Andy & Maraó
If I recall
, youíre moored at the Cortez marina and I suspect the only reason youíve motored down to Sarasota
Bay is to avoid having to go through the Cortez or Anna Maria Island Bridges. For what itís worth, the south Tampa Bay area between the mouth of the Manatee River, the Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key is a much nicer sailing venue than Sarasota
Bay with much more room and things to see/places to go. There is no reason to be apprehensive about the bridges. The bridge tenders know what they are doing and are generally very accommodating so long as you donít ask for openings where bridges are limited to schedules as are the Cortez .and Anna Maria Island Bridges. We sailed a Cal
2-29 for 20+ years, the last 10 right here in the Bradenton area, and transited those bridges many times.. Simply approach the bridges slowly and call the Bridge Tender
on Ch# 9 and tell them youíre looking for the next opening. They tell you when. If thereís a lot of traffic, which there can be at times, let the bridge tender
know youíll wait for the traffic to clear before going ahead and then simply loiter, idling in circles about 75 yards away from the bridge, biased to one side or another of the channel to allow traffic to pass. We listen for transmissions from other yachts and occasionally will speak with them to coordinate our movements. Most people are very accommodating.
Except in very windy conditions, when youíre not likely to be out and about anyway, hard sheeting your main .will improve your stability. The Cal
is light and will bounce around a bit in a chop and can be difficult to steer unless youíve got the main up and hard sheeted and you keep some way on the yacht to ensure you can maintain steerage. At bridges, and in proximity to any hazard, steerageway is imperative. From Cortez to Anna Maria Island Bridge is 3 miles and the bridge openings are 30 minutes apart so, once youíve cleared one or the other, maintain 5 knots or so to make the next opening. In either case the Bridge tender on the subsequent bridge will know youíre coming.
The Long Boat Key Bridge is another animal and can be a pip. Itís narrow and the currents can be fast on either an ebb of a flood. We will not go through that bridge except at high water
slack or on a flood (so long as the windís not easterly with any speed). On an ebb, one can get pretty good ďstandingĒ waves on the Gulf side, particularly if thereís any west in the wind
. And, the Gulf Side channel has migrated south and is not where it appears on the current charts
. (Once oneís a bit past marker #2, one needs to head
off at about 210ļ (M) to avoid the shoals that are extending south into the channel.) This situation has been reported to the CG and the Florida
State Authorities, and supposedly they were going to remark the channel, but I donít know whether thatís been done or not. Frankly, however, unless youíre headed to Venice or points south, thereís no reason to go through Long Boat, and, particularly not if your objective is Sarasota as both New Pass and Big Pass are foul and not a place for a newbie so thereís no reasonable way into Sarasota from the Gulf. If you want sea time, head
north and sail up to an around Egmont. You can anchor
out on the Bay side just south of the Pilotís pier so long as the windís westerly or head back down to the Manatee River and anchor
in the cove just east of DeSoto Point or, better, across the channel on the north side of the River. Itís a great stop.