we have a 44' Mason with a 5'6 draft.
we are not looking for fun night life..just anchorages
in case we get stuck along the way.
we've never done this route and are looking for opinions
on best ways and locl knowledge. we do have a 54 foot height.
We have children aboard as well..so more reason to double check.
we also may head ( without kids aboard) from Pensacola to Houston.If you
know any very skilled captains who are extremely familiar with the gulf crossing.
we don't want to make that crossing with our current "crew."
first we need to get to Alabama safely and swiftly...and want to know if there is anything unmarked on the charts..if the intercostal is better and why...are we mising bridges..etc,..the stuff we are not thinking of....
Well, I don't know if you follow any of my stuff, but I cruise with two boys aboard who were also on board at 5 days old! SO I am there with ya.
What city are you coming from Marathon? Key West? FMB or Naples?
I will assume you are leaving from Marathon. I can give you details of anything inbetween. To start off with, you will be able to jump under the 7 mile bridge. From there you are an overnighter to Fort Myers Beach. I would personally choose Fort Myers Beach over Factory Bay. FMB is more kid oriented. You can also get some great stocks there. You will fit under the bridge and can stay at the mooring field. I would walk over to the beach with the kids, or take them to Nervous Nellies (cheap food and pretty good). The strip is pretty kid friendly and they would love the powder sand beach there.
From there you have two choices: inside or outside. Your drafts are fine either way. I personally take the Miserable Mile (go under Sanibel and hang a left) but it skinny water and if you get out of the channel, you will be aground. Currents try and push you out of it too. If you are a good pilot, then go that way and watch your depths. It is really only bad the first few miles, then it is easy running. If the winds are anything but NW, go all the way to Useppa Island. Anchor off the east side of it. From there you can take your tender to Cabbage Key. Kids will love it. Hang a dollar on the wall and get a $12 cheeseburger... but it is all the adventure. ALternatively, you can go into Cayo Costa a little further north (Pelican Bay). If you don't go the inside, you can do that trip from the outside but it will add around 3-4 hours with your SOG because of the shoals. Let me know which way and I can help.
From there you can either go inside or outside. I have done both. I would probably go outside unless it is blowing stink. I would jump from Charlotte Harbor to Venice. You can stay at the Crows Nest. It is an easy in and an easy out. No good anchorages there but the rates aren't bad and there is some great scenery for the kids there too. They will loan you a bike for free and you can go check out the old Florida town of Venice. THere is an ice cream and sandwhich shop there that is awesome. FOrget the name though... on the right side of the strip downtown. But hey, is all good. THey also have a good restaurant at Crows Nest if you don't want to bother... but I would. All part of the adventure.
From there you can either take an easy run inside to Longboat Key or a longer one outside to St Pete or maybe Emerson Point. If you need a marina, go to the Harborage in St Pete. If not, stay at Emerson Point. Emerson Point is a rocking awesome anchorage just up the manatee river on Snead Island. We spent weeks there. There are miles of trails to walk, the park is very well kept, dog friendly, a dinghy dock, and a LOT of history. Me and my kids regularly played baseball right where the dinghy dock is under the old mound. Across from that is the National Desoto Park which should not be missed either. It is a very realistic depiction of Desoto and what he has done. Kinda touch history though... the guy was a monster.
From there I would do an overnighter and jump to Panama City. You might could do Apalchicola, but water can be shallow even for you. We stayed at the Panama City Marina on the north side. You can get groceries there, and the immediate shops have been redone, but outside of that is a hard town. Shame because it is a beautiful area. We did not spend much time there.
From there I would jump to Pensacola or Mobile. I would Opt for Pensacola and go for Mobile if I could. Pensacola is an easy in-out and the strip is great (esp One-eyed Petes). Kids will love it.
Does that help?