From the only likely anchorage at Egmont Key (south of the Pilot Station in settled weather) to and through the entrance at Boca Grande is a distence of about 67 miles. Assuming you are able to average 6 knots, you're looking at a transit time of a bit over 11 hours. In theory one could leave at the break of nautical twilight in the AM and arrive at Boca Grande just before sunset at this time of the year. That said, however, appearances on the chart not withstanding, Boca Grande is not a simple entry. Those with experience in the area know that, to the extent possible, one wants to make that passage
at or near slack water
. On the flood if the wind
is westerly, or the ebb if the winds are easterly. Otherwise, some pretty good, steep waves can make up in that channel that one may not realize are there until one's already "in the soup". Accordingly, one is wise to time one's transit with the foreoging in mind. And, having made the entry, the courses to the anchorage at Cayo Costa, or further south at Useppa or Cabbage Key is not as straight forward as the chart might make them appear, particularly after dark on a yacht one is not quite familure with.
Given the foregoing, a stopover at the Crows Nest in Venice, and spending the night on the Long Dock
would be wise. There is an anchorage in Venice, but it small and awkward and will be difficult for someone that doesn't have local knowledge. Admittedly, the Long Dock
at the Crows Nest isn't the greatest, but it is adaquate with fenders and the restaurant is about as good as it gets in the area, (Eat downstairs rather than upstairs. The food's the same but the prices are lower and many think the service
is better.) From there it's not a difficult run and only about 28 miles or roughly 5 hours running time, departure again timed on slack water
Frankly, rather than spending 3, if not 4 days in transit--which can get pretty boring--you might be better served by skipping Cayo Costa and getting your off-shore leg to Venice and then working your way north through some nice cruising ground from there on the ICW
to and through Sarasota
et al. THere is a nice anchorage at Blackburn Point that you might be able to make; and, an excellant anchorage at Roberts Bay and another between Otter Key and Longboat Key, just south of the Sarasota
Yacht Club. You can anchor
there and take your dinghy up to St. Armand's Circle which is a fun visit. From there you can sail through Sarasota Bay to visit the Longboat Key Club and a bit further on to an anchorage just southeast of Jewfish Key or, if your up for it, a night on the long-dock at either the Mar Vista or Moore's Stone Crab. From there its an easy trip up to the Manatee River to visit DeSoto Point or, a bit further on, Bradenton where there is a good anchorage and two good restaurants to choose from, one each on the north and south sides of the River at either Twin Dolphins
Point. From there you're about 25 miles back up to St. Pete and you should spend at least one night on either a mooring
at the Vinoy Basin or in a guest slip at the muni-marina so you can visit the St. Pete Pier and there abouts. A stop we always enjoy.
For more detail one prossible anchorages
and facilities, zoom over to ActiveCaptain.com. Registration
is free and there is a wealth of information.