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Old 22-04-2013, 20:16   #1
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New Orleans to Florida Keys

My wife and I are planning a trip from New Orleans to Florida Keys starting around the last week of May. We will be sailing a 1993 Lagoon 37 TPI. We are very familiar with the first part of the trip from New Orleans to Carrabelle, but not familiar with the coast from Tarpon Springs down to the Keys. We don’t absolutely have to make it to Key West but would appreciate some "low key" island time. We would welcome any suggestions that anybody has regarding great marinas and anchorages, route strategy, things to avoid, or anything else.

We know that the normal May/June winds will not provide easy downwind sailing going down to the Keys, but should provide an easier return.

My wife and I are both retired, in our mid 60s and are not adrenaline junkies. Still, it would be ideal if we could complete the trip (there and back) in not much more than a month. We are prepared to do a few 36 hour legs. Any suggestions or comments?
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Old 22-04-2013, 20:38   #2
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Great cruising ground from Tarpon Springs south...even if you dont make it to KW.

Pick up a copy of Claiborne Young's cruising guide for the area...very detailed.

Haved not cruised there since all the anchoring controversy, but some of my favorites:

Tarpon Springs
St. Pete
Manatee River
Pine Island Sound area

There is a lot of coast line to cover so I suggest more than 1 month or leave the boat and return later.
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Old 22-04-2013, 20:57   #3
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

You should definately check out the 10,000 island region... You don't have to worry to much about draft with that boat, and when you get down to the keys you can make it under the bridges to get from the bay to atlantic side with ease..

Take your time, and like Belize said if you need to leave you boat, and come back down...

Should be pretty quite this time of the year.
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Old 28-04-2013, 20:24   #4
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I am presently at Panama City just across the bay at a bayou called smack bayou. This is probably one of the best anchorages I have seen since I left New Orleans.. Will be heading east here shortly in the same direction you two are going. Since I am sailing this could take a while because the wind seems to always be coming at my bow . Good luck out there! Safe trip and all that!!!
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Old 28-04-2013, 21:23   #5
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

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Originally Posted by Dawgfish View Post
I am presently at Panama City just across the bay at a bayou called smack bayou. This is probably one of the best anchorages I have seen since I left New Orleans.. Will be heading east here shortly in the same direction you two are going. Since I am sailing this could take a while because the wind seems to always be coming at my bow . Good luck out there! Safe trip and all that!!!
Smack Bayou is definitely a great anchorage, especially if one is taking the inside route or has time to enjoy the serenity. If taking the outside route and hoping to make time, it is faster (but very pleasant) to anchor just off the pier at St. Andrews State Park.

You say your trip may take a while given that you are sailing. Does this imply that your sailboat does not have an auxiliary? How far east are you going and are you familiar with the area east of Panama City. We were through there this past November/December and are familiar with marinas/anchorages in or around Port St. Joe, Apalachicola and Clarabelle. Let us know if we can help.
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Old 29-04-2013, 06:10   #6
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

Here's a website with good information about the west coast of Florida...
Florida Sea Grant - Boating & Waterways - Anchorage Inventory
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Old 29-04-2013, 06:55   #7
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

The West Coast of FL is my home "stomping grounds". I have been sailing, delivering, towing and pushing barges, and playing there since the late '70's and to this day STILL find things I've never seen before. If you have the time, study the charts and cruising guides, poke your nose into whatever looks interesting, and in about ten years, you'll finally arrive in Key West!
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Old 29-04-2013, 07:44   #8
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

From Crystal River to Anclote Key, just follow the crabpots. Make your turn at St Martin's Light to reach Tarpon Springs. Anclote Key has a nice little sandbar on the north end of the island. There is a free anchorage up the Anclote River on the left at marker red 17.

Out of Tarpon Springs, there is 3 Rooker Bar just west of GICW at marker 35, nice anchorage. Just dink to the beach.

In Clearwater, just past the causeway to the starboard, there is anchorages along the Causeway.

Jump to the outside there, to avoid The Narrows, (I did), and jump back in at Pass De Grille. There is an anchorage up the channel to the left.

There is an anchorage at Eggmont Key, at the entrance to Tampa Bay. I jumped to the inside and ran the GICW down to Sarasota, and tossed a hook just off from Marina Jacks, Free anchorage, just off marker 10

Jump to the outside, and follow the coast down to Venice Inlet. There is a free anchorage on the inside at marker 13 at Higel Park. Groceries are a far distance off, but its a nice protected spot.

I jumped to the outside at Venice Inlet, and made the run down to Boca Grande Pass, and tucked in at Pelican Bay just off marker red 74. Besure to enter Pelican Bay on the right side, 100' feet off the beach is the channel in. Lots around here to see, Cabbage Key is worth a look see...as well as Useppa Island has an anchorage just off marker 61.

Went outside from here to Marco Island, its a good days sail, so leave early. Factory Bay in Marco Island is a free federal anchorage. Can make the rumbline from Sanibel Island to the entrance to Marco, and never not see land on your left.

Can make a straight shot from Marco to the Dry Tortugas, Key West, its about a 100 miles, or go into Florida Bay. When leaving Marco Island, be aware of Romano Shoals.

If I had to do again, I would head from Marco Island to Dry Tortugas, then to Key West, then up Hawks Channel to Marathon, ten across Florida Bay back into the Gulf.

Hope yall have a safe and incident free trip.
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Old 29-04-2013, 08:12   #9
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Originally Posted by Mike Sibley View Post

Smack Bayou is definitely a great anchorage, especially if one is taking the inside route or has time to enjoy the serenity. If taking the outside route and hoping to make time, it is faster (but very pleasant) to anchor just off the pier at St. Andrews State Park.

You say your trip may take a while given that you are sailing. Does this imply that your sailboat does not have an auxiliary? How far east are you going and are you familiar with the area east of Panama City. We were through there this past November/December and are familiar with marinas/anchorages in or around Port St. Joe, Apalachicola and Clarabelle. Let us know if we can help.
I do have a motor. Just not the money to fuel it . Emergency only. I am just cruising . No destination . This is my first sailboat and the first time I have been on the gulf. Had to limp in the last 130 mi cause I broke both shifter and throttle cables and also broke a rudder bracket on my Mac 26 x . All are fixed now and am ready to see the most that I can before I have to make some money somewhere . Would like to get to Tampa bay before hurricane season hit ( Lil nervous about those.) but with a 2ft draft I feel I can find shelter in some creek somewhere . I have been using macgregor sailors website but I am finding this site easier to use.
Good reading and reference here !!!
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Old 29-04-2013, 09:14   #10
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Sounds like a great trip. Were located in Sarasota. Egmount Key located at the mouth of Tampa bay, nice anchorage, just watch out for the wind swift at night which will put you at a lee shore. Desoto park located at the entrance of Manatee river very nice, 6ft with plenty of room. Longboat pass sw of the bridge (beer can alley) nice place but also has a strong current so anchor more toward the west side. A nice restaurant is there Moores seafood shack and you can stay over night at the dock if you eat. Sarasota has a 150ft from land or mooring field restriction just south of the ringling bridge to the east side a nice cove by the bait shop. In Charlotte harbor is Caya Costa to the south a very nice anchorage in pelican bay check the local chart, well worth the stop. Have fun and good sailing.
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Old 29-04-2013, 21:23   #11
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

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Originally Posted by Dawgfish View Post
I do have a motor. Just not the money to fuel it . Emergency only. I am just cruising . No destination . This is my first sailboat and the first time I have been on the gulf. Had to limp in the last 130 mi cause I broke both shifter and throttle cables and also broke a rudder bracket on my Mac 26 x . All are fixed now and am ready to see the most that I can before I have to make some money somewhere . Would like to get to Tampa bay before hurricane season hit ( Lil nervous about those.) but with a 2ft draft I feel I can find shelter in some creek somewhere . I have been using macgregor sailors website but I am finding this site easier to use.
Good reading and reference here !!!
If you have not yet discovered https://activecaptain.com/ then I highly recommend it for information on marinas and anchorages. For weather, take a look at Windfinder - wind, wave & weather reports, forecasts & statistics worldwide. Both are great sites.
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Old 30-04-2013, 18:50   #12
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

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Originally Posted by Mike Sibley View Post
Smack Bayou is definitely a great anchorage, especially if one is taking the inside route or has time to enjoy the serenity. If taking the outside route and hoping to make time, it is faster (but very pleasant) to anchor just off the pier at St. Andrews State Park.

You say your trip may take a while given that you are sailing. Does this imply that your sailboat does not have an auxiliary? How far east are you going and are you familiar with the area east of Panama City. We were through there this past November/December and are familiar with marinas/anchorages in or around Port St. Joe, Apalachicola and Clarabelle. Let us know if we can help.
I have been gazing at my maps for days now and just dont see any kind of hiding hole up in apalachee scallop country... is it really that shallow all the way around the bay?! was hoping to eat good and go slow around there but it looks like any kind of a south wind could be a bad deal...
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Old 01-05-2013, 02:36   #13
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Lots of great stops and easy to make Tarpon to kw with only 1 overnight the rest being day trips. Tarpon to Venice 1 day, stop at crows nest, cheap dockage and great food! Free bike rentals, venice to Pine island and stop in Pelican bay for a day or two, incredibly cheap dockage or anchor out but go for nature walks on the island it is great! Then leave to head towards Kw if weather is good thatll be your overnight, plan it so you make NW channel in the daylight. Or if weather is rough go to shark river for the night then make Kw the next day or two after exploring the Shark.
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Old 01-05-2013, 03:22   #14
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I would also add be wary f navionics there are alot of shoaling near the sandbar north of anclote key. Still a good anchorage. Also avoid trying to go through hurricane pass in dunedin. The channels have shifted so bad there that the chart shows the channel now being 200 feet from the water. Last year we made the trip we could have gone from tarpon to Key West in just over 30 hours we were on a beam reach doing seven to eight knots. the entire way but deviated course to go to IslaMorada to see friends. We're making the same trip next week to get ready for a Bahamas trip. If you stay in waters 20 to 30 feet deep you should avoid most of the crab traps.
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:23   #15
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Re: New Orleans to Florida Keys

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If I had to do again, I would head from Marco Island to Dry Tortugas, then to Key West, then up Hawks Channel to Marathon, ten across Florida Bay back into the Gulf.

Hope yall have a safe and incident free trip.
That's kind of my planned route for my next trip that a ways.
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