Anclote Key Day Sailing

May 2008

by Steve Tonnesen

Saturday morning by 9:15 AM Turtle Grass and I were under way from the

free, but almost worth the price Anclote Park boat ramp. My plan was

to spend some quality time together, just the boat and me, explore the

shoal North of Anclote Key and then proceed South to meet one or two

of my sons at Sunset Beach for some yet to be determined messing about.


What a perfect day for sailing! The tides were only to vary about a

foot and a half and would be well above mean low all day, no rain was

forecast and the winds were predicted to average around 9 knots. I

motored out to marker 9, raised the sail to begin a broad reach to 320

deg., aiming across shallow water at first directly for the shoal

North of Anclote Key, the name of which I did not yet know. For such a

perfect sailing day, the lack of sailboats surprised me, as I only

could see three altogether in any direction. Various fishermen on

anchored or drifting boats that I passed within hailing distance

reported catching just a few bluefish and a shark.


Bob Wood was captain of Turtle Grass for the Cortez Small Craft

festival sailboat race, as I still really don't know much about either

sailing or racing, so I was trying out some of the things he had

showed me about trimming the sail for optimum speed. A car tire inner

tube stuffed and tied into the engine well around the engine's foot

was effectively suppressing engine well sloshing noises as theorized,

so I was quite pleased listening to nothing but the ordinary sea

sounds. A dolphin came up a couple times to swim alongside with his

head above water and appear to admire the boat. Maybe they like red sails?


The shoal North of Anclote Key begins maybe a few hundred yards across

from a deep channel, but there is dry land with vegetation on the very

North end. Most is bare sand just a few inches below the surface, but

it is quite wide East to West, so it completely breaks the surf and

the result is effectively a protected water anchorage running

North-South for quite some way. I continued on my NW course and sailed

directly up onto a protected beach at the North end, joining about 25

or so power boats already there. The NE anchorage is relatively small,

but appears to be a popular island destination for Pasco boaters. I'm

guessing the dry land area to be about 25 acres total or so, but I'm

not good at guessing. An official looking sign welcomes one to North

Anclote Bar, so now I know the name. There were no trees, but there

were grasses, shrubs and the typical barrier island wildlife. About 8

tents were set up, but there are no specific designated campsites that

I could determine. Some areas had been marked off for bird nesting,

but most of the signs were broken off. This may be suitable for WCTSS

camping activities, but only during off-peak days, as it is apparently

heavily used.


Heading back towards Howard Park from there was a close reach most of

the way, but I think Turtle Grass made good speed. The wind kept

swinging within about 20 deg., but was generally WSW. As I rounded

Howard Park, a small red sail to the East made me hope that another

WCTSS member was out enjoying the perfect weather as well. It was the

sail of a dark blue Dovekie with 4 people aboard. Next time I will

write everything down, as I have since forgotten both the boat's name

and the owner's name, despite introductions and an exchange of



Approaching Sunset Beach, a phone call revealed that my sons had both

changed their plans, so I would remain solo sailing for the day. Now,

how about a good beat to windward to see if there are any sailors at

Three Rookers Bar? Using the compass, I determined that Turtle Grass

will point as high as 50 deg., but she seems to like 53 much better.

With the wind direction swinging back and forth, very long tacks made

the most sense. Slowly, I am learning how to sail. There were scores

of boats at Three Rooker, but only three were sailboats, none which I

recognized. I continued due South, so as to familiarize myself with

the area.


Either Honeymoon Island or Three Rooker Bar must be much larger than

shown on my chart, because they seemed much closer to each other than

they appeared. Cheap chart, I reckon. After a brief entry into the

harbor on the North end of Honeymoon to take a look at a couple

enormous sail catamarans, I concluded that I needed to begin the sail



Ah, beam reach sailing is the easiest. I do think I need to install

some sort of boom vang though. From the charts, I planned to sail to

marker 42, then make a strait shot toward the power plant smokestack,

intending to take advantage of the tailwind and high tide to avoid the

channel and return to the ramps by going in between Brady Island and

Sponge Harbor Point. That worked perfectly. In short time, there I was

right in front of numerous expensive waterfront homes, where I

dropped sail for the now very short motor back to the ramps.


Some enormous power yachts had filled the limited docking areas, so I

tied up to the huge, floating barnacle encrusted sailboat hulk

curiously also tied up to the dock. There I covered my sail and

dropped the mast. A quick motor around to a ramp, tie up, get car and

retrieval and I was on my way. Small and easy to use sailboats are

definitely a great way to go boating.