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Old 16-03-2016, 16:04   #1
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Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

We are retired and have lived aboard in San Diego for much of the last 5-years. We are close to moving on due to the cost of living in SoCal and the lack of interesting cruising anchorages. Especially, anchorages where we can take the dinghy and bicycles to shore and explore the countryside.

Our typical cruising life in the Pacific NW and Western Mexico during the last 20-years has been to spend five or ten days enjoying an anchorage before moving 15 or 20 miles to the next anchorage. In a month of cruising we might spend 3-days at a dock or in a marina.

We are wondering if we can experience the same type extended cruising (months at a time) in Florida between the Panhandle and Key West, i.e. move to a new anchorage once a week and a 2-day visit to a marina once a month?

We have a Caliber 40 that we purchased new in early 1995 and have sailed over 20,000 miles. She draws 5’ 3” of water and has a 61’ air draft.

We have been cruisers and holiday sailors on the American West Coast, from 55 N to 18 S, for over 40-years. We’ve spent months at a time wandering around and anchoring here and there and have log entries for over 500 anchorages. During three years in Western Mexico we spent less than 30-days in marinas and another 30 on the hard for maintenance.

My family has lived in SW Florida for over 30-years and we know that area very well. My father has a 25’ cuddy cabin express cruiser and we’ve spent time on it in the Ft. Meyers/Cape Coral, Pine Island and Port Charlotte area but have done no overnight trips.

We are thinking of buying a small inexpensive home or condo in that area to use as a cruising base. We think we would spend three or four months at a time on our Caliber 40 and then either dock the boat where we are and somehow get home or just sail the boat home.

We would keep the boat in a safe marina in hurricane season, or sail it way north to Maine or such and cruise there during hurricane season.

Are they a LOT of free, or inexpensive, anchorages between Mobile Bay and Key West.

Will we be able to stay for three to five days in those anchorages?

Will we be able to go ashore and bicycle, walk, explore?

Can we plan to just wander from place to place on the Florida West Coast without being hassled by local authorities?

How about on the Florida East Coast? Can we do the same wandering around there while anchoring most nights?

I would also be interested in similar information for Georgia and the Carolinas. Can we live the nomadic boater’s life at anchor as we have on in the Pacific NW and Western Mexico?

We do not want to move from SoCal and find the same restricted anchorages and cruising that we have experienced in the last six years in California.
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Old 17-03-2016, 06:29   #2
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

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Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
Are they a LOT of free, or inexpensive, anchorages between Mobile Bay and Key West.
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
Will we be able to stay for three to five days in those anchorages?
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
Will we be able to go ashore and bicycle, walk, explore?
Yes... More or less. Some of the nicest anchorages are a bit remote. Some of the town/cities are not very pedestrian friendly. Nowhere in Florida (that I've been able to find) is there really GOOD public transportation. So, a qualified "yes."

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Can we plan to just wander from place to place on the Florida West Coast without being hassled by local authorities?
Depends on what you mean by "hassled," I guess. It is certainly possible that you might be stopped by the Coast Guard for an inspection. That is just as true in Florida as it is in California, Maine, or anywhere else. Read some of the other threads here. Some people seem to have a problem with some of the authorities in Florida. Personally, I've been boating here since the early 80's and have had one, single interaction with the authorities. It was, of course, inconvenient, but other than that it went quickly and smoothly, and the officers were polite, respectful, and professional.

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How about on the Florida East Coast? Can we do the same wandering around there while anchoring most nights?
Yes.

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We do not want to move from SoCal and find the same restricted anchorages and cruising that we have experienced in the last six years in California.
Restrictions are increasing everywhere. That is just a fact of modern life. You aren't going to completely get away from it by coming to the East coast. On the other hand, based on what I've read here, the states on this side of the country intrude on the lives of their citizens no more, and in many cases much less, than California does.

So, again, kind of depends on what you are expecting.
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Old 17-03-2016, 08:00   #3
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

My read on it is the "Big Bend' area of FL is a no go, think of the area between Apalachicola and Tarpon Springs as not existing, that is not completely true, but there is a lot of shallow water there and even though I grew up there, I avoid it.
My opinion is that the Northern Gulf area is a completely different world than is South Fl, more laid back, much less expensive and just a whole lot less "busy", but full of Rednecks if you will, or simple country people depending on your outlook. Just don't expect much "Society" and sophistication, but do expect simple, honest people if you slow down enough to look.

Watch the movie My Cousin Vinny, it is to a certain extent what the "Old South" is like and N Fl and of course the rest of the Gulf is the Old South.

I think Zee has it right in another thread, avoid the large cities in the middle of the season, and everything is fine, unless of course you want the hurry up, hustle and bustle, waiting in lines etc.


My take on Ga. is it's sort of a wash, there is the Savannah area, I guess Brunswick and not much else, but get much North of Ga and I want to think that there is a culture of people that live on their boats moving up and down the ICW.

There are a couple of people here that have done that for decades, I hope but do not know that your treated better on the ICW, when I brought my boat around FL from Daytona, I can tell you I was treated like dirt in more than one fuel dock in S Fl and I stayed only long enough to fill the tank, pump out and leave
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Old 17-03-2016, 08:14   #4
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

I can only tell you about the AICW, the St Johns River (in FL) and the Chesapeake Bay.

There are hundreds of nice anchorages and very few restrictions (except possibly in south Florida). There are dozens of small towns and big cities to visit.

We live in Charleston, SC and each year we head north or south for a couple months or more.


edit: After reading the post above, I have to say that we've never been treated poorly at a fuel dock or marina. Yes, some seem to be more friendly than others, but no one has ever been rude. The dockhands are hoping for a tip and the owners are hoping for good reviews on Active Captain.


Townspeople have always been friendly as well.
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Old 17-03-2016, 09:52   #5
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

Plenty of anchorages. The people you hear about getting hassled are not cruisers. If you take up residence for a few months in an anchorage, that's when you are more likely to be hassled particularly if it's in a built up popular area. If it's a remote area, you can likely stay for months and no one will care.


5' draft is about the most I would go with. Less is better but your boat is certainly viable.


As long as you can anchor near a boat ramp, you should be able to get to shore and being mostly flat lands, biking isn't too challenging. Public transit is pretty minimalistic. Figure public bus with 1/2hr headways if you are lucky in urban areas.
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Old 17-03-2016, 10:38   #6
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

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Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
SNIP

We do not want to move from SoCal and find the same restricted anchorages and cruising that we have experienced in the last six years in California.
There are four seasons in Florida. Love bug season, tourist season, hurricane season, and football season. A lot of folks from the West Coast are shocked at the number of insects in Florida (and if you don't know what love bugs are google is your friend). There are around 227 mooring balls in BKH during tourist season it is common to have a waiting list of over fifty boats looking to get a mooring ball as soon as someone leaves. On the other hand in the summer I doubt 1/3 of the mooring balls are in use. Part of this is due to hurricane season and part due to the heat and humidity many folks have problems dealing with. While football season won't be much of a concern on a boat it is worth noting if you are ashore.

As others have noted some areas of Florida are much different than others. The Florida Keys and the back country have some places where you can anchor and not see another boat for weeks at a time. SW Florida can get crowded up to the Tampa Bay area, but there are places away from it all. Once you get North of say Tarpon Springs things get a lot different, probably all the way to Mobile; a lot less crowded and probably cheaper as well.

For more details I would suggest the Active Captain web site and this book, which provides some details and history about what to expect at different places. While the book is a little dated Active Captain can provide very recent intel. I have lived in Florida since 1954 and still am finding new places to cruise.
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Old 17-03-2016, 13:21   #7
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

As long as you keep moving/cruising I think you'll really enjoy yourselves...

If you try to squat like boat people who don't have means or respect for shore lines/waterfront owners with their "anchoring is free as well as going ashore anywhere" you soon be feeling like "why did we leave California???"
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Old 17-03-2016, 13:32   #8
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

"Love bug season,"
You can't complain, Tom. Even when they swarm twice a year. The Turnpike folks put up free windshield powerwashing stations to help motorists & truckers deal with the menace. Now, what other state is so courteous and helpful like that?
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Old 17-03-2016, 13:38   #9
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

when i was there southwest folorida was awesome. ther ewas even a decent pizza in ft myers beach. beautiful, anchorages are pleasant, flat water, and some in bayous, if your draft is shallow.
tboomers from hell, but... we sailed em anyway.
beautiful places to anchor in rural areas, even storm hidey holes.
you will be impressed at how many different places you can anchor in only a few days time-- not like cruising west coast , needing all the time for sailing and only short time anchored. fla, ala,miss, louisiana.. all not far. nola rocks.
i enjoyed my near year there.

tomfl, you forgot black fly season and yellow fly season......keep your zappers handy and cockpit screened
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Old 17-03-2016, 15:19   #10
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Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

I am headquarterd in Kentucky Lake next to the dam and we enjoy our sailing up here, but since about 2001 I have been extensively sailing the west Florida coast out of Charlotte Harbor and down to Indian Key, KeyWest, Dry Tortugas, Pine Island sound. We have good friends with boats in Punta Gorda and we have occasionally chartered out of Burnt Store marina. In fall and winter of 2013 and 2014, we took a six month cruise to Punta Gorda. This was my second trip doing this, once helping a friend get his boat to PGI and our own trip. We hit Mobile Bay at the end of the Tenn-Tom waterway at Mobile. My wife enjoys the Intercoastal more than offshore and we are not primitive cruisers. We aren't interested in rough water and we motor sail a lot since we are in our late 60's. We have nothing to prove at this stage in life and just want to be comfortable and relaxed. We anchor out only when necessary and when we are not at a marina, we have a generator running with tracking Dish network and all the amenities of home including full time HVAC.

We enjoyed running from Mobile down the Intercoastal to Big Lagoon with a stop at Homeport, the home of Lulu's then out Pensacola Pass to Destin for several days. We then hit Panama City and left the boat there for a month. The northern Gulf coast is very hospitable and has beautiful white sand beaches and areas of activity or solitude. It is laid back and relaxed and we enjoyed our time there. Also, the seafood is great!

We left Panama City and went straight across to Clearwater, but had weather been different, we would have hit Port St. Joe, Apalachicola and Carabelle before going to Clearwater. We have driven that section of the coast and the towns there are old south charm. Apalachicola is well known for it's oysters. We took the GICW down to Punta Gorda, spending a few days at Clearwater Marina. The staff there was excellent and access to Publix and other areas is done by either walking or riding a trolley. Nothing but hospitality there. From there we stopped overnight in Gulfport then at Venice at the Crows Nest, a truly great restaurant and nice Marina. We then reached Charlotte Harbor where we had said other people's boats, but bit our own and stayed there for 3 months. We visited Cabbage Key, Pelican Bay, Cayo Costa and sailed won to Indian Key. We intended to make Key West and the Dry Tortugas, but time and weather didn't cooperate. I have a 5 foot draft and hit bottom a few times, but the bottom is soft sand and we got back off rather easily. Impound,highly roomed cruising that area either inside or outside. The people, the weather and the ambience is fantastic during that time of year. For us, it's too hot and humid in the summer and Kate spring, but fall and winter are,just right. We left PGI and made the same track except we went straight for Pensacola Bay and skipped Destin and Panama City just due to schedule.

We really enjoy southwest Florida and plan on doing the trip again. Photos are at Cabbage Key, Anchored at Indian Key, Destin Harbor at Boshamps Restaurant dock, and after a rainstorm in Charlotte Harbor.

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Old 17-03-2016, 16:21   #11
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

port st joe is delightful, and icw there is gorgeous there is an icw going between psj and apalach, but we were too tall for that...white city was good in a storm. beautiful area/ ¨forgotten coast¨.
the icw between ft myers and eusepe(?sp) island anchorage was awesome.

oh dang .my friends are gonna kill me. oops

i wasnt impressed with destin.
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Old 17-03-2016, 17:35   #12
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

Destin considers itself "high falutin", I have no idea how to spell that. My wife's cousin has a beach house, says its in Destin as a Destin address is more impressive, but the GPS says Panama City, she maintains Garmin is wrong, her house is in Destin.


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Old 17-03-2016, 17:48   #13
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

I will add that on the west coast of Florida, the area called ' The Nature Coast' has very shallow Gulf of Mexico water. They say the water gets one foot deeper per every mile away from shore.



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Old 17-03-2016, 17:50   #14
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

Destin is more about beaches than about cruising, but it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

The town itself is pretty touristy, but the local area is really awesome landscape.
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Old 17-03-2016, 19:53   #15
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Re: Extended Cruising in Florida & SE United States – What is it like?

Georgia is real good cruising. It is undeveloped wildlife cruising. You go up a sound and anchor in a creek with herons, turtles, pelicans, deer and relax for a couple of days. Then you move on to another gunkhole and enjoy yourself there.You'll be the only one anchored in many places--isn't that what you go after? Regularly, you go into a town for stores, restaurants, fuel and visits with people. And there's St Mary's , Brunswick and Savannah.

It's said that long ago Georgia looked at how Florida was developing with its gaudy stifling developments and was appalled. They decided that they didn't want that kind of development on their coast. So the Georgia DNR maintains a lovely pristine coast.

This is not to say that everybody should come running and crowd into Georgia. This is to say that Georgia is top notch cruising, and you have to understand it.
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