Not only is Pelican Bay one of the best series of anchorages on the western coastline of the Sunshine State, but it is also one of the most discussed. Back on 11/12/12 (we published a whole series of messages about this overnight haven, and its adjacent Florida State Park – see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=102473).
But, as I’ve often said, there’s no such thing as too much information when you are on the water, so there are two more observations concerning this anchorage copied from the AGLCA forum.
Alan is absolutely correct about Pelican Bay; it’s one of the premier anchorages you will find anywhere. However, “local knowledge” is important getting in there. Neither the approach to the bay, nor its entrance channel, are marked. So, ass/u/ming you are southbound on the G-ICW, turn west at a point south of G “75,” and about 200′ north of R “74.” Note that just off the shoreline, there is a Florida Speed Sign visible. Head toward that sign. Just before you reach the sign, turn SW and follow the line of the beach on Cayo Costa Island there, holding your course parallel to the beach and holding the shore close by to stbd at 50′ – 75′. Yes, a boat length or slightly more off the beach line. That “channel” carries 9′ of water, but it shoals very rapidly to the south, to 3′ or less. Many, many unwary boats go aground there. When you have passed by the beach, you will
see the Cayo Costa State Park docks at your 11 o’clock, at a distance of about 1/2 to 3/4 miles. Aim at those docks, and set a rhumb line to them until you are past the shallowest water. There are slips there, with no services, but cruising boats generally can’t use them. Only the very outermost slips carry sufficient water depth. The dock tee heads are reserved for tour boats, of which there are several that ply those waters. Plan to anchor. The bottom is sand, and the holding is excellent.
The gulf coast of Florida has diurnal tides; that is, one high and one low per day. Water depths are lowest in the morning and moderate to high in the mid-to-late afternoon. The tidal range at Pelican Bay is only about 2′. The rhumb line from the beach to the State Park docks will get down to 5-1/2′ at MLLW. By the time you get to the docks, you’ll see 6-1/2′ or more. There is a deep pool correctly charted on the current charts that carries 9′, which is the deepest water in the bay. Some older charts that are still widely circulated do not show that 9′ pool correctly. If you do not see that deep pool, you do not have the current charts of the basin. The basin is actually a “pass” between Cayo Costa Island to the west and Punta Blanco Island to the east. To the south from Pelican Bay, the water appears visually to be open; but, it is shoal, and not navigable by cruising draft boats. The only access back to the G-ICW from Pelican Bay is the one to the north of Punta Blanco Island, described above.
Armed with this “local knowledge,” you will find Pelican Bay to be a delightful, well protected anchorage with a lot to see and do.
Hope this is useful.
There are two really good anchorages near Boca Grande entrance to Charlotte Harbor. The second is Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa. This is one of our favorites. Many people avoid it because of the shoal at the entrance. Just hug the beach – stay 25-50 feet off the beach and you will be in 6-9 feet of water. We draw 4.5 feet and anchor here a lot. The beach and park at Cayo Costa are great and again the park is only accessible by boat.
Marty & Jerry Richardson
Pelican Bay is right in my backyard, and I have been there a number of times. The descriptions above are reasonable, although the details change often.
However, the discussion about tides is not correct. The tides in this part of the world cycle from diurnal to semidiurnal twice each month. The diurnal tides are near full moon and new moon, while the semidiurnal tides are near the first and third quarters. There is also an important annual component. The lowest tides tend to be mid-day in the winter and mid-night in the summer.
There are no simple rules that can be conveniently remembered. Even thought the average tidal range is only a couple of feet, tide tables are essential if depth is important to you.
The nun has now been replaced with a post R74. We were just there 1/20/13.