Sails Full of Florida: The Gulf from Venice to Boca Grande
By Kris Hundley
Cruising about two miles offshore, the highrise condos of Venice recede and a scrim of sand and green marks the shore. Small planes circle the airfield where the 9/11 terrorists learned to take off but never to land. A dolphin slices the surface off the stern, then disappears.
The only sound is the water, rushing past the hull. You’d need a paint chip chart to identify the colors reaching to the horizon; the gradations of blue and green seem endless. The movement of our boat creates a trail of white froth that quickly dissipates, leaving no trace we’ve passed. Lulled by the movement, we count down the miles to Boca Grande on the GPS. Then we see it, the nearly mile-wide opening to Charlotte Harbor, called “Big Mouth” for good reason.
Motoring in the pass between the red and green channel markers just past high tide, the current carries us in at a swift seven knots. A head appears in the water off our starboard bow. Looking disturbingly like a man, it’s a loggerhead turtle the size of an oil drum that submerges the minute we spot it.
To the north is the lighthouse of Boca Grande. On the south is Cayo Costa, an undeveloped barrier island and state park. We take the Intracoastal south four miles to drop an anchor off Useppa Island, private getaway for the upper crust. The privately owned island discourages outsiders; the dock master has been known to step on the fingers of transient sailors who haven’t made advance arrangements.
But there’s no need to go ashore. It costs nothing to spend the night anchoring in a rich guy’s back yard.