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The Salty Southeast
Cruisers' Net
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Archive For: WEST FL – All Cruising News

  • Southwest Florida Yachts (North Fort Myers, FL) Addis PDQ 34-Foot Catamaran to Their Charter Fleet

    Southwest Florida YachtsWe simply can’t praise our good friends, Barbara and Vic Hansen at Southwest Florida Yachts enough. Not only are these good people a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, but they also offer one of the best power and sail charter fleets in Florida, and all within easy cruising distance of the cruising rich waters of Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. What’s not to like?

    PDQ 34-Foot Catamaran Joins Charter Fleet at Southwest Florida Yachts
    Named ChriSea, the roomy power cat has two queen bed cabins and offers economical cruising in the Pine Island-Sanibel-Captiva corridor
    NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla., April 5, 2012 –Southwest Florida Yachts has added a new PDQ 34 Power Cat – ChriSea — to its charter fleet for cruising the scenic Pine Island-Sanibel-Captiva corridor.
    The spacious catamaran features two cabins with queen-sized beds, a fully-equipped galley and a roomy head with a separate shower. It has a large dinette with a settee that converts to an extra large bed for additional sleeping room. Amenities include a generator, color TV, washer and dryer, and a CD player with stereo speakers. The skipper’s array of navigation and operation electronics includes GPS and autopilot.
    Barb Hansen of Southwest Florida yachts said the power vessel is economical to charter and to operate. It charters for only $3273 per week in the summer and $4090 in the winter. The vessel is known for being stingy with gasoline. It is powered by twin Yanmar diesel engines, each generating 100 hp.
    Hansen said summer charters of three days or longer will earn two free days of cruising as part of a three-year celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary in 2014. Winter cruises of three days or more from Dec. 15 to April 30 earn one free day of cruising.
    Hansen said ChriSea is docked at Marinatown Marina in N. Fort Myers. Marinatown Marina provides quick cruising access, via the Caloosahatchee River, to the sheltered Gulf ICW. ChriSea is now part of a fleet of nine power cruisers from 32 to 50 feet The company’s five-boat sailing charter fleet is based at Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda.
    Southwest Florida is ranked as one of the best cruising and sailing areas in the world. Visitors have scored the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva as the best islands to visit for their ambiance, beaches, friendliness, restaurants and scenery.
    For more information about Southwest Florida Yachts and Florida Sailing & Cruising School visit,, Mailing Address: 3444 Marinatown Lane, N.W., N. Fort Myers, FL 33903. Telephone: 800-262-7939 or 239-656-1339, or email

  • Caution for Higel Park Anchorage and Good Words for Fishermens Wharf – Marker 4 Marina, Venice, FL

    Higel Park is a city maintained park with a wooden dock and anchorage for stays up to 18 hours. And, as Capt. Sullivan points out, Fishermens Wharf-Marker 4 Marina lines the northeastern shores of the Western Florida ICW, just northwest of the Hatchett Creek Bridge, and southeast of marker #4.

    Tried to anchor at Higel Park anchorage March 19, 2012, but found it too shallow even for our 3′ draft. Unable to find an anchorage, we docked at Marker 4 Marina which we can recommend. Well protected, good facilities, friendly people, and lower dockage rate than Crow’s Nest. Good restaurant, too. I read they were damaged by the hurricane but they are in business now. Marker 4 Marina is located at Marker 4 just NE of the Tamiami North bridge, just N of the “ditch” going S from Venice. Main business, like Crow’s Nest, is a restaurant [Marker 4 Oyster Bar and Restaurant]. But they have large new floating docks with plenty of space and welcomed us at $2/ft. I didn’t inquire about depth, as we docked at the end and only draw 3′, but there were several large boats there. In the absence of a good anchorage, they would be my first choice at Venice.
    Dennis Sullivan

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Fishermens Wharf Marker 4 Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Fishermens Wharf Marker 4 Marina

  • Detailed Notes on Redfish Pass (off Pine Island Sound/Western Florida ICW, Between Captiva and North Captiva Islands)

    Our thanks to Captain Jay Wheeler for the welcome, in-depth account of the Redfish Pass channel below. Captain Jay also sent us notes on the channel from Redfish Pass to South Seas Resort Marina, which we have posted separately (see

    Cruising News:
    I wanted to shorten my passage from Naples to Useppa and decided to use Captiva Pass. After speaking with Tween Waters and South Seas Resort Marina, they pointed out that Captiva Pass was the only unmarked Passage into Pine Island Sound. Neither of them was familiar with Captiva Pass but they were both familiar with Refish Pass and recommended it over Captiva Pass.
    Unfortunately, my North Star and Garmen Chart Plotter as well as my old NOAA charts are not as up to date as the Chart that you have here on Cruisers Net has online. And, if I had inquired online before i made this voyage, i would have had a much better idea as to what i was facing.
    Coming into Refish pass from the Gulf involves following the correct marker confirguration, which requires red right returning. Even as the bottom [soundings – editor] shown on ALL the charts has not changed in years, AND IS TOTALLY INACCURATE AT THIS TIME, this is after all an inlet and subject to radical changes. The marks to Redfish Pass are marked “private’ but now that South Seas Resort has adopted the traditional Port and Starboard marking configuration, you need to follow that routine when approaching Redfish pass from the Gulf.
    On all the charts there is an outside green marker G 1, which is a good starting place for coming in through the Pass. After you pass G 1, line your self up between the Red N 4 and Green Can 5 and proceed with caution. The locals follow this route and the channel is deep enough to get you past Red Nun 4 and into some very deep water in the center of the Pass. From here you want to look for the first Green marker just off the the NE tip on Captiva and stay inside of it, running in along the shore of the island until you are able to pick up the South Seas Resort channel running from their Marina out to deeper water in a SE direction. Remember to leave the reds, going into Pine Island Sound, in this direction to Starboard, Red- Right- Returning from the Gulf. I did this at almost high tide drawingh 5.5 ft. and had not trouble, once I got the buoys straightened out..
    Coming in through Refish Pass from the Gulf saved me a lot of time heading North to Useppa and Cabbage Key.
    Jay Wheeler

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Redfish Pass

  • South Seas Island Resort Marina Entrance Channel (Statute Mile 13.5)

    Captain Wheeler is quite correct in stating that the entrance channel which leads cruisers from the Western Florida ICW’s run through Pine Island Sound, to South Seas Island Resort Marina, has been completely altered within the last year or so. Several earlier postings here on the Cruisers’ Net have also noted this change, but we thank Captain Jay for pointing it out anew.
    This can be a VERY confusing situation if you arrive without the very latest paper chart aboard, or if your chartplotter still shows the older channel!

    The current Cruisers Net chart [“Chart View” – editor] correctly shows, as several mariners have commented, that the South Seas Marina passage has been completely re-routed. On the OLD NOAA charts and many chart plotter’s, the privately marked channel from the ICW to South Seas Resort Marina runs in an easterly westerly direction. The new channel runs, as has been previously noted, in a sotheasterly to northwestly direction and starts well west off the ICW from Pine Island Sound, as shown on the Cruisers Net chart. The markers are correctly configured port and starboard, so coming in from the ICW, you leave the reds to PORT!
    Jay Wheeler

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For South Seas Island Resort Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of South Seas Island Resort Marina

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Now Readily Available in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties, Florida

    Within ten minutes of receiving the important message below from Captain Hyde, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net was on the telephone with Wise Gas, Inc. to determine their area of service. That’s one of the advantages of being a “non-wicki,” professionally moderated web site. Anyway, what we discovered is a potential boon for cruisers in southeastern Florida. More on that in just a second.
    So, why is a ready source of CNG such big news for the cruising community? Quite simply, CNG is a superior fuel for all on-board cooking and heating purposes, as compared to propane/LPG. As many of you already know, LPG/Propane is heavier than air and, should there be a leak, can accumulate in bilges or a low place in a boat, leading to a potentially explosive situation. Conversely, CNG is lighter than air, and tends to naturally disperse.
    The problem is, as we so clearly learned while formulating the SSECN’s LPG Availability Directories, that CNG is hard to obtain. Quite simply, there are very few dealers to which cruisers have easy access where their CNG tanks can be refilled.
    Back to Wise Gas, Inc. Our telephone call revealed that this company will pick up, refill and deliver back to your vessel, CNG tanks from the “tri-county area” of southeastern Florida, which is comprised of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties. Additionally, WITH ADVANCE ARRANGEMENTS, sometimes the same procedure can be undertaken along the west coast of Florida, particularly in the Tampa Bay region.
    So, while it’s still not a perfect solution, nor one so broad ranging as we would like, at least now from North Palm Beach to Miami, cruisers can be sure of having a source to refill CNG tanks. It’s a start!

    Claiborne —
    On your recent visit to Punta Gorda, Florida I mentioned to you that if I was ever able to locate a source of CNG for those using the gas onboard their boats, I would let you know. I have finally found a source. Wise Gas, Inc., 1058 Bluewood Terrace, Weston, FL 33327 is source of CNG for vessels and vehicles in south Florida. Its website advises the following:

    “At present time, Wise Gas, Inc. is offering CNG tank refills to marine boaters in the South Florida area only. We do anticipate expanding this service in terms of geography and service options in the future. Call Wise Gas, Inc. in advance at (954)-636-4291 to coordinate a CNG refill. A member of our team will meet you, pick up your current, approved cylinder in good condition and refill it for you and deliver it back to you.”
    The cost of this service varies based on cylinder size and location. Call in advance to schedule your refilling needs.
    Phone: (954)-636-4291

    I recently met with a Wise Gas representative who was in Punta Gorda making deliveries on the west coast and exchanged my empty tank for a full one. It was a smooth and convenient process. The cost was $40.
    I would advise your readers to visit the Wise Gas website at for all the information. I hope this helps and thanks for a great presentation to the boaters of Punta Gorda.
    Noel Hyde
    s/v Kismet

  • Marco Island to Naples Waterway Reprise

    The two notes below were actually submitted to the Cruisers’ Net in late March of 2012, in response to an earlier article about the Marco Island (Coon Key Pass) to Naples “waterway,” which appeared in January, 2012 (see However, as there is good data here for Western Florida cruisers, we have put up a fresh posting here to increase visibility.
    This “waterway” that runs from Coon Key Pass, behind Marco Island, and eventually north to Gordon Pass and Naples, is NOT a part of the official (maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers) Western Florida ICW. HOWEVER, for vessels that draw 4 feet or less, this passage is an intriguing alternative to cruising between Marco and Naples.
    There some real navigational quirks, and the depth limitation outlined above is based on one 4 1/2 foot spot, found near Goodland (southern Marco Island). Perhaps the trickiest section is an easy to miss marker, just south of the Goodland Bridge. If you miss that ATON, you’ll be giving Sea Tow some business every time.

    We have run this inside route many times, but only once on a high tide, and that was really easy.
    At below mid tide, skinny.
    Also, don’t forget the markers change at the Marco Bridge, and the chanel takes a strange jog.
    Capt. Sterling

    I headed out in early on this route from Marco to Naples. I draw 4′ on my Hatteras and it was getting too skinny for me so I retraced my steps and went outside. The gulf was calm and we had a lovely cruise south. Turns out a large Searay which ran by me going full out found the bottom and ripped out his running gear. It likely a lovely passage, but very shallow.

  • Don Pedro Island Anchorage (Statute Mile 37, Western Florida ICW)

    The anchorage discussed below lies just off the Western Florida ICW’s trek through Lemon Bay, north of Gasparilla Island and south of Venice. We have always found this to be a pretty good overnight haven, except during full gales.

    We anchored a little further south than where the marker is located on the chart. We found 6 feet at low tide and good holding. No wakes as this is a “no wake” zone on the ICW. A great spot to anchor if you want to visit Don Pedro State Park which is easy to get to by dinghy.
    James Angel

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Anchorage Directory Listing For Don Pedro Island Anchorage

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Don Pedro Island Anchorage

  • Good Times at Clearwater Municipal Marina (Statute Mile 136)

    The direct channel to Clearwater Municipal Marina (there is another entrance from Clearwater Pass Inlet), cuts sharply west, just south of the high-rise Clearwater Beach Bridge. Yes, indeed, Captain Bill is quite right. There is plenty of shopping, dining, and a very nice beach within easy walking distance!

    We pulled into Clearwater Beach Muni a couple of days ago & love it. After a long 23 hour crossing from Panama City we like the beach close, quaint shopping within blocks, & CVS 2 blocks away. The only draw back is the commercial boats constantly in & out of the harbor. I’d still give it high marks.
    Bill Borchert

    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

  • Thoughts on Visiting Everglades City (south of Marco Island)

    Captain Jim Healy, author of the article below, is a frequent contributor here on the Cruisers’ Net, and many other nautical mailing lists/forums. This posting is excerpted from a long submission to the GL (Great Loop) mailing list!
    Like Captain Jim, we love visiting Everglades City and the Rod and Gun Club. This is most certainly a place that time has forgotten, and it is still possible to catch a glimpse of what Florida was like in the days of Baron Collier. Don’t miss it, but do be aware that at low tide, the entrance channel from Indian Key to the Barron River can get as thin as 4 1/2 feet, possibly a little less, in places.

    Definitely go up the Barron River to Everglades City. Stay at the Rod and Gun Club (aka, the Sportsman’s Club). No credit cards; cash or personal checks only! Great, if small, local heritage museum. Truly a glimpse of Old Florida. More great dinghy exploring.
    Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
    Currently at Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, FL
    Monk 36 Hull #132

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For the Rod and Gun Club

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Rod and Gun Club

  • Warm Muffins and Good Food at Sanibel Island Marina (near southerly foot (“Miserable Mile”) of the Western Florida ICW)

    Below, Captain Mike presents a very balance look at this facility, It is accessed via a marked channel, north of Sanibel Island’s southerly, Point Ybel, tip.

    We stayed for 2 nights here 11/12/11 & 11/13/11. This is a very well kept marina. It is fairly small with a limited number of transient slips. The staff was extremely accomodating and their ship store manager Tom is a great guy. Bike rentals are available but it is something you should set up in advance as the bikes are delivered to the marina by a local bike store. Gramma Dots has very good food and stays busy. There is little to do here at the marina itself and you are a ways from shopping so a bike is best. You can walk down to the south end of the island and see the lighthouse at about .5 mile each way (maybe a bit longer). Sanibel Island is a beautiful island but extremely busy in the winter season and is hard to access without transportation. The best part for me about this marina is that warm muffins delivered to your boat with a newspaper every morning! Great stuff! But again, there is little to do in the immediate area and you are a bit out of the way from the main area of the island. Coming prepared with your own bike/s is the best idea to really get around. The owner family of this marina has deep roots in ocean sailing (ie: America’s Cup, etc.).

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

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

  • Burnt Store Marina and Country Club (off the Western Florida ICW on Charlotte Harbor)

    The vast complex known as Burnt Store Marina and Country Club guards the eastern banks of Charlotte Harbor, not far from this body of waters’s southerly mouth. There is just about everything to be found here that a cruiser could ask for, except a nearby town or business district.

    My wife and I live here so my comments may be a bit skewed as we think this is a wonderful marina. It is certainly one of the largest marinas on the west coast of FL. We are a bit isolated but we have three 9-hole golf courses with a club house where you can get pub type foods and beverages. Portabello’s restaurant is the large restaurant located in the south (main) basin that is next to the ship store and fuel dock. Included with your slip fees are a swimming pool and shower house/laundry facilities. Pump outs are also available at the fuel dock. Tennis is available across the street for a fee at the community health club. The closest grocery stores (Publix) are about 9 miles in either direction off of Burnt Store Rd. There is a lot of room for bike riding and walks throughout the community. The whole property is a gated community with 24 hour guard service. If you need a place to stay for a night or a few months this is a great place to hang out. We discovered Burnt Store in 1995 and have been residents since around 2000. If you boat and golf this is a real bonus marina for you! If not it is still one of the best marinas in SW Florida!

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Burnt Store Marina and Country Club

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Burnt Store Marina and Country Club

  • Fishermen’s Village Yacht Basin (off the Western Florida ICW, on Charlotte Harbor/Peace River

    Fishermen’s Village is the largest marina in Punta Gorda, and, unlike the Laisley Park Marina, cruising craft do not have to contend with any bridges to reach this former facility. Just next door to the Fishermens Village Marina is an enclosed shopping and dining complex, and the downtown business is a four to five block walk away. Very convenient!

    Very nice marina. Good restaurants and shopping next door. The marina offers courtesy bikes for no cost with their own bikes and also through the city of Punta Gorda for no cost as well. A very nice bike path takes you east towards Laishley Park and marina with some beautiful views of the river. The path ends in the historic downtown area of Punta Gorda. We highly recommend Fisherman’s Village marina. PS…the locals call it “Fishville”. Now you sound “local”.

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Fishermen’s Village Yacht Basin

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Fishermen’s Village Yacht Basin

  • Question About Boca Grande Pass Swash Channel

     Spotless Stainless is the simplest and most effective way to remove rust and the

    I took one, quick look at Captain Dave’s question below, and knew he was speaking of the so-called, Boca Grande Swash Channel, immediately south of Gasparilla Island. For years and years now, local cruisers have used this cut to short-cut the looonnnggg run out into the Gulf of Mexico via the main Boca Grande Pass channel.
    If and only if all goes well, cruisers can turn north immediately west of Gasparill Island’s southwestern tip, run the Swash Channel hard by the concrete piers of the old dock that will passed to your eastern flank, and then continue with good soundings for points north, such as naturally deep Venice Pass.
    And, there is some reason to believe that this is a naturally deep (enough?) passage. Hurricane Charley completely filled up the Swash Channel, but a few months later, tidal current had scoured it out again.
    Trouble is, to be really safe when using the Swash Channel, captains must know where the good water is “this week.” And, that requires local knowledge. Trust me, this is NOT the spot where you want to ground your vessel. The tidal currents and surf could quickly bring on a life threatening situation after running aground here, not to mention the danger to your vessel.
    So, as of late February, 2012, have any of you run the Swash Channel lately? What depths did you discover, and where did you find the best water? Please be as specific with your advice as possible. Send your info to us via clicking the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below, or send e-mail directly to “yours truly” at Many thanks in advance!

    Cruising News:
    At the southern end of Gasparilla Island there appears to be a unmarked channel that is close to the Boca Grand light house and parallels Don Pedro park. which opens in a North westerly direction. Charts show enough water if one stays close to the beach. Does anyone have any experience going through there?

    Haven’t run the swash channel since last fall, but we’ve had no major storms. Sand bars then were at/near as charted, we saw nothing less than 6 feet. Both Isles YC and Sarasota YC publish way points to lead you thru the shoals.
    Wind against tide can throw up NASTY chop. Watch the weather
    Bill Dixon

    I have run the Swash many times over the years. 6 month ago was the last time I used this path. I took the route that the Sarasota Yacht club had layed out and found I was too close to land and running out of water. I went back to my old path that was a thousand feet further off shore and found 5 to 6 feet of water.
    Just use your charts and go slowly and watch your depth . You should not have a problem
    Robert M. Wilson

    I passed through the swash channel on Sunday March 18th and found depths of greater than 6 feet at high tide. Please note, however, that I dont’t have the data on the height of of the tide, and my trimaran sailboat only draws 3′ 2″ so I wasn’t too concerned and didn’t make detailed observations.
    David Tarbox

    I’ve run the swash channel for years in a 43 Viking DCMY with 42″ draft. I always found both ends of the channel to vary in depth over time but always passable. Clearly with deeper drafts you need to play the tide. Although I always had confidence I dropped to 5 knots to make the transit with a close eye on the sonar and plotter.

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Boca Grande Pass and the Swash Channel

  • Cape Harbour Marina (near western mouth of Caloosahatchee River)

    Cape Harbour is indeed one of the best kept secrets on the Western Florida coastline. Yours truly, who has spent years personally research every marina (and anchorage) I could find on these waters never knew this marina was there until a fellow cruiser brought its existence to our collective attention.
    To access Cape Harbour Marina leave the Okeechobee Waterway/Caloosahatchee River at marker #92 and follow the marked channel into Glover Bight; break off to the northwest before reaching Tarpon Point Marina and follow canal through a LOCK into Cape Harbour’s well sheltered dockage basin.

    After talking with a number of long time Florida cruisers, I concluded this is the best kept secret on the West coast of Florida. Convenient, inexpensive dockage, low diesel prices, fun restaurants and shops right by the docks, and a very cooperative staff. Try it and you will like it. “I guarantee it.”
    Charles “Chuck” Waygood

    Amazing place and the people are nice!

    The only disadvantage is the lock you must go through to get to the marina. We had to wait 40 minutes to get out of the marina when we were there last fall.
    James Angel

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

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

  • Florida Sailing & Cruising School Chosen as ASA Outstanding School (North Fort Myers, FL – Caloosahatchee River)

    Southwest Florida YachtsKudos to our good friends and SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR at Florida Sailing and Cruising School, and Southwestern Florda Yachts Captains Barbara and Vic Hansen certainly pilot an exemplary ship!

    For immediate release
    Media Contact: Bill AuCoin
    727-522-2371 (voice)
    727-521-2035 (fax)
    And its chief captain, Christopher Day, is chosen one of sailing’s best instructors.

    NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. – American Sailing Association (ASA) named Florida Sailing & Cruising School to its honor roll of 2011 Outstanding Schools, saluting it as one of its 20 best sailing instruction programs in North America.
    The international accreditation organization also selected FS&CS Chief Captain Christopher Day one of ASA’s 30 top “Instructors of the Year.” Both awards were based on the number of excellent evaluations from students who attended ASA-certified sailing courses at Florida Sailing & Cruising School.
    Florida Sailing & Cruising School has been ASA-accredited since shortly after it was founded in 1984.
    ASA has been the leader in U.S. sailing education for nearly three decades. The association has grown to include an international network of more than 300 professionally accredited sailing schools.
    FS&CS conducts live-aboard sailing courses for up to four students at a time, and has been ASA-accredited since shortly after it was founded in 1984. Florida Sailing & Cruising School offers two and three-day live-aboard sailing courses including Basic Sailing (S-101), Basic Coastal Cruising (S-103), Bareboat Charter (S-104), and Advanced Coastal Cruising (S-106).
    “Real world, real time, hands-on learning,” is how Hansen describes the live-aboard courses. Attendance is limited to four students, two per cabin, and courses are scheduled at the convenience of the students. By day, under the tutelage of the captain-instructor, they learn by doing – steering, plotting, casting off, tying-up. By night, under a cabin light, they read textbooks and prepare for the big test. She said students “eat, breathe and sleep” their way to the diploma. “Our students not only learn a lot, they retain what they learn because by living aboard the vessel they are using all learning powers, mental and physical.”
    Tuition for live-aboard courses includes on board accommodations, instruction, fuel and course materials. Students are responsible for their meals and personal expenses, dockage at other marinas and other provisions for themselves and the instructor. All live-aboard courses include real-world sailing in the picturesque waters of Southwest Florida. Students often observe dolphins surfing the bow wake and occasionally take note of a manatee rising for air and a look-see.
    Students sail Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the placid channel just inside the Gulf of Mexico that runs north and south past a picture show of colorful tropical vegetation of birdlife, sealife and wildlife. This is the channel that takes sailors past the sheltered barrier island paradise of Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island, Cayo Costa, Gasparilla, Useppa Islands and a hundred others, some just spits of sand, oyster bars and mangroves.
    Courses can be combined in various ways to suit the needs of the students. For example, the three-day “Weekender” combines S101 and S103, the four-day “Islander” combines S-103 and S104. The ultimate course combination is a 12-day course called “The Offshore Adventure” that incorporates a major sailing expedition into the Gulf of Mexico.
    Hansen and her husband and co-founder Vic Hansen also manage Southwest Florida Yachts which charters sail and power yachts for cruising the Gulf of Mexico and inland waterway coastlines of Southwest Florida.
    Most sailing courses are held aboard vessels from 29 to 34 feet at the school’s fleet based at Burnt Store Marina on Charlotte Harbor in Punta Gorda. Liveaboard power yacht courses are held aboard vessels from 32 to 50 feet at Marinatown Marina in N. Fort Myers.
    For course descriptions and charter rates contact, telephone 800-262-7939 or 239-656-1339, or write 3444 Marinatown Lane N.W., North Fort Myers, FL 33903. Website addresses are and

  • 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.

  • Tampa Cruising Destination (Hillsborough River)

    Most cruisers visiting Tampa Bay set their course for St. Petersburg, time after time. Tampa, while it boasts some “city” docks around Harbour Island and the adjacent convention center, does not offer much in the way of power and water connections, nor shoreside amenities.
    However, Captain Tom Ulanski, who, as he notes in the message below, was kind enough to attend my presentation to the Naples Yacht Club last week, has come up with what sounds like a great spot to coil your lines, near the heart of downtown Tampa!
    Has anyone else spent some time at the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina’s docks. If so, please click the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below, and share your information.

    Thanks for extending your visit to Southwest Florida to fit-in a presentation at Naples Yacht Club.
    A question from the audience came up regarding places to go in Tampa. You mentioned the municipal docks at the Convention center being without amenities
    for overnight accommodations. However, just east of the convention center (literally across S. Harborside Blvd., but under a 19’or 20′ fixed-bridge) is the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. Note the amenities … its gorgeous.
    Description for Tampa Marriott Waterside Resort & Marina:
    Located on Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa, the marina has 32 slips with floating docks and one outside slip that will accommodate vessels up to 100 feet. The Tampa Marriott Waterside is a bay front hotel in the heart of Downtown. This new hotel offers elegant amenities for work and play, from 50,000
    square feet of meeting space and complete business services to a full-service spa and several delicious restaurants. Dockage includes access to all of the
    hotel amenities. Monitors VHS Ch. 16.
    Published charts and your printed guide state the bridge clearance as 10′. Not so. Its either 19′ or 20′. Please verify the clearance with the dockmaster who is accesible through the hotel’s main number.
    Tom Ulanski

  • Dinghy Dock at the Roosevelt Channel Anchorage (near Statute Mile 13)

    The anchorage described below by Captains Mike and Twyla, is accessed by leaving the Western Florida ICW between markers #37 and ?#39, and the following the well marked Roosevelt Channel to a point south of Tween Waters Marina.
    Mike and Twyla’s note contains some GREAT advice about hot to obtain inexpensive dinghy dockage while your hook is resting in these waters. We knew that Tween Waters started prohibiting dinghy dockage some years ago, but the idea of tying up temporarily at the nearby Green Flash Restaurant is a new and inspiring idea!
    And, by the way, the Green Flash IS a good place to satisfy a healthy appetite. Some of their seafood entrees are nothing short of YUMMY!!!

    Just an FYI for anyone planning to anchor Captiva Island – We recently anchored near the ‘Tween Waters Marina. The Waterway Guide does state correctly that the marina does not offer dingy docking to anyone on anchor.
    However it does state that you can take your dinghy to McCarthy’s Marina to tie up so you can go to shore for provisions. What it fails to mention is that McCarthy’s Marina charges $15.00 to dock your dink there! No matter how long you are going to leave it – it’s $15.00 flat fee! So for those of you that find yourself at Captiva Island and in need of provisions (beer?) – there is still hope. We took the dink to the Green Flash Restaurant’s dock. We enjoyed a couple of drinks at the bar and
    walked only a few blocks to the Island Store. The bartendar there was very friendly and had no problem with us leaving the dinghy. By the way, it looked like a great place to eat but we only went to the bar.
    Safe travels!
    Mike and Twyla
    aboard NautiNell

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Anchorage Directory Listing For the Roosevelt Channel Anchorage

    Click on Chartlet Below to Open a Chart View Window,
    Centered on the Location of This Anchorage:

  • Warning of Shallow Depths on Indian Key Channel (Everglades City, FL)

    Chuck Baier, former Waterway Guide General Manager, and now cruising consultant for MarinaLife, is the author of the brief note below. We ALWAYS pay attention to what Captain Chuck has to say, so those of you bound for Everglades City should indeed call the Rod and Gun Club (see below), before attempting this passage.
    The last time we sounded the Indian Key channel,no depths shallower than 5 1/2 feet MLW showed up, but that was a good 3 years ago.
    The SSECN would WELCOME some additional reports on depths in the Indian Key Channel from those of you who have visited Everglades City recently. If this describes you, PLEASE click the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below, and share your information.

    You might want to check with the Rod and Gun Club [239-695-2101] to get the latest on the channel depths into Everglade City. There are some pretty shallow spots. Have a great trip.

    And, as requested both above and in a recent “SSECN Alert,” here is some additional data from fellow cruiser, Capt. David. Looks like there really are low-mid tide depth issues on the Indian Key Channel. ALL Western Florida mariners, TAKE NOTE!

    Last February when I went through the channel to the R&G club, I rubbed a couple of times bottom at 4’6″ at mid tide. Going out I was careful to plan my departure to coincide with high tide to get me by the bad parts.
    Capt David

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For the Rod and Gun Club

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Rod and Gun Club

  • High Praise for Gulfport Municipal Marina, Gulfport, FL. Western FL Statute Mile 115.5

    Gulfport is a wonderful place to visit on the Sunshine State’s western coastline. There are all sorts of good restaurants, art galleries and very interesting small shops in downtown Gulfport. This little community is truly delightful. The city marina resides on the northern shores of Boca Ciega Bay and is easily accessible from the Western Florida ICW, just north of Tampa Bay.

    We kept our boat at the Gulfport Municipal Marina for the past 2 years and cannot say enough good things about it. It all starts with the outstanding staff who understand customer service and truly like working there. We can’t say enough good things about Dennis, both Tonys and Larry(retired now).
    The facilities and docks are good and the basin is very protected. We never worried about our boat when we left it in the slip for the past two summers.
    The walk to the waterfront restaurants and shops is under a mile and we never had a problem. Most of the time there were many other people doing the same thing. The waterfront area is unique and well worth the walk. We even anchored there a few times and took the dinghy in. And the restaurants are outstanding. Even though we will not return there this year, we will still drive to Pia’s for dinner.
    We have fond memories of this marina and will return!
    John and Carrie Weiss aboard S/V Zephyr Catalina 320

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

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

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