Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Washington State
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My wife, kids and I lived aboard on Ft Myers Beach and then bought a house on the ICW in Cape Coral. We have been there countless times.
It is great. We are going to sail our new boat back down there from Texas shortly.
Once you learn the area, you should be fine. It is very, very shallow though. There are placdes in the ICW that are less than 7', and in the miserable mile (stretch b/t southern tip of Cape Coral to the back side of Pine Island) you need to run close to the middle of the ICW which is very, very difficult with all the traffic. You do not have to go that way though. You can go around the gulf and come back in the inlet to Charlotte Harbor. Takes longer, but you do not have to worry about getting run over by the many sports fishers.
There are lots and lots of dolphins and wildlife. The last time we were there, we saw a pair of bald eagles nested out by Cabbage Key. We have seen lots of manatees and many other beautiful things. If you like Gunkholling, hook the big boat and dinghy around. You will find yourself back in the mangroves in places that you would swear no living person has been (though we might have!!).
The harbor itself is not always the clearest water. It is very close to the river and it often clouds view. If you like diving and history though, you would be interested in knowing that the harbor used to be a safe point for the old Spanish Galleons on their way to/back from Spain (at least as rumor holds it). The guy that cleaned by hull has a cannon for sale in Naples and a Silver Dabloom (sp???) he found in the harbor.
If you like fishing, it is probably the Tarpon Capitol of the world, and the Grouper is an easy catch. Lots of Hammers and Bull SHarks though. Show a little caution as the water is murky close to the river (Caloosahatchee).
Cabbage Key is a must see. It is on the SWest corner of C Harbor. It has become a little too touritsty lately, but you still have to go. Good anchorage across from it and dinghy over. Lots of trails to walk the island and pretty good food and cold beer (though you will pay through the nose for it). Hang your dollar on the wall and pay tribute to Jimmy Buffett (whose picture hangs in the bar with a signed dollar from the last time he was there).
Hope your "get off the sand bar" skills are good. You will need them. Just plan on running aground a few times and you won't be so upset about it.
My boat draws 5'1/2, FYI. And as far as all the advertisement, I would not account that to some undiscovered country as they would like you to believe. They are just trying to get more buyers for houses down there. It is SOOOOOOOOOOOO overvalued that they are using any means they can find to attract people. Don't go there and buy a house unless you don't care what happens to your money. But as far as the sailing goes, it probably boasts one of the more fun areas that is not overloaded with boats (at least for that part of Florida).
And don't forget, if you don't mind an overnight passage, hop down to the Dry Tortugas (about 130 miles swest and 70 miles west of Key West). It is a protect Fed Park. Beautiful fort and lots of history. I can tell you that there, the diving is great. One small word of cautiuon: Don't get caught in a storm out there. The gulf in SWest Florida is shallow and strong fronts and storms make very steep square waves... not like the Atlantic or Pacific where you get the long rollers.
Also, if your stick is over 55', you will not be able to take the ICW past the first bridge in Cape Coral. The west side around Pine Island is not a problem... there are no bridges.
Hope this helps. Have fun with it! Let me know if you have any more questions.