Anna Maria Island has the great advantage of sitting on Tampa Bay. This means it’s one of the very best spots on the Florida Gulf Coast for sailing big boats. But it’s amazing how few large boats are seen sailing in Tampa Bay. Why are there not frequent regattas? In most parts of Florida sailing means having to motor in channels for a long time to get to open, deep water. Anna Maria Island sailboat owners have it made. From the shelter of their canal homes or homes on Bimini Bay, it’s a very short trip distance into the Gulf. There are no draw bridges to wait for. Once the motor is turned off and the sails are raised that’s what sailing is all about.
Just because it’s a great place for large boats, that doesn’t mean Anna Maria Island is not also a good place for small sailboats. In fact, the sheltered, shallow waters of Bimini Bay make this the perfect place for small shallow-draft boats such as Sunfish. Even then, it’s important to be ready to pull up the dagger board to avoid hitting the shallow bottom. In fact, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the 2’ tide, and for the sake of the fragile marine ecosystem, sail only when there is clearly enough depth to be sure the seagrass bottom won’t be scraped. Just outside Bimini Bay, the waters are often benign in Tampa Bay, and it’s fun to explore the coast of the island in a small boat.
Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) is a great alternative board sport for the conditions we have on Anna Maria Island. Introduced to the mainland United States from Hawaii less than ten years ago, this form of surfing involves standing on a long board, ranging from seven to twelve feet, and using a long paddle.
The reason this increasingly popular sport makes sense for Anna Maria Island is that it doesn’t require waves for surfing or wind for sailboards and kite-boarding. It can be done on still waters, or it can be done in the surf. There are plenty of protected areas around the island where standup paddle boarding can be learned and practiced in relatively easy, safe conditions.
On flat water, touring or just poking around the waterways, longer boards in the 10 to 14 foot range have more glide than shorter boards from 9 down to 7 feet, that are better for turning in surf. Either way SUP is a great core workout and an excellent means of maintaining balance skills. A friend tells me it is not hard on his bad back. This makes it a good alternative to kayaking for people who have back problems when they sit for long periods in a kayak. Standup paddle boarding has the added advantage of offering an aerobic workout when aiming for speed. Serious athletes are taking it up for that reason and competitive events are becoming more popular.
Longtime local Shawn Duytschaver, known for the kayak rentals he has offered on the island for years, now offers standup paddleboard rentals and instruction at Palma Sola Causeway. He also sells the equipment. For more information he can be reached at 941-527-6355.
The local store in Holmes Beach, adjacent to the West Coast Surf Shop has been serving surfers’ needs since 1964, and stocks the best selection of surf wear and gear.
One of the greatest advantages of living on Anna Maria Island, as opposed to other islands along the Sun Coast, is our proximity to Tampa Bay . So much of the Gulf Coast is shallow, not only around the islands, but into the Gulf. In contrast, Tampa Bay is a wonderful, place for boating, especially for sailing. And, when you live on Anna Maria Island, Tampa Bay is your back yard.
When we first started looking at property along the Sun Coast, Siesta Key caught our attention. Maybe it was the write-ups that described it as a place inhabited by artists and writers. Or maybe it was the descriptions of its award-winning beach. When we visited there, and looked at real estate for sale, we noticed a huge premium was put on properties with “sailboat water.” So many of the properties on Siesta Key sit on canals that are crossed at some points by low bridges. It is therefore not possible to bring a sailboat or large powerboat in and out of these canals. Hence, the terms “sailboat water” is something associated with the more desirable properties on Siesta Key, and one sees it often.
In contrast, this term is not common on Anna Maria Island. An outsider might think that would mean Anna Maria Island does not have it. On the contrary: sailboat water is almost a given on Anna Maria Island. That’s why we don’t talk about it. Although there are a few locations where canals or lakes are cut off by low bridges, the majority of waterfront homes enjoy canals without bridges and easy, quick access to the Intracoastal Waterway and Tampa Bay.
In 1970, Michael Galati, Sr., and his wife, Anna Maria, moved to Anna Maria Island and founded Galati Yacht Sales. It was a family effort, based on hard work and a strong commitment to taking care of the customer before all else. They have built their family industry into a company with 12 dealership locations around the Gulf of Mexico, including Palmetto, Cape Coral , St. Petersburg, Destin, and Naples, Florida; Orange Beach, Alabama; and Houston, Texas. They have 171 employees, according to Boating Industry.
Voted the number one boat dealership in the country, for 2007 and 2008, by Boating Industry, the commitment of the five Galati siblings has really paid off. Their Customer Satisfaction Index was 95 in 2008.
Boating Industry based their award of the number one spot on Galati ’s myriad ways of offering service. From the way the sales team is structured to the thoroughness of every service appointment to the friendly question of whether any help is needed every time a Galati boat is encountered, the management and staff take care of their customers very well.
The waters in and around Anna Maria Island are perfect for kayaking, and there are more and more people enjoying it. Inside Bimini Bay, the conditions are particularly peaceful. Beginners or those who don’t know how to swim can feel very safe there. Surrounded by land, except for the channel out to Tampa Bay, the water is usually flat and it’s very shallow. In fact, it’s so shallow at low tides that even kayakers should pay close attention to water depth, in order not to damage the fragile sea grass floor of this environmentally important location. Just north of Holmes Beach City Hall is a park with a boat ramp, from which it is easy to kayak into Bimini Bay, under the bridge to Key Royal.
Among the wildlife usually seen by kayakers in Bimini Bay are dolphins, with the occasional manatee. Birdlife is plentiful. Ospreys, pelicans and terns dive for fish. Gulls hang around hoping for scraps. Great blue herons can be seen nesting high in the Australian pines, or wading in the waters at low tide.
Sit-on-top kayaks require almost no instruction or technique, but it helps to keep a few things in mind. A stable way to get into these kayaks is by putting one’s bottom into the seat before trying to bring one’s legs on board. Paddling is quite straightforward, and it’s good to aim for rhythm. In addition to pulling back on the paddle with one hand, one pushes the other side of the paddle forward.