Posted by Claiborne | Posted on 09-29-2009
Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
More and more cruisers are choosing to spend their time in delightful Key West, Florida, by tethering their vessel to one of the mooring balls east of Fleming Key. This field is managed by the Key West City Marine in Garrison Bight (one of two Key West city marinas, the other being located in Key West Bight).
Through a rookie’s eyes: We arrived at the mooring field on Feb 19, in beautiful weather and light winds. I had called ahead to get instructions (rookie-remember?) and was told how to pick up a mooring. It was not how it was described; we have an 8 ft high bow and the only way to attach a line is by hand at water level (you cannot lift these mooring balls out of the water). A very helpful boater came with his dinghy, looped the lines through and handed them back up. If we come again, (and we plan to) we will have to grab a buoy at midships by lying on deck at the hatch, get a line through it, and walk it back to the bow, and use the dinghy to get the second line on. All this after being told we could pull it aboard at an 8 ft high bow! In defense of the staff, it was the only mistake we encountered; they were wonderful otherwise. One other note for first time visitors: Finding the office is a bit of a trick: Enter [Garrison] bight in your dinghy; The first docks you see will be filled with houseboats. The dinghy dock and amenities for the mooring field are on the west side of the bight, past these houseboats and the channel to the inner part of the bight (under a bridge) But to check in, go under the bridge, turn left and go all the way to the boat ramp. Tie up and find the office in a long gray trailer in the parking lot. We had to stop and ask directions twice.
A & B Marina overlooks the southwestern banks of Key West Bight, just south of the Galleon Marina.
I attended Fantasy Fest in October 2012 and pulled in A&B to fuel. I purchased 4K worth of fuel. I ask dock hand if I could load my tender while tied up since the wind was at over 20 KTS and he replied yes. The loading took around 30 minutes. Just as we were finishing the dock master showed up and told us we needed to get the f??k out of the fuel dock. There were no boats waiting to fuel. Needless to say I was not impressed with A&B and will never return.
On a side note I kept a 55′ boat there for over a year a few years back and during FF had eaten at their restaurant.
R C Roberts
Even though Sunset Marina is located on Stock Island, this facility lies within sight of the Fleming Key/Key West Mooring Field, and within a short automobile ride of downtown Key West. Thus, we usually think of Sunset Marina as being part of the Key West array of pleasure craft facilities, as opposed to the Stock Island marinas located a bit farther east, and on the ocean (Hawk Channel) side of the isle.
We stayed at Sunset Marina on the bayside of stock island for one year and were quite happy there, very nice clean modern floating docks, bathrooms / showers OK, very quiet at night, very clean and reasonable rates. Draw back was that in our slow moving sailboat it took a long time to get to a reef on the ocean side, Had to go around Key West to the west to get to the ocean. Navigation entering the marina is tricky but once we did it a few times it was easy. Also don’t mind the Sheriffs headquarters/jail and juvi detention center next door. These are new modern county buildings and don’t bother the eye. There was a homeless shelter on the grounds of the Sheriff’s HQ which caused the homeless folks to gather up the road from the marina which there were complaints about but they never bothered us, but I believe that shelter has been closed down as of this time but have to confirm.
Here is a very interesting message copied from the AGLCA Forum, concerning marina recommendation on Stock Island. Those who have already visited Key West know that Stock Island is the next body of land east (think of that as “north”) of Key West. By auto, it is only a 4 miles or so drive to downtown Key West, but Stock Island is too far from Key West Bight or Garrison Bight for a dinghy ride, and it’s a bit far for walking as well, though city bus service is available.
The dockage rates here are certainly more reasonably than those found at the marinas in Key West proper, so the Stock Island facilities are well worthy of consideration!
We’ve stayed on Stock Island several times and know of Stock Island Marina Village. This particular marina area is a little rustic and very eclectic. There is a bar/restaurant on sight, the Fish Buster fish market near and a short walk to West Marine, several more restaurants and the bus stop for catching a ride into Key West. We would stay here as long as we did not get a slip up close to the bar area as it can get a little noisy from the music and bar patrons.
If you like things a little quieter and you do not want to be in downtown Key West, try Sunset Marina or Key West Yacht Harbor on Stock Island.
If you’re only going to be in Key West for a few days I think you’d get more from your visit it you stayed at one of the downtown marinas.
Jim & Lisa Favors
We stayed at Sunset Marina on the bayside of stock island for one year and were quite happy there, very nice clean modern floating docks, bathrooms / showers OK, very quiet at night, very clean and reasonable rates. Draw back was that in our slow moving sailboat it took a long time to get to a reef on the ocean side, Had to go around Key West to the west to get to the ocean. Navigation entering the marina is tricky but once we did it a few times it was easy. Also don’t mind the Sheriffs headquarters/jail and juvi detention center next door. These are new modern county buildings and don’t bother the eye. There was a homeless shelter on the grounds of the Sherriff’s HQ which caused the homeless folks to gather up the road from the marina which there were complaints about but they never bothered us, but I believe that shelter has been closed down as of this time but have to confirm.
To reduce time to get out to the ocean we moved to Key West Harbor yacht club on the ocean side of stock island, this only after finding out rates had been reduced to the same as Sunset Marina. This is a high end resort style marina with a fine restaurant, bar, pool, brick paver parking lots, nice new docks, and condos for short term rent. Also very clean and quiet at night. Second story restaurant has spectacular view of the Atlantic and best bathrooms/showers of any marina I have stayed at.
I would highly recommend both of these marinas and a cab ride to Duval street was 20.00 one way and there is also a bus or you can rent bikes nearby. We chose stock island because annual slip rates are 50% or less of what they are in Key west bite and these two marinas were as good or better than any in Key West Bite.
In an earlier, now corrected, story here on the Cruisers’ Net (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=96458), we opined that under the new, now approved Monroe County Anchoring plan (part of the Florida Keys’s participation in the Florida Pilot Mooring Field program) anchoring around Key West’s Christmas Tree Island (charted as “Wisteria Island”) and on the waters west of Fleming Key was prohibited. That is the way we and others read these regulations.
However, just a few days ago, we received the following inquiry from Captain RMW:
I think your statement that anchorages won’t be allowed around Christmas tree Island and Fleming Key is incorrect and you need to modify it. It frightened me before I did more research on my own. I think these are considered “unmanaged mooring fields” by the gov’t. Without those anchorages, there would be NO place for cruisers to anchor while visiting Key West. However, there is no “managed mooring field” west of Fleming Key, so I assume there is no exclusionary “buffer zone” there, which only applies to “managed mooring fields”. The only “managed mooring field” in Key West is at Garrison Bight in the Seaplane basin, on the east side of Fleming Key. The way I read the rules would apply to Key West, is that the “buffer zone” would apply to the Seaplane basin, around the mooring field at Garrison Bight. That would make more sense, the water is shallow, and in the places where it is not, has poor purchase for anchors. Your article is suggesting that all of the anchorages around Key West would be eliminated. There seems to be no such plan in the works, as far as I can tell. Please clarify.
Well, that really sounded hopeful. We are GLAD to acknowledge mistaken interpretations, particularly when the correct take is beneficial to the cruising community. So, we got in touch with Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, our very special Florida Keys correspondent, and the founder of BARR (Boaters’ Anchoring Rights and Responsibilities, and asked her to look further into this matter. Here is her response:
The guy is correct in his statement that anchoring will be allowed off Wisteria (Christmas Tree Island) and Fleming Key. You may be thinking about the prior plans to put moorings off Wisteria, and making the entire west side of Fleming Key a sanctuary area for marine life–thus barring anchoring. That whole proposal got scrapped when the ownership of Christmas Tree Island became questionable. It appears the US Navy owns it.
Thought for a minute about what the problem was as far as confusion with KW and anchorages. The entire area basically comes under the “managed anchoring” zone category which means you can anchor there but are subject to the rules and regs as established by the Pilot Program. No time limits or anything just pumping out and commonsense stuff. The only place that is different is on the east side of Fleming Key where the mooring field is…that is now a NO ANCHORAGE buffer zone. It’s a small area and very open to rough water. Most cruisers do not use it.
And, more input from Captain RMW:
I just called the FWC yesterday and the man I spoke with there (I was connected to someone with knowledge on the topic of mooring) confirmed what I wrote to you previously. The areas west of Fleming Key are considered “managed anchorages” and will be checked for compliance with the regulations as such. That does not mean that you can’t anchor there. The man acknowledged that people live on board boats in Key West, and for many, he said, it’s “affordable housing”. The area in the seaplane basin (east of Fleming) around the city mooring field is the “buffer zone” around the “managed mooring field”, and that is where anchorages are not allowed.
As far as Key West is concerned, I don’t see any problem with these rules – they are just putting teeth into rules that were always there.
I think it’s a good thing – who wants sewage and derelict projectiles around their bedroom? Also I think there are allowances for composting toilets, etc.
One more thing, when I asked him if additional funds were allocated for enforcement, he said there are no additional personnel.
So, it would appear that even under the new Monroe County anchoring plan, anchoring will be allowed around Christmas Tree/Wisteria Island and east of Fleming Key. HAPPY DAYS! We were never so happy to be proved wrong!
All I can say to Captain Pickelmann’s remarks below, is “HEAR, HEAR!!!!” See you at the Lorelei with a cold glass of Mount Gay rum in hand!
The Keys win in my book. Islamorada – lunch at Lorelei, stop in at Worldwide Sportsman. Marathon – lunch at Keys Fisheries. Key West – snorkel trip on a sailing catamaran, Conch Train tour of the city. Eat at the Raw Bar or A&B Lobster house or at Bagatelle or at Blue Heaven or at the Pier House or at Hog’s Breath Saloon or…. Have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s. Have a drink at capt Tony’s. Sunset at Mallory Square followed by a world-class pub crawl along Duval St. (Don’t forget bail money.)
There is a very real danger that you might never leave. It’s happened before!
On Wednesday, September 5, 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the Monroe County anchorage regulations associated with the Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program. While the final version must still be approved by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, that final nod would seem to be a mere formality. We conclude that, after all the many public forums, voluminous comments published here on the Cruisers’ Net and on other nautical forums, and a lot of GOOD work by our very special Florida Keys correspondent (and founder of BARR – Boaters’ Action Rights and Responsibilities), Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, we have a new set of Florida Keys anchorage regulations which will almost certainly be in effect by the winter 2012 – 2013 cruising season! HOWEVER, as you will see, this is not nearly as onerous as it initially sounds!
The discussion below is copied from the Cruisers’ Forum, and relates to the several anchorage opportunities adjoining an island which lies withing dinghy distance of Key West Bight. The charts name this isle, Wisteria Island, but all the locals refer to it as Christmas Tree Island.
We are currently behind Wisteria Island. The whole area is surrounded with boats. North of the Island east and west. The cityKWB marina maintains dinghy dock for 26 a week or 80 a month. Just pick a spot with enough swing, lotta boats.
Anchoring on the south side of wisteria (christmas tree) island will give you some shelter from the north but it’s rolly from wakes (especially in the early morn. when the charter boats go out). Holding is fair but use caution. It’s a short dink ride across the channel to the harbor where the dink dock is (payment enforcement haphazard… meaning you never know so just pay). note: going back across the channel in a northerly blow can be extremely rough and wet.
Also remember that K.W. has been pirate country for centuries… and still is. Use common sense and you will have a great time.
Just off of Christmas tree is the place to be. It’s convenient to the municipal docks & out of the way. There are areas where there is 8-10 inches of sand over limestone, and you will think you are dug in well but will drag like a mother in the first squall, so make certain you’re dug in.
Also, an open hatch is considered an invitation. A closed hatch with a big lock will generally be left alone.
Just take care that your anchor does not get stuck in the many custom made moorings around the island. I picked up an engine block once trying to haul anchor. Many derelict boats with questionable ground tackle all over.
Be careful of the shoal in the middle that looks like a great empty anchor spot.
However once you navigate all the above it is a great spot very close to KW and a much better location than the city mooring field. Never had issues with “piracy” in the many years I have gone there. Might be dumb luck though but I do lock up when I leave the boat.
Captain McSwain’s happy message below concerning Key West Bight City Marina, refers to an earlier report here on the Cruisers’ Net (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=85798), that described a reservation problem another captain had at this facility. We are pleased that Captain McSwain had a very dissimilar, and much more positive, experience at Key West Bight City Marina.
KW Bight is a City marina and the staff must enforce the rules that are created by the City. We stay in KW for several months each year and always have found the Marina staff some of the best we encounter in our 1000 mile annual cruise.
Hmmm, sounds like Captain Winkler should not have been charged, but, hey, that’s just my opinion.
I wish to make you aware of the unfortunate experience I had in March at Key West Bright Marina. I reserved a slip for my Acadia 25 boat for two nights beginning on a Tuesday and planned to be there for both nights. My friend and I left Burnt Store Marina Monday AM heading for Marco Is. then onto KW Bright on Tuesday. When we got into the gulf Monday we found that the 4 to 6 foot waves were more then we could handle safely for the trip and the NOAA forecast was the same through Wednesday. As soon as we changed plans in late morning I called both Marco Is. and KW Bright Monday to advise that the conditions did not allow safe passage and we needed to cancel our reservation. When I made that called, both of the dock-masters at Marco Is. and KW Bright thanked me for calling and agreed that the conditions there were not safe for a 25 ft boat and assured me that I would be credited for my deposit. KW Brights advance reservation agreement states that they require 48 hours cancellation, my call was 36+ hours ahead. 48 hours would have been Sunday while we were still at Burnt Store Marina.
Two weeks later, I noticed that my credit card still was showing the $88.69 reservation charge from KW Bright. I called them today to find out why the credit has not been issued. “YOUR CANCELLATION IS NOT WITHIN THE 48 HOUR TIME WINDOW THEREFORE WE CAN’T OFFER CREDIT TO YOUR CREDIT CARD”. The fact that the weather conditions were not safe does not matter “we’re not responsible”. They did try to offer a future credit should I wish to come in the next twelve months but being a snowbird and with other PGI cruise activities thats not a likely option.
I wish to caution that ALL boaters should be aware of KW Brights unreasonable policy regardless of boater safety. We didn’t just change our plans at the last
minute on a whim for another destination, if I had I would support the policy.
THINK TWICE ABOUT KEY WEST BRIGHT. I’m really saddened by this experience as we were looking forward to our visit at KW. In all my cruising of the Great Lakes
and here in SW FL this is the first bad experience I ever had when boater safety was the primary issue.
Odd that you were charged a deposit at all at either marina. We’ve done a lot of cruising and we have never had put one down or even give a credit card #.
Guess we won’t be going to KWB marina, we’ll stick with A & B. Expensive but had no problems.
I’m sorry to hear that I stayed there for 3 days last year.
Too much money for what you get. We are sailing to the Abaco’s Bahamas this year much nicer trip Key West is not worth the hassle.
Can’t say I’d agree. The marina is a business and a reservation prevents someone else planning to come. You committed to go and then changed your mind. Sounds like you didn’t check the forecast until you were out in the Gulf. The airlines don’t give refunds or room expenses when things are delayed due to weather.
If you’ve got a beef with the marina, I’d focus on the fact that you talked to them and they said they would refund you yet they did not. That would be the issue in my craw.
We have had earlier, laudatory postings here on the Net concerning the Key West city mooring field off Fleming Key (serviced through the Key West City Marina on Garrison Bight), but, speaking in my role as editor, I can tell you from personal experience that Captain Colket has a point in his remarks below. I guess it all depends on wind direction and speed, but I have been in this field when it was very comfortable, and at other times, we did a passable imitation of a Mexican jumping bean.
I must take exception regarding the Key West mooring field. I spent one December there. The nearest protection to the north is the Florida Panhandle. There was a persistent two foot chop the entire month, sometimes more. The dinghy ride to the dock was fun if you like getting soaked. By the way, they didn’t tell us the moorings do not have pendants attached. We arrived after the office closed, and had to put crew overboard to attach a line to the mooring. There have been many reports of boats dragging the moorings there. Nancy came close to going home, and I was one day away from giving the boat away by the time we found another location.
Garrison Bight Marina is a good alternative to the expensive marinas downtown. Best way to visit Key West is by car.
The inexpensive Key West Shuttle is one of the best ways for cruisers to get around ashore in this fascinating community. Thanks to Captain Bill for providing this great means to access info about this service.
Browse this site for all sorts of info on the Key West shuttle:
Note that seniors can ride one way for $.50. The shuttle does stop at the Key West Airport and many places in Marathon and Big Pine Key. You will need exact fare. The website has a number you can call for real time information (305-809-3910).
Well, it’s not the cheapest night’s entertainment I’ve ever come across, but it sure sounds like a LOT of historic FUN. Those fortunate cruisers who are visiting Key West this January, should seriously consider marking this event on their calendars!
Step back in time and enjoy an opulent night of period costumes, dinner, dancing and fireworks, celebrating the glories of the Flagler era. From 6-10 p.m. at the historic Casa Marina – A Waldorf Astoria Resort, located at 1500 Reynolds Street. Seats limited; 180 guests maximum. Tickets are to be available for purchase at the Flaglerkeys100 site. Cost per person: $100, includes one hour of open bar cocktails, dinner, beverages, fireworks as well as a silent auction to benefit Friends of Old Seven, a nonprofit organization formed as a community effort to save, enhance and maintain the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, a significant piece of railroad history. More details to follow, check:
Galleon Marina will be the first marina that will come abeam to your starboard side as you enter Key West Bight. This facility has an excellent reputation, and it certainly lies right in the heart of Key West!
Spent another month here (6/2011) as we try and do every year. John and his entire staff are welcoming and terrific at helping captains dock. Each slip holds ONE boat – no worries about hitting your slipmate! My husband waxes the hull each year during our stay. Close to all the action and super staff have made this our choice for over 10 years.
The corner of Catherine and Margaret Streets is a healthy walk, a touch under a mile, from the Key West Bight marinas — just the right amount to allow you to imagine you earned a really good meal at El Siboney, a homey Cuban restaurant that is the best Cuban food I’ve ever eaten. The walk back will also help, especially if you finished your meal.
We both ordered the garlic grilled half chicken with yellow rice, black beans and plantains. The folks at the next table looked over and said: Did you order the dinner special for four? Indeed, now that they mentioned it, that is what our two plates looked like and indeed, the leftovers provided a very nice second meal the next day. The chicken was crispy, appeared to be grilled under a weight or press of some sort giving it that special mix of crunch and smooth. We were two very happy campers. Black beans and rice were what they should be — flavorful, fresh and real. The plantains, crispy, caramelized and good enough to be dessert.
We hear they’ve opened a branch in Marathon in the shopping center across from the Publix. We are hoping one of you Salty Southeast Cruisers Net Subscribers will step up to the lunch plate and check it and let us know how it is. As for the Key West original? Fantastic and the prices are very modest for anywhere, not just for Key West. A huge lunch costs less than $10 per person. A reason to brave that last bit of Hawk Channel and sail to what some say is the edge of the known world.
PS: This was another Heidi Garbo of Garbo’s Grill recommendation — thank you Heidi!
S/V Lady Jane
There is something pleasingly ironic that worthy sushi is hard to find in Florida and in particular the Keys, so when Heidi Garbo, my favorite foodie informant in Key West and proprietor of Garbo’s Grill, told me there is superlative sushi here, she got my attention.
It’s a good thing I trust Heidi, because there is no way I would have spent good cold cash on sushi in a restaurant named Ambrosia that is on the site of a hotel named Santa Maria, and has a modernist sleek interior architecture that is the antithesis of Conch. In fact, I nearly turned around when I saw the front door, and nearly left when I passed the glass-looking-like-waterfall room dividers and followed the blond-haired waitress with an East European accent to our table.
We ordered sushi despite the menu offering several items I remember well from Japan and don’t often see on menus in the states. Salmon skin roll, a vegefuto roll (a scaled back futomaki), and the Ambrosia sushi for one. It was more than enough. The miso soup that quickly arrived at our tables was special. Beautiful broth, not too salty, sweet flavor of miso really there — not just salty water with a fat globule. Shitake mushroom slices… excellent quality tofu… I’m already a happy girl. Auspicious beginning to what turned out to be some of the finest sushi either of us has had.
The Ambrosia Sushi assortment on the menu at first glance looks pricey for $40, but if you look at how many pieces of sushi it includes, it’s actually almost a bargain. It’s plenty for two people to share if you can get past feeling like a cheep skate and doing the share. The salmon skin roll had perfectly crisped and crunchy salmon skin — fresh and perfect. This is a roll that is only good when it’s great, so I view it as a sushi test. The vegefuto was an excellent contrast to the salmon skin, slightly sweet pickled vegetable and small enough to make it more manageable than a futomaki, one of my personal favorite sushi rolls. We were so impressed we came back for lunch and focused on a few special rolls.
So much for judging a restaurant by its name, hotel ambiance and architecture. Extra bonus is that just down the street is the southern most point of the United States. You can stand on the sidewalk and if there’s a fresh breeze (that’s sailor speak for big uncomfortable wind) blowing, watch the waves splash over the retaining wall.
It’s a little over a mile’s walk to Ambrosia from the Key West Bight Marinas or you can take the Green bus on Caroline Street there and the Blue bus back. If you like sushi and Japanese food, this is a great excuse to see this part of Key West. Ambrosia is located at 1401 Simonton Street; they offer lunch from 11:30 to 2, Monday through Friday, including bento box and other lunch specials. They serve Dinner seven days a week from 6 to 10. From the action we saw on Saturday night, we recommend reservations on weekends. Wish I could tell you about the miso cod or the various home made dumplings — it’s just that we had a hankering for the rolls when we went back. If someone reading this review samples some of the other items on the menu, please post and share your experience.
S/V Lady Jane
Here’s a short article from our Florida Keys Correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd. This news will be of interest to anyone cruising to the Florida Keys from the Bahamas or other waters outside the USA!
March 9, 2011
Marathon, FL Keys – One Step Closer to Becoming International Port of Entry
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
Ryan McCarthy reported in today’s edition of the Keynoter that Governor Rick Scott has endorsed the city of Marathon’s efforts to become a Port of Entry for international travelers. It is documented in a letter sent by Governor Scott to U.S. Customs and Boarder Patrol on March 3rd. This is great news!
Locally, this has been a well-known pet project of Marathon City Councilman Dick Ramsay. With the possiblity of Cuba opening up to U.S. travelers, touting Marathon as a Port of Entry surely makes sense. Currently, international travelers arriving in Marathon (via air or sea) travel to Key West to check-in with U.S. Customs.
It would be highly ideal to have both the City of Marathon’s Airport as well as Boot Key Harbor serving as Ports of Entry. This would make compliance with checking in to U.S. Customs in a timely manner a much simpler process for those travelling by boat.
Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
“Bringing you the low down from down low!”
“Drink more Cuban coffee. Do stupid things faster!” is the slogan of this specialty food shack.
I have no idea what the slogan means, but I can tell you that the Cuban Coffee Queen makes wicked good black beans and rice with unctuous garlicky pork Mojo ($6) in a serving enough for two small women or one hungry man whose wife isn’t looking. My first mate says the Cuban tuna sandwich ($6) was good — a burger made from fresh not canned tuna. We both vouch for the Pina ($6) fruit smoothie drink of pineapple, banana, liquid from a young coconut and probably something else. You can also get a young coconut and a straw and drink the coconut liquid straight — that’s $6 despite a typo or old price on the paper menu stating $3.
Our favorite dock hand at the Conch House Marina recommended this signature Key West shack dining establishment, telling us it is known for its breakfasts and Cuban coffee and for offering one of the best lunches under $10 in town. We observed lots of folks looking very happy as they drank their coffee but have not personally tried it.
Free wifi, cute benches with Key West’s signature roosters painted on them and a good lunch for $6? Our vote? Excellent low-budget choice. We’ll be back for more black beans and rice and those smoothies. An especially nice touch is a window on the other side of the shack that says “Locals Only.” During the peak-lunch hour, service can be slow, but it does give you plenty of time to people and rooster watch.
No walls, no ceilings, no tables, entertaining signage, and great cheap food. It doesn’t get more Key West than this.
The Cuban Coffee Queen is between Caroline Street and the big sponge and conch store on the harbor walk.
S/V Lady Jane