Captain Pickelmann’s message below is copied from the T&T (Trawlers and Trawlering) mail list, and is answer to a query about whether there might be any limitations inherent in cruising this coastline aboard a vessel drawing 6 feet. I agree with every sentiment express in Randy’s message below. There is no better cruising than, for instance, the Pine Island region of Western Florida, BUT trying to do this in a 6-foot draft vessel would be, to say the least, challenging!
There is a nearly unlimited supply of great cruising on Florida’s Left Coast. In fact, it took us twenty years to finally make it to Key West by boat. We kept getting sidetracked by good cruising along the way – finding new places and revisiting old favorites. But, let there be no doubt, the west coast of Florida is shallow. We used to cruise with a 5′ draft sailboat and it never kept us out of anyplace we wanted to go, although we did have to wait for the tide from time to time. And, in the interest of full disclosure, once or twice we had to sleep on an angle while waiting for that tide. Clearly, a six foot draft will be a challenge from time to time, but I wouldn’t let that discourage you. There are several excellent cruising guides available.
And, here are some more really useful thoughts on cruising the Western Florida coastline from fellow cruisers Captains Peg and Jim Healy. I might add that ALL the anchorages, and more, which were listed in the old BAIL “Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida, are listed and described in the Cruisers’ Net’s “Western Florida Anchorage Directory (http://cruisersnet.net/category/anchorages-western-florida/).
You probably already know, generally, there is only one high tide on the gulf per day, and it happens in the afternoon. That’s important to understand about the West Coast of Florida.
With your boat, you may well have troubles on the “old” ICW south of Naples, but that shouldn’t bother your trip plan. From Key West, you can run to the Little Shark River for a very nice and very remote anchorage in a Mangrove Swamp. No cell phone, no wi-fi! No place to land pets! Nevertheless, a great place!
From the Little Shark, run up to Panther Key and turn right, to Everglades City. The only part of the Baron River that you have to think about is the mile or so immediately at EC. Do that at or past the daily flat tide at late morning. If we transit the EC channel in early morning, at low water, we touch at 4′ in the marked channel. All that said, EC is a superb stop. Stay at the Sportsman’s Club (cash or check only; no credit cards) for ambiance, or the marina 1/2 mile above the Sportsman’s Club. There is a swift current in the Baron, but it will not affect you. It doesn’t bother us.
When we run North from EC, we come in at Coon Key Pass and proceed inside through Goodland into Marco. From Marco, we run inside to the inlet just south of Naples, where you have to go out. There are parts of both of those legs that could/would be problematic for a 6′ draft boat. You could make it at high tide – maybe – but it’s a long enuf distance with enuf small boats that the tide might not carry for all the time you need. But, you can get into Marco via the gulf inlet there, no problem. Same with Naples, so you can enjoy the towns. Just run offshore. Be careful to run far enough out around the Cape Romano shoals.
From Naples to Ft. Myers Beach, you have to run offshore. No problem getting into Ft. Myers Beach.
From Ft. Myers Beach to the G-ICW north to Clearwater, you’ll have no depth problems. At the Sanibel Causeway, follow either the “A” Draw or the “C” Draw to pick up the G-ICW. Depths are fine in both. The “C” Draw (West end) has a 26′ MHW fixed bridge. If you can’t make that, the “A” Draw has a 65′ bridge. Pine Island Sound carries at least 10′ all the way north to Charlotte Harbor. Charlotte Harbor is correctly charted, and deep for western Florida standards. Come see us at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda.
No problems on the G-ICW from Charlotte Harbor to Tampa; some less-than-friendly bridges. That’s just life. Watch the channels across Tampa Bay. Some of the
Bay is real shallow, but the channels are OK.
Before you leave, and if you can find it, get a book called: “A Guide to Anchorages in SouthWest Florida,” Second Edition, published by BAIL (I forget what the initials stand for; some group; maybe “Boaters Action Information League”). Somewhat dated, but nevertheless, some very good information if you like to anchor.
Hope this helps.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
“You probably already know, generally, there is only one high tide on the gulf per day, and it happens in the afternoon. That’s important to understand about the West Coast of Florida.”
I don’t understand that statement. Here’s a link to tides in Lemon Bay, Englewood, part of the GICW, there clearly are two tidal patterns on some but not all days, and no time of day that shows consistently high tides.
What am I missing?
Your query is quite fair. I realized when I added that point in my previous note that a closer inspection of the phenomena by a curious mind might evoke this question. You’re it! I don’t know the celestial mechanics or planetary hydrodynamic reasons for this behavior, but celestial mechanics and the hydrodynamics of gulf tides was a sidenote to the point of the original topic. That said, here’s what little I can add… but I think we’ll agree that the following would have unnecessarily burdened the point of my original post…
On the Atlantic Coast, the tides precess, with the 28-day lunar cycle, by around 42 minutes a day. The tidal highs and lows at any given location occur at different times each day. Through whatever magic of planetary mechanics, that isn’t the pattern I’ve actually observed in the gulf in SW Florida.
For neaps, the daily tide cycle in Charlotte Harbor – and Florida’s West Coast generally – starts low in the morning, 05h30 to 06h00, rises to a plateau by late forenoon, and then rises to the daily high water level in late afternoon. The daytime pattern looks a bit like a stair step, with a prolonged flat “slack” period bracketing midday. (I haven’t paid much attention to the overnight pattern, and I can’t accurately describe that. Will look at it this season.) The duration of this midday flat changes slightly with the moon’s position in it’s cycle.
For springs, the stair step slack period is less apparent; i.e., shorter. At new and full moon, there are, indeed, two discernible peaks in the daily pattern. The daily low is still in the early morning, 05h30 to 06h00. There is a smaller peak in the late forenoon, a slight fall/reversal, and then a significantly larger peak in the late afternoon. This is more similar to the typical Atlantic Coastal pattern, except that the afternoon peak is always higher than the morning peak. In the transitions from spring-to-neap and neap-to-spring, the wave form of the
midday flat/low peak morphs gradually into it’s terminal wave shape.
As I said, I’m not an expert on why this happens or why it’s different from the
Atlantic tidal patterns. It’s just what I’ve observed in the winter months, so it may be different in the summer. And I also don’t personally know if this phenomenon is gulf-wide or just local to SW Florida. It is the recurring experience I’ve observed through our 6 “seasons” in the area.
So now, if I relate the above observations into the practicum of day-to-day cruising in SW Florida, I logically leap to the statement that: “…there is only one high tide on the gulf per day, and it happens in the afternoon.” Therein is the pearl!
In SW Florida, water will be consistently deeper in the afternoon than any other part of the cruising day. Since the water in the region is very shallow anyway, even the moderate daily tide cycle can be of help, for some deeper draft boats, in transiting some areas, such as that old ICW channel from Coon Key Pass thru Goodland and up through Marco to Naples. But even in the afternoon, I wouldn’t encourage that passage for a 6′ or greater draft boat.
And there is a corollary, too: any boat that anchors in that area – say, at the Rookery, just north of Marco – in 6′ of water at 17h00, may find itself on the muddy bottom in the overnight. Please, though, don’t ask (at least publicly) how I came to know that! I’d prefer not to have to admit that I did it!
Anyway, I hope you find this useful.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
Gosh Jim, I’ve lived and boated much of my life in Clearwater and we usually have two highs and two lows each day. Of course the tide only rises or falls about three feet on a big day, oftentimes only a foot or so, so some of the tidal changes are very subtle.