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If you love a good treasure hunt
Then you definitely need to try scalloping when you reach Steinhatchee. You can harvest scallops
by hand or with a landing or dip net, you will need to grab your mask and snorkel, and anchor out
in areas where the water is between 4 and 8 feet deep, near the grass beds. This is where you will
find scallops by the thousands.
      More accurately (or maybe I should say "less precisely") your voyage across the Gulf from
Carrabelle to Steinhatchee will be between 73 to about 80 miles, depending on the weather, your
course, and how well you stay on it. However close you cut it, this is the shortest and easiest route
across the Gulf. The 160 mile stretch across the Gulf to Anciote River near Tarpon Springs (for
some odd reason) seems to be as popular. And hop-scotching your way around it of course, is the
very longest route, but you are near shore all the way.

      With a good updated GPS, the right kind of boat, and 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 many do).

      If 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.

      The coastal route will take you 3 or probably 4 days - there is some great scenery and
places to visit along the way. The Carrabelle to Steinhatchee route is the shortest and most direct.
The Carabelle to Tarpon Springs route is the longest, but it gets you well on down the Florida ICW.

      Whether you shoot straight across to Steinhatchee (my favorite route), 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 a couple great restaurants and lots of good friendly 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 3 options. You can 'hop-scotch' your way around, or you take take the short 73 mile run across
the Gulf from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee, or you can take the 160 mile direct route from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs.
       For those of you that have already crossed Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay on
the Atlantic ICW, 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 Albemarle 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 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 there is nothing to fear over crossing the Gulf. Believe me - we've had
more difficulty, and more bouts with seasickness crossing Albemarle Sound then we have had on
the open seas.

              Crossing the Gulf is a great example of the mind making the big bad 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 very enjoyable.

      The secret to crossing the Gulf, of course, is waiting for calm seas and the right weather
forecast to start your crossing. What you want is minimum wave height. Many Loopers in
powerboats such as Trawlers & Cruisers may wait 10 days or more for the most favorable
conditions. Sailors in sailboats seldom wait. I've never waited more than 2 days, and that was mostly
spent trying to eat my way through the local area restaurants. Plan on this voyage being 73 to 75
miles (10-12 hours). Make sure you leave in time to arrive in daylight.
      Possibly, the worst part of crossing the Gulf (especially if you are heading all the way to
Tarpon Springs) may be your midnight to 1am departure. As your cruise will most likely take you 12
to 20 hours on the Tarpon Springs route. 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 Steinhatchee - Dolphins will soon be swimming along with your
boat, as if showing you the way to the channel markers into the Steinhatchee River. We follow the
markers into a the Sea Hag marina, and usually stay a night or two before making our way to Crystal
River. Which is a great place to explore in your dinghy!

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 of 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!
::   The Gulf ICW   ::
::   The Great Lakes   ::
::   The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway   ::
::   The Great Loop Route   ::
"Bring Your Own Boat"
and take the voyage of a lifetime
America's Great Loop
Crossing the Gulf

Carrabelle is the perfect place to wait for
the best weather window for your journey
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 Florida's Panhandle.
Safe, suitable, seaworthy. . .
      I get at least a dozen questions per week from people that want to know if they can take
their pontoon boat, houseboat, or 'whatever' boat, around America's Great Loop.
      While this voyage is surprisingly & amazingly safe - it is only as safe as the boat and
boater. If you are a 'safe boater in a safe boat' you will not have boat or life threatening
problems cruising the Great Loop.
      Crossing the Gulf is straight forward and easy. There is no reason for anyone to fear this
73 mile run from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee or even to Tarpon Springs. Fact is, several of the
Bays & Sounds on the Atlantic ICW are (or can be) much worse than crossing the Gulf. It is a
matter of waiting for the very best weather window and wave conditions. I in fact, dread crossing
Albemarle Sound every trip I make. For me, crossing the Gulf compared to Albemarle Sound is
a sweet piece of cake.
      Problem is: these waves & waters can put a tremendous amount of pressure on your boat.
Pontoon boats and pontoon houseboats with their aluminum frames and low free board have no
business on open unprotected waters.