This article is intended to serve as a semi-technical introduction to the canal system at Palma Sola Harbour condominiums (PSH).
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not an expert boater. I spent a large part of my life as a pilot so I became very familiar with the movement of air but water was simply something used for ditching a plane or washing. As retirement approached, my wife and I began to focus on relocating to Florida and boating became a part of the agenda. We were fortunate in finding PSH and the rest is history.
For my purposes, PSH is a nearly perfect boating community. PSH is situated between Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. It is close enough to Longboat Key Pass to allow for quick access to gulf waters, yet the canal waters also provide a calm harbor for boaters escaping storms. The canal system at PSH is a marvel. The system empties into Palma Sola Bay which empties into the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). My particular canal is a north/south facing secondary canal. A primary main canal also runs north/south and leads directly into Palma Sola Bay.
On the Suncoast of Florida, the prevailing wind blows from the north in the winter while summer winds are light and generally southerly. The canal waters at PSH stay calm to a light chop in even the strongest blows. Our canals are also basically bowl shaped with the shallowest waters near the docks. Most of the side canals maintain a depth of four to five feet in the middle during low (King or Neap) tides while two foot depths can be seen alongside the docks during low winter tides. The following pictures were taken during an extremely low winter tide. Notice that the water line is well below the normal tidal line shown by the oyster line.
The screenshot below shows the tidal range during a king tide day.
The red area shows a below average low tide. The blue depicts high tides.
This picture shows an extreme low winter tide. Notice that the water level is below the normal tide range shown by the oyster line.
When I first moved to PSH, I was a sailor. A few times, during winter low tides, my little sailboat would be grounded on the bottom of the canal for a few hours. My winged keel sailboat needed three feet to float. It was comical after a while to watch my boat balanced on its wing keel, awaiting the incoming tide. Somehow a grounded sailboat is always a sad looking affair.
My wife and I have recently moved from sails to a trawler. The little trawler is twenty-six feet of fun and is built for skinny Florida waters. So far the new-to-me boat has never been grounded at my dock. Even in my sailboat, once I was two feet away from the dock, I had plenty of water beneath my keel. I refer to our new boat as a “crawler” since it cruises at six knots. More specifically, it is a mini crawler, since it is small and slow. My pet name for the boat is Slowpoke. Anyway, all of the secondary canals lead into a main canal which has plenty of depth for any boat. I normally see six foot depths in the main canal. The main canal leads north into Palma Sola Bay.
I have never really been much of a water person. As I stated earlier, my adult life was spent in the air. When I retired, we moved to the water and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed all the activities associated with salt water living. It is not uncommon to see manatees in our canal system as well as dolphins. The following picture was taken of a young manatee who spent the better part of an hour scrubbing himself against my trawler’s bottom until he felt nice and clean.
One of my favorite things to watch is all the activity in the canals during the summer months. The winter months are a noticeably less active period. In the summer, it is not uncommon to hear the fish jumping at night while they attempt to escape becoming someone’s dinner. I have seen barracuda, red fish and rays in the canals. The diversity of life is still amazing to me. There always seems to be some activity associated with the water. The winter months, in Florida, are the sailors’ dream time. Winds can blow from ten to fifteen knots for days on end, while the summer months are generally calm except for the occasional thunderstorm. As much as I enjoy the mild winter temperatures that have made Florida famous, I truly love the warmth of the summer months. As a boater, I find that the warm waters associated with summer are a true delight. Ninety degree water is just made for a lazy soaking. I can stay in that water for hours and simply enjoy the relaxation. Also, my wife and I have discovered that we tend to use our boat as a kayak carrier and the calm waters of summer are tailor made for kayaks. I do not have a boat lift so I still have to clean my little crawler’s bottom and warm water makes the task much more enjoyable.
In short, the canals are a boater’s delight, providing quick access to the bay as well as storm protection during all seasons. It is such a wonderful thing to have my boat available for use twenty-four seven. I tried marinas and was unimpressed with their location and cost. With a canal type condo, I walk out to my boat several times a day to check on one thing or another. I can also hide in my man cave and waste an amazing amount of time. For me, that is what has made retirement a wonderful adventure.
I am currently planning a water trip north of Tampa to Caladesi state park. I’ll write more about this trip, later. Well, that ends my introduction to the canal system of PSH. My next article will continue to expand on this introduction as I discuss Palma Sola Bay and the surrounding water systems of Sarasota and Tampa Bay. Enjoy!
By Silence Dogood