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Old 28-01-2013, 17:45   #1
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First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Gearing up for what will be our first passage through the Gulf of Mexico. We will be heading out of Panama City, FL heading to Tarpon Springs, FL. It will be about 200 NM give or take (mostly take). I am begining to make my list of gear, safety plans, etc. and would live to hear from those who have done this before. I have gaged the trip to take 48 hours even though my route planner says 39.5 at an average speed of 5 kts. I picked 5 kts because I would I can motor at that speed with no wind (depending on headwinds and wave direction) Now I plan to provision for 4 days. So, who has done this? Who wants to help me create my list of "to do's" before I head out? Thanks ahead of time for taking the time to respond. I look forward to hearing from all you old salts out there in "Cruisers Forum" land.
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Old 28-01-2013, 17:50   #2
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Weather, weather, weather.
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Old 28-01-2013, 18:01   #3
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Malibu, first welcome to CF!

Secondly, I have made that trip as well as the Panhandle to just about every port south to Key West. I'd be happy to help; in addition to the above tip of watching the weather, remember that that section of coast is shallow WAY out from the coast, and even if you were to make it to dry dirt, there is little development.

The winter cold fronts and shallow water make for some real steep unpleasant seas. Often by the time the north wind lays down enough for the sea state to subside, the southerly winds of a warm front will be in your face. If you do set out you'll find that at best you will make an East Southeast heading under sail (again bear in mind that deep water is MILES offshore). The rhumb line course is very difficult to sail this time of year.

Perhaps you might want to look at PC around the cape to Steinhatchee, then just motor south to Tarpon Springs. Apalachacola bay is also very scenic if you want to travel inside... Cedar Key can be fun too... I'm begining to remember why I like a week to make that trip!
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Old 28-01-2013, 18:07   #4
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

As Kettlewell say's weather is everything for this trip ! and I would plan for at least 7 days provisions just to be sure ! hate to go in somewhere I don't need to if I run low on groceries!! LOL It can be a Nice run we have done it when it was smooth as silk a reach all the way, and had to make some pretty big tacks to do the same trip !! But it can be done with a few stops and also be a fun trip ! Have a great one !
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Old 28-01-2013, 18:40   #5
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

While I didnt make that actual run, I can say from experience coming out of St Marks near Tallahassee, those seas 20 to 60 miles out can sure pile up to 7 to 10 footers. My first night out, winds were out of the northeast 15 to 20 knots, and I found them 7 to 10 footers, with the occasional 12 footers. It wasnt a good experience, and there is no place to duck in that far out. Some of the marinas and they are few and far between, a shoal draft will be needed to even get into some of them.

Those coastal waters from Cedar Key to Anclote Key are shallow, rocky, with alot of crab pots, and was said 20 miles out is when the water starts to get deep. About a foot of depth for every mile from the coastline out. Them crabpots extend about 20+ miles out from the west coast of florida pretty much all the way to the keys, and there are seriously 1000s of them.

There is a free small anchorage, just up the Anclote River on your port side just as you enter the Anclote River. Most of the marinas are on the port side further up the river, but all the stuff is on the opposite side. Its a bit toursity, but a pleasant time. Dont cut the channel markers going up the Anclote River, there is alot of shoaling on either side.

In Tarpon Springs, there is a Walmart, West Marine, and a Advance Auto about 2 miles down E Tarpon Blvd, from the corner of N Pinellas Blvd. So if ya got a bicycle its not a bad ride. If you Marina on the northside, take hwy 19 across the bridge and turn right on Dodecanese for the toursity part of Tarpon Springs, a few nice greek restaurants and bakeries there to warm the tummy.
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Old 28-01-2013, 19:05   #6
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Take heed of Kettlewell and Bob and Connie.

Do not get caught by weather, or even dream of a schedule for a passage in the eastern Gulf. I was caught by a fast moving front last Spring. To say the shallow water makes for uncomfortable seas is a gross understatement.

Weightlessness on the back of every wave is a tough test of your boat and crew. When those very steep waves become confused after the system's passage, it is a nightmare. These were the conditions in a not-so-bad storm, 50mph, seas 14-22, but it is the shape of the seas on the shelf. 50 mph won't usually bring waves NOAA categorizes as "very steep" but that shelf certainly will. In these conditions you are the pea in the paint can.

These seas will break violently in little more than that, and combined with very short wave periods, can be deadly.

Besides, from Panama City;

Outside to Crooked Island (check with the Air Force)
St. Joe Bay (whether you go inside or out)
INSIDE to Appalachicola (the Cape requires local knowledge unless you go waaay offshore)
Anchor behind Dog Island or wait in Carrabelle for the certain weather window.

I wouldn't want to miss any of those places if I hadn't been there.


This is no place to hurry. You'll be sorry or worse.

Go when the weather is right, and play with the dolphins that will ride up in the waves to look into your eyes.
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Old 28-01-2013, 19:33   #7
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

I've never made the trip but plan on doing about the same route, but leaving from AL. My heart tells me to sail straight to Key West but I know better. An old sailor once told me that old sailors don't work too hard at getting where they want to go. They wait, sometimes for weeks, for the perfect weather, for the perfect sail. Sounds good to me.
I'll be headed to Tampa first then bounce my way down.
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Old 28-01-2013, 19:51   #8
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Thanks to everyone for comments so far. I'm looking forward to ongoing discussion. I like most of what I hear and some that interferes with my "plan" so I may be looking for some convencing. Keep in mind, the convincing part is not so much questing of the advice, just an attempt to better understand. I'll back up a bit and offer some back ground info and further explanation of a few things. I am looking at about 3 weeks for the entire trip to and from. I have been the route suggested by Custom30 and it is a very nice route. An easy day past Crooked Island to just inside the backside of the western end of Cape San Blas is a great easy first day with a primo anchorage at the cape. Then around the cape through the gulf to the 1st or 2nd pass into Apalachacola Bay and anchor behind Dog Siland and then on into Carrabelle for a couple of days. That alone makes for a great trip. I have chosen Tarpon Springs because I have family there and it seemed like a challenge that I am up for. I do know the gulf is shallow there along the coast and planned to steer clear. I have looked at historical weather for June and baring a tropical storm or hurricane, it looks pretty good. Along the route I am choosing, there were fair winds (15 knots or less) and 1-4' waves the whole month with few, very few exceptions. My only concern is the southeast winds that time of year placing me heading mostly into the wind. There was some mention of 50 knot winds and 14+ seas and I am NOT up for that! I will have XM Weather onboard (Mariner's PLan) that will give me current and projected weather along my whole path. I do know that weather changes quickly and the proper preparations should be made for anything. That said, I plan to be patient and wait for a nice window of weather. If I end up is seas greater than 4', it was unintential. I'm not sure of the accuracy of XM Weather so I would love to hear from folks with experience there as well. My curernt plan is to shoot across the gulf (about 60 miles out from the Big Bend) to Tarpon Springs streight from Panama City. After a few days stay and waiting for a clear window of weather, either go up to Crystal River and Homassassa Springs, then back to Dog Islnad and Carrabelle, Apalachicola, St. Joe and then home. Keep the feedback coming and share your thoughts, ideas, wisdom and stories. Much appreciated.
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Old 28-01-2013, 19:57   #9
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

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My heart tells me to sail straight to Key West but I know better.
I can relate. This is my 1st deep water passage in what I hope to be a series that ultimately end in the Caribbean for any extended stay. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit several islands in the Caribbean and everywhere I go I see cruiser moored in some of the most beautiful places I have every seen. I spend many day dreams of parking my own boat in those harbors. "Someday I Will".
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:01   #10
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

Homassassa is skinny, with a 5' draft its very iffy,check the tides. Crystal River can get skinny as well. Its a 8 mile ride from the first marker to Pete's Pier, and its not well marked. Kings Bay is shallow in spots, so be careful there. There is a save-a-lot, west marine, and a big lots just up the road from Pete's Pier, about a mile, along with some restaurants, and fast food joints.

Plenty of Manatees in Crystal River, and alot of tour traffic, kayacker, and fishermen.
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:07   #11
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

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Secondly, I have made that trip as well as the Panhandle to just about every port south to Key West. I'd be happy to help; in addition to the above tip of watching the weather, remember that that section of coast is shallow WAY out from the coast, and even if you were to make it to dry dirt, there is little development.
Thanks for your reply. I don't plan on going further south than Tarpon Springs but I am curious about Crystal River, Homassassa Springs just north of Tarpon Springs. Any info there? I'm really jealous, sounds like you've been around and I wish I had more time to be on the water. I have the summers off and usually have 3-4 weeks I can get away during that time. I have thought about moving my boat to the Tampa/St. Pete area at the end of the summer then next summer I'll have a jump on things and make a trip to Key West. All in good time.
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:07   #12
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013





A couple of pics from the crowded anchorage just behind the St Joe peninsula you mentioned. It is almost always this crowded! On 5 miles of perfect beach there, the only sign of human life was one set of ranger's 4 wheeler tracks.

My kinda place, but it can be rough if the wind shifts to the north.


Get where you get and enjoy it!
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:12   #13
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

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Those coastal waters from Cedar Key to Anclote Key are shallow, rocky, with alot of crab pots, and was said 20 miles out is when the water starts to get deep. About a foot of depth for every mile from the coastline out. Them crabpots extend about 20+ miles out from the west coast of florida pretty much all the way to the keys, and there are seriously 1000s of them.

There is a free small anchorage, just up the Anclote River on your port side just as you enter the Anclote River. Most of the marinas are on the port side further up the river, but all the stuff is on the opposite side. Its a bit toursity, but a pleasant time. Dont cut the channel markers going up the Anclote River, there is alot of shoaling on either side.

In Tarpon Springs, there is a Walmart, West Marine, and a Advance Auto about 2 miles down E Tarpon Blvd, from the corner of N Pinellas Blvd. So if ya got a bicycle its not a bad ride. If you Marina on the northside, take hwy 19 across the bridge and turn right on Dodecanese for the toursity part of Tarpon Springs, a few nice greek restaurants and bakeries there to warm the tummy.
Thanks for the info here, especially about the crab pots. That sounds like not so much fun. The area info is good to know as well, especially about whihc side of the river to get docakge if available.
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:15   #14
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

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Homassassa is skinny, with a 5' draft its very iffy,check the tides. Crystal River can get skinny as well. Its a 8 mile ride from the first marker to Pete's Pier, and its not well marked. Kings Bay is shallow in spots, so be careful there. There is a save-a-lot, west marine, and a big lots just up the road from Pete's Pier, about a mile, along with some restaurants, and fast food joints.

Plenty of Manatees in Crystal River, and alot of tour traffic, kayacker, and fishermen.
I will take it from the lack of eloboration that these may not be spots to go out of my way for. Definately not interested in crowds in a narrow, shallow channel/river.
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:16   #15
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Re: First Passage - Panama City to Tarpon Springs June 2013

[QUOTE=MalibuC;
....old salts out there in "Cruisers Forum" land.

I want to echo the weather comments and the coast hoping thoughts from CAPNGEO. I have often been reminded that old salts don't fight the elements or the odds, but look for the safe, sometimes the longer way around. Hence they survive to be old salts. Even in a spring passage on the Gulf, expect and plan for squalls. Don't be surprised by a stiff easterly land breeze a few hours after sunset.

The passage from Mobile to Pensacola is an all day affair at 5kn (80+nm). The hops to Ft Walton & on to PC are similar. Give some thought to the trade-offs of coast hopping to Appalachacola or Steinhatchee before heading south. May take a few more days, but could be less weather/crew stress....
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