Site  Updated:
June 12, 2013

Cruising the Sun Coast

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Page 8

Across Sarasota Bay is Longboat Key with Sarasota Yacht Club and several fine anchorages sheltered by Bird, Otter, St. Armand’s and Lido Keys.

Northward on the mainland side near the airport the full-service Sara Bay Marina — with diesel at the fuel dock — is in a sheltered cove at the mouth of Bowlee's Creek. Across the bay on the barrier island is the marina and resort complex at Longboat Key Club Moorings, where transient boatmen can enjoy the services and amenities of the resort.

Cannons Marina to the north has friendly service, sells gasoline and rents boats — and must be good at what they do as they've been there for over fifty years! Farther north there’s plenty of room to anchor and dockage is available at Moore's Stonecrab Restaurant dock. Longboat Key ends at Longboat Pass, Mile 85, one of the prettiest places in an area known far and wide for its pretty places. (But be careful: Shoaling has been reported between Longboat Pass Approach and Longboat pass Daybeacon #1.)

North of Longboat Pass, the waterway narrows between Bradenton Beach and the fishing village of Cortez and passes Bradenton Beach Marina on the barrier island end of the bridge. On the mainland north of the bridge is the Seafood Shack.

North of Cortez the waterway crosses Anna Maria Sound to the laid-back little village on Anna Maria Island before entering Tampa Bay. Facilities on the island include the Galati Marina. There's still a restaurant, Rotten Ralph's, with dockage for dining on the beach side of the bay south of the Cortez bridge. (The "RR" formerly at Galati’s has closed.)  

Anna Maria Island is a perfect example of “Old Florida,” boasting a history that goes way (way!) back. It was initially inhabited by the Caloosas and Timucuans and later claimed for the Spanish Crown by early Spanish Conquistadors including Hernando DeSoto — circa 1530. Modern history began in the early 1900s with George Emerson Bean. He had homesteaded there since 1892 and, working with the Anna Maria Beach Company, developed much of what is now the City of Anna Maria. They laid out streets, built houses and sidewalks and installed a water system. One of the principals of the Beach Company was George Roser, who built the island's first house of worship and named it the Roser Memorial Community Church in honor of his mother. (Those of us who don't live on Anna Maria will probably remember Roser better for another of his creations: the Fig Newton — which he eventually sold to Nabisco.) For years, the island was accessible only by boat, but in 1921 a wooden bridge was built to connect with the village of Cortez. The western end of the original bridge remains today as the Bradenton Beach fishing pier.

To the east lies the mouth of the Manatee River and a pleasant five-mile cruise up a wild estuary and past good anchorage opportunities to the marine facilities and shore attractions of Bradenton and Palmetto. At Highway 41 are the Twin Dolphin Marina on the south and Regatta Pointe on the north with Riverhouse Reef & Grill on site. Just a bit farther upstream on the north shore, if you can clear the 40-foot fixed bridge, you'll find Riviera Dunes Marina.

North of Bradenton and eastward under the beautiful Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay is a cruising  ground unto itself. A very large and very busy commercial port (where security regulations will be enforced as necessary), Tampa Bay also supports a huge boating community and a fine sportfishery. The bay contains quite a few places worth visiting and at least one that has a “must see” rating. With miles of shoreline and many inviting anchorages, Tampa Bay has long been considered a most desirable destination. Way back in 1528, Alvar Nunez Cabeza deVaca (who was treasurer of an ill-fated Spanish expedition) reportedly called the bay “Bahia de la Cruz” and the best harbor in the world.

Turning into the bay under the Skyway Bridge (shoaling has been reported 100 yds. south of Sunshine Skyway Channel Daybeacons 13 and 14) and going counterclockwise around the shore, the scenic Little Manatee River enters the bay about 14 miles from the Skyway. There at river's mouth you'll find Shell Point Marina with a reported six feet of depth from the bay into the marina. North of the river mouth is Bahia Beach (locals pronounce it “Ba HIGH a” despite its Spanish origins), a resort community. The Resort at Little Harbor has dockage and fuel. The resort and the marinas — and their phones — are listed on Chart 20. The sunsets are spectacular!

There's a secluded anchorage in a protected basin off Crab Creek and another nice anchorage to the north at Apollo Beach with a waterfront restaurant nearby. Dockage is available at Apollo Beach and Land's End Marinas. There's dockage also at a private club, but it's available only to members of reciprocating clubs.

The northeastern arm of Tampa Bay is Hillsborough Bay. At its head, the marina at Harbour Island is now a private, residents-only marina but the dockside Westin hotel has a few slips available for transients. The number to call for dockage is on Chart 20.

The city of Tampa's Marjorie Park Yacht Basin Marina is across Seddon Channel on Davis Island. The docks there can accommodate vessels up to 80' with 9' draft. They also have gas and diesel, showers, pumpout and more.

The nearby Tampa Marriott's dockage customers can enjoy all of the hotel's amenities and on the Hillsboro River the Sheraton Riverwalk, just south of Kennedy Boulevard, has about 200 feet of dockspace (where electricity can be hooked up with ample advance notice — call 813-223-2222). No notice is necessary for a restaurant visit or even an overnight if no electricity is needed.

Continuing counterclockwise around the Interbay Peninsula, you enter the northern reaches of Tampa Bay, best known as Old Tampa Bay. It is crisscrossed by bridge/causeways with low clearances, has few anchorages or facilities, and is not ratable as a cruising grounds. Most visiting boats cut off Old Tampa Bay and head westward, venturing no farther north than the channel that parallels the Gandy Bridge/Causeway across the mouth of the bay. Tampa Harbor still sells fuel.

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