The series of messages below are copied from “The Cruisers’ Forum” (http://www.cruisersforum.com/), an alternate information outlet highly recommended by everyone here at the SSECN!
If you are not familiar with Sarasota, this community actually has two inlets, Big (Sarasota) Pass and New Pass. Having sounded both many times over the years, I can say unequivocally that I do NOT recommend that cruising size craft use either seaward passage. Even with the info very thoughtfully provided by the Sarasota Yacht Club (see below), it’s a dicey proposition at best to run Big Pass. Don’t even think about trying New pass!
A FAR safer plan is to come inside or out into the briny blue via naturally deep Venice Pass to the south or Longboat Pass, just to the north. Some of you may very well have a different opinion about all of this, and we would very much like to hear from you. Please use the “Comment” function below, or follow the “Click Here to Contribute Cruising News” link on the upper, right of this, and all (except Chart View) SSECN pages.
A few weeks ago we called a local towing comp. for local knowledge. Fog offshore was very thick. My plan was to enter Sarasota Bay skipping Venice inlet and the company advised us to go further north to Longboat Pass. When I called the bridge tender, he said I will raise the bridge when I see your vessel………. How is he going to see the vessel if i cant see 50ft in front of the bow? As we turned east there it was a few yards away!!!
After a few days I am wondering if it safe to enter/exit BP. I scouted the inlet from the end of Lido Key and could not see any nav aids west of green 9. Are there nav aids showing the inlet? Controlling depth? I understand that under some conditions (NW, W or SW with strong wind) its not recommended to use the inlet/pass.
It’s a dicey pass. The Sarasota Sailing Squadron has some directions at their website, let me see…
The “pass” at Big Pass moves around a lot, virtually with every heavy weather event, and shoals up very quickly. It would be very foolish to attempt that pass in anything but a very shaol draft yacht. Either come in at Venice and run the ICW or at Longboat Pass although the channel there has moved around a lot as well and does not match the channel that appears on most charts (see various NTM). Note that Longboat is a narrow channel and is subject to sharp, strong, currents. You’ll want to enter there at slack water. If you can’t see the bridge from the channel entrace mark due to fog, continue north and come into Tampa Bay through the Southwest Channel.
We kept our boat on the West coast for two years. It draws 4 feet. Sarasota Pass was always a no go because of the shifting shoals. We used Longboat Pass on a regular basis whenever we entered the intercoastal. It does have considerable current and is quite narrow. The bridge tenders seem to think that a sailboat can approach closely and remain steady in the strong current before they open the bridge. We never followed their orders and held at least 100 yards from the bridge and told them we would approach quickly once the bridge began to open. Numerous times, we had powerboats cut in front of us or attempt to negotiate the small channel at the same time. They were completely clueless. We also experienced a very rude catamaran charter captain, who used the pass daily, try to intimidate us into moving closer before the bridge had begun to open. We had a very serious conversation once both of us passed through the cut. If you choose to use Longboat Pass, be your own captain, exercise caution and safety and you’ll be fine. Be prepared for other boats also making the transit. Good luck and good sailing.
I sail a morgan 28 with a 4.5 draft and have come in and out Big Pass many times. You must check with the Sarasota yacht club, they maintain the bouy markers and are always moving. I have never seen less then 7ft, however it can become very narrow when the monster size boat with his noise high comes barreling through the Chanel with wakes 3-4ft high. As far as being able to moore up a nice spot is just north of the ringling bridge to the east, there is a fishing shop and a nice size cove that will protect from heavey north winds… From Sarasota Bay have fun sailing and hope to see ya around.
I am a local, and the pass is more than just dicey these days. Over the past year…last week we sailed our Mariner 31 outside and back, drawing 3’10″, and saw 5’6″ at high tide. That’s down from 7′ only a few months ago. Be careful if you must come into Big Pass, pretend you are a large barge and make wide turns around the floating markers on your way in.