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Salty Southeast
Cruisers' Net
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Florida Keys Inside Route Discussion

Over the week of August 13-18, several posts appeared on the T&T (Trawlers and Trawlering) Mail List concerning the general cruising characteristics of the Florida Keys Inside route. Those messages are reproduced below. Incidentally, the entire SSECN staff highly recommends the T&T list if you own one of these roomy, fuel efficient vessels.
Just to add my 23 cents worth, I have always considered a 5-foot draft to be the cutoff for safe cruising of the Florida Keys inside route. On numerous occasions, I have sounded 5-feet directly between the markers in the Key Largo region, particularly where the main channel passes the marked entrance to Tavernier Creek.
If your vessel draws 5-feet or preferably less, don’t let these soundings discourage you. Some of the most wonderful anchorages, not to mention the views, you will ever enjoy lie off the FLK inside route!

Looking for info on the practicability of taking the inside route from Miami to Marathon.
I draw 5 feet. What is the opinion of the boaters that have done this route. Is it doable?

We’ve done the inside route and we draw 4’9″. Never had a problem, but then we watch the water, not a screen. It is marked adequately. Neither Jill or I can recall anyplace where another 3″ would have made a difference. There is a tide down there, though I doubt it is much more than 2 feet. If those 3″ might make a difference, plan to transient at high tide during a new or full moon, might want to consider spring tides too.
Briney Bug- Panama City, Fl

I have gone the inside route from Miami to Marathon a number of times, both in Pooh (draft 4’8″) and my previous sailboat with 5′ draft. Should be little problem. Not to say the water isn’t skinny; we often are reading
depths of 5.0 to 5.2 feet on parts of this route (shallowest is just north of Islamorada), but haven’t touched bottom.
Steamboat Pass, just south of Islamorada used to be a problem, but this has been dredged and is now good for around 6 feet (deep water ;-).
Mark Richter

Sorry Larry, but I disagree. I carry 5′ draft and have soft grounded in the center of the channel on two different trips on the inside route several years apart. I won’t try it a third time.

Time of year can make quite a difference. In the winter, northers will blow water out of Florida Bay. But don’t let that discourage you. It’s wonderful cruising!
Randy Pickelmann
Morning Star

The trick is to wear polarized sun glasses, use you eyes.
The water is usually clear, and it looks scary shallow, it is, but with 5 ft u can make it.
The channels are well marked. The tide is about 6 inches in the upper keys,wind can effect water levels more than the tide.
Go for it!
See you in paradise!
Capt. Sterling

I don’t know where Mr. Kennedy traveled in the ICW on the inside, we have found the inner passage from Miami to Spanish Key to be a chalky green only rarely clear. We obey the day markers backed up by GPS. If your draft is 6-plus you are cruising for a bruising. If you need Sea Tow they are not allowed to move you until the environmental police arrive. The fines are prodigious..
We have made the trip back and forth seven different times of the year. Mr. Kennedy obviously has had a different experience.
One thing is beyond dispute If you need Sea Tow you are in bad trouble
Peter Denton
Susie Q
42′ Draft 4′

Now that I know that Captain Sterling runs a tourist boat in the Keys, I must defer to his greater experience. I guess I was there at the wrong time. But it remains true that if you are passing over water that is 4,5or 6 feet it is impossible to tell the difference even if the water is crystal clear. Several of the passes are that shallow. Call me naive but I advise extreme caution. Remember you do not have advantage of some one who has local Knowledge.
Peter Denton
Susie Q

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