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Old 03-14-2013
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Re: Heading to the Keys!

Typing from iphone so forgive typos.

Jump to pensacola first. There are a lot of marinas and i cannot remember which ine we chose from. If things are going awesome, bypass pensacola for panama city. It is an easy in/out even in bad weather. We stayed in the city marina on the north side. Descent marina and nice people. Nice little shops around it. There is a grocery store out to the main street and right several blocks. Only go during the day. It is in bad part of town. From there, assuming you bypass appalachicola (which i did due to draft), hop to tampa. The entrance is straight forward. Two ways in around egmont - north and south. The northern route is the closest and easiest but that is the main ship chamnel. The southern route is further but no ship traffic in general. From there you can stay at the municipal marina in st pete or the harborage. Harborage is nicer but cost more. Good people there though. Was hard for us to leave. Everything is walkable there including a publix grocery store. Too much to see there to tupe withy thumbs, but it is a young, vibrant city you two would love and may find hard to leave. From there you can sail to emerson point to get ready to head south. It is on tbe manatee river and a great anchorage. From there, you can take the ditch to longboat key. Take a wide turn around jew fiah key to get in. From there, you can jump down to charlotte harbor. You can either anchor off of useppa (cabbage key) or tuck into pelican bay off of cayo costa. From there you can jump down to fort myers beach. It has a mooring field, everything but west marine is walkable or can take tram. Both a phblix and older grocery store and liquor store on island. The strip has lits of shops and places to eat and hang out. From there, i would jump straight to marathon or the tortugas. I have done both. With your experience, i would pass the tortugas and go to marathon first. Both are an overnighter but tortugas can be serious buisiness from fmb and deadly if you screw up (no vhf and no help is close). From marathon you can either head to key west or east to the bahamas. There is a lot to see in marathon and good snorkeling and diving around. Boot key mooring field is reasonable, the marinas are not. But they are a lot cheaper than key west. From there you can take the channel up to rodriguez key and tuck in the north side of it. From there you wait for the right weather window to go to bimini for check in.

So there is your highly abridged travel guide. I have experience in all of those places... Including tortugas. I can help with detailed info on any of it. However, as many have noticed, i am gone from here often as we are also fulltime cruising. I type this off of York Island, waiting for weather then head to fmb for a week. I plan to be in marathon the next weekend. See you there.

Brian

Ps. I am not your dad, but i have a strong suggestion. Take the time to learn what you are doing from books at the very least. Chapmans, annapolis book of seamanship, and calders guide to systems even sits on my boat. It should be your bible. The jumps across from panama city and to the tortugas can be serious buisness and you will be beyond help or vhf. Know your boat and what you are doing or you are not cruising, you are just getting lucky. Luck runs out in the worst places.
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