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The Salty Southeast
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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.

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