We’ve known about the Stump Pass anchorage for years … and avidly avoided it. During the daytime just on the other side of the pass, the craziness is rampant — ski boats, jet skis, pontoon boats, too many boats! And directly behind the beach park, there’s a narrow sheltered lane of water known as ski alley — as in waterskiing/wakeboarding/wake surfing, if you can do it behind a boat, it’s there. Add to all that the current RIPPING through this narrow pass – too shallow for a sailboat’s draft, used primarily for fishing boats – and it’s even less appealing.
Then there’s the name … Stump Pass … it just doesn’t inspire a beautiful tranquil anchorage filled with dolphins, rays and other wonders. But I guess I’m not the only one that thinks this way because when we sounded our way in, there were no boats in the anchorage. It’s not a huge area that’s deep enough and the current is a concern, but the holding seemed good. Keep in mind, we were called away before we got the pleasure of spending the night, but the few hours we spent there definitely warrant a return trip.
Earlier this winter, we tried to sail north and intended to make Stump Pass one of our stops. Heading north from Charlotte Harbor, we chose the ICW simply because of access to the anchorages we wanted to try. Our first stop was Cape Haze and Don Pedro State Beach Park. We’ve spent some time there already and enjoyed every minute. Don Pedro State Beach Park was the site of our shark teeth bonanza earlier this year.
Anchored at Cape Haze, we took the dinghy and the handheld depthsounder the five miles up the ICW to Marker 17 and 17A to check out Stump Pass. David wasn’t really sold on the idea of anchoring there – along with the wicked current, the bottom sands shift and shoal so that no chart is ever really accurate. With our 5 1/2 foot draft, that’s an issue. So we took the handheld depthsounder and my IPhone Navionics GPS and sounded our way in … the back way to avoid the current off of Marker 17. We saw nothing less than 7 feet — BUT we were at mid-high tide. Coming out, we were 2 1/2 hours after high tide and we squeeked our with only an inch or two under the keel — YIKES, but we had to get back since they were taking my Dad to the hospital. Then we didn’t make it under the Boca Grande bridge before it closed at 6 PM, so we didn’t manage to get back after all, but we tried our best.
Look closely in this photo … you can see the ICW running along the top right corner of the photo. You can see the pass and the main channel which is well marked and cuts in from Marker 17A off of the ICW. The anchorage is to port if we were leaving Stump Pass to the Gulf. — look closely, you can see a boat or two anchored in the channel. It’s relatively narrow and not room for a bunch of boats, but no one was there when we were there.
The “back way in” Marker 17 channel is also clearly visible on the satellite photo, curving around the middle island to the right and south. It is not marked and features shifting shoaling sands and current. If you opt to go in this way, I hope you do the same as we did and sound your way in with your dinghy, a handheld depthsounder and a GPS bubble track to retrace when you return with the big boat.
The next time we try to explore north, it’ll be the 3rd time — the first time the head broke and the north winds encouraged us to go south. Just last week, we were called back for my Dad, so the third time has to be charmed, right? What other anchorages further north should we not miss when we finally get to explore north of Charlotte Harbor on the beautiful West Florida coast? Please leave a comment and share. Thanks & CHEERS! Jan