Florida Panhandle East Map
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Cape San Blas
6 hrs.+. Port St. Joe offers a variety of spots from St. Joseph Bay to the Gulf itself. You can sail about any direction from someplace in the bay or on the outside. Port St. Joe is about 40 miles east of Panama City on US 98. Rod Dodsworth writes: if members, especially families want an isolated and drop dead gorgeous location check us out. St. Joe Bay is about 5 x 10 miles in size and has launch sites on the western side at the state park, on the east side at a free beach in Port St. Joe. Clear salt water, no hidden oyster bars. St. Joe Bay, which is formed by 14 mile long Cape San Blas, is just about as close to sailing nirvana as I can imagine in north Florida. The waters are clear, warm (88 deg. in Aug) and the bottom is hard sand/grass visible to at least 20 ft. I have been living on the Cape for three years and still can't believe how near pristine the bay is. The bottom gradient from the shore outward around the entire bay is shallow for at least 300 yards; perfect for fearless honing of new skills as long as the tide is not at a monthly low.
My observations (as an intermediate) are: From fall thru spring I rely on frontal passages. A fast moving cold front will kickup 15-30kt E-S.E. winds prior to passage. Eagle Harbor in the state park is perfect for such conditions as the 4+ mile fetch across the bay ensures clean air and on or cross onshore wind. The N-NW blast after frontal passage will give some of your members a terrific time. Look for 3-4' chop in the bay due east of Eagle Harbor. Outside of fronts, i.e. the summer, the prevailing SW sea breeze starts around 11:00 am and dies of course around sunset. I'd guess that every third day or so the seabreeze tops around 15 kts. In this case you'll have to sail the gulf or launch on the east side of the bay at the county park in Port St. Joe to have onshore wind. While not typically very strong, the seabreeze is quite reliable, and can be fun even on a longboard as you look at the critters on the bottom. I am not kidding when I say that on a low wind day on the gulf it looks like you're floating in space above hard ground. For campers in the state park the gulf is a three minute walk.
Lodging: Plan ahead! Especially in the busy summer. It's not that the beaches are ever crowded, there just isn't that much in the way of rental vacation properties. The state park has about a dozen "cabins" in a woodland setting which are really quite comfortable and can sleep about 10 friendly people. They are right on St. Joe Bay. Don't forget to bring your food and beverages too. The nearest grocery store is 18 miles away in Port St. Joe.
Lodging phone #s: Anchor Vacation Properties: (800) 824-0416 Cape San Blas Realty: (904) 227-2160 T.H. Stone State Park: (904) 227-1327 I rarely see other boardheads, so give me a holler if a member wants additional info or plans to visit. Another view of San Blas - by Hugh Bosely
(In response to a rec.windsurfing post about Cape San Blas) I am one of small group of wave sailors that regularly sails the wave venues along North Florida's Gulf Coast. Wardog is wondering what it is like when CSB fires. This happens usually in the winter months after the passage of a cold front. A solid 20 mph push from SE to WNW makes this worth the 2+ hour drive from where we live in Tallahappy . Add in any swell and CSB can get some clean head high, point-wrapping peelers that make for some centerfold-worthy down-the-line slashing and NASA certified air. As it clocks more to the north (NW to NNW), Mexico Beach, the mainland beach opposing CSB becomes the place. Because the wide channel goes from deep to shallow relatively close to the beach, things jack up pretty close to shore. We were there one day in early March of this year and it was mast high and crunchy. Too much west component and the outside becomes a mogul field on crack. There can also be some pretty good currents depending on the tide. But it is really the only wave venue for something with a lot of north in it. And when its clean, it is exceptionally clean.
As the fronts progress and the wind starts to clock to the east, we opt for St. George Island (SGI) which is about 30 miles east of CSB/Mexico Beach and about 30 minutes closer for us. A dog-leg shaped barrier island that dips down into the Gulf, there are a series of outer sand bars and shoals along this 25 mile long stretch of beach that can red-line the pucker factor. At the east end of the Island there is a State Park with restrooms and showers. Very pristine and undeveloped. We usually launch near one of the turnouts before these pavilions, rig by the side of the road and carry our gear the 100 yards down the boardwalk to the beach. The waves there are usually thick with plenty of amplitude and pitch. Coming off the top, the drop can surprise you. In one session last fall, they claimed an eardrum and a knee from two sailors. Definitely not for the meek or uninitiated.
Closer to home, our regular venue is Alligator Point, another barrier island between Shell Point and SGI. This venue is wave sailable on anything from a SE to a NW. Waves are typically waist high on a 20-22 mph day. Fun stuff for tricks and just b&j blasting. It gets proportionately bigger with increased wind/swell. A summer cyclone in the Gulf can render it head high.
For speed sailing, the bay at Alligator point is separated on the west end by a 20' wide spit of land that sets up like Coche on a S to SE: mile long half moon, glass flat, off-shore plate of water where you can scare the fish.