Relax on the Gulf or bay open waters

Great opportunities for owning, renting, booking a charter or dinner cruise

Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota
Boating Services at Marina Jack - From super-yachts to boat rentals and dinner cruises, this marina is highly respected throughout the United States for its expert services to boaters and fine dining.

We love our water here in Sarasota. We can travel the intracoastal, Sarasota Bay and Gulf of Mexico to fish, explore or just enjoy the open water. You can own your boat or you can join a club to avoid the maintenance. Or you can take advantage of the many charter operations with captains that seem to know exactly where the fish are hitting. And last, but not least, you can book a dinner cruise out of Marina Jack. There are advantages to each.

Are you prepared to enjoy the open waters safely? Being confident on the rules of the road and the waterway channels of Sarasota can make the trip more enjoyable. Having the proper safety equipment onboard and knowing how to use each can save your life or pass a U.S. Coast Guard inspection with ease.

The Sarasota Power and Sail Squadron can help with an American Boating Class (ABC) that teaches the basics of boating safety. ABC certification is not required to operate a boat in Florida waters unless you were born after January 1, 1988 and operate a boat of 10 HP or more. No one under the age of 14 can legally operate a craft, and the Personal Water Craft owner can be charged by allowing an under-age boat driver. Certification is also required in several states so you may already have the proper training. Even though not required, consult your insurance agent for reduced premiums. The squadron also provides boat inspections for free. This is an inspection that is recognized by the state and the Coast Guard to certify that the boat has the proper safety equipment and EPA notifications.

So it is up to you to take advantages of these opportunities. If you are traveling from another state and consider yourself an experienced boater you are well ahead of the game. But Florida has its own laws to abide by. In addition to those above, there are laws to protect swimmers, divers and marine animals. Some of it is just common sense. Operating a boat inside an area marked for swimming doesn’t make much sense. Markers, such as those on Coquina Beach are there to warn swimmers of the danger imposed by swimming outside the markers and boaters to signal them there are swimmers on the beach.

Watch out for red flags with a diagonal white patch, these signify divers are in the area. There are laws to protect divers and three boating restrictions are important to remember. If operating on a river, through a channel or inlets you must maintain a distance of 100 feet from the dive flag. It may be flown from the boat or float that have divers in the water or may be tethered to the diver below. In open water you are required to keep a distance of 300 feet from the dive flag. The third requirement is that you slow down when approaching a dive flag.

Sailing is taught at an early age here in Sarasota
Educational Programs - Sailing lessons in Sarasota.

Save the manatees. These graceful behemoths of the seas are in the open waters of the area in summer months but head to inland waterways October through April. At these times they are in inland areas such as Crystal River in the north and make a magnificent sight when they gather by the hundreds in the warm waters near the Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Station. Their slow movements prevent them from escaping a fast moving power boat. So boaters must be aware of their presence, the most visible sign of a submerged manatee is a large swirl of water on the surface. They surface at regular intervals where the show is a wonderful display of nature but they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.

As manatee are protected by law, so are dolphins. They don’t migrate as manatees do and will play around your boat with a show of their own. They are either dining on small fish or entertaining you and your boat guests. Remember that it is illegal to harass or feed dolphins and manatees.

Many anglers visit Florida for its rich supply of game fish. Fishing licenses are easy to obtain through many outlets and department stores that sell tackle such as Walmart. The licenses are divided into saltwater or freshwater designations. Florida residents may qualify for a free license if you plan to fish from a shoreline or structure attached to the land such as a fishing pier. Your children under the age of 16, residents over 65 and active duty members of U.S. armed forces do not require a license. There are more exemptions for freshwater fishing, see the Florida Fish and Wildlife website for more information.

Consult current regulations on the type and size of fish, violation of these rules can be devastating. Invasive species such as lionfish or tilapia are exempt from most of these rules. You’re doing a good thing by catching these species of fish. Tarpon are very large saltwater fish but produce heavy fines if you are in possession of one. A tarpon must be released once caught and tarpon over 40 inches must remain in the water to be released. You may purchase a tag to catch and possess if you are going after an International Game Fish Association record. The state record is 243 pounds caught near Key West. Although larger tarpon have been witnessed, the official world record is one caught in 2003 off the coast of Africa at 286 pounds, nine ounces. A list of  saltwater fish and their regulations is available online at

Coquina South Boat Ramps, Bradenton Beach
The boat ramps at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island have recently undergone a complete makeover with more parking spaces and additional boat launches.

There are many good marinas in the area from which to dock your boat. Super-sized yacht dockage is available at the Longboat Key Club Marina and Marina Jack in Sarasota. There are many boat owners who trailer their vessels so they can be more mobile and avoid dockage fees. Nearly every city in the area has a marina park with a public boat ramp. In the Sarasota area there are boat ramps in Centennial Park downtown, on City Island in Ken Thompson Park and Turtle Beach, south of Siesta Key. There are a number of boat launches on the Manatee River in Bradenton. In Manatee County there is the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach and Palma Sola Causeway Boat Ramp. The Coquina Beach South Boat Ramp was recently resurfaced with more parking and ramps.

Sailboating can be rewarding and relaxing. Still care should be exercised. Sarasota Bay has some very shallow open waters that can easily be seen on a nautical chart. Download a two-week free trial of the popular Navionics Boating SmartPhone app, available for Apple or Android phones. This app provides a wealth of information for boaters including depth charts. Boats with large drafts should be concerned when navigating Big Pass south of Lido Key or New Pass on the south end of Longboat Key. The Coast Guard has issued warnings for these two inlets and have announced in March they will no longer maintain the channel markers as the shoals shift with different storms. For access to the Gulf of Mexico by sailboat, the Longboat Pass between Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island at maker 85 is consistently deeper, but still may be shallow in areas with depths of 4.5 feet. The draw-bridge there is maintained 24 hours a day and accessed on VHF channel 9.

You may be familiar with the phrase, red-right returning. This refers to the red triangular markers that show the channels, they should be on your right. The green square markers that are even numbered should be on your left when returning from the open water. But what about the intracoastal that runs from New Jersey to the Mexican border? The marker numbers will be in increasing order and the red will be on the side of largest land mass, the continental United States. Intercoastal markers should also have a yellow symbol on the marker for easier navigation. Red will be on the right when returning from a large body of water to a smaller body of water such as a marina channel.

If you don’t own a boat and still want the pleasure of open water boating there a few options for you. We can start with Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota, one of the country’s best marinas. Not to mention they have outstanding dining, they have full service for boaters. From rentals to charters, these independent contractors are experienced in the ways of boating. Reserve a relaxing sunset on the water with a dinner cruise aboard the Marina Jack II. Cannons Marina on Longboat Key also provide rental boats. There are other marinas on Anna Maria Island, Sarasota and Bradenton that offer similar services.

Marina and Moorings of the Longboat Key Club
Serving Longboat Key - Considered a safe harbor from storms, the Marina and Moorings of the Longboat Key Club provides many services. This view is from a listing at Grand Bay, click on the image for details.

The Freedom Boat Club has an office at Marina Jack. Membership will get you access to a good supply of boats for pleasure or fishing. A basic boat safety class and on-water training is provided with an initial membership application. There are locations all over the United States, where members can reserve a boat at each location. A free sailing class for members is offered and each location has one sail boat on hand. Once a member, take advantage of their area locations in Nokomis, Venice, Gulf Gate Estates and Palmetto.

Enjoy the open waters in our little slice of paradise. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.