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    • Praise for City’s Loaner Bike Program, Punta Gorda, FL, Charlotte Harbor, Western Florida

      Punta Gorda Waterfront - Click for Chartview

      Punta Gorda, Florida - a GREAT cruising destinationPunta Gorda’s FREE loaner bike program, described by Nancy Johnson, CEO of Team Punta Gorda and Lorah Steiner, Director of Tourism, is a real boon to transient cruisers! Bikes are available within easy walking distance of the Punta Gorda Waterfront Anchorage public dinghy dock located just off Gilchrist Park which is between Fishermens Village and the twin Tamiami Bridges.
      Biking is a great way to visit nearby attractions and to stretch your legs after several days on the water. Another excellent service-to-boaters provided by the city of Punta Gorda, A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!

      The free loaner bike program had 1700 riders ytd in 2013. It’s very popular and easy to use. Our bikes are also at Fisherman’s Village and the Isles Yacht Club for cruisers that use their docks. This year, our new public floating dinghy docks were installed off of Gilchrist Park making landing much, much easier than before.
      Best Wishes,

      Yes. Absolutely! All they need is a credit card and driver’s license, but they won’t be charged. They can walk about 10 feet from the pier and get their bikes! There are two other locations within walking distance of the pier – the Four Points Sheraton and the Wyvern Hotel. You do NOT need to be a guest of those hotels to use the bikes.
      Anyone can take out a FREE bike for the day with helmet and lock included. Almost everything Punta Gorda can be accessed by bicycle. All you need is a credit card and drivers license for security purposes but you won’t be charged if the bike is returned in good condition. I used to take them out all the time. They are a great way to see the town.
      I think all of the bikes have baskets as well for transporting small items. I used to love to ride them to the farmer’s markets – one on Saturday and one on Sunday – or to Fisherman’s Village. The more intrepid can bike to Ponce De Leon Park – about a five mile bike ride, I think, to visit the Peace River Wildlife Center – one of my favorite attractions. It’s mostly all flat, easily bike-able terrain with sidewalks and bike paths.
      Boat and Bike!!
      Lorah Steiner
      Director of Tourism

      Sharon and I were in Punta Gorda in April and enjoyed these bikes. Its a great biking area and the bikes have pretty good size baskets and locks. If you’re looking for Cannondale’s, you won’t be happy, but if you want a nice piece of fat tire free transportation and an easy terrain to bike in (LOTS of cruiser amenities in range) this is a destination to add.
      John Martis

      And, here is a map sent to us by our partners in Punta Gorda. Note the diamond shaped symbols which denote where you can pick up the loaner bikes. And so, it looks as if cruisers who dinghy ashore at Gilchrist Park will either need to walk northeast to pick up bikes hard by the Highway 41 bridges, or southwest to Fishermens Village.

      There is definitely a nice new floating dinghy dock at Gilchrist Park. I used it last month. From the dinghy dock you can walk southwest along the shore to Fisherman’s Village Marina where you can pick up a free loaner bicycle to ride around town.
      This link gets you to a chart that is not yet updated but the dinghy dock is between 3 and 9 (closer to 9) on the Welcome Chart.

      Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Anchorage Directory Listing For Punta Gorda Waterfront Anchorage

      Click Here To View the Western Florida Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Fishermen’s Village

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Punta Gorda Waterfront

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    • Cruising Western Florida’s Big Bend Region

      I have often said, but it’s worth repeating, that if you get six veteran cruisers together, and ask their opinion about the best way to cruise the waterwayless “Big Bend” region of Western Florida, moving north from Tarpon Springs and Anclote Key to Dog Island and the charming village of Carrabelle (or the other way around), you will get eight different opinions.
      On the one hand, some argue for “cutting the corner” and heading directly from Dog Island straight for Anclote Key or Clearwater. There are a whole set of issues around this strategy such as what time of day (or night) do you depart, and the presence of crabpots and fish traps as one approaches Anclote Key.
      The other strategy is to follow the Big Bend Coastline, keeping WELL offshore, to avoid the large shelf of shallows which jut out from this portion of the Florida coastline. This plan allows visits to the Big Bend rivers, which pierce the coastline at regular intervals, and are joined to the Gulf’s deeper waters by marked, dredged channels. Following some of these passages can be a real navigational challenge, and some of these stream’s entrance cuts carry only 4 to 4 1/2 feet of water. Others are somewhat deeper, but none are a proverbial walk in the park.
      Below, you will find excerpts from a recent string of messages which have appeared on the “GL” (Great Loop) mailing list. As you will see, a full spectrum of opinions is on display here as well.

      Although most “loopers” seem to bypass the Big Bend, we are interested in actually experiencing some of the old Florida areas that are apparently still very much alive and well, if water depth and weather permits.
      Sanderling is currently in Carrabelle at the C-Quarters marina while we’re enjoying a few months at home. We want to resume our cruise homeward to Merritt Island once the winter winds subside and water levels return to near “normal,” temps warm up, and daylight is longer – probably March.
      We have visited St. Marks, Steinhatchee, and Cedar Key by car on our way to and from Sanderling, and would like to visit all three on our way around the Big Bend to Tarpon Springs. Might also consider Crystal River.
      At least one boater has visited both St. Marks and Steinhatchee in a DF 49 with a 5 foot draft (our DF 41 is 4 feet).
      Has anyone cruised into those three areas (St. Marks, Steinhatchee, Cedar Key) or Crystal River in a boat with 4+ foot draft, and what was your experience with the water depths and anchorages/marinas?
      Any thoughts or suggestions welcome!
      Judy Young & Bob McLeran

      When we were in Carrabelle my assessment was that the northerly winds that are favorable to leave will also blow or the water in those ports. I was trying hard to avoid the long overnight run and kept looking at all options very seriously.
      I was warned by the guys at C Quarters that Steinhatchee entrance can get quite shallow even on a good day. They tried to talk me out of going there. Then add to it the effect of the North wind which will make it even lower. I saw it as a crap shoot and decided against putting myself in that potential situation.
      I chose the overnight crossing and went straight to Clearwater instead of Tarpon Springs. It was a small additional time but there are far less crab pots approaching Clearwater.
      Left the bay near Carrabelle at noon and arrived at the Wrights at 3rd next day.

      We had a DeFever 44+5 with a 4′-7″ draft (5′ w/Admiral’s stuff). Cannot attest to the depths now, but we went into St. Marks in May of 2006 & had no problems. Also, no problems with Steinhatchee & Cedar Key in December of 2007. Best I remember we went into both places on a rising tide. Never did go into Crystal River, but had friends that have been in there with 4′-6″ draft & had no trouble.
      Don’t believe I would make the trip today into any of those places until the wind blows the water back into the bays.
      Eddie Lomenick
      Eagle’s Nest

      Leaving for the Big Bend in March is a good plan, better later in the month once the prevailing winds shift back to the southeast. That will return your channels to their charted depths. Ideally, you can leave one port and arrive in the next at high tide to reduce the margin of risk. Those tides are about 13 hours apart and if you hit the time just right, you can ride your departing high tide all down the coast. I have been through the Big Bend in a 4 foot draft sailboat and this strategy worked well. April would even work better for you.
      Stay safe,

      I’ve been in and out of a few but not all of these places. I think that if you can plan your arrival or departures around the tides you will be OK with 4′ draft and a single screw. The problem is that north winds blow all the water out and if you are unlucky enough to combine that with spring lows your draft will most assuredly exceed your depth.
      Crystal River is typical of many Big Bend rivers. It is about eight miles in (and back out) from the Gulf, which makes the day’s travel a couple hours longer than you might think.
      Randy Pickelmann
      Morning Star

      We have cruised the Big Bend several times in Silver Boots drawing five feet with stops at Steinhatchie and Cedar Key.
      We have found we need one foot above winter low tide to enter the Steinhatchie channel. There is one floating green channel marker and this is the low spot. We have stayed at the Sea Hag marina.
      We have entered Cedar Key from both north and south and do not suggest the north west channel because of shoaling. At high tide we have scraped bottom. The south Main Ship channel has plenty of depth but becomes tricky as you approach the intersection with the north west channel. Study the charts carefully and understand the zig zag route you will follow. No marina and very little protection in this anchorage.
      Jim & Pam Shipp
      aboard Silver Boots

      Steinhatchee, FL. is our hailing port , we sail in and out frequently. We have two sailboats there a 50 ft. Gulf Star Texas, and a Islander 36 that both draw six feet. As long as you keep it in the channel there is no problem navigating in and out here. We’ve also been in and out of Crystal River a few times with these vessels. You need a good peak high tide going in as there is a shallow sand bar to cross, or there was last time we went in?
      Fair Winds,
      R. Bideaux
      La victoria

      To me, the draft of your boat is the biggest consideration. My boat draws 5 feet and I always cut across, usually from Carravelle to Clearwater, or vice versa. If you are not in a hurry, don’t just wait for the weather, wait for a night with a full or nearly full moon, and it will make the night passage a lot more fun. It’s an easy one nighter.
      With less draft, there are several places that would be fun to stop and visit.
      R. Holiman

      For boats planning to arrive Crystal River – We live in Crystal River and home port our 44′ Island Gypsy here. We draft 4.5 feet. With the low tides we are having now, we only move at near high tide and even then there are several areas in the river that we clear with only 2.5 feet under the keel. The river will lull you with stretches of 12-14 feet and suddenly 2 to 3 feet under your keel – go slow. The channel inbound from CR1 to Shell Island also has several areas with the same depths so from CR1 to Kings Bay needs to be done slowly. Things will improve with the arrival of spring tides but for now deeper draft boats should exercise caution and only transit at high tide.
      Doug & Virginia Hall M/V Lotus

      WE have sailed the St. Marks/Shell Point area for years. St. Marks is not problem, the channel is dredged for large fuel barges and has plenty of water. Shields Marina is a very nice facility and anchoring well up the St. Marks river is a wonderful wilderness experience. There is plenty of water up the river to the large powerlines that cross just south of US 98 bridge. The St. Mark’s wildlife refuge borders the east side of the river and the flloodplain on the west has a few docks and houses, but you cannot see most of the houses. When anchor overnight you are usually alone are with light traffic and you really think you are in a jungle. This is truly an undiscovered part of the big bend. Try the Riverside restaurant which has music most weekends and a transient dock.
      Phil Werndli
      MSV Banana Wind

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    • Upper Waccamaw River Cartographical Aids

      AICW/Upper Waccamaw Intersection - Click for Chartview

      Back on 12/24/13, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net (along with many other nautical publications) made the sad announcement that the USCG would be removing all aids to navigation on the upper portion of the Waccamaw River, abandoned by the AICW (see /?p=130563). As SSECN Senior Editor, Captain Larry Dorminy, commented at that time, “While depths in the Upper Waccamaw are reported to be good, the removal of these daybeacons and buoys will certainly make this side trip upstream to Conway, SC more difficult.”
      Then, HAPPILY, we received the note below from veteran cruisers, Captains Jim and Peg Healy:

      When Sanctuary and crew made the side trip to Conway, SC, in October, 2013, the lateral daymarks in the river were in good condition. With the USCG announcing plans to permanently discontinue the daymarks on the upper Waccamaw, there are very few reliable sources of navigation guidance for cruisers, and particularly first-time/less-experienced cruisers. There are some large tributaries and embayments that intersect the river. Some are large enough to be confusing to those not familiar with the area.
      As you know, there are no NOAA charts of the upper Waccamaw that cover the upper river. So, I superimposed Sanctuary’s GPS track on a road map of the area. I hope this will be useful in portraying the through-route northbound into Conway.
      Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary

      Jim and Peg are quite correct. Even though I’ve made this side-trip at least a dozen times over the years, without the various markers, I can easily see my tiny mind becoming confused at some of the forks along the way. Jim and Peg have done the cruising community a tremendous favor by providing the cartographical aids, linked below.
      A word of WARNING – these “maps” are NOT nautical charts, and cannot be relied upon to always keep you to good depths. Sidewaters off the main, upper Waccamaw River chanel are almost uniformly shallow, so all cruisers should undertake this sidetrip with the full knowledge that they are embarking on a somewhat chancy sojourn. In other words, cruise the upper Waccamaw at your own risk.
      With that being said, what we have done is blow up Jim and Peg’s maps to a level that cruisers will hopefully find useful, and divided these graphics into four parts. Part 1 depicts the southernmost section of the upper Waccamaw, with the subsequent parts moving farther north with Part 4 leading all the way to Conway, SC, and their friendly city marina.
      Like Jim and Peg, we hope everyone finds these maps useful!

      Upper Waccamaw River Map – Part 1

      Upper Waccamaw River Map – Part 2

      Upper Waccamaw River Map – Part 3

      Upper Waccamaw River Map – Part 4

      Agree, these maps are better than nothing but what a shame the CG is removing the markers. This is a great little side trip off the waterway that we have done a couple of times in the last 25 years. And’¦there are a couple of places where you can go wrong if not for a day marker. Caution is the word and I think fewer boaters without local knowledge will be going to Conway going forward.
      Doyle Evans

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    • S/V Primadonna Located in Bahamas

      A search for a number of weeks in response to a request (/?p=129228) by Oriental merchant, Pat Stockwell, has finally located the errant sailing vessel, Primadonna. Our thanks to Steve Petty for this story from TownDock, see

      SV Primadonna has been located although the crew may have been detained:
      `SV Primadonna, aground at Booby Cay Island in the Bahamas. It is a tiny island of 300, not normally on tourist / cruiser lists. Apparently the vessel & crew entered the Bahamas without checking in with authorities. Pat Stockwell tells ( he was told the Primadonna crew may have been arrested ‘“ Bahamian authorities are harsher about the rules than they are in the USA. The photo was taken from a US Coast Guard helicopter ‘“ the Coast Guard patrols the Bahamas as part of a cooperation agreement with the Bahamas to fight drug trafficking. ‘ ‘”
      Steve Petty

      If this is the Booby Cay that is just a bit east of Rose Island, which in turn is east of Nassau, it isn’t all that remote and I suspect the Primadonna crew will be in the not-so-comfortable confines of Nassau jail. Unfortunately, one bad apple like this can severely impact the reputation of the entire cruising community, as we have seen with the so-called `derelict’ boat issue that has been used to create anti-anchoring ordinances in Florida and other places. When in reality the vast majority of the cruising community are themselves totally opposed to this type of behavior.
      John Kettlewell

      I doubt that these two would go anywhere near Nassau because of the entry fees into the Bahamas. I believe that they are aground between Booby Cay and Conception Island in the Bahamas. Conception Island is in a remote area and is a National Park in the Southern Bahamas. Very few cruisers visit.
      There are two anchorages off Conception Island, one is located South of Booby Cay. The entrance to this anchorage is from the Southwest. If they tried to enter from the Northeast, between Booby Cay and Conception Island, the route is very shallow and full of rocks.
      It’s too bad they did not sink in the really deep water a few miles from where they are. Word is that they were headed for Haiti or one of the French Islands. With any luck the Bahamas officials will confiscate their boat and throw them both in jail.
      The good news is that they are gone from the US and are now someone else’s problem.
      Dave Boxmeyer

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    • Watch for Crab Pots in Florida Bay, Marathon to Cape Sable

      The passage from East Cape on Cape Sable eastward across Florida Bay to Marathon in the Florida Keys requires a sharp lookout at best and the presence of crab pot floats only adds to that necessity.

      Florida Bay from Cape Sable to within 2-3 miles of Marathon is carpeted with crab pot markers. While we dodged them all, I heard that 2 boats got their props wrapped during their crossings.
      Bob & Loretta McKane.

      Florida rule 68B-13.008: Gear, Trap Construction and so forth states in part:No more than 5 feet of any buoy line attached to a buoy used to mark a stone crab trap or attached to a trotline shall float on the surface of the water.
      I have personally wrapped up in traps with 50′ of floating line.
      FWC doesn’t seem to enforce this rule or the other one about dropping pots in channels. I’ve had problems with them crossing under the 7 mile bridge as well. It’s a mine field in the channel.
      Larry Annen

      Once you leave Little Shark, travel down the shoreline to Cape Sable and then take a course for John Sawyer Bank just on the north side of Marathon. From their you can easily follow the ICW to 7 Mile Bridge and then head back in Boot Key Harbor. There really isn’t an exact route. Plan on water depths of 8 to 14 feet and LOTS of crab and lobster traps to dodge. We look for an wind out of the eastern quadrant to run down the coast and then leave Little Shark early to get calm seas. We watch for a time when there are 2 footers or less. Dodging pots in seas is a real pain.
      Marty and Jerry Richardson onboard M/V Monarch

      If you run inside the Everglades Park limits you will have no Crab Pots, but once you get south of the Everglades Park watch out for them.
      Mitch & Carole On Serendipity in FT. Myers

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    • Words of Caution for Everglades National Park Marina in Flamingo, FL

      Flamingo Marina - Click for Chartview

      Flamingo Marina is part of the Cape Sable Everglades National Park Service and is located in Flamingo, FL. The contact number for the Marina is 239-695-3101. However, because of the severe shoaling in the entrance channel, this facility is not recommended by the SSECN’Ž

      We came here from Flamingo. While the national park service people there are very helpful, the concessionaire who runs the marina is not. Phones are not answered and go into voice mail which is not returned for a day+. The channel is badly shoaled near buoys 13/15′. No one responds to a hail on channel 16 so you are left on your own to find a place to dock. The utility pedestals are infested with hornets, half with no electricity, the others with no water. This could be a great place to visit, but should only be used if the Florida Bay is too snotty to cross.
      Bob & Loretta McKane.

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

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    • Kudos to J.T. at Halden Marine Service! Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood/Miami, FL

      It is this kind of service that turns a bad time unto a positive experience! Halden Marine Service is located at 1019 N 32nd Avenue, Hollywood, FL 33021, Phone: (954) 964-8136.

      My wife and I waited for arrival in Key Biscayne to unpickle our Spectra Watermaker in preparation for cruising in the Bahamas. When powered up, we discovered the pump head needed replacement. This was Christmas week, and our weather window for making the Gulf Stream crossing was fast approaching and not expected to last very long. I called J.T., who not only ordered the part I needed express, but then delivered them at no cost to me on December 27th from his Hollywood, FL shop to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. I replaced the pump myself. Despite this, J.T. only charged me his cost for the parts, and provided me lots of advice. GREAT SERVICE and great, trustworthy guy. Highly recommend him. George on SV Tara.

      We do not know of anyone who can beat JT in service. The Spectra watermaker is great and his service is first class! He always answers his emails and phone. I’m sure some of my questions makes him shake his head but there has never been a time when we weren’t 100% satisfied!! Go Halden Marine Service!
      Dick and Anne Anderson

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    • Praise for Southport Marina, Southport, NC, AICW Statute Mile 309.5

      Southport MarinaSouthport Marina, a much valued SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, lies just west of the Cape Fear River along the northern banks of the Waterway hard by flashing daybeacon #2A.

      I cannot say enough positive things about Southport Marina. I have been here for almost three weeks and will be here for a couple more as well. All of the staff are attentive, professional and pleasant. Excellent facilities, a short 10 minute walk into the heart of downtown Southport and a myriad of services available. Highly recommended for one night, a week or longer ‘“ and will return!
      Jay Kuhn

      Click Here To View the North Carolina Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Southport Marina

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

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    • Night Time Opening Restrictions Ended at RR Bridge, AICW Statute 203.8, Morehead City, NC

      Morehead City RR Bridge – Click for Chartview

      With a closed vertical clearance of 4ft, Morehead City Railroad Bridge crosses the Waterway at Statute Mile 204, immediately south of the Newport River Bridge.
      Mariners are advised that the general operating regulations, set out at Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations Part 117.5, have been reinstated at the Carolina Coastal Railroad Bridge across Newport River, at AICW mile 203.8, in Morehead City, NC. Since October 2012, the drawbridge had been operating on a temporary schedule to facilitate extensive rehabilitation. The re-established operating regulations require that the drawbridge open promptly and fully for the passage of vessels when a request to open is given. However, the drawbridge is normally maintained in the open to navigation position at all times and only closes for passing trains and/or maintenance. In the closed position to vessels, this single-leaf bascule drawbridge has a vertical clearance of approximately four feet, above mean high water. Chart 11541 January 4, 2014

      Click Here To View the North Carolina Cruisers’ Net Marina Directory Listing For Morehead City Railroad Bridge

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Morehead City Railroad Bridge

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    • Alternate Route Suggested for St. Andrew Sound, AICW Statute Mile 690

      Marker #32 - Click for Chartview

      In addition to Umbrella Cut (see /?p=128619) and other alternates (see /?p=118925) to avoid the infamous R32 in often turbulent waters, Captain Ehlen offers the following suggestion that is an “around your elbow” route, but seems straight forward.
      THE SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET WANTS TO MAKE IT CRYSTAL CLEAR THAT WE ARE NOT ADVOCATING THE ALTERNATE ROUTE SUGGESTED BELOW BY CAPTAIN EHLEN. However, now that we have a first-hand account from Captain Richard Ross, cruising aboard the ARGUS cooperative research vessel, Chez Nous, this route is CERTAINLY on our radar to research in the near future!
      Even the adventurous among us should not have the tiniest thought of trying to run the channel east of #7 without an up to date and well functioning GPS chart plotter aboard.

      I haven’t tried this myself, but looking at the charts it seems to me that there is a deep water alternative.
      When heading south, at red #2 at Raccoon Key Split, turn to starboard SW above Horseshoe Shoal. Follow markers 3,4,5 and 6, then turn to port after G7. Head east until back on the ICW between FG33 and G33A.
      I hope someone has comments, good or bad, about this alternative.
      Wade Ehlen

      Here’s a posting from `the archives’ that describes the route I recently suggested. Posted on 11-02-2011
      “We went through the area yesterday. It was beyond awful in the Sound, so we turned to starboard up the Satilla River to marker 8, turned to port and worked our way through the deeper water back to Cumberland River. This is NOT the charted alternate route, but much shorter and worked for us. It was about 2 hours after high tide and we were able to make it through. We draw 5′. Not flat, but the giant elephants in St. Andrews made it a no-brainer for us.
      Take a look, and good luck!
      Stephanie Wakelin M/V September Song”
      Wade Ehlen

      And, finally, HERE IS THE FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE OF THIS ALTERNATE ROUTE WE HAVE BEEN SEEKING, and from a veteran cruiser, piloting an ARGUS cooperative research vessel, no less. We have pasted a shot of the channel near marker #7, showing the ARGUS soundings. Click on the chartlet to be taken to a Chart View page of these waters, with the ARGUS layer automatically activated!

      We have taken this route twice, and it does avoid the worst of marker 32. The charted depths are fairly accurate, and the only shallow spot is a sharp bump just south of marker 7. Take it slow there, as the bottom rises quickly from 12 ft to about 5 feet MLW, then immediately drops back to 12ft. Click on ARGUS to see the exact spot.
      Richard Ross M/V Chez Nous

      Came though the same route as Chez Vous early December. Winds ENE 15-20. Good alternative’¦ had same observations. Draft:5.5ft
      Doug Jacoby

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of St. Andrew Sound

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