag was easy to get into and they welcomed us. We explained the maintenance
    issues and they said, “No problem.” Thorough, professional, clean and technically competent, they did an amazing job! Charlie Norwood is the owner and ever-present. His professional and friendly personality permeates the entire organization. Sea Hag is one of those pleasant finds while cruising.
    Jake Dye

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Sea Hag Marina

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