FL Keys Cruising News – Hawk Channel, Sombrero Key to Key West
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
This report from Key West Harbour was posted on AGLCA’s Forum by Skipper Favors. Key West Harbour’s marked entry channel cuts northwest off the Boca Chica Key channel between markers #5 and #7.
We’ve stayed at Key West Yacht Harbour on Stock Island for month stretches and would recommend it for consideration. They have a pool, exercise room,restaurant and bar and there prices are a bargain compared to downtown. If you have a car you’re in good shape for getting around but without a caryou have to rely on buses, bikes or taxi.
Jim & Lisa Favors – Kismet
Ranger Tug R27
Although Stock Island Marina has been operating for several years, the completed marina village has just had its official grand opening. The marina, along Shrimp Road, occupies the westerly shores of Safe Harbor, north of marker #5.
The facility consists of 128 floating docks, a dog park, community garden, high-speed fuel pump, gym, laundry facilities, bathrooms with showers, lounge area, bar and restaurant, pool, nature trails, retail fish house and an 80-room ’boutique fish camp.’
For the complete article as posted on KeysInfoNet, go to:
While a very nice, much needed Marina in the Key West Area, Cruisers should be aware that although the floating concrete docks are wide and convenient, there are no pilings between the slips. Docking in a stiff wind could be challenging if the wind is blowing your vessel away from the finger pier and into the adjoining vessel. The slips are basically `side to’ !
Newfound Harbor provides the best collection of anchorages off Hawk Channel between Marathon and Key West. The channels are well marked, and any cruiser with a chart plotter and/or good DR navigation can find a host of good spots to drop the hook.
I was pleasantly surprised today while anchored out in Newfound Harbor in the FL Keys. We were on our way back from Dry Tortugas to Marathon, but the winds and seas were supposed to pick up so we pulled into one of our favorite anchorages in Newfound Harbor. It looked like we would be stuck here for a while and we were getting concerned about our holding tank. On Friday morning we hear a boat come by and ask if anyone is on board. We thought it was just someone being friendly, but when we look it is a boat marked as a pump-out boat. They gave us a free pump out funded by FL registration fees. They said all I had to do was register and I could get a pump-out every week, free, paid for by the state of FL. I filled out the simple form and they pumped me out at no cost, but they were happy when I tipped them. They said they offer this service from Islamarada to Key West, and their web site is http://po-keys.com/
I am very happy to see this happening in Monroe County and hope that this spreads throughout the world.
Thank you so much for the brief on the Hawk channel pumpout! Living some distance away but planning on sailing through Florida next spring all I have been reading made one feel that conchs had had it with tourist and planned on making it as difficult as possible to sail without going outside! This story indicates that that thinking was just crazy, thank you so much.
Capt. Jerry Robbins
With special permission from KeysNet.com (http://www.keysnet.com), we have reprinted a portion of his article below. The marina which is the subject of this article lies on the Hawk Channel side of Stock Island, just north of Key West.
Having personally visited this facility several times within the last five years, it did indeed seem to be a bit down on its luck. Hopefully, with the purchase described below, everything will return to first-class status in short order!
Local developer buys iconic marina
Singh plans $25M upgrade, 80 new condos at Oceanside
One of the Florida Keys’ most successful developers will purchase one of the Keys’ most iconic marinas.
Pritam Singh will close on a deal today to purchase Oceanside Marina, on Stock Island, for $5 million from BB T Bank, he told The Citizen on Wednesday. Singh said he plans to invest another $25 million into the marina for repairs and upgrades, including 80 new condos and a restaurant.
“It (the marina) was ‘the’ place, and it can be again,” Singh said. “It was a jewel among the marinas of Key West. It was the premier sportfishing marina of the Florida Keys. There have been more world records from boats out of here than anywhere else in the country.”
Millionaire Texas oil men Tex Schramm and Clint Murchison built the marina in the late 1960s, Singh said.
The marina fell on hard times since its glory years. In early 2010, BB T Bank took the deed for the property in lieu of foreclosure from the Cortex Cos., which had changed the name to Kings Pointe Marina.
The group who managed the marina for the bank changed the name back to Oceanside in 2011.
Singh admitted that the marina needs a lot of work to bring it back to its heyday. One entire boat barn needs to be leveled, and the seawalls and boat ramp are in dire need of repairs, he said.
Rows of boat slips will remain untouched, as the slips were sold to individual owners. Singh said he purchased 8 acres of upland and 4 acres of bay bottom.
He has been working with Monroe County planning staff for the past several months to determine how much development can occur there. But he added that he plans to keep it a sportfishing marina.
“The saying is, ‘The legend is back,'” Singh said. “It’s beautiful. It’s an extraordinary site.”
Singh called Stock Island an up-and-coming community with a lot of potential. He cited the success of restaurateur Bobby Mongelli, who owns Hogfish Bar Grill and Roostica on Stock Island.
He also referenced the changes being made on Shrimp Road, on the other side of Safe Harbor, by the owners of Stock Island Marina Village, who have built a dog park and community garden on their property, extended their piers and are looking at building a hotel on Safe Harbor.
“Stock Island is great,” Singh said. “It is fabulous.”
Doesn’t sound like sailors will be appreciated. Maybe I’ll add a tuna tower!
Has Royer s/v Skye
Newfound Harbor Northern Anchorage lies north of marker #8, hard by the tip of the charted tongue of deep water. Captain Mickey reminds us that this anchorage is a restricted area from the southern tips of Little Torch Key and Little Pine key. Note B of the NOAA chart states “No anchoring by sailboats or other masted vessels due to the presence of high tension power lines.” There are three additional anchorages south of the restricted area which ARE open to sailcraft and other masted vessels – see link below.
Masted vessels are not allowed here. They have white PVC markers and a sign. As soon as I anchored a small boat came out and informed me of the markers and signs. Designated anchorage is to right of the markers as you approach from the south.
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.
Another wonderful article by our very special Florida Keys correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd. In this story, we follow Captain Charmaine and “September Sea” from their home base in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor to Key West. Along the way, we meet some of the very special anchorages that lie along this route.
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.
The Bahia Honda Channel/State Park anchorage, which is the subject of Captain Charmaine’s article below. lies west of Marathon, and can only be entered from the Hawk Channel side, as a low level bridge prevents access from the Inside/ICW route. Even vessels approaching from Hawk Channel must cruise through a narrow section of the old Bahia Honda Bridge, where a short section of the span has been removed to facilitate navigation. We already have a “Navigation Alert” set at this old span, due to an entry in the Local Notice to Mariners about the bridge deteriorating.
Now, Captain Charmaine gives us even more to think about in regards to this anchorage. Follow the second link below Charmaine’s article to view this anchorage in Chart View!
March 29th 2011
The Beauty and Dangers of Bahia Honda Anchorage
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
Bahia Honda Key is gorgeous. There’s something there for everyone at this incredible State Park. There is an RV Park, Marina (albeit for shallower drafted vessels), lots of nature trails, nearly 3-1/2 miles of paved road for jogging, biking, and walking. There are steps set between lush palms where you can walk atop the old railroad bridge and see captivating views for miles! Bahia Honda also boasts 2-1/2 miles of natural white sand making several beautiful beaches that are hard to best. The crescent beach of the anchorage is lovely. There is a comfy beach house for changing and outdoor showers to rinse off the saltwater after a relaxing swim. The Keys has never been known for its beaches. Bahia Honda puts us on the “beach” map!
The ample anchorage is set between the remains of the old Henry Flagler Railroad (destroyed by the famous 1935 Labor Day Hurricane) and highway U.S. 1. In fair weather, this anchorage is ideal with its plethora of breathtaking foliage and million-dollar views of the beach. Once you’ve anchored, remember the current can be swift between the bridges, so don’t be too quick to jump into the water and swim to the nearby beach until you know it is safe to do so. You can also dinghy over to the friendly marina and tie up there. It is a short and enjoyable walk to the beach.
In the anchorage, there is great protection from the east. However, any foul weather from the North or South can blow inadequately secured boats into one of the bridges. This has occurred many times in the past. But it does not have to happen.
Last night (March 28th), it was reported that a sailing vessel was dismasted while anchored in Bahia Honda. A squall of weather blowing NNE hit the Keys around 22:30 with sustained winds of 25 knots, gusts up to 40. Before going to Bahia Honda to anchor, one must realize that even though the weather forecast may be for sunshine and lollipops; sudden and fast moving squalls do begin to occur this time of year. Bahia Honda anchorage, in the opinion of this writer, is fabulous if limited to a day sail as the month of March ends and the squally weather and winds begin.
The report on the VHF from the Coast Guard said the boat was was taking on water and possibly sinking. With the wind direction, the vessel must have blown from south to north and hit the old Flager bridge. The old pilings there are quite substantial, a fiberglass hull is simply no match for those mammoth pilings. It was later stated that two passengers were soon rescued from the vessel in peril. At this time it is not known whether or not the vessel sank. It is great to know no one was hurt in what undoubtedly was a life-threatening situation.
It is not clear whether or not the vessel had a working engine. On that note, it is unwise for any vessel without motor capability to anchor in the Bahia Honda anchorage. In the past, many a vessel without engines have sailed into Bahia Honda to wait for more favorable winds. As my mother used to say, “Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it…and all that comes with it.” That adage is a good one. This time of year one may very well get far more winds than wished for. Without a working engine one would be at the mercy of the winds. There is no mercy when anchored in between two bridge spans with no means to otherwise maneuver.
The bottom line here is that this is just another one of the many horror stories people have read or heard about Bahia Honda’s Anchorage. Truly, there is a time for everything. With knowledge and attention, one can anchor there with no problems at all. September Sea has been there at least ten times staying as long as a week to ten days and we have never had a problem with holding. And yes, we have encountered a few storms before realizing there is a time of year not to anchor there! But we never dragged there–however, lots of other boats certainly did while we were there! We always anchor close to the beach where the sand and grass are plentiful and the difficult rocky bottom as far behind us as possible. We do not anchor in Bahia Honda overnight this time of year as hurricane season grows nearer.
Be informed. Bahia Honda is wonderful!! One must use their head so their vessel and passengers will stay safe. You will love Bahia Honda’s anchorage, but at the right time of year and for the proper length of stay. In the Keys during this time of year one must watch the weather many times a day. If you don’t have radar, use NOAA weather on the VHF. In any anchorage in the Keys one can usually hail another vessel on either VHF 16 or 68 to inquire about weather. And don’t forget to use your instincts. Last night I noticed the breeze had cooled significantly. That was all the notice needed to turn on the VHF NOAA weather forecast and check radar.
Bahia Honda. Beautiful, captivating, and wonderful for the entire family…but anchoring there can indeed be dangerous when not fully informed.
Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
SSECN Correspondent – Florida Keys
“Bringing you the low down from down low!”
Great article on one of our absolute favorite anchorages. No trip to the Keys is complete without a log entry for Bahia Honda, even if it is just for lunch!
All of the above stated is true. From the beauty of the park and beaches to the dangers of the anchorage.
I did spend a night there in the squall conditions described above.
However since I had read about the strong currents I had two anchors down not even considering that there might be a squall. The winds that night were predicted ENE which would be from behind the island giving us protection if they increased. But the squalls came from the ESE where there was no protection, surprise, surprise. We got pounded on an off for hours in the middle of the night. Sitting under the dodger in the companionway all the while I was thinking, if I drag I’m going to drag into that bridge.
But since my anchors are over sized and one rode is all chain, with plenty of scope out we did not drag.
I night to remember.
I was there on the night of March 28th, having just returned from Cuba. The boat that hit the bridge was a 22 foot Pacific Seacraft. His engine was not working properly and he went back very quickly once he started dragging, although he tried to let more scope out ‘“ I had a spotlight on him to assist. The boat was not dismasted and Boat US was there to take he and his wife off the boat, which was then towed back into the anchorage and re-anchored, then towed to a marina the next day. I myself dragged onto the beach that evening and had to be towed off by boat US, and again was re-anchored well out where my boat comfortably handled the conditions.
The safe part of this anchorage is well off the beach, where the current has not scoured the sand and it is possible to get decent holding. Close to the beach is NOT where you want to be despite what the OP says ‘“ the current rips through there and with the right winds, will pull your anchor out as it did mine. This by the way is the advice that Boat US will give you as well.
I would have thought a 4 1/2 foot draft sailcraft could have made use of the northern Newfound Harbor Channel Anchorage, but I’m glad sailing vessel Arkeoo found a good overnight stop in the more southerly Newfound Harbor haven
Found that the depths were not there for a 4’6’³ draft and we quickly retreated to the other Newfound Harbor anchorages which were fantastic. Very little boat traffic.
This is one of my favorite anchorages in the Keys and 360 degree protection. On a nice day you can go out to Looe Key right there in the Atlantic and just grab a free government mooring ball and dive or snorkel the excellent reef, have lunch, etc. Also, we love to dinghy under the Keys Highway bridge from the harbor and dock the dinghy at the Parrotdise Grill for their excellent lobster reuben sandwich.
There is a dive boat from one of the scuba dive places there that goes through the harbor on their way from the gulf side of the bridge to Looe Key and they will stop at your boat and pick you up, take you diving and drop you off at your boat on the way home. Very cool and great diving.
Nice post Steve. Always good to get back to some of those old haunts and spend time with family.Thanks for sharing.
Due to a low level bridge, the anchorage described below cannot be entered by any save small craft from the Florida Keys Inside Route (west of Marathon, also known as the “Back Route to Key West). However, as the Florida DOT has remove a portion of the old Bahia Honda bridge, it is possible for careful mariners to access this haven from Hawk Channel. Just don’t approach any other part of the old span too closely. Follow the link below to discover why!
Great anchorage with sandy beach and walking trails at the state park. Currents are strong, but a good Delta with chain worked great. We would not suggest this site with any north winds as it makes for an uncomfortable, sleepless night. Make sure you go to the beach on the Atlantic side for a beautiful sunset.
The anchorage reviewed below is located off Hawk Channel, far closer to Marathon than Key West. There are also several additional anchorages in the immediate region you might consider. Follow the third link below for more choices.
Fantastic, quiet anchorage. The entrance is between 50 and 50A on Hawks Channel. (Directly SE of the channel is some of the best snorking in the Keys, Looe Key.) When entering the channel, keep R”2″ 200′ to starboard. You will pass ritzy Little Palm Island resort (formerly known as Munson Island). It’s so expensive, you’re not even allowed to look at the island or they send you a bill (http://www.littlepalmisland.com). After passing, R”4″, head to G”5″ as there is a shoal in the middle of the channel. After passing G”5″ bear NE to R”6″. We dropped anchor just N of R”6″ (24 38.936N 081 22.637W) There are several unoccupied sailboats permanently anchored and you can drop the hook anywhere. There is no boat traffic to speak of except the small wodden vessel “The Truman” that ferries between Little Palm Island and the mainland.
The posting below was copied from the Cruisers Forum (http://www.CruisersForum.com). I suspect one of the marinas on Stock Island that Captain Lorenzo is referring to is Safe Harbor Marina. This is a truly laid back sort of place!
What a lovely stay we had in Key West. We highly recommend staying at one of the marinas on Stock Island, quiet laid back with great restaurants, fresh seafood right off the boat, and the price is right. If you don’t mind staying at a boatyard or have some work to do, check out Robbies on Shrimp Rd.
Now we’re off to Cape Cod for some real lobster.
Due to a low bridge, it is only possible for cruising size craft to access both the Bahia Honda State Park Marina, and the nearby anchorage, from the Hawk Channel side. Even then, you must run through a removed section of the old bridge that still stretches from Bahia Honda to Pine Island.
Another one of our favorite places in the Keys. After the concession upped the dockage fees a few years ago, there are usually few boats in the basin. We especially enjoy riding bikes to Sandspur Beach, the nature trail there, watching the sun set from the old bridge and spending some beach time. There is also a small nature center and ranger programs during the week. There are usually boaters who have trailered in their boats and who thus have vehicles, who are willing to give one a ride to the Winn Dixie in Big Pine (we have made the trip by bike but not recommended). The tide is about two feet so boats with a draft of 4-5 feet can get into the basin close to high tide ‘“ once in the depths are fine.
Below is a very informative and interesting string of messages copied from the T&T (Trawlers and Trawlering) list about cruising from Marco Island in southwestern Florida, to either Marathon or Key West, then north to Miami or possibly even the Okeechobee Waterway. There’s tons of useful cruising tips here, over a wide ranging swath of waters.
I am interested in information related to leaving Marco Island and rounding the bottom of Florida, possible crossing over to the Hawk Channel at Seven Mile bridge. Anyone with experience, ideas, help? Thanks.
“Cavalier” Island Packet SP Cruiser
We did just that about 2 years ago. It seems like yesterday but unfortunately that is a long time ago in cruising days. Our boat draws 4.5 feet and I would love to leave again tomorrow and do it in the same boat.
We made our way from Marco to Little Shark River, anchored there and left for 7 mile bridge. The water is skinny but you will get used to 9-10 feet and you will make it. Picking good weather is important. Many crab traps but just work your way through them. Go slow in places where dodging them is difficult and faster in open areas. Uneventful in crossing under 7 mile bridge. We had no tidal problems but I have heard of significant tidal flow so you probably should check the tidal flow times before leaving.
We did Hawk Channel to and from Key West. Plenty of water, of course, but we experienced extraordinarily rough water. When the wind direction is from off shore the long fetch can make things uncomfortable. Hawk Channel provides easy access to the Key West area but in my opinion, it is not worth it if the water is rough. Hawk channel is not close enough to land to say you saw any local color of the keys.
Now, if I had it to do again, I would take the bay side to key west. I have never been that way so do not have any direct experience but have heard many good things. Also have traveled by car to many places on the bay side and easily see why others rave about the “local color”.
You didn’t say what your draft is and that can be a factor in this part of the world. Also, you didn’t say how long you plan to be gone or when you want to leave.
Morning Star only draws 3-1/2 ft and we regularly leave Marco via Coon Key Pass. That makes a stop at Everglades City a short hop. Or you can continue on to Little Shark River for an overnight. The run from Little Shark to Marathon is not long and we have never found it to be particularly shallow. There are a few “banks” to avoid but they are well marked and if you are paying attention there won’t be a problem.
From Marathon, you can pass under the Seven-Mile Bridge at Moser Channel or you can go east up the ICW on the Florida Bay side or you can head west to Key West via Big Spanish Channel.
If you are contemplating Florida Bay, know that a strong northerly will blow a lot of water out of the Bay.
Finally, if your goal is to do the “South Florida Loop”, a trip we highly recommend, I would do the Okeechobee leg first and head south from Stuart. That way when you leave Miami and head down the Keys the prevailing wind will be at your back.
We traveled directly from Naples to Key West on the Gulf. It was 122nm dock to dock and an easy run, although we did travel at a faster speed than usual. We left Naples at 7AM, navigated the crab pots and then never saw another pot nor another boat until we neared Key West! Took the Hawk Channel from Key West to Marathon.
ONE OLIVER II
Both the Bahia Honda anchorage and Bahia Honda Florida State Park, are accessible for cruising size craft only from Hawk Channel. Small craft can reach these waters from the inside route by passing under a low, fixed bridge, but larger vessels must enter through a gap in the old Pine Island – Bahia Honda Key Bridge, from the Hawk Channel.
While Captain Jim is quite correct about the strong currents which plague this anchor down spot, we still see people dropping the hook here all the time. The “State Park marina” is small, but it does feature a sheltered harbor.
Dont risk anchoring here, pay a few bucks and tie up dockside at the State Park marina. The tide rips between both bridges and you will flip direction every time the tide changes. The current is so strong under the old abandoned bridge that you need to be on a plane in a power boat at peak ebb tide to pass under it ! The north bridge has little vertical clearnace and the abandoned railroad bridge has concrete piers every 100′, so if your anchor slips you will be sanded with concrete.
I have anchored here, while the currents are strong, the holding is very good and our all chain rode kept us dug in well along with a few other boats during 30-40 knot squalls from the south one night. we didn’t drag and I didn’t see anyone else that did.
And the state park is very nice for hiking, swimming, sunbathing, bathrooms, showers, snack bar, gift shop etc. they have a tour boat that goes out to the reefs and other amenities. I look forward to returning.
Dinner Key Marina
The anchorge hard by Bahia Honda State Park, lies northeast of the low-level fixed bridge. You can dinghy under the bridge, and find your way to the small, basin-line harbor which serves Bahia Honda State Park. Don’t get caught here in strong northern, northeastern or northwestern winds.
More on this anchorage at: /75-bahia-honda-key-anchorage-2
June 2009, anchored here two nights. Found fair holding in gras and shallow sand over rock. Good in S, SE, E winds. Exposed in other wind directions. Current not bad. Short ride in dinghy into Bahia Honda Park. As Floridians, we were not impressed with the beach at the park
Is anyone else aware of the “new law” described below by Captain George below.?If so, please share what you know by sending e-mail to me at CruisingWriter@CruisersNet.net.
Subject: Power Line Anchoring Law
Cruising News: We anchored in Newfound Harbor off Little Torch Key (Near marker #8) In the morning a local sailor in a catboat told us that a new Florida law forbids anchoring within one mile of power lines and carries a $300 fine. We wonder if other readers are aware of such a law?
Here is the definitive to the question of a “new powerline anchoring law,” provided by Captian Lee Oldershaw, of the Sailing Association of Marco Island:
Subject: Newfound Harbor Anchoring restrictions
Cruising News: Newfound Harbor is the only area in the state where the FWC regulates anchoring of tall masted vessels because of the mutual danger to powerlines and vessels there.
68D-24.144 Monroe County Boating Restricted Areas.
(1) For the purpose of regulating the anchoring of vessels in and adjacent to the Newfound Harbor Channel (also known as Pine Channel) within Monroe County, the following boating restricted area is established:
Newfound Harbor Channel (Pine Channel) ‘“ Anchoring of all sailboats and other vessels with masts is prohibited in Newfound Harbor Channel (Pine Channel), shoreline to shoreline, between Big Pine Key and Little Torch Key, from the centerline of U.S. Highway 1 south to a line drawn from the southernmost point on Little Torch Key to the southernmost point on Big Pine Key (a distance approximately 6,000 feet south of the centerline of U.S. Highway 1). If the overhead power lines are removed, the zone established in this paragraph shall no longer be in force or effect.
44. The other anchor down spot you might select between Marathon and Key West is Saddlebunch Harbor. Can someone who has been here recently please give us your impressions of this anchorage?
Saddlebunch Harbor is one of our favorites. ItÊ¼s especially great if you enjoy watching F18s take off over your mast. Four or five boats fit in, the entrance channel is well marked, but itÊ¼s best to have someone on the bow at the outer marker
Bob & Toni Dorman