Sailing Anna Maria Island And Tampa Bay

Sailing from Anna Maria Island canal out into Tampa Bay, Bean Point, and return.

Sailing out of Anna Maria Island waterfront properties could not be easier. Anything north of Manatee Ave Highway 64 has direct access to Tampa Bay without passing under a bridge. The channel between Anna Maria City and Key Royale, Holmes Beach, is maintained to allow access by large yachts to Galati marina, and the sheltered canals and most boat slips lining Bimini Bay offer depths of at least six feet.

Once out into Tampa Bay, a large body of water is accessible to all keelboats, with only a few shallow spots or dredge spoil banks to beware. To the east, under the Skyway Bridge, the bay stretches up to Saint Petersburg and Tampa. To the west, leaving Tampa Bay for the Gulf of Mexico is right around the corner of Bean Point, or via the deep shipping channel north of Egmont Key.

The Intracoastal Waterway tracks south inside the barrier islands, but can be too narrow to maintain sailing angles, and is interrupted by several scheduled bridge openings. To the north the ICW continues at Pass-A-Grille.

Down the coast, the next large sailing area is Charlotte Harbor, then Florida Keys.


Cruising Tropical Seas

Although not technically in the tropics, Anna Maria Island is close enough to have some tropical features. Many tropical plants grow here, and plenty of tropical storms come here. Many a tropical drink is enjoyed here! Sailing in warmer months certainly is a tropical experience. The friend who invites us to sail always offers the opportunity to cool off with the on-board spray, or with a swim in a pool back at the deck. It’s hot. It feels tropical.

The other day we were cruising Tampa Bay in a very stiff breeze. Gusts registered at 30 knots. We managed to eat our delicious Cuban sandwiches prepared by the ‘Havana Cabana’, despite the heeling of the boat and the tension on the reefed mainsail. We had left the jib down. Memorable as the sandwich and strong wind were, what struck me the most was the color of the water. It was such brilliant turquoise. I could not remember having seen it this color in recent sails. It made me feel as if we were in a tropical place. I wondered whether this is, indeed, the color of tropical seas. I wondered whether this always was the color of Tampa Bay, but I had just forgotten.

This led me to do a fair amount of reading on-line about the color of water. I confess that even after doing all this reading, I do not understand all the very complicated scientific explanations that were involved. These included discussions of the fact that the color of water is based on vibrations of molecules, and that some of the color is caused by reflection, refraction, and some of it is caused by absorption.

Cruising tropical Gulf of Mexico The simple fact that surprised me most, and which I was capable of understanding, was that water actually has an intrinsic blue color. I used to think the blue was entirely from reflection of the sky.

Proof that the color is intrinsic to the water can be seen by looking at water in an indoor pool with white sides and bottom. It looks blue. At least I think this is the case, based on what I read.


The Not So Big Sailboat For Anna Maria

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.

sunfish sailboat

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.


Sailing in Tampa Bay

Sailing Tampa Bay
Sailing Tampa Bay

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.