A Nautical Look at the Surf Expo

Twice a year, Florida By Water heads to Orlando to check out the latest in fashion, swimwear, gadgets, and anything else that we think you, the boater, might enjoy. The Surf Expo features approximately 2,600 booths, all chock full of apparel and hard goods, as well as a full lineup of special events. This year we spent countless hours searching for products we think you'll be interested in. Here are our top 5 picks.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.26.46 PMBest Tan Lines
The Scrunch Butt Bikini
The Ipanema line is themed, based on destinations like Florida, Mexico, Belize, St. Barts, and many more tropical paradises.  Designer Patrixia has created a complete line of styles; our personal favorite is the “scrunch butt.” This particular style allows the wearer to show as much or as little skin as she desires just by adjusting the stylish strings and straps. Also, each piece of swimwear is reversible, giving the customer more possibilities for mix and match combinations.

DSC_8084Best Nautical Bikini

When we're out on the boat, we find it very important to dress for the occasion. Heat Swimwear caught our attention with their Anchors Away collection. These are mix and match items, which range in cost from $32.99 for the bottoms to $42.99 for the tops. Check out their site for even more nautical bikinis.



Best New Boat Shoes
Tucket Footwear is perfect for boaters for a couple of reasons. First, the shoe is fully submersible and the water will completely drain off in three to five seconds.. Second, this shoe has traction like no other, providing a strong grip on the slick surface of a boat.The proprietary tread material has actually passed the slip testing used for occupational footwear. Last, they just look good. On the boat or an evening out, you can't go wrong with these boat shoes.


DSC_7613Best Bag/Cooler

Even though I’m sure that, like us, you already have more bags and coolers then you can count, the CoolBag is worth a second look. We were impressed by the fact that the bag is compartmentalized; meaning that ice and drinks fit securely in the bottom of the bag, leaving room for valuables like your phone and other personal items, which stay nice and dry in the upper portion of the of this “cool” bag. The other feature that boaters will love is that the straps can be unhooked and placed around a secure object (like your steering wheel) and then locked, providing a little more security for your valuables while you are away from the boat. The bag comes in six colors and retails for $109.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.36.51 PMBest in Bling

Nau-T Girl Jewelry has a great collection of items for the “outdoor kind of girl.” Their jewelry collection consists of  Mermaid, Anchor, and Hook collections.  Each piece is handcrafted and can be purchased in Sterling Silver or 14K white or yellow gold. This family-run business out of Venice, Florida, also features apparel like t-shirts and hats. It has been our experience that we all love a Nau-T Girl, so you can't go wrong getting her the bling she deserves.

Five things every boater should do this spring

As the days get longer and warmer and the smell of honeysuckle starts to fill the air, my mind start to drift away to the endless boating opportunities that await me this summer. Every year around this time I find myself planning for the perfect boating season. Let’s face it, even though here in Florida we can boat most of the year, many of us tend to take a break during the winter months. (Mostly due to the fact that we think anything under 75 is not suitable for outdoor activities!)

Now that the temperature is rising and the days are getting longer, there are a few things you need to do to ensure that your perfect boating season starts with all of your oars in the water.

1. Update your GPS and other electronics. Many of the electronics we have on our vessels, especially chart plotters, need to be updated from time to time. This will include firmware updates as well as updating nautical charts. For most devices, this can be done easily with a USB cable and a computer connected to the internet. The majority of manufacturers will have step-by-step instructions online for the firmware. Charts can be updated just as easily, although there is usually a cost of $100 or more.

2. Get a Vessel Safety Check. There is no excuse for not being safe on the water, and one of the best ways is to ensure your boat has all the required equipment on board is to get a Vessel Safety Check. Qualified examiners from the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well as the Power Squadron perform these inspections. Many times you can you can find these guys hanging out at your favorite boat ramp, but if not, they will be glad to come by your marina or home to perform the vessel check. Examiners will check for safety items like fire extinguishers, sounding devices, life vests and flares, just to name a few. Neither organization can cite you for not having the necessary equipment, however, if you do pass they will award you a sticker to place on the port side of your vessel. This sticker indicates that you have all of the required equipment and lessens your chances of being boarded. Noting can ruin a day of boating quicker than getting a ticket. To locate a vessel examiner, go to http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=v-dept&category=i-want-a-vsc

3. Schedule your maintenance. If you’re a boat owner, you‘re well aware that you need to keep your boat serviced if you plan to keep it running throughout the boating season. A visual inspection and a spring tune-up are musts for every boater. Just as the days grow longer, so will the wait to get your boat serviced; I have seen it take as long as six weeks just to get an appointment. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, this is still a good time due to the cooler weather. Earlier is better than later, so that just in case you find a more serious issue you’ll have time to get the repairs made, and with e-15 that is always a possibility.

4. Restock your boat bag. I assume we all have a boat bag — at least I do. This is not to be confused with a ditch bag (the bag you carry in case you have to abandon ship). My boat bag is a bag I keep in the house to throw on the boat whenever I leave for a day outing. It includes all of the little necessities to make us confortable for a day on the water. Here are a few items to check and/or include.

• Sunscreen (Make sure it hasn’t expired.)
• Aspirin (or its equivalent) as well as other first aid items
• Crackers or other non-perishable snacks. It’s no fun being hungry two hours from home.
• Emergency contact information, in case you lose your cell phone. An extra set of car keys is a good idea as well.
• Insect repellant! If you have lived in Florida for any length of time you understand this one.

5. Plan your destinations. I must confess this is one of my favorite parts of the pre-boating season. Florida has literally thousands of different places to boat, each with their own unique flavor. Florida by Water (http://www.floridabywater.com) is a great resource for finding new ideas and locations. This site is a comprehensive resource for the boating community that lists marinas, boat ramps, hotels, restaurants and even the popular boating hot spots for a given city. The site also includes nautical charts, GPS coordinates and weather information for most of the cities in the state, as well as tourism information such as special events and area highlights. You can even check for popular boating events such as nautical happenings or raft ups. I’ve found it best to go ahead and put these kinds of items on the calendar early. If not, they’ll come and go and you will have missed all the fun.

I hope these tips will take a little of the stress out of what should be a relaxing pastime. There is nothing better than a day on the water with family and friends.

Rusty Gardner
President Florida By Water

Baby It’s Cold Outside

The months of January, February and even part of March are not known as the best months for boating here in North Florida. In fact, many us tend to focus our attention on other things and try to patiently wait out the less than ideal conditions. However, as a passionate boater I find these down times to be a blessing in disguise. As with any lifestyle, it’s imperative to set aside time for planning and education. I know that this doesn’t necessarily sound exciting, but you’ll have to trust me – it is!

The Perfect Destination
If I’m not going somewhere on my boat, the odds are I’m planning my next adventure. I’ve come to realize that thinking about and planning a trip to a tropical paradise can be almost as rewarding as the actual trip itself — and honestly sometimes better. In my mind the weather is always perfect, my boat never breaks down and the seas are always calm. Therefore I find myself spending the winter months either planning my summer trips or daydreaming about warmer days and tropical destinations.

Your first stop in planning a cruise is often the internet, but the information you’re hunting for is often hidden and difficult to find. That’s why I created Florida By Water — to save you the endless hours I spent searching for new destinations to explore by boat. The site is broken down by city and then into categories like campgrounds, marinas, daytrips, restaurants, boat ramps and hotels. Often you’ll find reviews from other boaters that can help you make your decision. Every location on the site is accessible by water. Florida By Water does not charge for listings, therefore we list anywhere and everywhere you can get to on your boat.

My recommendation: look for areas you’ve never visited before. Last summer we discovered Carrabelle, Florida. It’s one of those small but great boating and fishing destinations that tend to be overlooked by the majority of boaters. Carabelle’s a quaint town with great water access and the charm that only a small fishing village can bring. Here’s another example a Florida By Water member sent me a few weeks ago:

“We are still cruising. We are at Whiddens Marina on Gasparilla Island, a charming, hospitable, old Florida marina that has been in the same family since the twenties. Another one of those hard to find spots only locals know about. This place has character. A highlight of our journey! When I asked the lady how much to stay the night she said she gets $40. When we said we would anchor in the harbor for the night she said to just stay on the dock for free as there is no one else here staying. I believe she lives in the upstairs of this old building. There is an old (everything here is old) museum attached and an outhouse with shower. It's wild. Like we have gone back in time. While it may not appeal to all, we feel privileged to find and be able to experience the rustic nature of this place. We will be back home on Tuesday.”

Once I’ve chosen my destination, I spend the next few weeks charting my waypoints. Personally I use Garmin Homeport for my charting software, however many companies make the same type of software. I can easily add all of the GPS coordinates from the comfort of my home, create routes and upload them to the chart plotter. Then I’ll save these and revisit them many times before heading to my new location. Another great information source — a quick call to a local sea tow or marina can provide valuable tips about the area. Just make sure that when you’re boating in unfamiliar waters you always use your charts, as well as local information.

Another winter option is to attend some of the many boat shows that are held after the first of the year. More than half of the NMMA boats shows are held during the month of January. Here in the Jacksonville area, the Jacksonville Marine Association Boat Show is at the Prime Osborne Convention Center from January 27-29, and the Southeastern Boat Show’s at Metropolitan Park April 20-22. If you’re up for a road trip, one of the best boat shows in the nation is in Miami on February 16-20. You can find a complete list of boating events at http://www.floridabywater.com/events

Whatever you decide to do, you’ll find you don’t have to completely break from boating just because the weather is a little less than desirable.

Rusty Gardner is the owner and President of floridabywater.com & Boatflorida.com

Simply Carrabelle

Carrabelle River
Carrabelle River

There are few places in Florida where you can experience solitude on an abandoned beach while watching the sun set over the Gulf. However, a small town on the Forgotten Coast is just the place if you're looking to get away from the crowds, traffic and endless displays of Florida t-shirts. Carrabelle is located about an hour south of Tallahassee, along Highway 98. Recently we decided to take a look for ourselves and see if this small fishing village had anything to offer. With the boat in tow, we made the 4-hour trip from Jacksonville with no preconceived notions.
Carrabelle is not exactly forgotten, it's just not talked about much. (Its claim to fame is the world's smallest police station.) Why does this quaint little town seem removed from the mainstream of Florida’s tourism industry? Is it the fact that it was a haven for pirates who ambushed ships in St. George Sound in the 1700s? Or maybe it's because captains avoided the area in the 1800s due to rumors of bears, wildcats and other life-threatening animals? Whatever the case, Carrabelle is still one of Florida's best kept secrets.
For our lodging, we chose a condo at Pirate's Landing. The three story, one bedroom unit with twobalconies and a screened porch was more that I could have hoped for. Not to mention the price tag!

Carrabelle River Marina

Ranging from $99-150 a night, the accommodations couldn’t be beat. The property next door is a full service marina, which makes this an outstanding choice for the boating enthusiast. Carrabelle River Marina and Fish Camp provided just the atmosphere we needed for a weekend getaway. There's great boat ramp, gas, dockage, ice, bait and a restaurant that will even prepare you a box lunch for your day on the water. The staff was friendly and made us feel like part of the community. We never even took the car out of the garage. Everything we needed was accessible by water.
Of course, as a writer for Florida By Water, my task is not just to explore the town but also to experience the water. Boating in the area is some of the best I have found. Fishing is abundant, whether it be inshore, near shore or offshore. Every location could be accessed within minutes. The beautiful emerald

Dog Island

green water and white sands along the beaches were alive with activity. Personally I'm not much of a fisherman, and even I managed to catch a fish or two in this bountiful habitat.
If you're more into cruising or spending an afternoon anchored in a secluded cove, this is your place as well. The first island you should explore is Dog Island. Accessible only by boat, Dog Island is located about 3.5 miles from the mouth of the Carrabelle River. The island is about 1/2 mile wide and 7 miles long, and serves as one of the barrier islands between the Gulf of Mexico and St. George Sound. Places like Skipper’s Cove or Tyson's Harbor are just the spots to spend an afternoon relaxing, swimming or just walking along the shore. Also, a few more active boaters seemed to find this a great place to pull a tube around and entertain the kids.
Across the channel to the west, you will find the sixth best beach in America (rated by Dr. Beach, 2011).

St George State Park
St George Island State Park

St. George Island State Park is the ideal beach for solitude. On our visit, we anchored on the Gulf side and waded a few feet to shore. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in June, we found ourselves to be the only ones on the beach. No foot prints but our own dotted the seashore. Nature watching and shelling were were great activities for this location.
Carrabelle, Florida is truly not what I expected. It was much less — and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. A small Florida town with open waters and tall pines, this is truly the Forgotten Coast and if I had my way…. I would keep the secret. (Shhh!)
For More infomration go to http://carrabelle.org or call 850-687-2585

By Rusty Gardner