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Old 27-08-2017, 14:20   #1
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Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

I've got a 23' trailerable cruiser that lives in Tennessee but the last few winters I've left it in Pensacola for the season and really enjoyed sailing long weekends around Pensacola Bay and the ICW. Just the right combination of open water for cruising without having to be in the gulf the whole time, fun bays, islands and creeks to explore and anchor out overnight, and marinas with good restaurants and transient slips for when that is preferred.

I'd like to try the same thing in the Tampa Bay area but will only be able to come down for three-day weekends so I want to choose my winter marina carefully - I won't have the range to cover both sides and get back to the airport. Any recommendations if you had to choose between say the Clearwater/Dunedin area vs. Tampa proper and St. Pete?

Also needs to be a reasonable cab/Uber ride from the Tampa airport so I don't think destinations to the south (i.e. Bradenton, etc.) are going to be an option. Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old 27-08-2017, 14:53   #2
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

If it helps any, St Pete is only 15 minutes from TPA and less than 30 min from downtown marinas.
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Old 27-08-2017, 14:57   #3
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

St Pete has a pleasant downtown area with a lot of attractions, resturants, bars, etc. Tampa Bay has a lot of commercial traffic and plenty of options for running aground, but both of these are less of an issue in a small boat.
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Old 27-08-2017, 18:04   #4
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

If you want to sail without the omnipresent cargo ships, spoil areas, traffic lanes and chop of Tampa Bay, I'd opt for Clearwater Beach, however, what should be a 15-minute drive from the mainland to CBMarina, can take over 45 minutes when traffic is heavy on the bridge(almost always). It's also close to some nice anchoring opportunities around Tarpon Springs(Anclote Is.) and some good fishing along the coast. However, if you want snazz, St. Pete is the place. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 27-08-2017, 18:53   #5
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

I spend a lot of time north of there in Crystal River. To me, traffic is always bad in Tampa / St. Pete. But the gulf is shallow both north a bit and south a bit in the Crystal River area.
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Old 27-08-2017, 19:52   #6
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

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If you want to sail without the omnipresent cargo ships, spoil areas, traffic lanes and chop of Tampa Bay, I'd opt for Clearwater Beach, however, what should be a 15-minute drive from the mainland to CBMarina, can take over 45 minutes when traffic is heavy on the bridge(almost always). It's also close to some nice anchoring opportunities around Tarpon Springs(Anclote Is.) and some good fishing along the coast. However, if you want snazz, St. Pete is the place. Good luck and safe sailing.
And, Tampa Bay can go from chop to ugly in strong NE winds.

Speaking of heavy traffic, I would add a RADAR reflector if you dont already have one. Heavy rain can drop visibility fast.
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Old 28-08-2017, 05:44   #7
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

With a 23' boat I find it unlikely that your draft is great enough to have to worry much about shallows, spoil banks and the like and, so long as you stay out of the main channels--which you don't need for the most part--you'll not have to worry much about ship or large power boat traffic (never the less a good radar reflector would be wise). Given the foregoing, in your place I'd choose St. Pete which has several possible storage spots in Salt Creek (see "ActiveCaptain.com"). It's a nice area for the most part and gives you fairly easy access north, south and east for some interesting weekend cruising.

Good luck...
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Old 28-08-2017, 06:22   #8
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

Since you only come down in winter, the gulf can get nasty when cold fronts move thru, while the Bay offers protection from wind and swells, with adequate depth. Most sailboats in the area are based at the Municipal marina in downtown St Pete
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Old 28-08-2017, 08:26   #9
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

Have you checked out flights to Sarasota? The cruising areas and anchorages from Bradenton to Ft Myers are the greatest. I lived and sailed from Clearwater Bch for some time. Small, shoal draft, boat paradise from Dunedin south along the Gulf coast.
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Old 28-08-2017, 08:37   #10
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

St. Pete Municipal is nice, but often has a long waiting list for slips, though perhaps not at your smaller length. Relatively short ride to TPA over the bridge, but traffic is a crapshoot.

For a longer drive to and from TPA, but easier and shorter access to the Gulf, consider the various marinas in the very southern end of the county. Gulfport has a municipal marina, plus there is Maximo (which has a yard) and there is a marina in Pasadena as well.

I agree with Scaramanga, you may want to consider being farther south, so check out Sarasota airport as an option. Great cruising down that way.

For a cheaper option, you may want to consider a dry slip - leaving the boat on the trailer, especially if you can leave the mast up.
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Old 28-08-2017, 10:42   #11
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

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Relatively short ride to TPA over the bridge, but traffic is a crapshoot.
Yes, and I think the operative word in that sentence is CRAP!

I have to laugh at things like Google Maps, that says that you can get from the marina in St Pete to the Tampa airport in less than 30 minutes, in "usual traffic." Yeah. Sure. Maybe "usual traffic" at 3:00 am!

Don't get me wrong. I love living in the Tampa area, but I HATE the lousy traffic around here!
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Old 28-08-2017, 19:26   #12
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

I think I'd look at the Dunedin to Tarpon Springs area. The ICW really opens up there so you can actually stay in protected water but you have great Gulf access plus several islands close by with amazing beaches & great anchorages. Driving wise there's not that much difference from the airport to anywhere in Pinellas. However, if you fly Allegiant you'll actually land in Pinellas & that would save some time.
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Old 28-08-2017, 19:33   #13
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

There are charters out of St. Pete. It is not that far to Sarasota. The water is blue down that way. Dodge the crab pots and enjoy.
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Old 07-10-2018, 16:17   #14
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Re: Tampa area: bay side or gulf side?

Little Harbour in Ruskin on the east side of Tampa Bay. Venture west if the weather is good or stay in the east bay if the conditions are not nice.
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