The Ft Myers Beach City Mooring Field in Matanzas Pass is a well-protected safe haven to duck in to hide from weather … or just hang out for a month or longer. Since we hadn’t been there previously, here’s the important info as we experienced it. Note that unlike Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, the city does not publish a map showing mooring ball numbers and locations. We contemplated drawing one ourselves and decided against it. Also unlike Boot Key Harbor, there are usually mooring balls available.
The Matanzas Inn (located under the bridge on the starboard side as you come in the channel under the Matanzas Bay Bridge) contracts with the City of Ft Myers Beach to operate the mooring field. There are 70 moorings that the city maintains. Unfortunately not all of the moorings have pennants – but if you ask, they’ll tell you they all have pennants and are brand new – not quite true from our experience. Being prepared to pick up a ball without a pennant in advance can save frustration later. For more info on picking up a mooring ball, click here.
Also, beware that the current in this pass is WICKED! Be sure to be aware of the state of the tide and current before going in so you know how to anticipate approaching the mooring ball without being swept away. We chose to go in and leave at slack tide.
As you go under the bridge, the channel splits, you want the starboard or right side channel. The middle of the bay is shoal and not navigable. There are two mooring fields, the first one you come to is the West Mooring Field, which is the smaller of the two and most desirable being closest to the public dinghy dock, but most of those moorings are taken.
Call Matanzas Inn at 239-463-9258 or on VHF Ch 16 to see which available moorings are for your size vessel – they’re separated into different size categories and as far as we could discover there’s no way to tell which balls accommodate which size boats except to call and ask. They directed us to #56, #59, #60 or #61. Problem is, it’s virtually impossible to see the numbers coming in. I can tell you #61 is almost all the way at the back of the pack, not quite but close. Being at the back of the mooring field isn’t a problem, it’s just a long dinghy ride to the public dinghy dock.
CHECK-IN: After you pick up your mooring, dinghy in to the Matanzas Inn Office – signs point the way from the dinghy dock and check in. You can stay from one night to months. The nightly charge was $15 and if you stay a week, you pay for six nights and get one free. Longer than that, check the link.
PUBLIC DINGHY DOCK: The public dinghy dock is located directly under the bridge by the Matanzas Inn. It’s free and floating, which is a nice perk. During peak months, such as January and February, it’s very crowded. They ask that you tie with a one point tie as to allow as many dinghies as possible to access the dock. We locked our dinghy, but only about half the dinghies were locked. They ask that you not leave your dinghy overnight and supposedly dinghies are supposed to be less than 10 feet, but we saw no evidence that there was any enforcement. There are also other dinghy docks – I think Bonito Bill’s on the other side under the bridge has a dinghy dock, but be sure to ask to see if you’re only allowed to leave the dinghy while you eat there or if it’s OK to leave it. Also, I’m not sure if they’re floating and there is quite a tide swing.
SHOWERS: Showers are first come first served. We always had hot water and water pressure which made us happy. Two keys are located in the office. If both keys are gone, take a seat outside the two shower doors and wait. It can be a long wait and it doesn’t seem like there’s anytime that’s a good time to go. Going at 3:30, thinking we’d be early, we had to wait just as long as any other time. Two showers for 70 moorings plus 10 or 12 boats in the marina is not enough. If you have a choice, we preferred #1 because it’s a shower and #2 is a bathtub/shower.
WATER: Free water is available to jerry jug from a hose just up from the dinghy dock.
PUMP OUT: If you’re staying in the mooring field, the city will send the pump out boat to you. Schedule it with the Matanzas Inn front desk.
TAXI/TRANSPORTATION: There doesn’t seem to be a fixed rate to go anywhere on the island like in Marco Island and Marathon, so be sure to ask how much before getting in a taxi. The LeeTran Trolley was convenient and fun to ride – 50 cents each way for each rider. We rode from Times Square to Lovers Key State Park and back for $2 bucks total for both of us. There are LeeTran Trolley signposts everywhere so it’s easy to catch. There’s also a brochure map in the Matanzas Inn Office.
LAUNDRY: There are four washer/dryers at the Matanzas Inn available for cruisers. $1.75 each load.
FUEL: We bought gas at Salty Sams Marina and there are other choices, including the diesel dock that the shrimpers use – big tanks proclaiming cheap diesel and impossible to miss.
FOOD: The easiest is the Topps Supermarket – as you’re dinghying back to your boat from the dinghy dock, you’ll see a flesh colored 5 story apartment building on the right. Not the first canal but the 2nd canal has a 2 story older looking boathouse – dinghy back to the end of the canal and you’ll be immediately behind Topps. You can tie up to the mangroves to go get food. There’s also a Publix Supermarket, but it’s about 2 – 2 1/2 miles down Estero Blvd. It’s easiest to take the trolley or maybe walk one way and take a taxi back to the dinghy dock if you have lots of groceries. Be sure to ask the taxi rate, I have no experience. And don’t forget the Friday morning Farmer’s Market under the bridge right by the Matanzas Inn. We got good produce, but get there early — 10:30 most of the stuff was gone.
Did I forget anything? Please leave a comment and let me know! Cheers! Jan