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Kansas to the Keys
Old 02-18-2004, 06:29 PM   #1
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Kansas to the Keys

Moving from a different section...
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Dory- Currently we're land-locked in the midwest. Missouri to be exact. We plan to have the boat shipped down to the gulf coast, probably Pensacola area and taking the trip around the west coast to Marathon. We also are interested in any areas on the east coast to ride out the hurricane season. Not sure I feel ready to make the run to Trinidad yet... altho you never know once we get there. 8)

Any info is greatly appreciated! We'll keep an eye out for you once we get there. (Or maybe you should keep one out for us.... we'll be working on our anchoring skills... )
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A couple of thoughts. If you can't come down the Tenn-Tom Waterway from near St Louis due to the wrong season, then there's not much reason to launch at Pensacola. Fom Pensacola to Clearwater, you have to go outside -- no shallow water within miles of shore, and the channels are so long that you'd spend half a dayjust getting to an anchorage and back out. So you start with a ~30 hour crossing. Better to just launch at Clearwater or St Pete and have protected waters with anchorages every 10-20 miles.

From Clearwater, you are inside all the way to Ft Myers Beach, with lots of good stops for either quick overnights or stops with shore attractions. Then outside with easy entrances to anchorages all the way to Marathon.

Before I bore all the non-cruisers to death, I think I will create another section for these topics. There seems to be several folks interested in these things, but it is far enough off the ER topic that I should allow those not interested to easily skip them... So let's continue this discussion in the new section "Retirement Afloat".

Dory36
Be sure to get a book called "The BAIL Guide to Anchorages in SW Florida" or something like that. See http://www.sailmiami.com/book_reviews/BAILguide.htm and make sure you have new edition published within the past 12 months or so. An excellent guide, with charts, aerial photos, and great write-ups. Most of our stops were based on this book. Since it and my charts are not handy and won't be for a few weeks, the following is from memory - forgive any misjudgments on distances etc.

From Clearwater, where you can anchor just off the Municipal Marina and dinghy in to tour that area, it's a short day's run to St Petersburg.

We had a great time in St Petersburg. We anchored in Vinoy Basin - the large well protected basin north of the municipal pier. Easy walk to restaurants, bus stop near the dinghy landing (on the south wall of the basin) that will get you anywhere from St Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. Good protection for anything other than an east wind. This anchorage is just off a city park, where they hold parades, arts festivals, and so forth. There were occasionally 10 boats on weekends, but usually only 3-4 during the week. Room for dozens. We stayed there three weeks.

An alternate if that basin is closed (as it was for a few days for a tri-athelon; they used the basin for the swimming portion) is south of the airport, just off the Salvadore Dali museum. Maybe a mile south of the first anchorage. Dinghy to the nearby marina and talk nice to them - they let us tie up dinghies as long as we wanted, and even loaned us a key to their security gate.

Another easy day south is a state park/island whose name I forget, but will look up. Another nice anchorage (but somewhat tricky entrance) with a really nice whole island to explore on foot.

Sarasota was an interesting place to visit, but the anchorage was crowded and pretty choppy - suggest you either get as close to shore (and away from the traffic) as possible, or perhaps try Longboat Key as others have done. Don't try to get fuel there early in the morning. The marina gas dock shoos sailboats away when gas-guzzling sports fishing boats circle for a spot at the gas dock.

Boca Grande is a good stop. Most unusual anchoring, as the whole basin can't be more than 100' wide. Boats drop their anchor in mid-channel, back up to the mangroves, and tie off a stern line to the mangroves.





Continued next message...
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Re: Kansas to the Keys
Old 02-18-2004, 06:39 PM   #2
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Re: Kansas to the Keys

We bypassed a very crowded Ft Myers Beach and went up the river to a place called Bimini Basin. Mostly undiscovered large and protected basin at Cape Coral, reached by 1-2 miles of deep water canal. (But see the BAIL guide or get local knowledge for the entrance, which can be confusing.) Easy walk to West Marine, groceries, and great breakfast at Annies. Also the best and cheapest block ice in Florida. Homes and condos border the basin on 3 sides, and the 4th is a cit park where the city has put cleats on a seawall for dinghies. From there you can get a bus to Ft Myers or Ft Myers Beach. Locals took us in for food and drinks, and others have reported a similar experience.

You'll be outside from here one. (Non-cruisers - this means you are in open and unprotected waters. No big deal if the winds are calm or weak, but when they are stronger, especially from across the Gulf, it can be a rough ride.)

Next is Naples, ~40 miles. We went all the way up the river (5 miles, as I recall) to Naples last year, although we saw several boats anchored only a half mile or so up the river. While we were at Naples, the city marina was pulling out 5 of the 10 mooring balls, saying the adjacent yacht club objected to the ones near their docks. The marina said anchoring was not allowed, and you had to use one of the 5 mooring balls ($10/night, and no reservations - first come first serve!). We did, but also asked a local marine policeman we met, and he said you could anchor all you wanted. The marina was pricy too, from the signs we saw, and with about 50 or so rules posted on the dock, we didn't think it looked too inviting. Nice place to visit ashore, and lots within walking distance. West Marine is a long dinghy ride through winding canals. Lots of politics going on when we were there - the dockmaster had either quit or been fired, the county buses seemed to have good routes but were prohibited from picking up or dropping off anyone inside the city limits, and so forth.

At Marco Island (another 35-40 miles), bypass the rough and crowded anchorage right at the mouth of the river, and go all the way to the large basin near the marina, where the channel does a big loop. Anchor just out of the channel and preferably a bit away from the marina, which rents 100+ boats to tourists every day. You can dinghy to that marina though ($5/day tie-up fee) and walk to groceries, an exceptionally friendly West Marine, and plenty of places to eat and drink.

We anchored outside Everglades City, another 35-40 miles or so from Marco Island. Didn't go all the way in, as we anchored 4-5 miles from the city - just an overnight. Quiet, and protected.

We also anchored just overnight at the Shark River. Should have explored more - it's supposed to be really great, and lots of boats go miles and miles into the Everglades here.

From there it is about 40 miles, and almost all deep water to Marathon. There are only 1-2 spots where you have to be careful about depths as I recall.

Now there's more than anyone wanted to know about this topic!

Dory36
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
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Re: Kansas to the Keys
Old 02-20-2004, 07:51 AM   #3
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Re: Kansas to the Keys

Dory- WOW! Thanks for the wealth of information. Can't tell you how helpful it is! This is one of those life style changes that you can read about till you're blue in the face and still feel like you know nothing! Good news is we aren't afraid to ask. Lake life just can't prepare you for oceans, tides and dodging freighters. Thanks again!
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Re: Kansas to the Keys
Old 02-26-2004, 06:06 PM   #4
 
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Re: Kansas to the Keys

Dory,

Yeahboy...great post. This stuff repersents one of my possible futures. I am about five years away from pulling the plug. Can you recommend any online resources for further study? I am presently in Anchorage AK, but would likley begin this from the West coast (San Juan Islands, meebee). Do cruisers gaggle together like their landlocked brothers (RVers), or is your experience more solitary?

Thanks,

Cliff
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Re: Kansas to the Keys
Old 02-27-2004, 03:03 AM   #5
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Re: Kansas to the Keys

I have only done a little RVing, but it seems to me that cruisers are more likely than RVers to gaggle together, when they stop at anchor.

In travel, they only occasionally try to travel together, except when on a tricky route or when one has been having mechanical troubles, is a beginner wishing company, etc., as the speeds are so slow that to slow down 1/2 MPH to match with a slower boat means you have given up 10% of your cruising speed! As a resut, it seems more common to just meet up with whoever happens to be in the anchorage you choose, or perhaps agree to meet at a certain anchorage witb people you want to connect with.

Cruising the east coast waterways, you typically travel 30-35 miles a day when on the move. Along several stretched of the 1000+ mile Norfolk to Miami run, there are 25 mile stretches with no good place to anchor. As a result, it's pretty common to meet up with others at the good stopping places. Having said that, it is also easy to get 100% solitude, with no human in sight, by simply choosing to go a mile or two up a small river, bypassing other good spots to anchor.

Some good reading is at http://www.sailnet.com/collections/a...how=all&type=1

Dory36
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain
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