July 1, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow


June 20, 2013
New Adventures


May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug


May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference


May 6, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy


April 15, 2013
In The Middle


March 29, 2013
On The Hook


March 18, 2013
Tinker Time


February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix


February 15, 2013
Time Travel


February 6, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation


January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending


January 1, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports


December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current


December 1, 2012
New Neighbors


November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?


November 1, 2012
Are We There Yet?


October 15, 2012
CHANGE OF LATITUDE


October 1, 2012
Womens Roundtable


September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem


September 1, 2012
Promises


August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options


August 1, 2012
Go West!


July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination


July 1, 2012
Propane


June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly


June 1, 2012
Everglades Detour


May 15, 2012
Making New Friends


May 1, 2012
Something Old and Something New


April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast


April 1, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler


March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature


March 1, 2012
Last Dance


February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique


February 1, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound


January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World


January 1, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation


December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell


December 1, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds


November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love


November 1, 2011
On the Water Again


October 14, 2011
First Impressions


October 3, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun


September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road


September 1, 2011
Lets Dance!


August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row


August 1, 2011
Summer Without a Boat


July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home


July 1, 2011
One Step Closer


June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


June 1, 2011
Made in the USA


May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice


May 1, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around


April 1, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude


March 15, 2011
Helping Hands


March 1, 2011
THE PERFECT BOAT!


February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options


February 1, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!


January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing


December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing


December 15, 2010
The New Plan!


December 1, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg


November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water


November 1, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile


October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough


October 1, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?


September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool


September 1, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland


August 1, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"


July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time


July 1, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous


June 1, 2010
On the Hard


May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West


May 1, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board


April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance


April 1, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures


March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise


March 1, 2010
Okeechobee Bound


February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters


February 1, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise


January 15, 2010
New Frontiers


January 1, 2010
First Time Experiences


December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port


December 1, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady


November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello


November 13, 2009
A Cult Following


October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time


October 1, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye


September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature


August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote


August 1, 2009
Crab Crazy


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North


June 1, 2009
Northern Migration


May 15, 2009
Priceless


May 1, 2009
Hello Goodbye


April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!


April 1, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy


March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound


March 1, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?


February 15, 2009
Slow Motion


February 1, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View


January 15, 2009
High Anxiety


January 1, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands


December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure


December 1, 2008
All Together Now


November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike


October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River


October 16, 2008
Big City Lights


October 1, 2008
The Adventure Begins


September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop


September 1, 2008
The Space Ship


August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle


August 1, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around


July 1, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop

   

Florida’s Wide Open West Coast
By Kismet, Sunday, April 15, 2012

By Jim Favors

Florida’s Gulf Intracoastal Water Way (GIWW) offers 150 miles of gorgeous cruising ground. Having plied these waters many times in the last six years, our feelings are that we’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to explore. That’s why we keep coming back to Florida’s "Wide Open West Coast."

Another picture perfect anchorage, this time at Redington Shores, anchoring is not always this tranquil.

Leaving Tarpon Springs, with no hard agenda formulated, we felt good that we had 12 whole days to explore these coastal waters and communities, return to some favorites and build on our Florida cruising experiences, before attending a Ranger Tug Rendezvous in Ft Myers Beach. With an empty holding tank, a full tank of fuel, a well-stocked pantry, and our tummies satisfied with delicious Greek cuisine, we departed Tarpon Springs with Wedgewood blue skies and calm waters. It felt good to be on the move, heading south, ultimately to Key West.

The GIWW provides a wide swath for cruising with easy access to the Gulf, large waterfront towns, small villages, state and national parks, sweeping white sandy beaches, easy and well protected anchorages, spectacular island views, and stunning sunsets. So many possibilities, on this side of the state, for exploration and chances to commune with nature, whether you’re following the Great Loop or are a migrating cruiser. Within the first 15 miles of our departure from Tarpon Springs, we had left Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Clearwater, and Clearwater Beach, all places we’ve visited before, in our wake. We passed them by because we were on a mission to stumble upon a few new spots, as yet unknown to us.

Just beyond these Redington condo’s lays the Gulf of Mexico.

In the next 10 miles we had navigated through The Narrows and entered Boca Ciega Bay where our research found a well-protected anchorage, this side of MM 125, in Redington Shores, off of Sand Key. Sand Key is a 15-mile long spit of land that runs from Clearwater Pass down to Johns Pass. Although built up with a mixture of residential housing, condos and hotels of various sizes, it doesn’t have the feeling of populated congestion, but more of an inviting, relaxed and open feel. The Sand Key State Park Beach, at the northern tip of Sand Key, is a 95-acre waterfront park that has consistently rated as one of the top beaches in the United States.

Our anchorage, in the horseshoe shaped cove, was surrounded by modest homes on the GIWW side and low-rise condos on the Gulf side. With barely enough real estate to house the condos and the main road that runs the length of the island, our anchorage was close enough to see the Gulf and to hear the sounds of gently lapping waves, creating the perfect spot for our first night at anchor in Florida this year.

Shortly after we dropped and set the hook, we were greeted by a couple of dolphins, creating gentle undulating waves, as they made their way around the calm, glassy cove. We would have liked to think they were there for our entertainment but we feel they were on a mission of their own. Like us, they were getting ready for dinner, ours was soon to be on the grill, theirs were the small fish they were corralling a short distance from Kismet. Lisa had heard that dolphins like music, especially female voices singing, so she played some Ingrid Michelson tunes over the outdoor speakers in the hopes of luring them closer to the boat. They remained on task while we had a glass of wine and watched the early sunset through the slivered opening between the low-rise beach condos.

Gulfport Marina’s harbor house, sits next to a nice boat ramp with ample parking for the trailering crowd.

Even though we’d only been out for one day, Lisa and I decided we’d like to stop at the town of Gulfport the next day, a small town we’d heard positive things about over the last couple of years but have never been to ourselves. Gulfport is still in Boca Ciega Bay, only 10 miles from our first anchorage, we only had a little over an hour’s run before we’d arrive there, so after a leisurely breakfast we pulled up the anchor and headed out. To maximize our transient marina experience and our dollars, we try to arrive at a marina as early in the day as possible. When leaving, we exit as late in the day as possible if our schedule and marina rules allows. It just doesn’t make good economic sense to show up at a marina late in the day and leave early the next morning.

Our early arrival gave us time to get settled and walk the short distance into Gulfport’s waterfront district. We’d heard Gulfport was transforming itself into an art and restaurant area. We strolled into gift stores and art galleries; saw quaint restaurants and the typical waterfront pubs across from the beach. We arrived the day of Gulfport’s weekly farmer’s market, having left Tarpon Springs fully stocked, we had to resist the urge to shop for more produce.

True to form we lingered in Gulfport until early afternoon the next day. Knowing we’d be anchoring out for a couple of days and not getting much exercise, we decided to take another late morning walk, through the residential area this time. We also took time to map out our next few days’ route, all this was accomplished before our departure for an anchorage, 15 miles south of Gulfport.

When we left Boca Ciega Bay, heading south, we entered the massive Tampa Bay. We straddled the Sunshine Bridge as we worked our way out, into, and across the bay, heading 10 miles to Manatee River. If one goes east/northeast under the Sunshine Bridge you would be heading to the port towns of St Petersburg and Tampa, but it was a peaceful night at anchor we were looking for, and found, on the south side of the bay.

A boater’s dream anchorage materialized for us tonight, while at DeSoto Point, with no wind and calm waters.

Just beyond the mouth of the Manatee River and to the south is Desoto Point. This is one of our favorite anchorages because of its close proximity off of the GIWW and relative remoteness to civilization. It’s true that the City of Bradenton is merely four miles from the anchorage and houses are within eyesight, however with the 27-acre Desoto National Memorial Park as a backdrop it has the feel of what I imagine old Florida must have looked like.

The park derives its name from the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. DeSoto was licensed by the King of Spain to explore and colonize the area known as Florida today. DeSoto’s 1539 exploration is considered the first extensive European exploration of southern United States, including Florida. As I write this, I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like for DeSoto and his crew to be anchored out in these same waters. To think they came all that distance with no GPS, chart plotter, cell phone or Internet (boy, are we spoiled) but it must have been quite an adventure. To learn more about DeSoto and his place in southern Florida history, you can visit: www.nps.gov/deso/index.htm

 

Anchored out at Longbeach and getting ready to explore the area by dinghy.

The next morning, we pulled anchor to head back out into Tampa Bay, for the short, three-mile, cruise to the mouth of Anna Marie Sound. Once here you would have access to Bradenton Beach, Longbeach, Longboat Key, Sarasota, and the Sarasota Bay. We ended up spending three days/nights in this area, two on the hook and one at Marina Jack’s in Sarasota. As we dropped anchor off of Longboat Key, at MM85 of the GIWW, I could not help but think of how important our ground tackle was to our successful anchoring.

At 27’ we were the smallest boat in the marina at Sarasota’s Marina Jack’s.

It’s always a nice surprise when we run into fresh produce, like at this farmers market in Sarasota.

If you have ever experienced waking up, in the middle of the night, while at anchor with the feeling your boat’s anchor had lost its grip on the seabed below, putting you and your boat in harms way, then you know how important good ground tackle is in preventing this from happening. Our philosophy is to have the necessary equipment to be prepared for the worst with the hope that it never is a problem.

Longbeach sits at the mouth of Longboat Pass, a narrow inlet with a great deal of current when the tide is running. Having the proper equipment is important in this type of setting, not only for current and tide changes that can put a corresponding pull on the boats rode, but also strong wind, boat wakes and the various seabed bottoms one encounters when anchoring. Our Longbeach anchorage presented us with a sandy bottom and everything else mentioned above, so it was our first serious test for our ground tackle and, I’m glad to report, it was a positive experience.

Our ultimate goal is to sleep soundly while at anchor, regardless of the situation, and we feel our equipment will provide us with that feeling of safety. Our ground tackle consists of 200 feet of .75 nylon line attached to 50 feet of chain that is attached to a shackle and a 22lb Rochna anchor.

Anchors are like opinions but after four years experience (on a Fathom and our new Ranger Tug) we are Rochna/Buegle style anchor converts.

After picking a spot to stay for the night, we lowered the anchor and enough rode into the water so it rested on the bottom and then we let the boat drift back a bit. We then let out more rode, moved the boat back to set the anchor soundly and once set let out more rode until we were approximately seven feet of rode to every one-foot of water depth. Our first attempt to anchor at Longbeach had to be aborted because we didn’t feel we’d accomplished a good anchor set. Our rule is that if either Lisa or I are uncomfortable with our deployment and set, we bring everything back in and attempt a reset. Our feeling is that it’s better doing it right during the initial anchoring than in the middle of the night when conditions could be questionable or challenging. We had a very peaceful, uninterrupted, night’s sleep on Kismet – our goal every night while on the hook, whether in Florida’s west coast or anywhere we cruise.

For more information on different styles of anchors, their best uses and terminology you can visit: http://www.christinedemerchant.com/anchor_styles.html

We are now almost half way to our southern end goal of Key West to spend the month of March. We’ve enjoyed our anchoring opportunities in the natural coastal waters of western Florida. We get a lot of pleasure spotting interesting wildlife and tropical flora and fauna, which exist in great contrast to our hometown in Michigan. The west coast of Florida continually surprises us by providing us with opportunities, as boaters, to enjoy and learn more about this southern jewel, from the water.