Overnight boarding is an option if you are arriving in Miami the day before your charter. If you arrive by 1 pm we can do your check out and you could get your boat provisioned then head out for an evening of dining and people watching on exotic SouthBeach.
Day 1: KEY LARGO, HAWK CHANNEL
This morning if you get an early start you can head for the South end of KEY LARGO . You depart our marina and exit into the ocean sailing Sough for the entrance to HAWK CHANNEL . Hawk Channel is the body of water between the Florida Keysand the offshore reef and it varies in width from ╝ mile up to 2 miles wide at some points. This is a long day sail (about 10 hours) so you will need to make an early start this morning if you want to make a marina tonight. After passing Hawk Channel marker Green "35" on Mosquito Bank you will see a Red "2" for Key Largo Channel (not Largo Sound Channel) leave it to starboard as you turn almost due north toward the rock sea wall. This channel is silting in from the North - leave the Red "2" about 200 feet to your starboard side and put the northeast corner of Rodriguez Key on your port stern. As you approach the sea wall move at a slow speed you may be reading the grass bottom on the depth sounder. DO NOT TRY TO ENTER THIS CHANNEL AT LOW TIDE!!! If you are going in on a full moon, you may have to wait until half tide to get in. You will enter behind the sea wall and proceed to the last channel to port. He corner is a tight right turn with a big mirror on the last piling to see down the opposite channel. Check the mirror for traffic with your binoculars. Also listen to channel 16 on the VHF for "securite" warnings which all the tour boats use to announce their arrivals and departures. If a tour boat is approaching this corner at the same time you are, tell them you will stand by and wait for their turn. The marinas are at the end of this channel, Marina Del Mar to port and Key LargoHarborto starboard. They both have shore side facilities and swimming pools. There is also a grocery store and drug store next door.and ice cream shop across the street! It is worth the short taxi ride to the "Fish House" for one of the best seafood meals in the Keys!
As you leave MIAMI BEACH MARINA turn to port and then to port again into GOVERNMENT CUT CHANNEL (remember Red Left Leaving). After you pass Green marker "9" you can turn out of the channel to starboard setting a course for the first two HAWK CHANNEL markers Red "2" AND Green "3" just West of FOWEY ROCK LIGHT . Hawk Channel is considered an inbound channel from Fowey Rock to Key Westso remember Red Right Returning. As you are sailing South and decide you do not want to make Key Largoyou can anchor at CEASAR CREEK either North or South of the channel depending on the winds. You will continue South past the Green "35" on Mosquito Bank. The Red "2" is the beginning of the channel into Key Largo-leave it to starboard as you turn almost due North toward the rock sea wall. You will enter behind the sea wall and proceed to the last channel to port. (Do not enter Largo Sound channel) The marinas are at the end of the channel on the port side. This is a very narrow channel with a very wide Tour Boat going in and out occasionally. Listen to channel 16 for "Securite" warnings of their arrivals and departures.
Alternatively if you want a later start today you can have a nice easy sail South through beautiful BISCAYNE BAY . Biscayne Bayis completely protected by shoal water which makes for smooth sailing no matter what the winds are doing. Your destination is either ELLIOT KEY or PUMPKIN KEY this evening where you will find a comfortable anchorage for the night.
Leave MIAMI BEACH MARINA and motor in a Southwesterly direction leaving the flashing Red "16" to starboard. Rapidly cross the main ship channel and proceed along the South side of DodgeIslandin Fisherman's Channel. Watch out for the large cruise ships and the FisherIslandferries which use this major channel. Stay in Fisherman's Channel as you pass South of Dodge Island, you are in an inbound channel here so remember Red Right Returning. The last inbound Channel marker is "25". You will then see a Green "57" which is an Intracoastal Waterway Marker (these are identified by a gold day-glow marker above the number) Leaving the Green "57" to port turn South to enter the Intracoastal Waterway. DO NOT TURN SHORT OF THIS MARKER OR YOU WILL BE AGROUND!!! In the Intracoastal Waterwaythe Red markers are always between you and the Mainland. Green markers are between you and the Sea. (Remember Red Dirt, GreenSea.)
After going under RickenbackerCausewayBridgeyou will be in the main part of Biscayne Bay. As you are sailing South you will pass yellow markers "B" and "C" which indicate the boundaries of BiscayneNational Park. They are also good reference points for sailing South through the bay to Featherbed Banks- the Western most channel - Intracoastal Waterway Markers "3" and "4". You can anchor along Elliot Key or continue South to Red "8", run through the channel and anchor on either side of Pumpkin Key depending on the wind.
Here and throughout the Keys you are often in National and State Parks and Preserves. Please remember "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but your wake."
*25 MILES TO ELLIOT KEY
*30 MILES TO PUMPKIN KEY
*50 MILES TO KEY LARGO
MARINADELMAR: 1-800-451-3483 OR KEY LARGOHARBOR 1-800-843-5397
Day 2: MOLASSES REEF, FRENCH REEF, AND GRECIAN ROCKS
If you sailed to Key Largoyesterday- have a relaxing morning and then take a short side trip out to the reef for snorkeling and diving. MOLASSES REEF, FRENCH REEF, AND GRECIAN ROCKS are the three reefs closest to you. There are several reefs which have permanent mooring buoys making snorkeling off the stern of the boat a breeze! These reefs are protected areas do not drop anchor on a reef!!! After a long day of sailing yesterday I would suggest shooting back into Key Largofor another evening at the marina or anchor off of RODRIGUEZ KEY.
If you took the second option yesterday, you will be departing Biscayne Bay/ Card Sound through ANGELFISH CREEK this morning for Hawk Channel. Angelfish Creek is very narrow at the Western and Eastern ends and can get down to 5ft at low tide. As you are approaching the Western end of Angelfish Creek stay close to Red "14" and "12". Remember "Red Left Leaving!" As you are exiting the Eastern end of the channel stay centered in the channel and as you pass Marker "1" and "2" set a safe course for Hawk Channel. Once out in Hawk Channel you can plot a course to one of the reefs for an afternoon of snorkeling or diving. CARYSFORT REEF, THE ELBOW AND KEY LARGO DRY ROCKS are all along your way and since they are close together you can stop at more than one. From any of these reefs it is a quick sail into Key Largofor the evening.
NOTE: Each major reef has a tower marking it. Around the tower will be white diamond markers on the stakes showing the outer edge of the reef. DO NOT SAIL BETWEEN THE TOWER AND THE MARKERS. Outside thediamond markers are the white mooring buoys which you can pick up for snorkeling and diving.
Day 3: WINDLEY KEY, PICKLES REEF, DAVIS REEF...
You have two destinations to choose from today. The first is a great marina and the second is an interesting anchorage.
FIRST DESTINATION : Depart Key Largotoday for WINDLEY KEY . Along the way you have a choice of several reefs for snorkeling. PICKLES REEF, DAVIS REEF, and HENS AND CHICKENS to name a few. Hens and Chickens reef is on the edge of the main channel making for easy access as you are sailing South. After passing Hens and Chickens set a safe course for Whale Harbor Channel. Do not cut this corner short. it is best to stay in 8 feet of water until you can see down the channel. After passing Red "8" you will see a secondary channel taking you into Windley Key. At Windley Key you will find HOLIDAY ISLE BEACH RESORT AND MARINA , one of the best resorts in the Keys! Holiday Isle has something to please everyone- five restaurants, arts and crafts shops, windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing, swimming pools and white sand beaches. all Florida Key's style.
DISTANCE: 15 MILES
HOLIDAYISLE BEACH RESORT AND MARINA1-800-327-7070
SECOND DESTINATION: After passing Hens and Chickens continue Southwest approximately 6 miles to the North end of Lower Matecumbe Key where you will see INDIAN KEY ANCHORAGE (This would not be a comfortable anchorage in a strong East to Southeast wind.) At Indian Key anchorage you can dinghy into the dock on Indian Key and walk around what used to be a thriving little community. Indian Key was the DadeCountyseat from 1836-1840 when the Indians burned it down after being threatened by the local leader. There is an observation platform on the island so don't forget your camera.
While you are at Indian Key Anchorage you may like to do a little more exploring. Lignumvitea Key which is Northwest through Indian Key Channel (accessible by dinghy or tour boat) has a virgin hammock including many native species of vegetation. There is also a coral rock house, a cistern, and a windmill built in 1919. There are walking tours Thursday through Monday- call ahead for information.
DISTANCE: 22 MILES
LIGNUMVITEA BOTANICAL SITE 305-664-4815 or CELL PHONE 305-451-8679
If Indian Key is not a tenable anchorage continue another 8 miles to LONG KEY BIGHT, this is a very protected anchorage either South or North of the bridge.
Day 4: ALLIGATOR REEF, DUCK KEY
You have time to wile away this morning at Holiday Isle and enjoy all they have to offer. If you prefer you can take off for snorkeling our on ALLIGATOR REEF (no one has spotted a real alligator yet!) this morning. If you are at Indian Key spend a lazy morning on the boat or go off exploring.
Your destination this morning is HAWK'S CAY MARINA the first class resort at DUCK KEY. Departing either your anchorage or marina you will continue sailing in a Southwesterly direction until you pass Hawk Channel marker Red "44". You can then set a safe course for the Red "2" at the top of the "Duck's Head" (Do not try to go into Duck Key Channel!) After passing the Red "8" make a quick turn to starboard inside the sea wall. Follow the sea wall all the way around staying to starboard when the channel splits. As you enter the marina it can get quite shallow, but it is a soft bottom if you should touch down. All the facilities of the resort are available to you as a marina guest. Both fresh and salt water pools with a pool side bar. With tennis courts, a workout room, and parasailing there is enough to keep anyone busy. A couple of nice restaurants and a morning breakfast buffet are available if you prefer to eat ashore. There is also a dolphin show everyday. A great place to kick back and bask in luxury for a day or more!
DISTANCE 25 MILES
HAWK'S CAY RESORT 1-800-432-2242
Day 5: SOMBRERO REEF, MARATHON, BOOT KEY
You have two choices again today.
FIRST CHOICE : Spend the morning at Hawk's Cay Resort and then take off for snorkeling at SOMBRERO REEF this afternoon. It is another great spot to see the tropical reef and try to identify all the brightly colored fish. MARATHON or BOOT KEY , is your port of call this evening with several marinas to choose from.Once again you will be sailing in a Southwesterly direction. You will pass the Southwest tip of Boot Key and then turn to the Northeast setting a safe course for the channel entering BootKeyHarbor. You will see FARO BLANCO MARINA OCEANSIDE on your port side before you go under the draw bridge. Alternatively SOMBRERO LIGHTHOUSE MARINA is at the end of the canal on the Northeast end of BootKeyHarbor. Be aware there is an overhead power line 65 feet high and a draw bridge to enter BootKeyHarbor. Both of these marinas come highly recommended with excellent restaurants and facilities. You can also anchor out at BOOT KEY either in BootKeyHarboror Off the Western end of Boot Key. Marathonis an active little city where you will be able to buy additional provisions and anything else you may need. The grocery store is accessible by foot from Sombrero Lighthouse Marina and by taxi from Faro Blanco.
DISTANCE 15 MILES
FARO BLANCO MARINA 1-800-759-3276
SOMBRERORESORT AND LIGHTHOUSE MARINA305-743-2250
SECOND CHOICE : Your second choice today is to simply stay at Hawk's Cay Resort and do as close to nothing as you can get away with!
Day 6: SOMBRERO KEY, LOOE KEY, LITTLE PALM ISLAND
Today if you are still at Hawk's Cay you have a fairly long day sail to NEWFOUND HARBOR - about 6 hours of sailing. SOMBRERO KEY is on the way if you want to allow time for snorkeling. If you made it to Marathonlast night you have a much shorter sail and plenty of time for a side trip to LOOE KEY , one of the BEST reefs on your trip for snorkeling. From Looe Key you can sail almost straight North to NewfoundHarbor. If you are approaching from Hawk Channel pass marker number "50" and set a safe course for Newfound Harbor Channel marker Red "2", give it a wide berth and then turn Northeast into the channel. After passing Red "4" anchor off the side of the channel or continue further before pulling off. Be very careful here, it shallows abruptly when you leave the channel. There is a strong current through this anchorage so anchor well!!
At NewfoundHarboryou will discover LITTLE PALM ISLAND , an exclusive private resort island. It is a beautiful place to stop but be aware there is a $100.00 minimum docking fee. You can also anchor out and go ashore for dinner. The food is superb but pricey ($30 - $50 per person). Reservations are highly recommended for docking and dinner ashore as they are a small facility. While ashore, watch for the adorable miniature Key Deer and all the tropical birds. If you look just North of Green "3" you will see a tiny island which is great to dinghy to and explore the shallows around the island.
*30 MILES FROM DUCK KEY
*15 MILES FROM MARATHON
LITTLE PALM ISLAND1-800-343-8567
An alternative anchorage for tonight is BAHIA HONDA KEY which is before NewfoundHarbor. As you pass Bahia Honda Key and clear the visible sand bar off the Southwest tip, turn Northeast and go through the cut in the old railroad bridge. Anchor between the two bridges and dinghy ashore to the small marina which is part of Bahia Honda State Park. The park is a wonderful place for walks and cook outs but it does close at dusk.
BAHIAHONDA STATE PARK 305-872-2353
DISTANCE 22 MILES FROM DUCK KEY - 8 MILES FROM MARATHON
Day 7: KEY WEST