Here’s an interesting discussion, which originally appeared on the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association Forum (an organization we continue to heartily endorse) about cruising the western coastline of the Sunshine State, between Sarasota and Captiva Island, with a 5-foot draft.
My experience having researched this coastline since 1992, which reflects the remarks below by Captains Gina and Chuck, is that 5-feet of draft will be fine for most marinas and many anchorages. There are some exceptions, and if your vessel has 6-feet of draft, it can start to get a bit tricky!
The message below from our good friend, Captain Chuck Baier, former General Manager for Waterway Guide, is particularly useful. Most (but not all) of the marinas he mentions as being too shallow are not even listed in the SSECN’s “Western Florida Marina Directory” as they are too small and shallow to really serve cruising size craft. Nevertheless, this is superb information!
My husband and I are chartering a 50′ Trawler for a week out of Sarasota. We are beginning to seriously look at various style trawlers available as we get closer to retiring and beginning a cruising lifestyle for awhile. My question is, as I am studying the waters in this area, Given the depths and tides, am wondering if we are going to have trouble getting in/out of marinas etc. with a draft of 5′ Any suggestions as to how best navigate this area and where to stay would be appreciated.
It shouldn’t be a problem. We made the trip from Cape Coral to Tarpon Springs and back last year. We draw 4 ft and our friends who traveled with us draws 5ft (a 53 ft Carver). Marinas were fine. South of Sarasota we stayed at Crows Nest (Venice) and Palm Island Marina. We did the whole trip inside via ICW (except for the section north of Tampa where the ICW ends) and didn’t have a problem. Between Sarasota and Captiva we did have to watch the tides through Lemon Bay as it can get skinny there.
Enjoy your trip. It’s a beautiful area. It’s been our cruising area for 15 years.
M/v Island Time
Cape Coral, Fl
We traveled the entire west coast of Florida on several occasions with a 6 foot draft. There are some shallow areas but be sure and have
current charts and you won’t have any issues. Most marinas will be accessible to you. If you get to Sanibel, Adventures In Paradise Marina might be a problem. On Pine Island Sound, Four Winds Marina will be a no go and Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort will also be iffy. In Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda Marina and Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club are very shallow. In Lemon Bay, Stump Pass Marina is shallow and in Little Sarasota Bay, Turtle Beach Marina will be too shallow. In Sarasota, the problem marinas will be Sara Bay, Sarasota Cay Club and Cannon’s Marina. Some of these will be too small for you but might be considered for fuel stops. If in doubt, call ahead and ask. Other than that, pay attention to your charts and if the chart says it’s shallow it is. There will be plenty of available anchorages if you want to get away by yourselves.
Have a great trip.
Mary — We live in the city of Punta Gorda at the far northern end of Charlotte Harbor and sail our Ericson 38 sloop drawing 5’1″ throughout the waters you indicated. I would agree with the comments above with the added mention of northerly winds particularly in the winter months which result in lower than normally predicted tides. Come on up Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda for a visit to a really quaint, beautiful waterfront community.
We live in Punta Gorda and have a 35′ Compac, fully loaded we consider her a 5 foot draft. We have had no issues in this area along the coast line, nor have we had any with the ICW. There are areas that you have to watch the markers and aids to navigation in the ICW, but outside is “clear sailing” so they say. You should have no problems being you have major power, but like everyone mentioned above, follow your charts and if at all possible, get some local knowledge when going into a new marina or channel or canal. Relax and enjoy!
Lynda Leonard s/w Choctaw Brave
Careful attention to charts and the depth sounder will keep you out of trouble.
Most of the ICW is trouble free with 5’ if you stay in the channel. There are many places to go and some you cant but they are usually obvious. A week is not a very long time to explore the area. Sarasota is north of the middle of the SW Florida cruising area of Clearwater to Naples and the keys. You wont have time for the keys unless you want to do long days and short stops.
Going north, Marina Jack in Sarasota, St. Petersburg muni marina, and Clearwater beach are all easily accessible with the only trouble spot being near marker 40 near longboat pass. To the south Venice, Boca Grand, Cayo Costa anchorage (no marina), South Seas resort, ( entrance a little shallow) Ft Meyers, Ft Meyers beach and Naples are all different and interesting. Narrow or shallow entrances are common but should not be a problem with proper attention. Check for current information on this site as conditions do change from charted depths.
IMO for the best sample of area cruising go south, take your time and stay in the ICW. It is a shame to miss the St. Pete waterfront but you cant do everything in a week.
Fortunately, most of the shoreline of the Gulf from Louisiana to Florida is soft albeit shallow. Keep one eye on the charts and the other on the tide tables. Frustrating as it ma be, sometimes the different tide charts seem to not agree. Live with it.
I have sailed the Gulf along Florida’s West coast for the past 14 years and have ‘found’ most of the shoals. I could have avoided them with little bit of caution but was able to free myself with no injury or damage and sailed away with minimal delay and another sailing story.
I think the Gulf coast has some of the best anchorages of anywhere I have been. Very well protected, plentiful and shallow. I don’t like to anchor in more than 8-10′ of water- too much work to haul the anchor and to figure swinging area.
Always FOR SAILtoo