Cruising the Florida Keys In A Deeper Draft Vessel
Below, Cruisers Net visitors will discover a SUPERB article about cruising the Florida Key, and particularly the waters around Marathon, in deeper draft vessels, author by Captain Charmine Smith Ladd, our regular Florida Keys correspondent!
April 15th 2009
The Florida Keys & Deeper Drafts
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
Often, I’m asked about deeper drafts and the problems encountered when navigating the waters of the Florida Keys.
There are actually many sailboats with drafts of 7’+ in the Florida Keys. They come and go as their lesser draft counterparts, they simply watch the tides and their charts. Most of us do that anyway.
Getting in and out of Boot Key Harbor has been an issue for any draft over 5-1/2′ since Hurricane Wilma silted much of the entrance channel. A decent sized engine can power right through it, the bottom is very soft.
The controlling depth of Boot Key Harbor is at least 8-11′ in the mooring areas. If you draw over 6′ it would be wise to let the Marathon City Marina know you need plenty of water. When coming into the
Harbor with a deeper draft, don’t use the dogleg of the channel inside the Harbor. It can get quite shallow in that part of the channel as water often blows out of it. Instead, stay heading east (straight ahead) after clearing the bascule bridge (the bridge is permanently locked in the open position at all times now) and go through the middle of the mooring field.
If you are going to either B-Dock of The Sombrero Dockside Marina or over to Sombrero Lighthouse Marina, pay close attention to the area immediately north of The Sombrero Dockside’s dining area. It can get very skinny there. Make sure you’ve got a nice high tide when navigating through there with a deeper draft. Once again, it’s mainly silt…but it sure is disheartening to hear the low water alarm blaring. LOL
Beware of the grassbeds which are clearly marked but have overgrown those markers in the silted in areas we again owe to Hurricane Wilma. Give the grassbeds wide respect.
All marinas inside Boot Key Harbor have plenty of water at their slips for deeper draft vessels. No worries there.
September Sea draws 5’8 and we’ve lived and sailed down here in the Keys for seven years. We go in and outside of Boot KeyHarbor often and enjoy the beautiful sailing and cruising areas all along the Keys.
When we first arrived, we were told so often by others to stay away from Bayside as it would be too shallow for us. As I type this, I’m anchored on Bayside (predominately 8-9-10 ft. water depths) loving the solitude away from the daily routine hustle surrounding marinas and harbors.
There is no problem with a 6-1/2 ft. draft or even deeper when in the Keys or southern Florida. Sure, there are many marina areas in the Keys on Bayside you won’t be able to get into, but you do have lots of other options. Check your charts and you’ll see there is plenty of water as well as other facilities that can handle your draft. Simply pay attention and avoid the areas and places too shallow for your vessel.
So don’t be shy! Come on down here to the Keys and enjoy the turquoise waters of the Caribbean right here in the good ole US of A.
Charmaine Smith Ladd, SSECN’s Regional Correspondent for the Florida Keys, bringing you “The Low Down from Down Low.”
Hey Charmaine’¦ how about Bowlegs Cut, Steamboat Channel, and the other rumored `shallow spots’ on the inside route? I’m interested in taking the inside route all the way from Miami, but I keep hearing that depths are less than 4′ in some of these notorious spots. Comments ???