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Marco Island to Naples Waterway

The “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.
The discussion below is copied from the AGLCA (American’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association) mail list. As always, I HIGHLY recommend this organization for ANYONE doing or contemplating the Great Loop!

Is this a viable alternative to going outside with a 4.5 foot draft boat? It looks like it might be a nice place to transit and anchor.
Do it at high/rising tide?

We took about 4’4″ through there a few years ago (2006) with no problems. It is shallow and narrow in spots, so your thought of doing it on a rising tide is a good one. It is a rather isolated but pretty route.
Also, be aware they are dredging in Gordon Pass near Naples, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you.

A nice place to anchor is in the channel west of Little Marco Island beginning at daymark G”33″. We anchored there and found ourselves partially aground next morning. No problem, we just waited two hours for the incoming tide to float our boat. Evidently, we did not allow enough room to swing on the tide change. Why does the boat always swing on the short shore side when there is gobs of room on the other side?
Alan Lloyd
Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes

Yes, inside route is OK for your draft boat.
Sanctuary draws 4’2″. In March, 2009, we left Punta Gorda via Charlotte Harbor to the G-ICW, south and went out into the Gulf at Redfish Pass (Captiva Island), and south on the Gulf to Gordon Pass.
There is only one high tide on the gulf side of Florida, and the high tides are normally in the afternoon, so we entered Gordon Pass on a rising tide around 14h00. Or, you could come all the way from
Charlotte Harbor south on Pine Island Sound and past Sanibel Island to Ft Myers Beach. From Ft. Myers Beach south to Gordon Pass, outside. When you come off the Gulf into and through Gordon Pass, after a mile or so, you’ll take a hard stbd southbound on the old ICW. That’s the worst part of the entire trip for shallow water, narrow channel and inconsiderate local go fast fishing boats. But, about 4 or 5 miles south is a terrific anchorage called Rookery Bay. It’s a wild mangrove swamp area, and beautiful. Mind the correctly charted shoal on the north east of the opening. There’s plenty of water to the south. Some fisherman wakes until dark, but fine thereafter. No place to walk a dog.
From there, we proceeded south to Marco. Mind the charts very carefully at Marco. From Rookery Bay on the old ICW, you’ll need to go nearly all the way out the Marco inlet and make a 340 degree turn
back to get to the old ICW channel south of Marco to Goodland. You can anchor or marina at Marco. There is plenty of room, and more than one area to anchor.
When you leave Marco Southbound, there is a hiway bridge immediately south of Marco where the channel marker colors change sides. So… When you go under that bridge, southbound, you MUST take a 90 degree stbd turn and find R”26″, which lies against the shoreline in a line parallel to the bridge. It can be hard to spot, but you must go around that marker, leaving it to your port side. You will see
smaller boats skip it, and head straight at the bridge. DO NOT FOLLOW THEM. It is too shallow for your boat! From R”26″, make another 90 degree turn, this time to port, and find G”25″. It’s a mile off, but
find it. The channel from R”26″ to G”25″ is a bit narrow, but carries 6 – 8′ of water, so no problem. There is a collection of remains of pilings to stbd after you make the turn at R”26″; leave them to your
stbd side and follow a rhumb line from R”26″ to G”25″. This all sounds complicated, but forewarned, it’s not bad. However, it can be confusing and unintuitive if you don’t know the marker colors change
side there.
The rest of that old ICW channel is fine, and well marked. Follow it through Goodland and through Coon Key Pass to Gullivan Bay. You can anchor or marina at Goodland. If you marina there, be sure to check on approach water depths. The area is shallow. The north portion of Gullivan Bay is also shallow: 5 ft or so at MLW, but no problem. As you proceed south past coon Key Light, you have entered the 10,000 Islands.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
Currently at Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda, FL

The Old ICW from Naples to Rookery Channel Anchorage
So far so good…..Shallow yes, Twins arrived in Naples about noon yesterday and took the old ICW to the channel between R46 and R48. We anchored up the channel to the east as far as you should go to the 8ft charted hole where the bay opens. The tide was still rising.
I’ve estimated that the tides here run one to two hours after the tide tables for Marco and Naples which are about an hour different. At low tide this morning the slack occurred almost 2 hours after the stated Marco low at 7:34 of -1.0. We still had a good 9 feet under the swim platform. You could also tie off to the mangroves here but there is lots of room to swing. A pretty spot.
Definately do this trip at high tide for Naples or Marco if you carry a trawler draft. The advice from Sanctuary (and others) is great! Thanks.
I’ll cross my fingers again at high tide when we head for Goodland today.

In 2006 (so info is that dated, but post Hurricane Charlie) we took a chartered 46′ Grand Banks from Marco to Naples using the inside route, a delightful trip on a rising tide. The junction with Gordon Pass is tricky, as noted by Jim. At that time an alternative anchorage to Rookery Bay, and one of our all time favorites, was inside Hurricane Pass. There is a very nice beach that we swam or took our inflatable kayak to that would be good for a dog if you cleaned up after it. One of those places where we could have spent a week . The Pass itself is not usable to get to the Gulf.

Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For The Little Marco Island Anchorage

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