Rodriguez Key Anchorage (Hawk Channel – Key Largo)
Captain Jane’s observations on this anchorage mirror my own experiences. It’s fine if you must anchor near to Hawk Channel, as long as the weather does not get to agitated. Give me a well sheltered Florida Key Anchorage on the inside route very time, but, with the draft of Captain Jane’s vessel, that would be an iffy proposition at best.
Sometimes you don’t want to stop and savor the swells of Hawk Channel and just want to get to Marathon — especially if your vessel draws 5 feet or more. With Pennekamp State Park now off limits to boats drawing more than 4 1/2 feet, according to the ranger who answered the phone the two times we have asked, that leaves safe harbors few and far between for many cruising boats.
Rodriguez Key anchorage took good care of us during a small craft advisory one December night. Yes, we rocked enthusiastically when the front came in but we didn’t drag. We chose a spot in the charted anchorage on the island’s north side, close enough to be in her lee. Another vessel was quite a distance north of the island. She was there in the morning in apparently the same position as at sunset.
We experienced excellent holding in 8 1/2 feet of water– winds were gusting at 20. North swells made it not my favorite experience but tolerable. I’ve experienced far less comfortable southern swells at Indian Key and similar conditions at Pumpkin Key. We set two anchors, a Fortress and a plow.
It might have been more comfortable on the south side of the island, where another sailboat anchored that night, but I’m not sure as the swells in Hawk Channel are difficult to hide from. The NOAA predictions had been so wrong that day, it was difficult to know which side to choose.
We met some experienced skippers who use this anchorage every crossing. It certainly makes possible a two-day trip between Dinner Key and Marathon which can be useful in a period of frequent cold fronts when three-day weather windows can be hard to find.
In short, Rodriguez Key is a swell anchorage (pun intended) with excellent holding. The charted shoal on the eastern point appears to be marked by small floats. In a blow, set two anchors and bring plenty of ginger snaps.
S/V Lady Jane