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We are in the midst of hurricane season and it reminds me of a quote from Mark Twain, “People are always grumbling about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”
Mankind has as yet to control the weather. Many are not interested in what makes the weather tick. They rely solely upon instruments to guide them across the blue.
There are times that the weather is great — then suddenly a storm is sweeping across the water. You have no time to prepare for this situation.
The earth is not smooth, it is not stationary and it rotates every 24 hours. Land heats up during the day and cools at night. There are anglers who study the weather and pilot their ship soley by their own weather experiences.
Some anglers insist that the shape of the boat will be a big factor in your survival if battling a storm out at sea. How often have you seen the glass balls that the Japanese use for buoyancy with their fishing nets? They wash ashore thousands of miles away and are found intact. So their reasoning is that a vessel should be curvaceous. They think that you should avoid flat surface boats.
Another factor, fatigue causes accidents. Always have a person or two on board who knows the craft as well as you in case of an emergency. An old cliche, “Two heads are better than one.”
Life jackets are a must.
Always have a cellular telephone aboard. Cellular marine phones come under the same rule as domestic land mobile phones.
The radio channel most boaters use is VHF-FM-16. If you are having trouble: repeat Mayday, tell them where you are, state if you need the Coast Guard, tell them if you are in immediate danger. State the reason of your distress: taking on water or capsized. Describe the boat, give your cell phone or VHF phone number and keep repeating until someone answers your call.
Always have drinking water aboard, plenty of food, a change of clothes and a lot of faith.
Tampa Bay is the vast body of water that dominates the Gulf coast. It is one of the world’s greatest natural harbors. This area is one of the favorite destinations for pleasure boaters in the state. There is 300 square miles of open cruising waterways.
Tampa Bay has three sections: lower Tampa Bay which opens into the Gulf of Mexico; Old Tampa Bay, the northwestern arm that extends between St. Petersburg and the Port of Tampa; and Hillsborough Bay, the northeastern arm that extends between the Interbay peninsula and the mainland.
The entrance to Tampa Bay from the Gulf is 4.5 miles wide.
If you’re out cruising in your boat, I hope you have a map. I have been asked this quite a bit! The entrance to Tampa Bay is between Mullet Key on the north and Anna Maria Key on the south.
The main channel is Egmont Channel, the main deepwater ship channel in the bay leads into Tampa Harbor along the east side of Davis Island. From there it divides off the south end of the harbor and goes into Seddon Channel northwest which leads you into a turning basin at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, goes into Ybor Channel, to Garrison Channel an east-west channel between Harbor Island and Tampa.
St. Petersburg is the west side of Tampa Bay. The deepest and southern most basin is the Port of St. Petersburg. The St. Petersburg Coast Guard Station is at the outer end of the basin.
Safety Harbor is located at the northwestern arm of Tampa Bay. It is 12 miles long and ranges in width from 2.5 miles at the entrance to 6 miles.
Bradenton on the south shore of the big Manatee River is often a popular layover port for boaters. This river empties into the south side of Tampa Bay.
Sarasota Bay is also a very popular layover for boaters. Navigating south from Tampa Bay, the Sarasota Bay begins approximately 10 miles south of lower Tampa Bay.
Venice lies about 20 miles south of Sarasota. Interesting to note, Venice, so named because of the multitudinous canals that crisscross the city. Navigate south along the intercoastal waterway route through Little Sarasota Bay, Blackburn Bay, Lyons Bay, Diana Bay. All of these connecting bodies of water are sheltered from the Gulf by a line of narrow keys.
There are numerous other ports located along the waterways and I hope you boat carefully, watch the weather, take care of each other, don’t become fatigue and keep only the fish that you can eat.
Aleta Jonie Maschek is a member of the State of Florida Outdoor Press.
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