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Old 03-08-2012
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Sailing across the Florida keys

I am interested in bringing my sailboat from the northeast around Florida and up to the St. Petersburg area. Can I get some input as to where to go through the Keys and the shallows which is the safest. My boat is a Beneteau 49. It draws 7' of water and has a mast height of about 63'. I obviously do not know the area around the Keys so I have major safety concerns. I'm sure there are many hazards that may not appear on charts and Chartplotters. I would be planning this for late Sept./12. Any and all advise would be appreciated.
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Old 03-08-2012
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re: Sailing across the Florida keys

If your thinking the iCW your draft is going to be a problem and that time of year is not a good time to be outside. Hurricane season.
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re: Sailing across the Florida keys

Would not attempt the intercoastal with my draft and understand the hurricane concerns. I probably have soon flexibility with delivery date. Want to make it safe and sound.
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re: Sailing across the Florida keys

As far as the Keys are concerned, your only viable route is the Hawk Channel on the ocean side of the Keys, no way is the ICW route down Biscayne and Florida Bays an option with your draft...

The first place I'd recommend cutting through with your draft would be the Moser Channel at Marathon... You could probably make it thru the Yacht Channel up from Channel Five west of Islamorada, but you'd be VERY close to the bottom thru there. Since there's not that much to be gained distance-wise, I wouldn't recommend it, I'd go on to Marathon, instead...

However, as long as you're that far west, you may as well consider going out to Key West, anyway - if you're inclined to spend any time there, that is...

Main problem with the Hawk Channel and your draft, is the dearth of good, protected anchorages or marinas between Miami and Marathon... The Ocean Reef Club is your best bet, but it's a private club, and I'm not sure what their policy is towards accepting transients is at the moment. Otherwise, you'll likely wind up anchoring somewhere in an open roadstead, tucking in behind Rodriguez Key is one of the few spots you can gain any protection at all, but not if the breeze is NE-E... And, you really don't want to be running the Hawk Channel much after dark, plenty of crab pots thru there, for one thing...

As for the ICW between Norfolk and Miami, don't necessarily rule it out because of your draft... Most of it will be do-able, you can certainly go inside Hatteras to Morehead City... Between Morehead and Little River, and then Georgia and some spots in FL north the St.John's River are the most likely trouble spots (don't even THINK about doing the ICW in Georgia south of Sapelo Sound), but otherwise most of the ICW can still be an option for you... Not to suggest you'll never find the bottom somewhere, but by playing or waiting for the tide, you should always be able to make it thru...

And, for the most up-to-date info on the changing conditions along the ICW and east coast, this is probably the best resource:

Cruiser's Net
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Old 03-08-2012
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re: Sailing across the Florida keys

Like others have said the ICW is not doable with your draft. You will have to be careful about Marathon Bridge because it is not the normal 66/68' height that most bridges are. You might have to wait until very low tide to get under it. I would go to Key West and around. Key West is way to much fun to miss if one hasn't been there before especially on a boat.
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Old 03-08-2012
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re: Sailing across the Florida keys

I wouldn't attempt to sail "acroostss the Florida Keys." Too much rocks, roads, cars and houses. I would keep the boat in the water.
Plus what they said
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Old 03-08-2012
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Re: Sailing across the Florida keys

Quote:
I wouldn't attempt to sail "acroostss the Florida Keys." Too much rocks, roads, cars and houses.
Hey, if they can do it in a motor boat, why not with a sailboat?
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Re: Sailing across the Florida keys

I certainly appreciate any and all input to my questions, especially from those that may have first hand knowledge of the keys and what would be best for my situation. Having said that, safety is the most important thing, but would also like to get through the trip as fast as possible as its a long way from Nova Scotia and its a long time at sea for my delivery crew. I was anticipating staying outside for as much as possible to avoid the obvious shallow water hazards. First stop somewhere around the Carolina's and then maybe in the Keys.

It's great to get this help from you all. Thx
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Old 03-08-2012
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Re: Sailing across the Florida keys

I would think, even with that draft, you could do most of the ICW down to Charlestown, SC. You probably could not navigate through those Georgia swamps at all and should consider heading offshore at Charleston, then you can duck back into the ICW at Fernandina Beach, FL. Keep in mind that you'll have lots and lots of bridges to contend with, but overall the depths appear to be more than adequate.

Now, if you have a crew, and the weather cooperates, the coastal passage would be very doable all the way to Key West. Like others have suggested, I would consult the Cruisers Net for the most up to date information. Additionally, I would wait until at least October 1 before making the trip.

Good Luck,

Gary
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Old 03-08-2012
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Re: Sailing across the Florida keys

I've gone down the inside...and I specifically remember staying *IN* the channel and sounding 5'. Especially at Marker 74a near Islamorada. This was at Thanksgiving time-frame. Don't recall the tides, but I want to say I was seeing 5' with some tidal help.

Take that for what its worth.

My recommendation, find a suitable 3 day weather window and stay on the outside and take Hawks Channel (watch for crab pots) all the way down from Miami. None of the cuts/inlets except Gov't Cut can support your draft - even Stiltsville/Cape Florida is spotty in a couple spots, but maybe doable. When you're down in the Keys, then cross as Channel 5 and pick up the Yacht Channel to the southwest.

Whats your air-draft. If you're drawing 7 ft, I'd imagine its pretty damn close to 65. If you're over that...well, then you're making the trip down to Key West and coming around!
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Last edited by night0wl; 03-08-2012 at 03:14 PM.
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