Cruising
America's Great Loop
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
     The 73 mile crossing from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee:
More accurately (or maybe I should say "less precisely") your voyage across the Gulf from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee will be between 73 to about
85 miles,
depending on the weather, your course, and how well you stay on it. However close you cut it however, this is the shortest and easiest
route across the Gulf. The 160 mile stretch across the Gulf to Anciote River near Tarpon Springs is the most popular. And hop-scotching your way
around it of course, the longest route.
     With updated GPS, the right kind of boat, and some good weather - you'll be in great shape. Regardless of your route, it is easy to find other
"Loopers" in Carrabelle that are making the trip, and you can all do it all together if you wish (and most do).
     It you head from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs you will need to depart around midnight in order to make it across for a daylight arrival in
Tarpon Springs.
     We have taken all three routes and truthfully - all routes can be very enjoyable or very miserable depending on the weather; but your
choice of route should depend on your vessel, the weather, and your mood.
     For many, the coastal route will be best. Although this route will take you 3 or probably 4 days - there is some great scenery and places to visit
along the way.
     Whether you shoot straight across to Steinhatchee (as we do), or hop-scotch your way around, Steinhatchee is a place you don't want to
miss. Here, you have good access and protection from wind and waves when anchoring out, as well as access to shore and marinas, with several
good restaurants and a lot of good friendly and fun people.
     The locals here are eager to help, the marina offers a free courtesy car, and in season, this is where the locals will gladly show you where
and how to gather a few fresh scallops for dinner.  With some real butter, a little garlic and some pasta... WOW! Are you in for a treat.
This leg of your voyage has two popular options. You can take the 73 mile run across the
from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee, or you can take the 160 mile run direct to Tarpon Springs.
Crossing the Gulf:
     For those of you that have already crossed Albermarle Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River and the brief 'outing' at the end of the New
Jersey ICW to Sandy Hook and New York Harbor - believe it or not, crossing the Gulf of Mexico may seem like a piece of cake.  Given the choice, I
would rather cross the Gulf of Mexico then the Albermarle Sound any day of the week.

     Most Loopers fear crossing the Gulf  more then any other portion of America's Great Loop. Fact is however, (if you take the short route
and pay attention to the weather forecast) this 73 mile crossing can end up being very pleasant, peaceful, relaxing, and even enjoyable.  

     Obviously to 'the sailors' among us, the open ocean is not at all like the protected waters of the inland lakes and rivers. Furthermore, both
the GICW and AICW offer protection from the surf and seas. In the right boat however, there is nothing to fear over crossing the Gulf. Believe me -
we've had more difficulty, and more bouts with seasickness crossing Albermarle Sound then we have had on the open seas.

     Crossing the Gulf is a great example of "the fear of the wolf" making the wolf much bigger then he really is. If you are a safe boater, in an
appropriate safe and seaworthy vessel, crossing this 73 mile section of the Gulf is simply NBD - NO BIG DEAL!

     The secret to crossing the Gulf, of course, is waiting for calm seas and the right weather forecast to start your crossing.  Many Loopers in
powerboats such as Trawlers & Cruisers may wait 10 days or more for the most favorable conditions. Sailors in sailboats however, seldom need to
wait that long.  I've never waited more then 3 days, and that was mostly spent trying to eat my weight at various restaurants in Carrabelle.  Plan on
this voyage being 73 to 85 miles (11-16 hours) in the open waters with no land in sight - and you will be doing it at night.

     Possibly, the worst part of crossing the Gulf may be that you need to position your boat and yourself so that your midnight to 1am
departure is simple and uneventful - as your cruise across will most likely take you 10 or more hours (possibly 16 hours) - and you want to
make
sure you arrive during daylight
, with plenty of time to shower, shave, and go out to dinner and celebrate your crossing.    
Cruising the Lake Okeechobee Waterway - click NEXT

The Loopers heading across to Tarpon Springs or Tampa Bay, they need to leave no later then midnight and in-order to arrive at their
destinations during daylight. For sure, you need to be "accurately" aware of the speed capability and fuel range of your vessel to make the crossing
to Tarpon Springs in daylight. Soon enough, the dolphins are showing us the way to the channel markers into the Steinhatchee River. We followed
the markers into a the Sea Hag marina, and usually stay a night or two before making our way to Crystal River.

From Crystal River, we head to the Anclote River, which takes you to Tarpon Springs, where you will see the shrimp and sponge boat docks, where
you will find an amazing array of sponge shops. From Tarpon Springs, it is 150 to Fort Myers on the GIWW, which is a greatly protected waterway
that runs through a gauntlet very popular boating areas.

Most likely, by the time you reach the Gulf, you will have made your way across the Atlantic Bays and Sounds, and across the Great Lakes. So yes!
You can do this!

     About Steinhatchee: Six marinas line the small coastal town of Steinhatchee which is located at the mouth of the (you guessed it)
Steinhatchee River. Right across the street from the Marinas you'll find quaint shops that beckon Loopers to cross the street. The "Landing
Restaurant" is a great place. This area of Florida is known as the "Big Bend" and Steinhatchee is known as the "Scallop Capital of the World". Their
specialty Dinners and on Holiday weekends is usually a sell outs.  The marina area is the most popular and 'touristy' part of town, so you won't need
to wander far to see all the best. Sea Hag Marina has just about anything you need.

This 73 mile crossing is (in my
opinion) the shortest and safest
distance across the Gulf

Most Loopers should plan on a 10
hour crossing and plan to leave
Carrabelle in the early morning so
that you arrive in Steinhatchee in
plenty of daylight.

Assuming of course, you have a safe "seaworthy" vessel - crossing this 73 mile stretch of the Gulf is really nothing to get shook-up over. Fact
is, the most important part of it is being very patient and waiting for the perfect weather. Yes, you may spend a few days in Carrabelle, but there is
enough to see and do there (and near there) to keep you interested and occupied.

So wait for the weather window or you may be rocking and rolling your way across. Aside from that, you want to make sure you leave Carrabelle early
enough in the morning to arrive in Steinhatchee in good visible daylight. It is 73 miles across, and for most of us, it is a 10 hour passage. This should
give you plenty of time so that if you are an hour or two early or late, you will not have a problem arriving in Steinhatchee.

If you are traveling by the recommended seasons, chances are, long before you arrive in Carrabelle, you will have met at least two or three "Boat
Buddy Loopers" to make this passage with.
This 73 miles across
the Gulf is your
shortest - safest
distance.
www.captainjohn.org                                                                    - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -

Carrabelle is the perfect place
to wait for good weather before
making your run across the Gulf
of Mexico.

Your options are to shoot 160
miles directly across to Anclote
Key near Tarpon Springs where
the Florida west coast's
Intercoastal Waterway enters St.
Joesph Sound, or you can cut
your miles across the Gulf to 73
by heading straight to
Steinhatchee. Those with a more
shallow draft can even
hop-scotch their way around.