Cortez and Anna Maria Island
What a better first stop than the Seafood Shack? Thanks to the great rapport that current and past members of BCYC have developed with the Seafood Shack, we get a complimentary night. Who can pass something like that up?
This isn't the first time we've been here, though. This time around, we only really stayed the night and patronized the restaurant and bar to thank the staff at the marina for such a generous perk. The staff remembered us, welcoming us back; and even the dock master, Harley, made sure to thank BCYC again for all of the club's support while they were making improvements to their docks.
We hadn't gotten much sleep last night before leaving Gulfport, as we stayed well past midnight having drinks and telling stories with some BCYC members. So since this first stop was more of a pit stop to fill our water tanks, top off our fuel tanks, charge all our batteries, and pump out, we made sure to also get a good night's sleep and an early start.
The Seafood Shack is conveniently located right next to the Cortez Bridge, a bascule bridge that opens either on request or every 30 minutes depending on the day.
From our previous stay here, we knew that all you really needed to do is to radio the bridge tender requesting their next opening time and letting them know that we're at the Seafood Shack.
Then you simply back out of the slip, careful as to not hit the pirate ship and other boats around you, and then kind of do some slow meandering back and forths (other people prefer circles; while others still prefer to hold position) until the bridge opens and you sail/motor on through.
The Last Time We Were Here...
This is a pretty boring accounting thus far, so let's recount our previous stay here. That was last year, as a stop for the Thanksgiving 2018 Club Cruise. Cruising Susan and Fleet Admiral Jon planned and lead the way from Boca Ciega Bay, through Pass-a-Grille channel, past a shortcut across the channel, and then into Tampa Bay.
The important bits are in this snippet of Chart 11411 are noted (anyone can download just about all NOAA charts from their website). A word of caution: Keep in mind that while going through this route, there are 2 shallow areas with shifting shoals. One is right before the Pinellas Bay Bridge and the other is the shortcut through Egmont Channel about 30 degrees northeast of Edgment Key. Jon and Susan in their shallower draft trawler, Journey, scouted ahead and made sure that we could get through with out 5' draft.
Once you get to the channel east of Tampa Bay and into Anna Maria Sound, you can just follow the ICW (starting at day marker Red 68) for a beautiful sail through the sound, under a bascule bridge, the Anna Maria Island Bridge that opens about every 20 minutes starting at the top of the hour. So you should make sure to time it about right or else you'll be waiting another 20 minutes... unless you can clear 24 feet.
This, of course, isn't too new to us. If you look at the chart above, there's yet another very safe route that has you going East through Structure E (opens every 30 minutes) between channel day markers Red 22 and Red 24 before meeting up with and heading south down the ICW. Affectionately referred to as, "The Ditch" because it's just a long boring straight line sail where you have to dodge a lot of cross traffic.
You eventually get to the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which is always spectacular. You'll have great views regardless of either route. The ditch is just a route that you want to get past as quickly as possible. There's so much traffic that even in good sailing weather, it probably won't be very pleasant until you enter Tampa Bay.
So anyway, eventually, you'll get to Seafood Shack. Our first time there, Jon and Susan had made sure to get us the easiest slip to slide into. We really hadn't done too much cruising and going to other marinas by that point so we really appreciate the support! On top of that things always look completely different on the water as opposed to the maps and other navigational aids provided.
The first time we went there, Jacob was outside to waive and guide us in. The second time, we knew where he was talking about, so we just idled right in.
The second time around, there was enough of a breeze to our port side that it started pushing our bow over to another large trawler docked to our starboard and in front of the pirate ship. After tossing a line or two to Jacob to help pull us in, I quipped, "Well that wasn't the most graceful docking."
A diner at the restaurant patio yelled back, "You did a great job!"
If you hadn't already guessed, they made sure to give us the dock right in front of the restaurant's outside patio, full of spectators.
Ready to Explore!
And let me tell you, it was a great feeling once you've docked; have all your lines tied and set; log the things you need to; take off your sailing stuff; and put on your exploring this area stuff.
Next Up, The Monkey Bus.