Best Route to Keys
I will be planning a trip to Key West on to Dry Tortugas or dry Tortugas and than Key West in April or May from Punta Gorda in my 36 Hunter.
I did sail down from Montauk to Florida east coast and than down to channel 5 and up to Punta Gorda.
Now want to take a trip to Dry Tortugas from Punta Gorda and would like any suggestion how you would do the trip and any info entering Key West from north and any anchoring suggestions.
I have all the charts and cruising books and a C-80 chartplotter so just asking any one that have done it for their suggestions,I am still new to Florida.
I suggest you take a look at the Pilot Charts for the Gulf of Mexico for April (click on Pub 105 at the bottom of Maritime Safety Information ). As you’ll notice, in April more than 70% of the time the winds are from the east or southeast at Force 4 (11-15 knts). Given that I would head directly to Key West and then to the Tortugas as the schlep to windward from Garden Key back to Key West can be a trial..
We normally try to get through Boca Grand at slack water sometime in the morning. About 11:00 is ideal. From there to Key West is about 138 (nautical) miles. As we average about 6 knots, that usually puts us in Key West at about the same time the next morning. We usually make Smith Shoal Light right around day-break and from there its an easy sail down to Northeast Channel which is wide, deep and well marked. The easterlies/south easterlies usually ease in the early morning so its generally a motor sail the last 6-10 miles, which isn’t bad. The only part of this leg of the trip that can be a pain is getting past Cape Romano and Cape Romano Shoals. For some reason we always seem to encounter a lot of squall activity between there and Smith Shoal and it can be a pain in the neck. If you can see thunderheads building to the east, or pick them up on radar, you will have to deal with them overnight. If so, I usually tuck in the first reef at sunset and proceed apace. With that, we can quickly furl the headsail if necessary and we’re set. With radar one can usually slip between at least some of the squalls and sailing at night is pretty easy as one can see lights a long way off. If you’re lucky you’ll not have squalls and will see a lot of phosphorescence in your wake and bow wave, which is pretty neat. If you see shrimpers, avoid them as the trawls are very long. <O:p.
From Key West to the Tortugas is easy. Head down southeast channel until you get to 24º-30’ and turn west, staying on 24º-30’ until Rebecca Shoal Light bears about 320º (M) and the head up for Marker No#2 at the beginning of the southeast channel up to Garden Key. You go up, over and around the west and southwest side of Garden Key to approach the anchorage east of the Coal Dock from the channel on the southwest side. Depending upon the wind, you’ll want to tuck up as close to Bush Key as possible but it can be noisy and a bit smelly given the bird population. If the wind really starts to howl out of the east, you can move around to the west side of the Fort and anchor so long as you’re out of the channel and not inside the swimming area which is denoted by red-white buoys near shore. (You might want to scope that out and punch in a way-point on your way in so you’ve got it if needed.)<O:p.
From Key West to Garden Key is about 64 nm. For us that’s about a 10-11 hour trip. You’ll want to arrive with good light so, in April, you’ll need to be there by say 17:30 which means leaving Key West by 06:30 unless you plan to stop for the night. If so, you can tuck up on the west side of the Marguesas Keys. That’s only about 30 nm from KW but a nice stopping point.
<O:p</O:pFrom Garden Key we head direct for Sanibel Island. It’s about 124 nm from Garden Key to the Sanibel Island Bridge, or say about 21 hours. By leaving Garden Key at noon, you should make the bridge by 0800 the next AM. IF the winds are unfavorable however (ie northerly) you can divert to Naples and make the return in two legs.<O:p></O:p>
This is very helpul.. I am doing a relocation from Panama City Beach to Amelia Island north of Jacksonville mid June this year. Sailing a Beneteau 393 w 5.5 draft. I have not yet sailed the Keys. In your opinion is it the safest passage south round Key West or is there a cut thru Florida Bay that could safely accomodate 5.5 draft? Also any recommendations on Hawks Channel would be great.
There is enough water in Florida Bay to make the passage to Moser Channel with 5.5' of draft without difficulty. It is a little convoluted, however, and is best made in good light as there are lots of Fish Traps. If I were going to make that passage, I would head down to the anchorage at the Little Shark River (at about N25 19.735 W81 08.829) and spend the night. From there to Moser Channel and then over to the anchorage at Boot Key is about 45 nm or about 7-1/2 hours at 6 kn. The approach to the Little Shark is pretty easy and there's a good anchorage in the first Oxbow to the north just past the entrance (although it is buggy!). By leaving there by 0700 you should have good light across the Bay and you can pretty easily stay in 10' or deeper water the whole way. You'll need good up-to-date charts and need to keep close watch on your position but it's not hard and you should be able to find a good mooring at Boot Key without difficulty by getting in there by 1600 or so.
Thanks svHyLyte will check route on the charts.. appears it could cut off considerable time vs south to KW.
punta gorda to tortugas should be a nice 2 day sail---hunter is pretty fast--should be fun!! go outside--there isnt any alternative--go out boca raton and go....is 70 miles from key west to fort jefferson....
a friend gave me a smart ass answer---come out boca grande pass steer 195 degrees true
142 mi and yer there (tortugas)...wait--that dont sound smartass to me......
yes--there is enough water under keel for hunter and there are excelllent fishies to troll catch lol..i know--btdt...deeelishuss...comin ginto park, a few mi north of tortugas ther eis some reallly shallow water at about the first marker buoy is only 8-9 ft water.....but the keel on your boat isnt that deep is it?--you should be ok...see ye there if we are at same time----
we didnt do the keys--too populated lol....but is only 70 mi from ft jefferson....
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