Old as Dirt!
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Tampa Bay Area
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I've got some time off in March, and was thinking about making a run from Sarasota down to the Dry Tortugas. I'm pretty set on the destination, and don't really want to hit Key West or anything on this trip. I've read through some of the older threads on the trip, but they all seem to recommend stopping in Port Charlotte.
Let's say I wasn't interested in making any stops along the way. Is there anything along the route I need to be concerned about (crab traps in the middle of nowhere, unusually shallow areas, etc)? Given a Catalina 36, are the conditions in mid to late March suitable for the trip?
I'm also thinking of bringing a few tanks along to do some diving. I hear there are plenty of wrecks out there, are there any worth diving? Notwithstanding the information about the achorages, and the fort itself that are in the other threads; are there any other considerations I should be thinking about?
The run from Sarasota to Ft. Jefferson is quite straight forward and the entrance from the north pretty easy. Time your arrival so that you will have good light to see the bottom as you get into Garden Key. There is a deep channel but shallows are nearby and the water shoals very quickly. On the direct trip down the only fixed obstructions are a couple of old radio towers but they make good reference points. For some reason, south of Cape Romano a few squalls always seem to develop in the early evening and persist until about 0100 or so. If you have radar, they are easy to track and avoid. Never the less, ensure your reefing gear is in good order and prepare to reef the minute you begin to feel a cool/cold breeze from the east. Some times the shrimpers/fishing boats can be a pain in the neck, especially at night. Acquaint yourself with the lights used by fishing boats and avoid them, particularly if they've got a trawl out.
The holding around Garden Key isn't the greatest--sand over marle--so ensure you have good ground tackle for that. Use Passageweather.com for weather forecasts before you leave. Unfortunately, Northwesterlys can be a bit much in March. The predictions are pretty good for 4-5 daze out. Take plenty of food, fuel and water as none is available on the Key.
"It is not so much for its beauty that the sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."