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Florida Charter

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Not sure quite where to put this but I guess as offshore here is as good a place as any!

Apologies but the site won't allow me to embed Video's (that I can see) so please excuse these are just links.

Having been to the Gulf Coast of Florida a number of times and seen what a great location it is for boating and fishing an idea evolved during late 2011 that it might be good to try chartering in this varied cruising ground. After some research around various charter companies we found one with the sort of craft we were after.

SWMBO and I called into to see them last November and were very impressed with the quality of the boat and the laid back style of the charter company. We came back and over a drink one night in The Shipwreck at Shotley relayed to David & Rachel what we had found. They were very keen and by mid December we had booked a Nordic Tug 42.


Our ship was a 2004 model but the layout was identical to the one in the link. Powered by a White Lump (Cummins 450).

This trip was to be a holiday with relatively small hops down to the area around Charlotte Harbour given access to some beautiful spots.

The area we cruised was roughly:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=sarasot ... s&t=m&z=10

As we were arriving on flights a day apart SWMBO and I had a night in a hotel which overlooked the marina and would meet David & Rachel the next day. From our room we could see our charge!


We spent the next day provisioning up and finding our way around the boat.

Sea Gypsy


Master Cabin




One craft berthing in the marina was very unusual!


http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... PvRsm-A-LB

David & Rachel arrived the next evening and must have wondered what they had arrived to…. The Gulf Pro Angling Tournament was based at the marina and as they arrived the weigh in was happening, complete with Country & Western Band and the bar in full swing. These guys really take there angling seriously the boats are custom built and quite amazing, on this day they were fishing between 85 & 130 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. First prize for this day was $9,000 and the winners certainly enjoyed a drink or two.




We were soon getting used to the ethos that pervaded and captured succinctly by Jimmy Buffett the local music legend “it must be five o clock somewhere†The words go:

Pour me something tall and strong

Make it a hurricane

Before I go insane

It's only half past 12

But, I don't care

It's 5 o'clock somewhere

We headed off to West Marine before they shut and stocked up on deck shoes, clothing etc if only we had outlets like these in the UK.

The next morning we were taken through a comprehensive hand over of the boat including all systems and manoeuvring. Handling a single craft of this size was new but having single engines ourselves we soon got to grips with it. The only slight issue was that the wheel and all controls were centrally positioned with limited rear vision. Docking necessitated quick dashed to each side door to view your position. A reversing camera would have been a real bonus.

We completed our hand over and headed south bound for Venice some 23 miles away. We had decided to go down via the Inter Coastal route which was much more interesting. We had an air draft we were told of almost 24 feet we soon found however it was nearer 22!

We found the bridge operators to really helpful and where possible would prioritise for boat traffic. It was quite strange to be constantly referred to as ‘captain’.

David at the helm






We entered Venice and had pre booked a berth at The Crows Nest. We were stunned by the amount of boats of all sizes and shapes in use folks around these parts certainly love their boating. Our mooring necessitated turning in the pass to sea, there was a very strong ebb out from Roberts Bay and David had to use almost all the 450 horses on tap to turn us across the ebb, it was then just a case of ferry gliding onto our berth at the dockside.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=venice+ ... s&t=h&z=16


Venice looking back toward the Crows Nest http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... QH33f-A-LB

Moored in Venice


Enjoying the weather




http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... SfNqm-A-LB

BBQ Boat!


The Venice Police and Sheriff patrolled the area and fined anyone either swimming in the navigation or breaking the speed limit in from sea once in the shelter of Venice itself.

On the way out of the pass once they pass the speed exempt sign the hammer goes down!!

http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... vbQhR-A-LB

Beats a Ford Mondeo!


They were kept busy rescuing folks from the navigation

http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... XZLQz-A-LB

http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... d8p5f-A-LB

We saw some terrific wildlife on the trip including many Dolphins. Venice is home to Beggar a Dolphin that has learnt to take tit bits from boaters, his name lately has been changed to Biter for his tendency to nip people as they feed him.

http://perrysaunders.smugmug.com/galler ... QH33f-A-LB

Under tow


We had a great meal in the Crow’s Nest and wandered back to the ship, a boat had moored behind us and had the brightest Blue lights I have seen on a boat, sunglasses were almost required!



I will continue in a while

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The next day saw us heading down to Boca Grande Tarpon capital of the world!

US boaters are very friendly and love to get close to wave…….






Click the picture


There is certainly no doubt apart from the good VHF Communications that the bridges open as you will see (and hear) in this clip. Click the picture


Once through the swing bridge we crossed through were the old railway line used to run.




Boca Grande is a mix of old money (JP Morgan died here while Tarpon fishing) and wealthy film & music stars

Clip shows some of the beach side properties


The pass is where the Tarpon boats head it was thick with them http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Boca+Gr ... s&t=h&z=14

Moored in Boca Grande Marina


The entrance to the marina entailed heading down the channel and a 90 degree turn to port when very close to the shore, there is a large drying shoal ready to catch you if you stray.




Waiting for traffic to clear





Also berthed in Boca Grande was this beauty


http://www.thehulltruth.com/boating-out ... -boat.html

His fish dinner




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More of a rigorous "interview" and handling test by a certified USCG captain, not interested in RYA stuff at all Mark. (Also had a concealed weapons permit so we listened quite attentatively :naughty: )

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Indeed not to be messed with but he was "totally awesome" well it appeared to be his pet phrase :grin:

I had a personal interview with the charter owner the previous November who is hugely experienced. As David alluded he was not interested in anything RYA but more interested in chatting about your boating experience. His attitude was over the years he has become a good judge of who has experience and who has not. They also reserve the right on the extensive hand over to refuse charter if you cannot demonstrate experience and good boat handling. This hand over was almost 3 hours including manoeuvring, mooring, close quarters boat handling so quite intense.

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From Boca Grande we headed across Charlotte Harbour with the pass between Gasparilla Island and Caya Costa to starboard and on to Cabbage Key, kindly the Captain of the Lady Chadwick kindly allowed us down the narrow dredged channel before he came down.


http://marinas.com/map/index.php?infowi ... dowid=3894

Aerial Shot


Cabbage Key is home to historical intrigue. The island was purchased by playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart in 1938 as a wedding gift for her son and sold in 1944. Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant sits atop a 38-foot Calusa Indian shell mound and next to the inn is the Historical Cabbage Key Water Tower dating back to the 1930s. Its 41 steps lead to a bird’s eye view of Pine Island Sound

Cabbage Key is an idyllic spot with so much wildlife it is quite a shock. The sea Otters are amazing, they have learnt to live alongside humans enough to learn where the Cool Boxes of bait holds are be able to lift the lid and help themselves. A few clips attached apologies for the slightly jumpy quality. This looks like a female and two kits, in the last clip you can hear the mother chastising her offspring.

Click the pictures





Cabbage Key moorings





Ospreys Nest





Saving Water!


View from the Bar


The Bar & Restaurant is quite a surprise, Dollar Bills adorn the walls and ceilings. The story goes that this started in the 1940s, when a fisherman pinned a dollar to the bar to ensure he'd have drinking money for his next visit. Since then, almost every visitor has signed a dollar bill and added it. It is quite a sight. The Dollar Bills are defaced and therefore not legal tender. Cabbage Key makes ‘more room’ about twice a year and has an agreement with a bank which converts into legal currency and donates to Charity. They estimate approx $25,000 per annum is raised for Charity. Needless to say we had a Dollars worth each, just so we would have drinking money the next day!







Our Dollars worth


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Thanks Bruce that is very kind.

I do apologise for the poor video clips but I only took a p&s with a bit of video capability but I clearly have not mastered moving pictures :oops: (do you think they will catch on!)

I will update again shortly.

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I will have to post the Dolphin clip from Cabbage Key later as I have yet to upload it but it was amazing.

I mentioned wildlife and personally have only ever seen Ospreys in North Wales; in Florida they are a fairly common sight. Although lots of wind noise and zoomed in more than my little P&S should have been asked to do! But you can see this Osprey hunting.

Click the picture for the Video


From Cabbage Key it was 6 miles or so to Useppa Island. This is a private Island but the Charter company owner who I had got to know had promised to get us a stay here. True to his word he booked us in for night.

Location Map - http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Useppa+ ... d&t=h&z=14

History - http://www.useppa.com/history.html

Useppa is only around 100 acres and can be walked around in 20 minutes. It oozes old world colonialism and is a real throw back, how long it will remain as it is who knows, I just know I am glad we saw it as it is now.









We liked it so much we blagged an extra day. This would mean an 8-9 hour steam back up to Long Boat Key Sarasota but we were all agreed it would be worth it to spend another day in this idyllic location.

Croquet anyone!


Hurricane Charley hit the area hard in 2004 and this was washed up on Useppsa’s Beach; where from they have no idea, but it has been restored and now resides in the Tarpon Bar


A Shotley Burgee will also reside in the Tarpon Bar shortly they were delighted a yacht club with Shotley’s tradition had brought a Burgee. We selected a spot next to the international Hemingway Club it seemed a good place to put it!



More Island




Some mooring



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We saw a large number of Dolphins while out in this area but none as close as these.

Early in the morning I was wandering around the dock when I heard a 'blow' there were Dolphins in very shallow water. They proceeded to come right alongside the dock seeming curious, the second clip shows this best.

It was a great start to the day.

Click the picture for the Video



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I woke up early one morning to some scrabbling on the side deck. When I looked out of the portal I saw a whiskered face looking in. The Otters had clearly decided to 'case' our ship looking for grub.

In the afternoon we were sat inside in the Air Con cooling down when we heard a thump in the rear cockpit, looking out an Otter had decided to come for another look. Sadly by the time I grabbed my camera he was already making his escape as can be seen from the small clip below.

Click the picture for the Video.


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Ah the Claret :?

We did quite a bit of fishing out there and decided to do some one evening after it got dark.

Unfortunately it seemed the Catfish came out to play at night :cry:

In the pitch dark after landing a few I heard David yelp in pain. I could not see properly but it appeared he was bleeding quite nicely from one of his fingers (I assumed he had a hook go in) We wandered back round to the boat and saw there was rather a lot of Claret around. A spine from a Catfish had entered his index finger just above the first joint hit the bone of the second joint and exited there. Catfish bites back for sure.

On my early morning wander where I caught the Dolphins I also found this :o Good job he was only in that position for a minute or so it might have made a real mes of the dock!


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I guess it is horses for courses Ian.

Clearly the Broads is turn up and go boating with little or no experience.

The US trip would mean a level of experience beyond a large proportion of normal Broads boaters.

I am not in anyway knocking Broads holidays it just a different market the US is catering for given the navigation challenges etc.

Having said that chartering the vessel was not a lot different to Le Boat in Ireland last year :o

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As we had managed to 'blag' an extra night at Useppa it meant we had a 9 hour or so transit back up to the Sarasota area and our destination Longboat Key.

We passed the famous Boca Grande Lighthouse on the end of Gasparilla Island http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=369


On the way back up the Coastguard came by for a nose, I admit I dare not take a photo while they were alongside :shocked


We then came through an inlet and found the equivalent of the Reedham Ferry.... well two actually, one each way.



Bungalows at Potter Heigham :naughty:


Folks in the US like to make themselves comfortable in the heat


Dry Stack is very popular in Florida we saw a number of these facilities on out travels.


But you can have your own dock, and not just for small craft either


After a long day we eventually made it to Longboat Key which was quite a swish place http://www.longboatkeymarina.com



We had the most amazing mooring up escapade, having almost moored a 'mooring attendant' started shouting instructions which were at odds to our quite tired brains after a day of steaming. Florida has short pontoons with 'Dolphins' to tie the bow to (half a telegraph pole) it is a long tale but suffice to say this guy made a huge fuss of something so simple. We later saw similar with another incoming boat and twigged this was all part of his act to gain a decent tip. How much of a tip would he get if you came in and moored straight up - as we virtually were. I found he was cleaning the pool the next day so maybe mooring was not his forte :roll:

Still it was a very nice place with swimming pools and decent restaurants and we enjoyed our stay.

In action on another boat creating spaghetti on the Dolphin.


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