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Salty Southeast
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Discussion of Depths in the Keys Inside Route, Florida Keys

There are two possible routes for cruising the Florida Keys, the offshore Hawk Channel passage, and the “Inside Route.” Hawk Channel features more, but not all, marinas, while the Inside Route offers the greatest bonanza of wonderful anchorages to be found anywhere in the Southeast. Trouble is that I have personally sounded 5 feet at low tide directly between the markers in places on the FL Keys inside route. Mind you, only in places, but nevertheless, this is a real concern for those piloting vessels that draw more than 4 feet. Skipper Zimmers expressed his concern in the question below and received several answers via the AGLCA Forum.

We are in Marathon and arrived here from Key Biscayne via Hawk Channel. We want to return on the ” inside” via the ICW from Marathon to Biscayne Bay. We have a Nordic Tug with a 4.5 foot draft. Is the ICW deep enough for that draft?? Thanks,
Herb Zimmers aboard GiddyAp

We draft 4 feet and have done it several times. Never had a problem.
Steve and Gina Smith
M/V Island Time

Herb, You should have no problem. Just pay attention to your charts and stay in the channels through the cuts. Those are the places you can get into trouble if you get distracted.
Chuck Baier

Try to go on a rising tide
Mike and Rosie

I carry a five foot draft and the last time I went the inside route, I ran hard aground right around marker `60’³ on a low tide. I could see I was scraping the bottom for a mile for finally stopping. I used my dingy to heel me over and got loose and never touched bottom again.
On a high tide, I wouldn’t have touched anywhere.
R. Holiman

We did the inside from Biscayne Bay to Marathon. We draw 4 ft and at low tide we had some mud in our wake near R80 to Steamboat channel. What was more of a problem was the crab pots and now some are marked with green, brown and blue floats. Our friend had his boat hauled yesterday and the props were wrapped with a bushel basket full of ropes. I may have been out of the channel sometimes but it seems the pots are in the ICW with no regard for boats.
May be the prop shops are paying the crabbers to place the green floats in the ICW:)
Sonny Reeves

We just arrived in Marathon from Key Biscayne. Our Cabo Rico draws 4’10’³. Although we encountered some less than 5′ depths, we made it through with no drama. We did time our passages through channels with the tides.

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