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Archive For: WEST FL – All Cruising News

  • Millers Marina and the Suwanee River

    The Suwanee River is arguably, along with the Withlacoochee River, the most beautiful of the Western Florida Big Bend rivers. The Suwanee offers many superb anchorages, and one basic marina.
    HOWEVER, there is an entrance bar which carries a slim 4-feet, or even slightly less, at MLW. Once on the stream’s interior reaches, depths improve considerably, but you may have to work the tides to make good your entry and egress!
    Like Captains Judith and Paul, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the seafood at Salty Creek Fish Company restaurant. Year in and year out, it’s been some of the very best I’ve ever had!
    See you there!

    The wild and beautiful Suwanee River was next on the list, bypassing Cedar Key about which we had not heard good things. We stopped at Miller’s Marina for fuel and a pumpout. This is a very basic place on a lovely pool approached from the river by a leafy narrow canal. A short walk to The Salt River Seafood Company Restaurant provided us with a delicious lunch. We understand they will let you stay the night at their dock for free if you eat there. 350 people call this village home with 750 vacation homes–small is an overstatement. Predicted stormy weather prevented our anchoring out up the Suwannee which we very much wish we had been able to do–you know, the song and all!
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Millers Marina

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

  • Twin Rivers Marina (on the Crystal River – Western Florida Big Bend Region)

    Personally, I prefer Pete’s Pier, farther upstream on Crystal River, to Twin Rivers Marina, but, hey, that’s just me, and it is certainly a far longer cruise from the Gulf to reach Pete’s. So, read up on both, and make your decision accordingly.

    After a few hours of being hammered on the open Gulf, we slipped into the first marina on Crystal River, Twin Rivers Marina. They are 6 miles from town, but had a floating dock for us which we prefer, being so small. One
    could stay in town at Pete’s Pier. TRW is a full service marina, and we need a wiper repair and a stove repair after our Gulf ride. Crystal River is home to the largest herd of manatees in Florida. Photographing manatees
    is similar to dolphins–as soon as you focus, they are gone.
    We are waiting here for a window to get down to Tarpon Springs and back on the ICW. We have met friendly people and had quiet, secure havens and would highly recommend Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to complete your Loop experience.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Twin Rivers Marina

  • Sea Hag Marina (Steinhatchee River – Western Florida Big Bend Region)

    Sea Hag Marina is the best facility for cruising size craft on the Big Bend’s Steinhatchee River. While, as is usual with Big Bend Rivers, the Steinhatchee entrance channel is a long, drawn-out affair, from the deeper Gulf waters, it is well marked and perhaps the deepest of the Big Bend river channels.

    Next we went to Sea Hag marina in Steinhatchee. There is a post office, good grocery store and several restaurants. Fiddler’s Restaurant will come to the marina, pick you up and bring you back. Delicious seafood dinner. We took our zodiac up the river for a few hours as the weather was not condusive for anchoring out.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Sea Hag Marina

  • Shields Marina (Western Florida Big Bend Region – off the St. Marks River)

    It’s a long trek down a well marked channel from the waters of the Northern Gulf to reach Shield’s Marina, but it’s worth it. We have always found this to be a superior marina.
    I’m particularly intrigued by Captain Judith’s reference to the “new Shields Marina.” Perhaps there have been improvements here since I last visited. Anyone have more info about that?

    Our first stop was St. Mark’s (20 miles south of Tallahassee), staying at the new Shield’s Marina (showers/laundry/well stocked chandlery/full service) and a couple of anchorages in the beautiful St. Mark’s River. We lunched at the Riverside (Paradise) Cafe, walked the park, museum/fort, and the railroad converted to bike path. The area/fort has been significant historically since the 1500’s (and 12,000 yrs before) under the control of 9 different cultures. The area provided the most important salt for the Confederate troups. They have a post office and a limited grocery store and are the heart of the Stone Crab industry with a festival in October. A man came to talk with us for awhile and loaned us his car to go to the St. Mark’s Wildlife Preserve and The Lighthouse. We saw many alligators sunning. We found out later, the owner will loan you his car for Walmart or the lighthouse/nature preserve tour.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Shields Marina

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

  • Great Account of Cruising Western Florida’s Big Bend Region, North to South

    I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Get a dozen veteran cruisers together, put forward the question about the best way to cross Western Florida’s waterwayless “Big Bend” region, and you’ll get fourteen different opinions. For those not familiar with these waters, it’s basically a question of whether to cut the corner, if southbound, and head directly for Anclote Key or Clearwater (this often involves an overnight passage), or, staying well offshore, follow the Big Bend coastline around, with the opportunity to anchor or moor on one of the regional rivers. Almost all of these are naturally beautiful, but all have long, torturous, and sometimes shallow entrance channels from the open Gulf.
    Captains Judith and Paul give one of the best arguments below I’ve heard in some time as to the good attributes of taking the Big Bend coastline route.

    We opted to travel The Big Bend from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs. The distance is greater than the cross-Gulf trek, but well worth it. This area is of historical significance and is comprised of small/tiny fishing villages among marsh, cypress, fir, hardwoods, palm trees and alligators, not to mention dolphins and a myriad of sea/woods birds. Fishing is the name of the game here. There were large, deep draft boats in all the marinas, but one would have to watch the tides. This would be a much better trip if it were a bit earlier in the year before the northerlies arrive. The ubiquitous crab pots/fishing pots are easily seen and avoided
    as long as the seas are 1-2′ and the sun is not in your eyes.
    Our first stop was St. Mark’s (20 miles south of Tallahassee), staying at the new Shield’s Marina (showers/laundry/well stocked chandlery/full service) and a couple of anchorages in the beautiful St. Mark’s River. We lunched at the Riverside (Paradise) Cafe, walked the park, museum/fort, and the railroad converted to bike path. The area/fort has been significant historically since the 1500’s (and 12,000 yrs before) under the control of 9 different cultures. The area provided the most important salt for the Confederate troups. They have a post office and a limited grocery store and are the heart of the Stone Crab industry with a festival in October. A man came to talk with us for awhile and loaned us his car to go to the St. Mark’s Wildlife Preserve and The Lighthouse. We saw many alligators sunning. We found out later, the owner will loan you his car for Walmart or the lighthouse/nature preserve tour.
    Next we went to Sea Hag marina in Steinhatchee. There is a post office, good grocery store and several restaurants. Fiddler’s Restaurant will come to the marina, pick you up and bring you back. Delicious seafood dinner. We took our zodiac up the river for a few hours as the weather was not condusive for anchoring out.
    The wild and beautiful Suwanee River was next on the list, bypassing Cedar Key about which we had not heard good things. We stopped at Miller’s Marina for fuel and a pumpout. This is a very basic place on a lovely pool approached from the river by a leafy narrow canal. A short walk to The Salt River Seafood Company Restaurant provided us with a delicious lunch. We understand they will let you stay the night at their dock for free if you eat there. 350 people call this village home with 750 vacation homes–small is an overstatement. Predicted stormy weather prevented our anchoring out up the Suwannee which we very much wish we had been able to do–you know, the song and all!
    After a few hours of being hammered on the open Gulf, we slipped into the first marina on Crystal River, Twin Rivers Marina. They are 6 miles from town, but had a floating dock for us which we prefer, being so small. One
    could stay in town at Pete’s Pier. TRW is a full service marina, and we need a wiper repair and a stove repair after our Gulf ride. Crystal River is home to the largest herd of manatees in Florida. Photographing manatees
    is similar to dolphins–as soon as you focus, they are gone.
    We are waiting here for a window to get down to Tarpon Springs and back on the ICW. We have met friendly people and had quiet, secure havens and would highly recommend Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to complete your Loop experience.
    Judith and Paul
    Tranquilo
    26′ C-Dory

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Shields Marina

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

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Sea Hag Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Millers Marina

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

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Twin Rivers Marina

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Pete’s Pier

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pete’s Pier

  • High Praise for Marina Jacks, Sarasota, FL, Statute Mile 73

    Everyone refers to the large, downtown Sarasota, Florida “city marina” as “Marina Jacks” but, in reality, that is the name of the on-site restaurant, and the maritime part of the operation is officially known as “Marina Operations.” For twenty years, I’ve never heard a single, fellow cruiser use this official moniker.
    Whatever you call it, the food at Marina Jacks is certainly good, In March of 2012, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Sarasota Power Squadron, upstairs at Marina Jacks. A GOOD time was had by all, particularly yours truly!

    We had just started exploring the Gulf Coast, the first fuel stop being Marina Jacks. Our experience was so pleasant that we decided to extend our stay (with 6 kids in tow this time). The dock manager (Sam), and deck hand who assisted us (Keith), were so welcoming that it was almost disconcerting to us New Yorker’s – being generally accustomed to a more “reserved” attitude at local marinas, yc’s and fuel docks. If you’re in the Sarasota area and looking for a very family friendly, spotlessly clean, & welcoming environment – Marina Jack’s is the place.
    Paul & Hakuna Matata’s crew

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Marina Operations/Marina Jacks

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Marina Operations/Marina Jacks

  • In Praise of Cruising Western Florida’s Ten Thousand Island Region (south of Marco Island, FL)

    I agree with everything that Captain Jim says below about cruising the anchorage rich waters of the Ten Thousand Island region. Just know there is also a LOT of shallow water here. We strongly recommend that you have a well functioning GPS chart plotter aboard and operating whenever you cruise the Ten Thousand Islands!

    As you’re working your way south (or in the planning stages) you might want to take a closer look at the Everglades. If you like the beauty of unspoiled nature you could spend time anchoring out and or exploring the many Passes that work back into the Everglades and don’t forget the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City.
    Jim

    Click Here To View our Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing for the Ten Thousand Island Region and Cape Sable

    Click Here To View our Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing for the Ten Thousand Island Region and Cape Sable

  • Warning of Less Than Ideal Depths in Western Florida’s Ten Thousand Island Region (south of Marco Island, FL)

    Captain Chuck knows whereof he speaks when he cautions against shallow water in the Ten Thousand Islands region of the Western Florida coastline, south of Marco Island. There are VERY FEW aids to navigation in this region, and, with some notable exceptions, waters of less than 5-foot depths, are common. Check out our Western Florida Anchorage Directory for this region (linked below), to discover some places where cruising size and draft vessels can drop the hook safely, at least, that is, if you have a well functioning GPS chartplotter aboard!

    We just came down to the Keys from Goodland after spending the last year in the Fort Myers, Naples, Marco Island area. What a great cruising area. The only thing I would ad is to watch your draft if cruising around the 10,000 Islands. It can get pretty skinny in spots,
    including the channel up to Everglades City at low tide. It’s best to check with the Rod and Gun Club for the shallow spots coming in the channel.
    Chuck

    Click Here To View our Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing for the Ten Thousand Island Region and Cape Sable

    Click Here To View our Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing for the Ten Thousand Island Region and Cape Sable

  • Little Shark River Southern Fork Anchorage

     Looks like Captains Ken and Pat are reporting on (or near) the second anchorage we recommend on Little Shark River moving upstream from the stream’s mouth. In our “Western Florida Anchorage Directory” (follow link below), we recommend dropping the hook north of the “island,” but, hey, Little Shark River is one of those places where you could spend a month, and never exhaust all the anchorage possibilities!

    I wish we would have spent more time exploring the Everglades. We did anchor in Little Shark River, and enjoyed exploring in the dinghy.
    We went up the mouth of the river, turned right at the T, and anchored below the first Island. Very nice spot!
    Ken & Pat Goewey

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For the Little Shark River Southern Fork Anchorage

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Little Shark River Southern Fork Anchorage

  • Praise for City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin, Caloosahatchee River/Okeechobee Waterway

    City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin - Click for Chartview

    Located at Mile Marker 135 on the Okeechobee Waterway, 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers Yacht Basin is a well designed and protected marina. It is owned and operated by the City ofCapt. Barry’s remarks are in response to needed recommendations for good live aboard marinas.

    Go to the Ft Myers City Yacht Basin. Great staff, great downtown, great facilities. NO PROBLEM with live aboard but there was a $75 per month live aboard fee. we lived aboard and cruised SW FL for 4 years. Fantastic.
    Bob Barry

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Downtown Fort Myers

  • Platinum Point Yacht Club (at Burnt Store Marina – Charlotte Harbor)

    Platinum Point Yacht Club is located in the impressive Burnt Store Marina complex, which guards the eastern shores of Charlotte Harbor, well south of Punta Gorda. I have had the good fortune to speak at Platinum Point Yacht Club in the past, but I must say I did not know they featured their own dockage facilities.
    Platinum Point is not a member of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs, but from my own experience and that reported by below by Captains Jim and Vaughn, this club is well worth a visit.

    Platinum Point Yacht Club is located at Burnt Store Marina on the east side of Charlotte Harbor. This is east of the ICW anchorage at Pelican Bay/Cayo Costa SP, south of Punta Gorda and north of Ft Myers/the Okeechobee waterway.
    They have a three docks at the marina. first night free, second and third night $1/ft. Call ahead for availability but they are mostly empty .
    The Burnt Store Marina also offers AGLCA Looper Discounts.
    If you are a member of a YC, you can get the PPYC deal!
    Jim and Vaughn

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Marina Directory listing for Burnt Store Marina

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

  • Shallow Depths Encountered at Field Yacht Club (Sarasota, FL – Statute Mile 71)

     Be sure to read all the remarks in both messages below before drawing any conclusions about the Field Yacht Club in southern Sarasota. As you will see, there are many positive attributes reported, but depths are clearly a problem at this facility for some vessels.
    I have had the good fortune to make presentations at the Field Club on many occasions over the years, and I have always been very impressed with the clubhouse and the greeting I received. As far as the wet slip dockage is concerned though, looks like it’s time for a dredging project!

    Yesterday we went into the SFC at mid-tide. We have a 50′ Ocean Alexander with a 4′ draft. They were expecting us. In the channel approaching them, our depth finder was reading .2!! We continued very slowly into the marina
    to our assigned slip. As we backed into the slip, we were churning up mud. We waited 3 hours for high tide and left. The marina had never warned us.
    Mark & Allyn Callahan

    After reading the above note, which originally appeared on the “GL” (Great Loop) Mail List, we e-mailed Captains Mar and Allyn, and asked for clarification as to whether the “SFC” was indeed the Field Yacht Club in southern Sarasota. We received the following affirmative reply:

    Yes it is the Field Yacht Club in Sarasota. A beautiful Club but for us the approach was very thin and the slip we got would have been a problem at dead low, which was in the morning when we would have had to leave. Don’t want to take anything away from the Club and they were great let us wait for the tide to come up and then we left, no charges for Electric or the slip. Very accommodating.
    Mark Callahan

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For the Field Yacht Club

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Field Yacht Club

  • Good Words About the Englewood Anchorage (Western Florida ICW Statute Mile 44.5)

    The anchorage Captains Jim and Patrice are referring to below, lies east of the Western Florida ICW, north of marker #25. Don’t confuse this anchor down spot with the “Englewood Beach Anchorage” while is located west of the ICW’s track.
    Note that this posting was copied from the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) forum, an organization that the SSECN continues to enthusiastically recommend!

    We are traveling the Great Loop Via “Ariverderci” Anchored out at Englewood, FL for the last two evenings. A great place to anchor and dingy into town. We anchored out for 2 nights. All went well.
    Jim & Patrice Rossman

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For the Englewood Anchorage

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Englewood Anchorage

  • Good Words About the Downtown Fort Myers Waterfront (Caloosahatchee River/Okeechobee Waterway)

     Located at Mile Marker 135 on the Okeechobee Waterway, 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers Yacht Basin is a well designed and protected marina. It is owned and operated by the City of239 461-0775 Legacy Harbour Marina entrance is located on the Okeechobee Waterway East of Marker #49 on the Caloosahatchee River. The Marina is situated two blocks from historic downtown Fort Myers and three blocks from the historic Edison-Ford Winter Estates. The Marina's 131-Slips range in size from 40 feet to 80 feet and can accommodate Transient Boats of 100 feet plus. The large Fairways make our slips easily accessible. Our slips are surrounded by one of the largest 'floating breakwaters' on the Gulf of Mexico. The floating docks are state-of-the-art. Legacy Harbour Marina is a full-featured facility with all the modern conveniences of home including pump-out station, heated pool, fitness center, full electric metered at the slip, cable TV, laundry, air-conditioned showers and wireless Internet connections available. The Boaters' Lounge is available for relaxing after a cruise or for private parties. The view from the lounge is spectacular! Our grounds are beautifully manicured and provide great strolling along the river with benches, Chickee Hut, and excellent access to all of historic Fort Myers. Please take a few moments to browse our website and see for yourself what our  beautiful boating facility can offer you the next time you are cruising in Southwest Florida.We have always found our visits to the downtown Fort Myers area to be absolutely delightful. With two quality marinas (BOTH Legacy Harbour Marina and City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin are SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSORS!), a host of nearby dining attractions and a beautifully landscaped waterfront, what’s not to like!

    We were pleasantly surprised to see Fort Myers downtown waterfront area redeveloped into a first class entertainment destination. We ate
    dinner at Ford’s Garage, a restaurant with a 1920,s service station atmosphere from the Model ‘A’ up on a rack ready for an oil change to a rag rolled into a hose clamp as a napkin ring. Fort Myers is about 15 miles into the Okeechobee Waterway (a short side trip for loopers heading south to the keys.) There are two first class marinas. I prefer the Municipal Yacht Basin for short term and Legacy Harbor for longer stays.
    Alan Lloyd
    Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes
    http://www.NavigationNotes.com

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

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Downtown Fort Myers

  • Cruising the Western Florida Coastline With a 6-foot Draft

    The discussion below originally appeared on the T&T (Trawlers and Trawlering) mail list, which, by the way, is a nautical list WELL WORTH joining! We think there is sooooo much good info here about cruising the western coastline of the Sunshine State in a deeper draft vessel, we have reproduced the string here!

    With all of the available information out there, I would have thought that this question would be easy to answer on my own… but I really haven’t been able to figure this out.
    Our Selene draws six and is LOA 62. We are considering the possibility of a house purchase in the St. Pete to Naples area. Looks like a great area. So, we are planning a cruise up there from here in Key West for a week or so to check it out. Here’s the question: Where is it deep enough for our boat?
    I haven’t been able to ID any marinas that offer sufficiently deep entrances and reasonably easy/deep navigation routes from here in KW. This is enough of an issue for our little cruise; but, it also raises the issue of whether it is reasonable to own a boat like ours on the West Coast vs. the East Coast of FL. I know there are many fans of this area of the world on the list. Can any of you offer any encouragement on this point? Suggested routes/marinas?
    Thanks.
    Mike
    Mike Curreri
    M/V Blue Grotto

    Mike
    You might want to check out Punta Gorda. It is easily accessed through Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor. Fisherman’s Village Marina indicates a 7.5 ft approach at MLW and at least that at some of the docks. See www.fishville.com Winter low tides and strong North winds can make this less.
    Punta Gorda has a large collection of canals, a good portion are considered “sailboat” water which should accommodate your boat, but like all of the other deeper draft vessels, you likely would need to play the tides. A lot of us here enjoy having our boats in our back yards.
    Good Luck
    Chris

    Personal opinion, 6 feet draft is perfectly fine for FL West Coast. I have traversed from Ft Myers to Anclote with my boat, 5’3″ draft and have never bumped while inside the ICW channel. I have also done a delivery of an Irwin 65 with 6′ draft from St Pete to Miami (via Key West) with no draft issues. Many if not most marinas also can accomodate your draft. To name a few St Pete muni, Harborside, Gulfport (6’6″ depth) Twin Dolphin, Regatta Point, Rivera Dunes, Clearwater muni, Tierra Verde.
    One thing you will have to watch out for is sand bars stretching out to sea, sometimes for over a mile, from each and every pass. Come on up, the water is fine…
    Joel Wilkins
    m/s Miss Magoo
    Columbia 45

    Mike,
    Winter in Florida is when tides tend to be lower and water shallower. Tides on the gulf coast of western Florida are diurnal; one high tide per day, mostly in the mid-to-late afternoon. The pattern does vary slightly with new and full moon cycles. Western Florida is a shelf; not deep water. Most of south and west of Florida is “OK” – but not flush – for 6ft draft. There are some exceptions.
    When in Naples, research carefully the old ICW between Naples and Marco, through Goodland. The last time I mentioned that stretch – from Doctor’s Pass to Rookery Bay – I was told it I was nuts and it was fine. But, we’ve grounded in there with 4ft draft, so caveat emptor.
    You will not be able to do Coon Key Pass without significant anxiety; all of the north of Gullivan Bay entering Coon Key Pass is charted at 5 ft.. Definitely, do that at high high tide.
    The Baron River to Everglades City is doable. Depths on the last mile approach into Everglades City will get to less than 6′, but if you go in and out at high tide, you’ll have no problems. Don’t do early day departures from EC. No problem cruising most of the 10,000 Islands.
    You will not be able to do the “Yacht Channel” through Florida Bay without significant anxiety, if at all. There is almost no tide in Florida Bay; less than 6 inches. Not enough to help. Prolonged winds can affect water levels a lot in Florida Bay. Stay outside around the bottom; run the Hawk Channel. Come it to overnight at Channel 5, or at the 7-Mile bridge. From Marathon, use the 7-Mile Bridge to come north.
    You will be able to enjoy Ft. Myers beach, Ft. Myers and the Caloosahatchee. In the fall, and most springs, you’ll be able to cross Lake O between Ft. Myers and Stuart. Charlotte Harbor is fine. The ICW from Sanibel to Tampa to Tarpon is fine. Research the armpit (Great Bend) very carefully, especially in winter. The Panhandle is fine except for Government Cut at Apalachicola. There, play the tides.
    The West Coast is much, much better cruising than the East Coast. On the east coast, you have miles and miles of very wide river and very narrow channel. You can’t see much, and it’s boring. Southeast Florida is the concrete ditch. From Biscayne Bay around to Tampa/Tarpon, it’s a different world; a cruisers paradise!
    Hope this is useful.
    Jim
    Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary

    I agree with almost everything that Jim Healy says about cruising the left coast of Florida. We lived in Clearwater for over 50 years and it was a beautiful place to grow up and a great boating venue. However, Jim is mistaken about only one high tide per day. Take a look atbthemtide tables and you will see two highs and two lows almost every day.
    Regards,
    Randy Pickelmann
    Morning Star lying Sunset Bay Marina, Stuart, Fl

    We live in Naples and keep our boat at the Naples City Dock. Our boat draws almost 6ft. We have no issues at the dock or the associated moorings. We also go into Big Marco Pass, which I wouldn’t do at a real low tide. When going into Big Marco, we typically turn north and enjoy the anchorage listed on this site in Johnson Bay.
    I wouldn’t take the channel from Marco to Naples, you have to go outside, which is almost always a pleasurable sail. Coming into Naples (Gordon River) stay on the south side. I usually come in between the first and second red markers.
    From Key West or from Marathon, it is a pretty easy run to Marco or Naples. I would recommend going from Key West to Marathon, then from Marathon north to Cape Sable. This time of year, the winds are typically North to East, so you will be in the lee of Florida at that point and it is a fairly easy sail from there.
    George
    s/v John Galt T37

    Claiborne:

    You are quite right about the value of this T&T Listserve. It is a fantastic resource.
    Regarding this question, I also received many responses to this inquiry directly. Ultimately, the first trip will be:
    Key West to Punta Gorda, staying at Fisherman’s Village Yacht Basin.
    Punta Gorda to Fort Myers, staying at Legacy Harbour Marina.
    Fort Myers to Palmetto, staying at Riviera Dunes Marina Resort.
    Palmetto to St. Petersburg, staying at St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.
    St. Pete to Key West.
    Mike Curreri

  • Report from Caledesi Island State Park Marina (north of Dunedin)

    Caladesi Island Marina - Click for Chartview

    As I recall, the entrance channel leading to Caladesi Island State Park Marina (from Hurricane Pass) can be a bit of a challenge for first timers, but otherwise, this is a pretty good facility for those who just want to get away from the maddening crowd. It lies just north of the Dunedin and the Honeymoon Island Bridge

    Caladesi is located immediately north of Clearwater Beach. The beach is still great for shellers, especially near the northern end. Dockage is $1/ft at a slip, $2/ft on a t-dock; 30 amp elec. and water included. 24/7 bathrooms on shore, and a snack bar. Florida senior citizens (65+) pay half. Limit is 14 days, but you can contact them and offer to be a volunteer: free dockage in exchange for 20 hr/wk easy labor. For example we met someone who’s job was to pick up any trash (rare) on the beach. She would carry two bags; one for trash, one for shells.
    There are signs that say “watch out for rattlesnakes” but we haven’t seen any. We have seen lots of armadillos, some raccoons, numerous types of birds, gopher tortoises, and very few people.
    The channel is shallow in places, but marked and doable for our 4’6″ draft. A great place to visit. Chosen twice by “Dr. Beach” as the best beach in the country.
    Wade Ehlen
    MT 36 Shady Lady
    New Bern NC

    Wade is spot on about Caladesi Island. It was one of our favorite weekend spots since it was so close to home yet so far away. The beach is absolutely beautiful.
    But Wade, the rattlesnakes are there, although they tend to be in the wooded areas. There used to be a skin mounted on the wall in the rangers office that must be 6′ long. We have seen them that big in the winter, warming themselves in
    a sunny spot on the nature trails.
    Regards,
    Randy Pickelmann
    Morning Star

    When we were in Caladesi last year we caught a line in the prop while in the marina so my husband hopped over to free it. About five minutes after he was back on board a rattlesnake swam by on its way over to the mangroves. We were glad we hadn’t seen it before freeing the line because we might have left the line in the prop rather than risk swimming with the snake. The next day, we also watched as a ranger chased one off the park’s work boat. Still, if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. And Caladesi is so beautiful its worth the stop, even with the snakes!
    Paige Caldwell

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Caladesi Island State Park Marina

  • Pelican Bay Anchorages (hard by Cayo Costa Island/State Park), Western Florida ICW Statute Mile 25

    Like Captains Mary and Jerry, we just love anchoring in Pelican Bay,and then dinghying ashore to unspoiled Cayo Costa. Thanks to its being a Florida state park, this barrier island remains almost entirely in its natural state. Hiking across to the ocean side, particularly at sunset, is one of the greatest experiences the western coastline of the Sunshine State has to offer.
    Unfortunately, the rub is that there is an entrance bar, which, at low tide, carries only about 4 1/2 feet of water. Some local cruisers have told me they have found a deeper route, which will hold 5 feet at MLW.
    And, in this regard, there is a GREAT You-Tube video giving SOLID ADVICE about entering Pelican Bay, available at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA9VUGwSXIE

    You might also want to check out a string of earlier messages here on the Cruisers’ Net concerning how best to enter this series of anchorages:

    http://cruisersnet.net/?p=914

    Anyway, check out the message below to read one more glowing opinion about the wonderful qualities of anchoring on Pelican Bay!

    Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa is the best anchorage on the west side of Florida – hands down. We have been in there on a holiday weekend when there were 70 boats and everyone was on a single anchor with plenty of swing room. Easy dinghy ride to Cabbage Key for a ‘cheeseburger in paradise’.
    Marty & Jerry Richardson

    We are there now and can see why the west coast is Jim’s favorite. We anchored last night at the best anchorage on the West Coast. Even [cruisers] adverse to anchoring out should give Cayo Costa a try. There is more than ample room to swing on one hook. There were 18 boats anchored last night enjoying a full moon and a romantic sunrise. Cayo Costa Island is a state park. We dinghied to the dock and walked 3/4 mile across the desert island to the gulf side beach. (There is a regular tram service and bikes for rent, but we preferred to walk ). We had the whole beach to ourselves! Access Fee is $2.00pp. Don’t pass this anchorage! Oh, by the way, there is also a floating dock where you may tie up overnight for $20.
    Alan Lloyd
    Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes
    http://www.NavigationNotes.com

    Eyeball method into PBay is a line from R74 to the entrance sign leaving sign to Starboard; then along the sand spit. Start aiming for the park dock once you are about halfway down the spit.
    Or if you must-plug these into your GPS to route yourself into PBay.
    A: 26 41.940N 82 14.208W
    B: 26 41.745N 82 14.525W
    C: 26 41.600N 82 14,600W
    D: 26 41.100N 82 14.600W
    E: 26 40.900N 82.14.400W
    F: 26 40.950N 82 14.200W
    G: 26 41.100N 82 14.250
    There is small power boat access out the south with local knowledge (uses part of the Punta Blanca channel) – Watch the ferry. Above will get you in (for 5′ or less) on all but an extreme winter low. There are a couple of bars so don’t freak if you think you’re in but start losing depth again. If you are coming from the south you can turn onto the A-B leg close to B. Start cheating about G71 and aim for a point to the right of B. If the depths get scary jog right until you are comfortable. Turn onto the track when you get to it. Once inside the chart is petty good at identifying the deeper areas. Standard rules apply- if there are a lot of boats in the anchorage and no one is anchored in what looks like a choice spot there is probably a shallow reason. You want to be surprisingly close to the beach from B to C. There is a nice hole around ‘E’ and we usually anchor there in about 8-9′. E-F can be a problematic stretch so exercise care. You may stir more mud than you want.
    Kim

    We’ve anchored here on 4 occasions and each time we enter and exit from the north Pelican Pass inlet. We stay as close to the north beach as possible as this is where the deepest water is at the entrance channel. Once inside Cayo Costa you’ll find two pools with 8 to 9 foot depths with the balance being between 5 to 6 feet or so. There are some shallow areas but it is all manageable.
    Jim Favors
    Kismet

    On Pelican Bay entrance. R 74 is now a nun, not a daymark.
    Bill Dixon

    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 Marina Directory Listing For Pelican Bay Park Service Dock Anchorage

    Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Pelican Bay – Punta Blanca Island Anchorage

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pelican Bay

  • Good Words for Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine, Crystal River/Kings Bay, Western Florida Big Bend Region

    Pete’s Pier/Kings Bay Marine is the most upstream facility on the Big Bend’s Crystal River. Moving generally west, this stream eventually widens into a broad basin, known and charted as Kings Bay. Pete’s Pier lies on this bay’s northeastern quadrant, east of marker #29.

    Pete’s Pier, so many good things to say about the people here at Pete’s Pier. Its not swanky, but it feels like home to me. Might not be everything you want here, but it damn well sure has everything you could need!
    BlackOak

    Click Here To View the Eastern Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Pete’s Pier

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Pete’s Pier

  • Western Florida’s Big Bend Passage, Apalachiacola to Clearwater

    Clearwater Entrance - Click for Chartview

    I have often said before, but it bears repeating again, “get twelve cruisers together, and you will give fourteeen opinions about how to best traverse Western Florida’s waterwayless ‘Big Bend’ region.” Every time this topic arises, whether it’s here on the Cruisers’ Net, or some other nautical forum, a wide range of often very useful and informative opinions come to light. That’s just the case below.
    Overnight passages can be memorable, especially when the seas cooperate as Capt. MacMahon describes below. The direct channel to Clearwater Municipal Marina from the Western Florida ICW (there is another entrance from Clearwater Pass Inlet), cuts sharply west, just south of the high-rise Clearwater Beach Bridge.

    Calypso (American Tug 34) crossed the Gulf from Apalachicola to Clearwater on September 22-23. Left Apalachicola at 8:30 a.m. and went down the GICW to East Pass. Exited East Pass into the Gulf shortly before 11:30a.m.
    Weather report was for light winds (5 to 10 mph) out of some derivation of the North for all day and night with waves projected to be 1 to 2 feet. It was a little bouncy going thru East Pass and for the next 45 minutes or so until reaching deeper water. Then, it smoothed out into widely spaced two foot swells which the boat glided over. Conditions got even better as the day progressed and as Calypso worked its way further South until it was essentially smooth throughout the night. Made better time than planned so had to slow down several times in order to arrive after daylight. Stayed out in deeper water (40 feet plus) as approached Clearwater so as to avoid expected crab pots in shallower water. As it got light headed into Clearwater Pass and there were no crab pots off the coast there. Dredging
    equipment was at Clearwater Pass but no problem getting by it. Turned left just after going under the high rise bridge over the pass and went up the side channel to Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina. Somewhat shallow (5 feet over the bar) in the side channel (with about one foot of tide. But, once over the bar depth was fine. The marina has fixed docks and there is a little bit of wake from tour boats (but not bad at all). Showers/heads are not climate controlled. Dock master was helpful. And, it is close to the beach and lots of restaurants/bars.
    Mark MacMahon

    We found Panama City to Clearwater area to be the best for us. Leave Panama City in the morning, over night to Clearwater entrance. Anchor between condos and sleep and rest the rest of the day. Don’t like going across that shallow lake east of Panama City. We also found the return trip to Panama City nice also. We would anchor thru the single lift bridge for a day or two. Then there’s the visit to Gano’s bayou for some of the best hospitality ! Thanks,
    Ted Brown, boatless but thinking

    We’ve done the Gulf crossing 5 times, all overnighters. We departed from Tarpon Springs or Tampa/St Petersburg going west. Destin, Panama City, Carrabelle going east. We’ve always done the overnighters as our philosophy is that one over night is one overnighter at our trawler speed of 8 mph (7 knts). Leave in the Daylight from either end and plan to arrive no earlier than mid day going east so that you are not looking into the sun and can see the myriad of trap floats that extend a surprising distance off shore some as far as 30+ miles. Just get into port in full daylight going west.
    Having spent time in the arm pit, Steinhatchie and Cedar Key hold no attractions for me so I prefer to get across and not hassle with the shallow entry channels guarded by oyster/clam bed. If you really want to go to them watch your tides and remember the winter northerlies can and does draw the gulf waters down up to +2′ lower than MLLW where it will remain for several days.
    So beware of entering shallow channels with expectations of leaving when ever. The distance we go(departure to arrival point) when doing an overnighter is determined by the weather window and weather at each end which can vary depending upon wind speeds and directions at the different points i.e. following seas over head seas, vice fetch and durations along the planned route. Contrary to some guides in all our crossings we have never been out of range (VHF) contact with a USCG site. Remember, patience is the key to an uneventful and boring (at best) crossing and daylight
    departures and arrivals.
    Joe
    M/V “Carolyn Ann” GH N-37

    Joe Pica said “and remember the winter northerlies can and does draw the gulf waters down up to +2′ lower than MLLW where it will remain for several days. So beware of entering shallow channels with expectations of leaving whenever.”
    That is some good advice and things to consider. Thanks for posting that Joe. After living in FL for one winter I saw that is true.
    Ralph Yost

    You ask a good question, what is the best destination for crossing the Gulf, Tarpon Springs or Clearwater. Both are good but slightly different. Tarpon Springs is about 5-6 miles closer if the total crossing distance is critical and marinas there will take reservations, more critical in years past when there were more boaters out there. Clearwater is an easier approach and a few less crab pots to dodge but you would be in the deeper Gulf for a bit longer, important if the west wind is starting to pick up as you finish your crossing. Clearwater has their sunset celebrations that are indeed special but Tarpon Springs has that delicious Greek food that can’t be found many other places.
    To decide what is best port, you will have to serve rum drinks to about a dozen cruisers who have done it before but hope that someone passes out so there can’t be a tie vote. Stay safe,
    Tom Conrad

    The information posted is very helpful. I do have a follow up question for the group. Cruising at 9knts aboard my GB 32, how long should I plan for getting from Fairhope AL to East Pass? Thanks!
    Randy Hondros

    Randy,
    Your priorities should be your major guide in planning time from Fairhope to East Pass. On our last trip through that section, it took us over 6 weeks. There are miles of sandy, shell-covered beaches to explore – usually by yourself this time of year. Anchor at Perdido Key, Shell Island, and Cape San Blas. Don’t miss the Naval Air Museum and Joe Patti’s seafood market in Pensacola. Apalachicola is a quaint town with some of the best oysters and shrimp in the world. The Florida Panhandle is a great cruising destination that should be savored slowly. Too many cruisers rush through the Panhandle concerned about getting to a point to cross the Gulf and miss some outstanding experiences.
    Glen and Jill Moore
    DeFever 40 Last Dance

    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

  • Good Words for Port St. Joe Marina, Port St. Joe, FL, Northern Gulf

    The Port St. Joe Marina is at the heart of Florida's Forgotten Coast, on the eastern shore of pristine St. Joseph Bay on Florida's northern Gulf Coast. Located between Panama City and Apalachicola, FlThis wonderful facility is accessed by the Gulf County Canal, which departs the Northern Gulf ICW between Apalachicola and Panama City, and runs south to St. Joseph Bay. Port St. Joe Marina lies hard by the town of, what else, Port St. Joe. And, these good people are a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!

    Just wanted to remind everyone waiting on a good window for the Gulf crossing that Port St. Joe is a great place to hang out while you wait. The marina is top notch, the staff is friendly and helpful, they have cookies & coffee each morning in the office. The grocery store is only a block from the marina and the charming town, with cute shops and
    restaurants, is only a few blocks away. Oh, I almost forgot that they have free bikes available if you don’t have your own aboard. If you are looking for a comfortable spot to wait out rough weather on the Gulf stop in, you won’t be sorry.
    Theresa & Larry Valentine
    M/V Lauren Grace

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