Can a 4.5 foot draft get into Pelican Bay? (Cayo Costa near Useppa/Cabbage Key)
I tried yesterday but didn’t find depth to be comfortable. was stirring when we backed out….and I’m still learning to deal with the skinny Florida waters!
I used to take my 5′ draft sailboat in there all the time. Put your right foot on the beach. The deep water is that close. Before you get to the end of the beach, about 3/4 of the way in, turn left and head toward the rangers’dock. If you have a chart plotter, it will show you the shallow spots to avoid. There is a 9′ deep hole past the ranger’s dock.
I have been in there several times with my 4.5 foot draft. When you head in from the ICW marker which is now 74 (I think) stay to the extreme right when you approach the entrance. If it seems that you are too far right you probably are in the right place…almost on the bank. Once in look at your chart for the deepest water. In the season you can expect to see several dozen boats of all sizes and drafts anchored. It is a very popular spot. The only tricky part is the entrance.
As RC said, head east from the ICW around R74. There is a Florida-type speed zone sign at the north shore of the entrance, which is easily visible from the ICW. Use that sign as a guide. Head for it, and run to about 50 ft of it. Then turn slightly to port to parallel the north shoreline of the opening between Cayo Costa and Punta Blanco Island. Stay about 50 ft off the beach there. You will undoubtedly think you’re too close to the shore, but that line carries 8 ft or more into Pelican Bay. As you pass by the beach, visually locate (about 11:30 to your course) and aim toward the government docks at Cayo Costa. Note that the water depth will shallow to around 6 1/2 ft along that rhumb line, but you won’t have any trouble. When you get to the area of the docks, MAKE SURE TO USE the newest charts of the bay to navigate. There are older paper charts around that do not show the area correctly. The newer charts show a 9 ft pool in the area to the south and east of the docks in the ceter of Pelican Bay. If you have that chart, you cal also navigate a bit further south, and then turn northeast past a spit of land that comes off Punta Blanco Island to the east. On the east shore, the water is deep all the way up to the mangroves. Watch your depth sounder, and Tuck yourself up there in 10 ft of water for an excellent storm anchorage. If you need help in the area, contact the rangers at Cayo Costa. They can and do arrange for everything up to, and including, air evac.
Peg and Jim Healy
Currently north for the Holidays
It has been YEARS since I tried Pelican Bay. This was basck when my late husband and I were SAILORS witha 4′ draft. We were the last ones ‘in’ for a yacht club weekend and I guess that was a ‘good thing’ albeit embarassing! We ran aground even though we thought we were carefully following directions! At least the boats already anchored well inside were able to then tell us what to do.
Following the right shore closely as described is good but rying to figure when to make that sharp turn to port and for how long…well, that’s another thing! Also, the whole cruise was a near disaster, we lost our dinghy, watched as she slowly drifted astern…luckily we roused our friends who ‘caught it’ for us. Then, when we started off to the coctail party, realized we were dragging anchor…then the whole RAFT of boats where the party was, made the same discovery! That entire bay is very shallow AND has a GRASS BOTTOM! Choose your anchor accordingly! We later spend an miserable stormy night anchor-watching.
Other than that, it’s a neat place from which to explore. At the south end of Cayacosta is ‘Lover’s Lane’ a dinghy-sized passageway through the mangroves to the south end of the beach. It is fun and if you’re interested, it IS an unproclaimed ‘nude beach’. Enjoy! Very unpopulated!
There are some options however. Try going to starboard as you enter Boca Grand’s southern access and go into the bayou there. You drop a for’d anchor then back into the mangroves and tie off the stern to the mangroves. Dinghy is a MUST for this and help is needed! With luck you can dinghy across to the dock and go ashore to a fabulous restaurant, Pink Elephant. Unfortunately the fishermen seem to have dibbs on that dock…
To your stern, beyond the row of mangroves, is the golf course which is popular with the Bush family and the Duponts who occupy a large compound on the island.
Another favorite option is anchoring out in the halfmoon bay just west of the private island just south of Pelican Bay and directly across from Cabbage Key. Brain freeze there, sorry, but you can’ t go on the island anyhow unless you have an ‘IN’. From that ancorage you can still explore all the places mentioned above. I don’t care for the restaurant at Cabbage KEy but
most do. When I used to go there the harbor master was one nasty sob. Don’t know about now…I’ve been in THAT ancorage too in a storm, not nice so watch you weather! HAvea a great time, I sometimes miss being there! PS the marinas on Gasparilla IS aka Boca Grande are very expensive.
Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For Pelican Bay Outer Anchorage
Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For Pelican Bay – Park Service Docks Anchorage
Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For Pelican Bay – Punta Blanca Island Anchorage Anchorage