Site  Updated:
June 12, 2013

Cruising the Sun Coast

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Page 6

As a result the island boasts a few marine facilities —  a couple of small marinas in the harbor downtown; the Inn Marina on Boca Grande Bayou; and the popular Uncle Henry's Marina at the causeway on the north end. "Unc's" has transient dockage available as well as fuel, a grocery  — with a great deli —  plus cable TV at the docks.  The village of Boca Grande, while quite laid-back and informal, is still a very genteel Old Florida resort with little glitz, but several very good restaurants and an absolutely charming ambiance.

Northward above Gasparilla Pass, the waterway runs through Placida Harbor, then narrows at Cape Haze, where there’s a popular protected anchorage northwest of Daybeacon #30, and through a couple of miles of narrow cut before it opens into Lemon Bay. Just south of the opening lies Palm Island Marina, another of those pleasant resort marinas where transients get full use of the shore-side amenities.

The waterway runs northward through Lemon Bay to Englewood and Venice and some of the best cruising and most hospitable facilities on the Sun Coast. The entire Lemon Bay area is pierced by little passes and delightful gunkholes for exploring and anchoring. Like Pine Island Sound to the south, it’s another area with so many attractions that you could forget your float plan and spend all the available time exploring right here.

A favorite spot in the area is around Stump Pass, where you can have your cake and eat it, too. Shuttle between remote anchorages around the Charlotte Beach State Recreation Area across the bay to Cape Haze,  Stump Pass Marina or Palm Island and enjoy the hospitality for which the Gulf Coast is justly famous. Stump Pass itself is generally a hassle-free passage, although you should use care near the outer end and beware that markers are often shifted to mark the best water. As in all such inlets, be aware that the moving of markers doesn't always keep pace with the movement of shoals. Always use “eyeball” navigation (and caution), as well.

From Stump Pass, the route north is another choice of inviting anchorages along Englewood Beach on the barrier island and toward Englewood on the mainland side. There the same kind of shuttle route opportunity runs to the mainland.

North of Englewood, Lemon Bay narrows and eventually turns into a four-mile cut that detours inland around Venice to Roberts Bay and Venice Inlet. Note: shoaling has been reported in the ICW just south of Venice Inlet. Specifically, the shoaling is from 600 yards north to about 200 yards south of Albee Bridge.

Venice Inlet has been dredged and depth there is now 14'. Shoaling mentioned in this area in our last edition seems no longer to be a problem. This breakwater-protected inlet is one of the more constantly deep inlets in the area. But the current is strong, so you should use ample power to maintain steerageway.

You’ll find plenty of hospitality and facilities in Venice, a friendly resort and retirement town, which became HQ for the Ringling Brothers Circus when it moved down from Sarasota. The town is still home to many circus people when they are not on the road with the show, and more than a few members of the local retirement community are former circus stars. You'd probably recognize their names if not their faces.

Venice is also known as the “Sharks' Tooth Capital of the World.”  Collecting sharks' teeth has long been a pastime for residents and visitors alike. Found on and in the beach sand, they can range in size from one-eighth of an inch to three inches in length, and — on rare occasions — even more.

Marine facilities in Venice include Fisherman’s Wharf and Marker 4 Restaurant — a mile south of the inlet, with Gulf Liner Marine still open on the north side of the complex.  The long popular — with visitors and locals — Crow’s Nest Marina with its own excellent restaurant and tavern is right inside the inlet.

Blackburn Point, at Mile 63, is the site of the last swing bridge in these parts. The marinas there all seem to have gone "condo" but the Casey Key Fish House is still open and serving its tasty dishes with its Old Florida ambience. The new Osprey Harbour Club, shown on Chart 19 has gas at the fuel dock. (Continue...


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