Places to sail on the
West Coast of Florida

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This page updated: October 2004

General West Coast of Florida
Fort Myers Area
Charlotte Harbor Area
Tampa Bay Area

Note: I don't repeat information you can find on charts or in guidebooks. And I do focus on things that fit my cruising style: I anchor out, use libraries for internet, don't go to restaurants and bars.

General West Coast of Florida

Book: "Cruising Guide to the West Coast of Florida" by Claiborne Young (doesn't cover Okeechobee Waterway)
Web page of anchorages at Jung Charters (must register to get access)
Sail Miami's "Florida Boating Marine Directory"
FL Sea Grant's maps of anchorages

Subscribe to Claiborne Young's "The Salty Southeast" quarterly free newsletter: send email containing just the word "subscribe". Heavily oriented towards marinas and restaurants and ICW, but has other information too.

Typical Wind Pattern on Florida's West Coast, by Tom Lenfestey Jr.:
During the months January, February and March, the prevailing wind is from the ENE. With a cold front approaching, the wind will clock (veer) to the SW; at this point, WATCH OUT. Within 12 to 24 hours the wind will switch suddenly to the NW-NE quadrant and will blow a good Force 8 for about 48 to 72 hours; the wind will then drop to Force 3 while shifting around to the ENE.

During the months of March through December, the cycle takes about a week and does not build up to such force as the cold months. Listen to the weather watch on VHF; watch the weather; flip a coin.

From the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
The west coast winds are more variable and light (unreliable) than on the east coast. Chances of hurricanes are far, far less, however. The north/south weather in winter seems to divide at Sarasota. The area clear from Tarpon Springs to the Everglades makes for good cruising but a 5' or less draft is necessary in many areas.

From Steve Honour on Cruising World message board:
.. a wonderful thing happens after dark on the west coast. The trades enhance the offshore night wind and fuel the east wind of the night. Many a cruiser has learned that if you want to make miles up and down the west coast of Florida in the summer, the best way to do it is to sail at night. It's cool and breezy with a nice offshore wind. Stay near shore and you even have a calm sea.

Paraphrased from "Cruising The Easy Way" by Bill Robinson:
  • Winter: warm and pleasant, but can have fog and cold northers.
  • Summer: little wind, lots of heat and humidity, almost daily [afternoon] thunderstorms.
  • Spring and Fall: nice.

Spring break: most schools break in the 2nd or 3rd weeks of March. A few in the 1st or 4th weeks of March.


SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Cruising the Florida Everglades"

From south to north:

Fort Myers Area

Charlotte Harbor Area

From bernie on Cruising World message board:
Gasperilla Sound / Boca Grande Pass:

The best mooring and anchorage (in my opinion) is located just north on the ICW, about a mile north of boca grande pass, inside the harbor at red "2" off to the west, down the channel turning to the starboard.

Great anchorage, all med-moor, good holding and some of the prettiest beaches in the world. Great bike trails, friendly and safe.

Plus you're halfway between Tampa and Naples / Ft Meyers and you're on charlotte harbor, cabbage, usspoa [Useppa ?] island and deep water.

Tampa Bay Area

From south to north:


All of this info is pre-hurricane-Ivan.

There is little shelter between Clearwater and Carrabelle, around the "Big Bend". The consensus seems to be that a non-stop crossing straight across (say, Clearwater or Tarpon Springs to/from Carrabelle (Dog Island) or Panama City) is preferable to hopping along the shore. A straight crossing leaves you out of VHF radio contact (even with USCG) for a long time. But shore-hopping exposes you to weather for longer, and there isn't much assistance along those shores anyway. Pick weather carefully.

Maptech "compact chartkits" (compact region 8 and full region 16) are missing charts for St George Sound, Carrabelle, Apalachicola Bay, St Joseph Bay, and the ICW from Eastpoint to East Bay. Don't know if Maptech full region 8 covers them. The information below is enough to enter St George Sound and Carrabelle from the Gulf; that's pretty straightforward.

Shoals prevent entering St George Sound from the NE, around the NE end of Dog Island.
NE end of Dog Island approx lat 29.49.8 long 84.34.5
Main inlet (gap between St George Island and Dog island) approx lat 29.46.0 long 84.39.8 (keep green on W side, red on E side; markers start SW of gap). Can anchor off the channel inside the inlet. Channel to Carrabelle is straightforward, but the markers are far apart, tidal currents can push you sideways, and don't mistake shoal markers for channel markers.

Shoals prevent entering Apalachicola Bay from W and SW. There is a tiny-looking Government Cut on SE side; don't know the depth and if there are military restrictions; have heard that the east side of the cut is shoaling, stay on the west side. Fixed 50-foot bridge may prevent entering the Bay from St George Sound.

ICW: fixed 50-foot bridges cross the ICW in several places: S of Eastpoint between Apalachicola Bay and St George Sound, mile 295 SE of Panama City, mile 285 W of St Andrew, mile 223 at Ft Walton Beach (49-foot; chart is wrong). Also a fixed 48-foot bridge (chart is wrong) between Destin inlet and the bay (doesn't prevent going from inlet to city harbor, but inlet is shoaly / local knowledge, and channel into harbor is shifty and 5-foot depth). No low fixed bridges on the ICW from Pensacola to Mobile to New Orleans.

From Wayne:
If you can go under a 50 foot (low tide, about 52') bridge - The Tyndall/ Du Pont Bridge here in Parker, you can come [inside] all the way from Apalachicola to Panama City. If you have to have closer to 65' then you can go from Apalachicola via the GIWW to the Gulf County Canal and go into St Joseph Bay (great place), and then on the outside to the Panama City entrance.

Time zone changes from Eastern to Central between Carrabelle and Panama City.