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 Slips are now available!! On the brand new Dock 5. For information please call (727) 893-7329 or 800 782 8350Boca Grande Marina, Gasparilla Island, Florida239 461-0775 Legacy Harbour Marina entrance is located on the Okeechobee Waterway East of Marker #49 on the Caloosahatchee River. The Marina is situated two blocks from historic downtown Fort Myers and three blocks from the historic Edison-Ford Winter Estates. The Marina's 131-Slips range in size from 40 feet to 80 feet and can accommodate Transient Boats of 100 feet plus. The large Fairways make our slips easily accessible. Our slips are surrounded by one of the largest 'floating breakwaters' on the Gulf of Mexico. The floating docks are state-of-the-art. Legacy Harbour Marina is a full-featured facility with all the modern conveniences of home including pump-out station, heated pool, fitness center, full electric metered at the slip, cable TV, laundry, air-conditioned showers and wireless Internet connections available. The Boaters' Lounge is available for relaxing after a cruise or for private parties. The view from the lounge is spectacular! Our grounds are beautifully manicured and provide great strolling along the river with benches, Chickee Hut, and excellent access to all of historic Fort Myers. Please take a few moments to browse our website and see for yourself what our  beautiful boating facility can offer you the next time you are cruising in Southwest Florida.Southwest Florida YachtsLocated at Mile Marker 135 on the Okeechobee Waterway, 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers Yacht Basin is a well designed and protected marina. It is owned and operated by the City ofGulf Harbour Marina    
ICW Marker 73, 4.5 miles from Gulf of Mexico  
14490 Vista River Dr.,
Fort Myers, FL 33908
gulfharbourmarina@comcast.netPink Shell Beach Resort and MarinaTwin Dolphin Marina, 1000 1st Ave. West, Bradenton, Florida 34205-7852, 941.747.8300  -  fax 941.745.2831, e-mail:
Punta Gorda, Florida - a GREAT cruising destinationRiviera Dunes Marina Just off Tampa Bay Owned and Operated by BoatersThe 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, FlRegatta Pointe MarinaSt. Andrew's MarinaFisherman's Village Marina and Resort, Punta Gorda, FLThe Town of Fort Myers Beach proudly operates and maintains the Matanzas Harbor Municipal Mooring Field. The field boasts 70 mooring balls available for public rental year-round, and accommodates vessels up to 48 feet in length. The mooring field is located east of the Sky Bridge between San Carlos and Estero Islands in Matanzas Pass. For recreational cruisers, the Fort Myers Beach Mooring Field is a wonderful destination. Coming ashore at the Town’s dinghy dock puts boaters in walking distance to beaches, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and public transportation. Mooring ball rental fees are $13/day or $260/month. All renters MUST register with Matanzas Inn upon arrival. The dinghy dock is available for public use to tie up dinghies 10’ or less (no overnight tie-ups). The dock is located beneath the Sky Bridge between Matanzas Inn Restaurant and the public fishing pier.

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

  • 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
    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!

    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.
    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

    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,

    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:
    St Marks
    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.

  • 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

    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.

    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

  • Hernandon Beach Channels To Be Dredged (Western Florida Big Bend Region)

    Hernando Beach is a small community with a little used (by visitors anyway) channel, which lies north of Western Florida’s Anclote Key, and south of Homosassa River. I sounded these channels some years ago, and found them so shoally, that I have never recommended them to visiting cruisers. So, the dredging reported below in the Local Notice to Mariners, could hardly be bestowed on waters that need such a project more.

    B.C. Peabody Construction Services dredging operations ongoing through January 1, 2012 in the Hernando Beach Channel, Hernando Beach, Florida. The mechanical Dredges “800” (orange 800 Hitachi excavator) and “400” (yellow 400 Komatsu excavator) will conduct operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will monitor channel VHF 68. Hydraulic Dredge and all associated pipeline has been removed from the channel. Associated workboats are material barges, push boats skiffs and a secondary barge with smaller yellow excavator “200”. Barges will continue to be spudded down in the channel and material barges will be constantly moving material. All watercraft will be lighted and clearly marked. Hernando County Parks & Recreation is working closely with B.C. Peabody. For further information please contact the Project Manager, Mr. Wayne Konga, 941-545-6188. Chart 11409

  • Hazard to Navigation, Hernanco Beach Channel

    The waters west of Hernanco Beach are extremely shallow and Hernanco Beach Channel leads westward to depths of less than 3 feet. The daybeacons mentioned below do not show on Chart 11409. Dredging is in progress in this area until September 2, 2011

    The Coast Guard received a report of a sunken 25ft S/V with 2 masts showing above the waterline in approximate position 28-29.9N 082-40.1W in the channel between Hernando Beach Channel DBN 64 (LLNR 27770) and Hernando Beach Channel DBN 66 (LLNR 27780). [Ref: STP BNM 877-11] Chart 11409

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Hernanco Beach Channel

  • Aids to Navigation and Signs Being Updated on Suwannee River Entrance Channel

    Well, this work couldn’t come too soon, as there have been some aids in these waters for years that didn’t mark any channel at all. Even the main Suwannee River Channel can only be relied upon to carry 4 1/2 feet at MLW.
    Once over the entrance bar, however, the Suwannee is one of the Big Bend region’s most delightful streams, with beautiful scenery and multiple anchorage possibilities. So, if new markers can really help captains make better use of this delightful river, so much the better for the cruising community.

    FLORIDA-WEST COAST-SUWANNEE RIVER AND SALT CREEK: Repair & Replacement of Aids and Information Signs
    Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has contracted for the repair and replacement of the Aids to Navigation (ATON) and Information Signs at Salt Creek, West Pass/Alligator Pass and McGriff Channel (Wadley Pass) at the entrance to the Suwannee River and Salt Creek. This includes the replacement of the channel entrance marine aids to navigation lanterns at GPS: N 29° 14.58222 ‘ W 083° 11.78629′ (entrance to Alligator Pass Channel) and McGriff Channel (Wadley Pass) N 29° 18.57992 ‘ W 083° 12.01615′. The project started on May 18, 2011 and is expected to be completed by mid June 2011.
    Any questions, please contact FWC Captain Richard Moore or Dawn Griffin at (850) 488-5600.
    Chart 11408

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of A Portion of the Suwannee River Entrance Channel

  • Sunken/Derelict Sportsfish Craft Reported Well Outside of Cedar Key/Main Ship Channel (Florida’s Big Bend Region)

    Cedar Key, for those of you who have never transited Florida’s waterwayless Big Bend region, is a port of call between the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers. There is an astounding “S” turn in this passage as one begins the approach to the village of Cedar Key, that has brought many mariners to grief.
    We have charted the reported position of the sunken vessel noted below, and it seems to lie well outside the Cedar Key Main Ship Channel, which many locals refer to as the “Seahorse Key Channel.” Thus, this derelict will hopefully be of little concern to cruising mariners.

    The Coast Guard received a report of a 27FT BLUE derelict sport vessel submerged 1320 yards NW of Cedar Keys Main Channel Light 7 (LLNR 29765) with 15FT of its mast above the waterline in approximate position 29-05.45N 083-04.51W. All mariners are advised to exercise caution while transiting the area. Chart 11408

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Cedar Key Main Ship Channel Near the Site of the Derelict Noted Above

  • Excellent Report on Cruising Crytal River (Florida’s Big Bend Region)

    Our thanks to fellow cruisers Todd and Branda Lanning for a superb report on this Big Bend River. Moving north from Anclote Key, Crystal River is really the first of the Big Bend stream really suitable for cruising size craft. There is Homosassa River to the south, BUT iffy depths here and the lack of facilities for vessels over 30 feet usually entice us to continue on to Crystal River.

    Good Morning Claiborne,
    As per your request here is the latest & greatest on Crystal River, FL. Life’s2Short had a wonderful 3 days in the fresh waters of Kings Bay, always nice to rinse off the salt that one accumulates as they cruise north & south along the gulf coast! This is our fourth time up to Crystal River and has become one of our favorite west coast stops. We anchored in a new spot this time that is even better protected than the main waters of Kings Bay, the new anchorage is on east and then south of the main anchorage on the backside of the island located in Kings Bay. We did dinghy over to Pete’s Pier to take a look around and get some ice. Nothing has changed over there, still a pretty run down marina with no apparent need to fix anything up. I’m not badmouthing the marina as it’s still a good place to go if you need a slip, however we much prefer anchoring out in this wonderful area!
    Depths in the channel leading into the river seem to have remained steady since we were last here in 2009. All depths listed below are actual water depths and with the “Shell Island” tide station showing 1 foot above low tide. We found that you need to approach the outside markers on a due west-to-east line when you are within a 1/2 mile of markers #1 & #2, depths on this line are all about 7 to 8 feet deep. We hugged the green #1 marker as we came in and never saw less than 8 feet between #1 & #2. Only two areas we found that were somewhat skinny. Between markers #5 & #6 we registered an actual depth of 6.5 feet and then again around Shell Island we found 6 feet of actual depth. We also tended to hold to the green markers before getting to Shell Island. The key to getting through the Shell Island area is to hang close to Shell Island when you pass by. After Shell Island the depths are fine and you can relax for the 6 miles on up this beautiful river, getting pushed along with the incoming tide!
    I know many people are leery about heading up this river because of depth. Life’s2Short draws 4 feet so we had no issues whatsoever. If I was taking in a 5′ draft boat I would wait until 1/2 tide rising, and I would have no issue taking in a 6 foot draft boat if I went at high tide.
    This area is truly a gem on the west coast of Florida and should not be missed if you have the time as you are headed up or down the coast!
    Todd & Brenda Lanning
    1985 40′ Oceania Trawler

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Anchorage Directory Listing For the Crystal River – Kings Bay Anchorage

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Crystal River – Kings Bay Anchorage

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

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

  • A Visit to Cedar Key, Florida (Big Bend Region)

    Like Captain Duffie (see below), I have always been thoroughly unimpressed with Cedar Key as a port of call. Bob does a good job detailing the lack of dockage below, but also note that the principal (but not the only) entrance cut, Seahorse Key Channel, contains an “S” loop that has to be seen to be believed. Even if you know it’s there and are watching for this hazard, it’s easy to run aground.

    I recently visited Cedar Key by land. While you can anchor there are no docks to tie up at. I also believe the anchorages don’t provide any shelter. I talked to a sailor that keeps a boat at about the only
    decent slip at the Cedar Cove Hotel. The harbor there was badly damaged in a hurricane several years ago and has not been fixed. The town is not boat friendly. They got money to build a dock and made the
    surface so high there is no way to tie up but it does function as a fishing pier. There is a nice sheltered harbor but it has a low bridge across the entrance so larger boats can’t get into it. It’s a real shame because the town is very interesting and like a small scale version of Key West. There are lots of good restaurants, art shops, etc. You can see more at my blog post at
    Bob Duthie
    Katy Leigh 36GB Classic

    My wife and I spent our honeymoon at Cedar Key in the summer of 1987. We’ve been back once, for our 10 year anniversary, in 1997. We remember it as being quaint and quiet, with very friendly people, (two or three different families invited us to their homes for dinner during our original stay!) great restaurants, fantastic local art, all with a very out of the way feel.
    We also remember it being not very boat friendly, at least where non-commercial fishing and non-trailer-boat interests were concerned. Weekends, the place filled with trailer-boaters from nearby Gainesville and Ocala. While we were there, one sailboat was in the ‘anchorage’ (the outer part; the low bridge over the entrance to the very tiny harbor had about 15′ of clearance.) staying only two or three nights.
    We were left with the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the folk there are happy with the way things are, that facilities to draw in cruising yachts aren’t really wanted. It would seem little has changed.
    Bill & Lisa Ballard

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Cedar Key

  • Sea Hag Marina (Steinhatchee River – Florida’s Big Bend Section)

    During our trips to the Steinhatchee River, Sea Had has always seemed to us to be the most welcoming spot for cruising size craft.

    We greatly enjoyed Sea Hag Marina close to the mouth of the Steinhatchee River. I am not sure if they allow liveaboards or not.
    They had a nice laid back attitude . A lot of small charter fishing boats go out from from there and it was fun watching the fishermen come in, in the evenings with their catches. It seemed like the whole town would gather at the fish cleaning stations to check out the catches .
    Glenn & Joanne Dean
    River Rats

    I would guess , that Sea Hag has about 50 to a 100 wet slips . They can accommodate deeper draft boats on the ends of their docks.
    The person who said there’s not a lot to do is right. Its a small community , in the middle of nowhere. If you are looking for a lot of action , you would get bored pretty quick. But that’s what we liked about it, was its small town atmosphere .
    Glenn & Joanne Dean
    River Rats

    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

  • New Fueling System at Sea Hag Marina (Western Florida’s Big Bend Region, Steinhatchee River)

    Sea Hag is really the only marina on the Steinhatchee River that is really geared towards cruising craft 34 feet and larger.

    NEW FUELING SYSTEM – Sea Hag Marina now has fueling on the entire first T-Dock! THis allow for fueling at the channels edge where most of the large transients tie up.
    Danielle Norwood

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

  • Thoughts on Crossing Florida’s Big Bend Region in the Fall

    The messages below have been copied from the AGLCA mail list. Captain Tom gives some very good advice about crossing the “waterwayless” Big Bend region of the Sunshine State, particularly his note about lower than normal tides during the fall months. Some of the other messages reproduced below give very specific info concerning some of the Big Bend rivers and ports of call. There is a wealth of good data in these notes, which is worth the attention of anyone planning on cruising these waters.

    There are some good points made recently on crossing the Gulf and going around the Big Bend. Bob Stone has said it very well. One thing to not forget is that come October and November, the “winter tides” set in as the prevailing winds shift from the northeast and blow the Big Bend channels and the Panhandle dry. This is typically 1-2 feet below the charted low water level. High tides are essential for going in or out of channels and those are 14 hours apart when the daylight hours are less. My fellow Loopers aren’t mentioning what month they were successful in using these Big Bend channels, but today would be an excellent choice.
    The folks at St. Marks may not agree that they are a good spot to be in a hurricane storm, even a small one. They certainly got beat up a few years ago. Most of the town was flooded as were the docks.
    More as the typical “crossing time” approaches,
    Meanwhile, stay safe,

    Our boat draws five feet and we have been to Steinhatchie and Cedar Key. We need one foot above low tide to clear the Steinhatchee channel. The floating green channel marker is in the area of least depth. There was only one floating marker in the channel. The others were fixed.
    We can not access Cedar Key via the North West channel. It has shoaled in. The Main Ship Channel is deep enough for us to access Cedar Key. Pay close attention to Skipper Bob’s directions for the Main Ship channel as you converge on the North West channel.
    Suggest mid tide or better for both locations.
    Jim & Pam Shipp
    aboard Silver Boots

    We will hopefully be crossing around November 7th. We draft 3′ 6″, but are still concerned about the depths if we take the big bend route. We would also like to do the crossing with someone else. We will be on our 3rd leg of a half loop (left from Illinois and will end up in South Carolina. Our 43ft. Wellcraft San Removed is currently at Demopolis Yacht Basin ready to depart on October 31st. We would love to meet up with anyone going that way. We plan on reaching Apalachicola by the following weekend for the seafood festival.

    Can only speak for St. Marks. After you cross the center chanel, go north through 63 buoys (approximately 7 miles). The St. Marks River is well marked and maintained by the CG. The CG keeps it dredged to 10 or 12 feet (up to buoy 63). There are 4 tides a day and are usually in the 1.5 feet range. Both Lynns Marina and Shields Marina are friendly and can dock your vessel. Just up the Wakulla River is the St. Marks Yacht Club and Shell Island Fish Camp. Shell Island Fish Camp is too shallow for your draft. It is an easier walk from Shields to a small store and 2 restaurants. 4.5′ draft is no problem. Both Marinas & the Yacht Club are good places to get out of a Gulf storm.
    Good luck.

    We made this run with no problems in a boat that only goes 15 knots (but it’s bigger) and there’s nothing particular about doing it Northbound. You do want to arrive in daylight though.
    Use PassageWeather – and click to get the Gulf of Mexico graphical forecasts, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to the wave height forecast and click “animate” so ti will show forecast wave heights for up to one week out, by segments of the days. I have found it to be better than NOAA or other weather sites for Gulf wave height forecasts.

  • Crossing Florida’s Big Bend

    I have said it before, and will probably say it many times again. If you get six veteran Western Florida cruisers together, they will express seven different opinions about the best way to cross the Sunshine State’s waterwayless “Big Bend” region. There are two basic strategies. You can cut the corner and head straight for Carrabelle or Panama City (if you are northbound), or for Anclote Key and Tarpon Springs (if you are southbound), OR follow the coastline around as it curves, staying well offshore. The advantage of the “corner cutting” route is that it’s shorter, and the “Big Bend Route” allows you to duck into one of the coastal rivers if the weather turns nasty. However, all of the Big Bend rivers have shallow, sometimes tortuous entrance channels.
    Few know these waters better than Captain Alan Lloyd, so I’ve copied his note below from the AGLCA mailing list.

    I would not wish make a 180 mile run across open water in a 25 foot boat. For one thing, I could not be certain the weather would be consistent all the way across. As a minimum, I would make an intermediate stop at Steinhatchee. A second option would be stops at Crystal River and Steinhatchee. Although a 20 mile side trip, Crystal River is a popular stop for loopers and manatees! A third option is a stop at Suwannee River. This is halfway between Tarpon Springs and Carrabelle. Loopers do not normally include Suawannee River since the entrance is too shallow but I believe a C-Dory could make it in and then enjoy 20 miles up river to Springs State Park. I have made this crossing three times using each of the above options.
    Alan Lloyd
    Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes

    I’ve only crossed once, and going south – but we made the crossing in a 23’ 5” cuddy-walkaround with a single 225 HP outboard with a WOT top speed of ~35-37MPH. It was at the end of June (2008) and indeed, we ran into
    weather. Weather bad enough to cause us to look for a safe harbor; and we found one that no one ever talks about or mentions – Horseshoe Beach. Luckily, we worked our way there with sufficient tide to navigate the
    channel in a skinny part of the Gulf. A call to “anyone familiar with the Horseshoe Beach channel” gave us the confidence to run the channel after a Sea Tow operator answered our call.
    Aside from what Alan mentioned, and Horseshoe Beach at higher tide, I know of no alternatives for a safe haven. (There’s the Withlacoochee River, but that’s not too far north of your departure and near Crystal River.) Since
    the storm we tried to avoid gave us some warning, we were already trying to stay closer to shore than originally planned.
    Our crossing was fine without the storm and many similar size boats make it easily. That doesn’t mean that you may not want to stop and smell the roses. It’s just those darn storms and sometimes higher winds that require
    vigilance and good risk management skills are in order.
    Stats and info from log: (We only went from Carrabelle, to my home inHudson Florida.)

    • Total mile run expected to cross the Gulf, (slip-to-slip)
    o 170
    • Total miles to actually cross the Gulf to the Sea Pines channel marker #1
    o 188
    • Total elapsed hours from Carrabelle, through Horseshoe Beach, to mooring
    at Hudson public
    o 11 ½, including about a 2-hour layover in Horseshoe Beach
    • Average underway speed across the Gulf
    o 20.8 statute MPH (18.1 knots)
    • Total gallons of fuel to top off the tank at the near-completion of our
    journey (including
    replenishment of the 3 extra gallons we carry for emergencies, and used)
    o 99.5 – the fuel tank holds 101

    As you can see, the seas slowed us drastically from the WOT capabilities of the boat. BTW, Horseshoe Beach has virtually no services except a restaurant where we had the best Gulf shrimp I’ve ever had in my life.
    Kitty Nicolai

    I made this run in Dec 2008 – same direction you’re travelling. Due to sea conditions we had to seek a safe haven. We went into the Steinhatchee River. This is a friendly port as long as you enter and
    depart in daylight. We left Steinhatchee the next day and completed the trip into Appalachicola.

  • Thoughts on Crossing Florida’s Big Bend Section

    For those who have never ventured north of Clearwater and Anclote Key on the Western Florida shoreline, be advised there is NO protected intracoastal waterway that serves this section of the Florida coastline. So, to cross this section, a basic choice must be made. You can either cut the corner and head straight for Carrabelle and Dog Island (or Apalachicola, or Panama City), or you can follow the Big Bend coastline around, staying SEVERAL miles offshore to avoid the huge shelf of shallows that extend out into the Gulf’s waters in this region. The former route puts you well out to sea (or “Gulf” in this case), and is often undertaken at night by southbounders to avoid arriving at the crab pot infested waters near Anclote Key after dark. If bad weather threatens, you may be out of luck.
    The nearer shore, or, as it’s often called, “Big Bend Route” has the advantage of allowing mariners to duck in to the various rivers which penetrate this section of the Sunshine State’s coastline, but all of these have long, sometimes tortuous entrance channels, and none are what could accurately be described as “deep.”
    Get four experienced cruisers together to talk about crossing the Big Bend, and you will get at least five opinions, maybe six. So, in that vein, below is an exchange which originally appeared on the GL (Great Loop) mail list.

    You have to run out a few miles off shore before running up and down thecoast but otherwise, no special navigation issues are present. Back in the days before GPS and depth sounders, the long low coast was probably much more difficult to deal with. But with a chart plotter and keeping track of where you are on the charts, there is nothing particularly difficult. Cedar Key was the most complicated area and as long as you took your time and stayed in the channel, it wasn’t too difficult.
    St Marks Channel is unlikely to be much help as a bail out point. It’s so far off the route, that it’s almost always closer to turn back or forge ahead. Unless the wind and waves left that as the only reasonable direction to travel, but with it being a daytime crossing, wait for a good weather window and it shouldn’t be a problem. Yes, the weather report isn’t always right, but waiting can minimize the chance of problems and it’s not a sin to turn back if it’s worse than expected.
    Lose power off just about any coast and you may be in trouble. Assuming you are running in 6-8 ft of water, and conditions aren’t bad, it should be relatively simple to drop the hook and sort things out without running aground.
    Unless you want to do an overnight run (or are fast enough to run to Tarpon Springs during daylight), I highly recommend the coastal route [Big Bend Route] for a nice look at what Florida used to look like before it got overbuilt.
    Mike & Tammy
    Valhalla II

    I agree with you Mike. My boat only drafts three feet but it would not have been difficult with a deeper drafted boat. And, the rivers of the big bend should not be missed in my humble opinion. Steinhatchee (rhymes with bean) and St Marks were beautiful!! If I had to do it again I think I’d pass on Carrabelle and stay in Apalachicola. Something had taken the life/hope out of the people I met in Carrabelle (could have just been an off day for the locals).
    Besides that it’s not hard navigating and since I was solo and on a slow boat it made sleeping easier!

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