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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Headed to the keys with a Precision 23 behind my truck in a couple of weeks. I am 28 years old and I have been to Key west and I do like it, but I don't love it. I was originally thinking about keeping in key west because the prices were right ! My question though is if I want to be cruising mostly and finding the best snorkel and fishing spots do I want to be on the Atlantic side or the gulf side if I dont stay in Key west? I see a lot of options in Marathon, but dont know the area to well(I drove straight to key west last time in the keys). So are far as access to what I want and being in some ideal waters has anyone done this and have any good recommendations? I dont have any good people to touch base with for sailing this area, all my friends go down hop on a powerboats. FYI I am weighing on staying in a marina for some good bathroom access since the P23 cant really accommodate. Thanks for all your time!

Mike
 

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Snorkeling in Marathon is somewhat limited to Sombrero Reef light area, visibility about 30 feet on most days. Much better at Sand Key near Key West, about 50 feet on average. Much better at Cosgrove Light, average visibility about 80+ feet, but huge numbers of giant barracuda and monster sharks. The reef there is incredible.

Great anchorage at the west side of Boca Grande key,huge numbers of lobster there, some grouper to 30 pounds too. Completely sheltered. Launch the boat at Garrison Bight in Key West, then head across the northwest channel to Mule Key Basin, great sail down the Passage to Boca Grande Key, depths average about 4 to 7 feet most of the trip. Absolutely beautiful area, lots of dolphin looking for a handout, some turtles, loads of nurse sharks zipping under the boat all the time.

Cross over to the Marquesses Keys and you'll love the inside over there.

Gary :cool:
 

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It pretty much depends upon how far you want to venture in a single day. It's a bit over 22 miles out to the marquesses Keys, so it's a good day sail, with an overnighter inside Mooney Harbor. The best entrance is on the south side of the Marquesses, and once inside, there's a fair amount of deeper, sheltered water for an overnight anchorage. If you want to have some fun, take a heavy action spinning outfit with you, tie on a 12 inch length of stainless steel leader, then attach a chartreuse yellow surgical hose tube with a 1/2-ounce tunnel sinker on the front end. Toss it out near the edges of the turtle grass and watch the water explode as a giant barracuda blasts the lure from just beneath the surface. They're fun to catch, but DO NOT try to eat them. These are the giants and most will have ciguateria, which can be very toxic and possibly deadly. Just carefully remove the hook with a J-hook dehooker and release them to fight another day.

Also, in the anchorage area are large numbers of grunts - which the locals claim are among the best tasting fish in Florida. I tend to agree with them. Shrimp and squid strips are the best bait, but I've actually caught them on a small piece of red rag attached to a 1/0 wide gap hook. They average about 8 to 10 inches long, but at times there will be some measuring 12 to 13 inches mixed with the smaller fish. Skin and fillet, then dip in beer batter and pan fry - FANTASTIC!

If you decide to return to Key West in Hawk Channel, be careful of the coral heads and watch your depth finder closely. Most of the channel is 30 to 50 feet deep, but there are some shoals to watch out for.

Good Luck,

Gary :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Do you need to be real concerned with the tides? No depth finder on the boat now, but I do only draw 5 foot with keel down and 2 foot with the keel up. Is Garrison Bight my best bet for living aboard the boat?

Mike
 

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There is a mooring field for live aboards outside the bite, but I don't think you can do that inside the bite. Not quite sure. Check with the attendant at the launch ramp - they should know. If you want to live on the hook, Mule Key Basin and Boca Grande anchorage area are both fantastic locations. I believe there are some live aboards in Key West City Marina, but this may have changed over the years. I do remember them being quite expensive.

Tides in the keys are minimal at best, just a foot or two most of the time. With the board up you can go just about anywhere in the Lakes Passage, and much of the area is easily navigated with the board down. You cannot access the flats, for obvious reasons. Anything deeper than 12 inches there and you're aground.

All the best,

Gary :cool:
 

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Headed to the keys with a Precision 23 behind my truck in a couple of weeks. I am 28 years old and I have been to Key west and I do like it, but I don't love it. I was originally thinking about keeping in key west because the prices were right ! My question though is if I want to be cruising mostly and finding the best snorkel and fishing spots do I want to be on the Atlantic side or the gulf side if I dont stay in Key west? I see a lot of options in Marathon, but dont know the area to well(I drove straight to key west last time in the keys). So are far as access to what I want and being in some ideal waters has anyone done this and have any good recommendations? I dont have any good people to touch base with for sailing this area, all my friends go down hop on a powerboats. FYI I am weighing on staying in a marina for some good bathroom access since the P23 cant really accommodate. Thanks for all your time!

Mike
You are a lucky man, you're gonna have a blast... :)

Good advice from Gary, but one recommendation I'd make... On your way down there, don't dismiss spending some time in the Upper Keys, as well...

one area I really like, is the spot around the back side of Islamorada, particularly near a popular sunset bar named The Lorelei...

Lorelei Cabana Bar And Restaurant - Islamorada Florida Keys - Join us at the Lorelei Cabana Bar and Marina for Breathtaking views of our world famous Sunsets and Live Music 7 nights a Week

I hung out in the anchorage off there for several days a few years ago, it's a fantastic spot... Very friendly to cruisers, great local hangout, and there a couple of nearby marinas that could suit your needs... And, it gives you great proximity to the backcountry of Florida Bay, you don 't have to venture very far to the N before you find yourself in the back of beyond...

Might be a great spot to get your feet wet, so to speak, in fairly protected waters, with less of the tidal currents and so on that you'll find further down the Keys... And, no shortage of cute young things hanging out at The Lorelei, good food and music, you could easily get 'stuck' there for awhile... :)

Good luck, you're in for a great time, and you've got a perfect boat for messing around down there...
 

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Every Christmas week, we used to trailer our F-27GS trimaran down to the Keys. We'd only have about a week, and this is what we'd do. I don't know what you draw, so this advice might not be any good. We drew less than 1' with the boards up so we could anchor in some pretty thin water.

First, I'd recommend Frank Papy's guide to the Keys, and I find that Active Captain is a wonderful resource for this type of endeavor.

How we'd roll:

We'd launch at Gilbert's Resort at Jewfish Creek. Spend the better part of a day rigging etc, eat and hang out, spend first night on their dock.

Leave and head westward on the Fla Bay side, staying in the ICW channels mostly, or watching the chart/depth otherwise. We almost always stayed on the Fla Bay side, because around Christmas, you get the northers, and the water is flatter and there are more places to duck into on the Fla Bay side.

Depending on conditions, we'd anchor up in the calmest places we could find, and we didn't travel at night (crab traps).

Sometimes we'd find a nice hole in the National Park/Buttonwood Sound/Tarpon Basin. We've anchored behind places like Pigeon Key (near Tavernier, there's more than one Pigeon Key). Anchored up in a little hole in Tavernier Creek one time. Wilson Key. Cotton Key. Little Basin (Islamorada). There's plenty of little holes and little keys to anchor behind, more than there are on the Atlantic/Hawk Channel side.

My standards for snorkelling are generally not the same as the average, and I find cool stuff wherever I am swimming. That said, some of the best snorkelling I've seen in the upper Keys was at the Looe Key area, which we staged to/from via Bahia Honda, that's on the Atlantic side. Oh, almost forgot the time we hung out in the Spanish Channel - snorkeled and saw some very cool sponges there.
 

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One of the places to stay away from when snorkeling is 7 Mile Bridge. Some monster jewfish there, but screaming currents during a tidal change. I watched a snorkeler get dragged two miles out into the Gulf before he knew what happened. Visibility isn't all that good at the bridge either, but if you ever want to see a 500-pound jewfish up close, that's where you will find them. Mainly between Pigeon Key and Marathon.

Be safe,

Gary :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the info, Im not opposed to Islamorada just don't know if its worth splitting my time up in 2 different areas or just taking advantage of just one. Key west Yacht club does have some good rates but seems pretty full unless you have a membership there which is pricey. Really appreciate all you guys input! Nothing like a nice online sailing community!
 

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There's a nice state park there, I anchored for an afternoon and went ashore, explored the island, then at sundown the bugs took over and tried to eat all my fleshy parts. Thanks goodness for Skin So Soft - it saved my arse.


Gary :cool:
 

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For the combination of great sailing and snorkeling, as well as being budget friendly, you can't go wrong with Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. From there you have access to Hawk Channel sailing on the ocean side, great diving / snorkeling on the reefs offshore. Mooring balls at the reefs are free, and staying on a mooring at the state park in Largo Sound is only $25 per night, I believe.

 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Interesting, yea not looking forward to bugs, and I dont know whether to stay at the marinas for the bulk or to give my boat a try overnighting at some of the more calmer anchorages and sail my way around. I did also hear good things about pennekamp but I think that might just be too far away from me , I do want to spend atleast a week in key west. I am weighing towards definitely stay bayside(for mostly sheltered reasons), but I did see Treasue island marina have some great reviews! Is there a way from gulf side to atlantic side via a bridge on A1A?

Mike
 
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