Captains Lloyd and McKane offer good advice and recommendations of routes and stops on the sail from Marco Island to Marathon, as originally posted on the AGLCA Forum, www.greatloop.org.
From Sanibel Island I usually head for Naples, then you can take an inside route behind Marco Island. Charted depth is 4′ but depth increases by 3′ at high tide. Pay attention after Bear Point bridge as daymark colors switch sides. A red daymark appears to be out of position but it is not! Definitely stop at Goodland, an old-time fishing village that is a marked contrast to the rest of Marco Island. Calusa Island Marina is within walking distance of restaurants.
Some boaters recommend Everglades City but I usually go directly from Goodland to Little Shark River in Everglades National Park. This area of the park consists of mangrove Islands and hardwood hammocks, not acres of sawgrass that one usually associates with the Everglades. There is a very protected anchorage about 1.5 miles up river.
I recommend a direct route from Little Shark River to Seven Mile Bridge and stop at Marathon.
For weather we used the National Weather Service’s graphical forecast tool for Florida (http://graphical.weather.gov/sectors/florida.php#tabs). It shows wind, wave, precip forecasts in an easy format.
As for going to Marathon, we overnighted at Middle Cape near Cape Sable which allowed us to get an early start. You get good protection and comfort when the wind is coming in from the E or NE. Some other loopers stayed at Snake River and left from there. In either case, stay inside the park’s waters as long as possible to stay away from the crab pot markers.
For the passage, it is pretty much a straight run from market MG off Cape Sable to John Sawyer Bank (about 20 NM). Actually it’s not really a straight run. Florida Bay is covered/littered/blanketed with crab pot markers and requires a lot of weaving left and right. Take extra care navigating this area. I spoke with 2 other loopers in the past month who
got their props fouled. We are staying at the Boathouse Marina and love it. It’s across from Vaca Cut, about 4 miles from Publix, etc. Have a safe voyage.
Bob & Loretta McKane