October 4h, 2011
The Path Less Traveled: Finding Your Piece of the Pye!
N24 38.01 W81 25.20 – Newfound Harbor Anchorage
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
The summers here in the Keys can be quite hot and sticky. Definitely an understatement for anyone how has had the experience of being down here during the dog days of August! LOL During such hot times when the inboard generator is running more often than not, trying its best to supply we aboard September Sea with air conditioning, then it’s time to head to a marina for shore power. The decision is not a difficult one, as at that point it simply makes economic sense.
Then there are the amenities! Tennis courts (playing three times a week!), swimming pool, Tiki Bar, restaurant, oh wait…did I mention no dinghy rides during all that time? A dock! It is amazing, life’s simple pleasures. For September Sea, this is pretty much an annual routine for two to three months; yet still the difference from being out at anchor or mooring to marina life seems to always be fresh and new.
Each year, when it comes time to leave the marina, it also is fresh and new! The first Northeast winds of fall provide ample sail power. This makes for a great opportunity to go out sailing for a month or longer, as long as no hurricanes are an imminently possible threat. We usually stick to the Keys and the Gulf Stream to limit our sailing, cruising and gunkholing areas during this time. Doing so allows timely access to our hurricane hole up in the Everglades, should the need arise.
Throw off the lines and put away the power cords, September Sea is off on another adventure! We’re sailing west! September Sea’s first anchorage after leaving Boot Key Harbor was Newfound Harbor. Cruisers usually follow the eastern channel up into Newfound Harbor, which can mean a diversion of up to five miles (depending on the amount of protection from wind and weather one is seeking). However, this sailor has found that during this time of year, the western route up Niles Channel is very accommodating, easily accessible, and takes one not out of their way if merely stopping for an anchorage between Marathon and Key West. This is perfect for a midway point between the two.
Another advantage of this area is there are no anchoring setback restrictions due to power lines, as is the case on the other side. For September Sea’s 5’8 draft, anchoring on the Niles Channel side also means following my plotted course right in to anchor without thought of meandering through skinny waters.
Looking at the chart (to the right), it would appear exposure would be a problem. It really is not. Of course it is always prudent to what is happening with the weather and make sound decisions for anchoring based on that. Newfound Harbor offers many options, accordingly. At this location, the only real threat of exposure to fetch is from the South. That was not likely in any stretch of the imagination when choosing this locale. The surrounding waters of the area chosen to drop my hook (see the anchor I’ve indicated on the chartlet) are relatively shallow and greatly reduce the building of any northern fetch. The afternoon and night there was just glorious! Facing northeast, Little Palm Island is easily seen off to starboard, as well as a number of day trippers, moored and snorkleing at the Newfound Harbor Sanctuary Preservation Area directly off Little Palm. To port, hearty Fat Albert hovers high above Cudjoe Key; and Pye Island sits beautifully at my stern, giving me that “Gilligan’s Island” feeling of remoteness. Not another vessel anchored in the near vicinity, it was blissful and calm in every way. Heavenly, to say the least.
This is what is so fabulous about the waters of the Keys. It is all anchorage. Since the depths include much shallower waters, as this writer has touted to her readers many times before: using the shoals and shallows as protection from fetch just as you would a land mass, is something one should explore. Doing so opens up areas in which to anchor safely and comfortably, that at first glance would not seem to offer protection–but actually do!
Though the day was rather a dreary one, weather wise, and negated any opportunity for photographs as the rain poured down, my enthusiasm for this beautiful anchorage hopefully will draw you a vision for which you can strive. Or even better…look it up on Google Earth! Another tremendously valuable choice! That is what I love about the Keys: so many choices!
For we who like the tranquility and solitude after months of being in close proximity to other vessels, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction in finding your own serene and lovely “Piece of the Pye.” Pye Key, in this case! LOL
Next destination: Key West!
Charmaine Smith Ladd
SSECN Special Correspondent, Florida Keys
“Bringing you the low down from down low.”
Thank you again for a great opportunity.you understand how my 7′ limits close in anchoring.
I expect to be heading to kw in Jan .any anchoring suggestion?
Thanks for your comment! We draw 5’8 and know of many in the Keys with 6+ or even 7 foot drafts that can meander the Keys and find plenty of anchorage possibilities. One need only heed the charts to do so.
Remember, the draftier one’s vessel, the more important in the Keys to recognize that surrounding shoal waters can act as excellent protection from fetch. This is how September Sea finds herself in some great anchorages that other miss as they don’t recognize it as a great protected anchorage but instead see it as “open water.”
Bahia Honda, Newfound Harbor (using my chartlet above), Key Lois (ideal after a day out snorkeling or diving at Looe Key Reef) – though it is a “fair weather” anchorage, if you have great ground tackle you shouldn’t have a problem – Key West (I prefer the SW area off Fleming Key to anchor rather than the mooring field – it’s quite deep 25 ft in spots so make sure you have plenty of rode), Boca Grande (west of Woman Key) is a delightful idyllic spot…the list goes on. In the meantime, remember that ALL of the waters of the Keys are basically great anchorage when you heed your charts and learn to use surrounding shallows as protection when mangroves aren’t nearby. You don’t have to be close in to shore to get protection…at least not always, by any means.
Let me know if I can be of more help to you!
I think I see your name clearly now, many pardons! Key West has anchorage all along the west side of Fleming Key. You may want to look at that on the charts and pay particular attention to the area that is most SW of Fleming Key. There is plenty of water there (20 ft. depths), and a large expanse for anchoring, but one needs to peruse the charts to safely get in much closer proximity so that getting into the City docks isn’t so cumbersome (and wet during rougher weather). There are a few wrecks and shallow areas that are clearly marked on the charts and in the Harbor. However, noticing a few boats sitting aground illustrates that not all know the lay of the bottom around there. LOL The KW mooring field is open to the North and not my favorite, I prefer to anchor. Hope this is of help to you while you are in Key West.Bili, I think I see your name clearly now, many pardons! Key West has anchorage all along the west side of Fleming Key. You may want to look at that on the charts and pay particular attention to the area that is most SW of Fleming Key. There is plenty of water there (20 ft. depths), and a large expanse for anchoring, but one needs to peruse the charts to safely get in much closer proximity so that getting into the City docks isn’t so cumbersome (and wet during rougher weather). There are a few wrecks and shallow areas that are clearly marked on the charts and in the Harbor. However, noticing a few boats sitting aground illustrates that not all know the lay of the bottom around there. LOL The KW mooring field is open to the North and not my favorite, I prefer to anchor. Hope this is of help to you while you are in Key West.