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Middle Keys Charter

Discussion in 'Destinations' started by Cowpokee, Mar 8, 2019. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    In two weeks we (my wife and I) will be chartering a boat in the Florida keys.
    We will be aboard a Beneteau Oceanis 373 for three days and two nights.
    We are currently looking over the charts, planning our itinerary.
    This will be a multi-purpose trip for us:
    1. Allow Kim the opportunity to experience the amenities of how a newer, larger cruising boat could be should we decide to pursue destination hopping.
    1. Compare the Oceanis 373 sailing performance to the 36S7 we had so immensely enjoyed on a previous charter. (In the case we both are happy, maybe this could be our next boat to look forward to).
    1. Explore the Keys to see if I should allow more time to see the sights when rounding the tip of Florida on a future expedition from the Gulf Coast to the Bahamas aboard our 30’ Allied Seawind.
    Realizing the schedule will be weather dependant, our hopes are as follows:

    Day one: Sail to a marina for lunch, maybe do some reef snorkeling, sail to another marina for dinner, anchor out for the night.

    Day two: Wake to coffee and breakfast on board, sail to a marina for lunch, sail to another marina for dinner, anchor out for the night.

    Day three: rinse and repeat

    We will be starting out from Marathon and after reading and rereading of Sumner's travels in the area I am wondering about other places to add to our itinerary. I already have Will (Dragonfly)’s recommendation of the great snorkeling by the light on Alligator Reef off Islamorada. .

    Any other recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
    Some additional questions:
    Would a dingy be required for this trip?
    Which cruisers guide for the middle keys should we look for?
    Since I have no experience with chartplotters, which software should I add to my tablet?
     


  2. THECUSCUS

    THECUSCUS

    Joined Sep 25, 2008
    839 posts, 53 likes
    Macgregor & Island Packet VENTURE 25 & IP-38
    US NORTH EAST, MD
    Starting in Marathon, bay or oceanside? What is your draft?
    Put ActiveCaptain on the tablet.
    A dinghy would be useful if you anchor out and want to ashore to eat.
     


  3. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    We will be starting out from the bay side but there is a place to go under the bridge just south of the island to get to the oceanside which is where the snorkeling reef Will Gilmore mentioned is.
    The 373 has just under a 5' draft. Looking at the charts, we should be fine just about everywhere except at low tide.
     


  4. sailnoproblem

    sailnoproblem

    Joined Oct 10, 2011
    465 posts, 139 likes
    Tartan 34C
    US Toms River, New Jersey
    When you are in Marathon try snorkeling at Sombrero Reef. Not the best but it's enjoyable.
     


  5. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    Thanks, that is exactly what I am looking for. A destination to head to and something to do when I get there.
     


  6. DaveJ

    DaveJ

    Joined Apr 2, 2013
    255 posts, 78 likes
    Catalina 310
    Ca Niagara-on-the-Lake
    Sombrero Reef sounds like a better location than Alligator Reef...even if the snorkeling is not as good!
    dj
     


  7. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    I had also considered American Shoal but just checked the charts and found it to be 30 miles away. Sombrero is the closest to where we are starting out from so if conditions are suitable, that will be our destination.

    Since we will be there during the spring break time period , should we consider arriving at the reef early to ensure we are able to find a free mooring bouy?
     


  8. nightowle

    nightowle

    Joined Aug 28, 2006
    283 posts, 46 likes
    Bavaria 35E
    US seattle
    Cowpokee,

    Who are you chartering with?
     


  9. Will Gilmore

    Will Gilmore

    Joined Oct 19, 2017
    4,276 posts, 2,245 likes
    O'Day 19
    US Littleton, NH
    What is your range for this sail? Which direction are you heading, East or West? Alligator Reef is an interesting dive. I found it mostly fascinating for the huge congregation of barracuda. They are not always there, but it is nice and shallow and there is probably always some marine life under the light and around the small coral heads. I have not snorkeled at Sombrero. John Pennekamp is among the best in the Keys and the reefs around Key West are superb, the water is crystal. There are a number of excellent restaurants, some you can even sail up to. It has been so long, I'm kind of useless with their names, any more. the Fish House Encore, in Key Largo is excellent. Their sushi is very good. My favorite place, that I revisit in my mind over and over again, is a little coffee shop where we enjoyed pastries and café au lait. I think it was the Key Largo Conch House. At least the pictures online look like the same place.
    If you love to fish, trolling for Spanish mackerel is one of my favorite things to do on the ocean side. Fillet them up, as they drop off the hook and eat them for dinner that night. :rolleyes: catch one for me.
    Enjoy.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     


  10. Sailm8

    Sailm8

    Joined Feb 21, 2008
    1,597 posts, 261 likes
    Hunter 29.5
    US Punta Gorda
    You will need a dinghy IMHO. There are mooring balls at some of the reefs. White are for anyone colored ones for commercial dive boats. Key Largo offers marina and tons of restaurants and bars. Decent anchorage at Rodrigues Key and you can dinghy to the Mandalay Bar. Islamorada had the Islamorada Fish Company at bayside also the Lorelei. Marathon has the Stuffed Pig for breakfast Burdines upper deck. Happy Hour at the Sombrero. Bahia Honda Park is a really nice anchorage but poor holding. Hawks Key marina at Duck Key is nice because you can use all of the resort facilities but it is pricey. The best sailing is in Hawk Channel but the Bayside is well marked and easy traveling. Find a copy of Frank Pappy's guide to the keys.
     


    Will Gilmore and Gunni like this.
  11. Sailm8

    Sailm8

    Joined Feb 21, 2008
    1,597 posts, 261 likes
    Hunter 29.5
    US Punta Gorda
    Just to add. You might need a light wet suit. The water is only in the 70's. You can swim in it but you will get really cold after a while.
     


  12. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    We are chartering with Florida Keys Sailing out of Keys Fishery & Marina.

    Thanks Will. We will be spending a few nights up by Homestead prior to our charter so we definitely will be checking out the Conch House. Not completely sure yet which way or how far we will be sailing. Kind of depends on the weather, right now the long range forecast has northerly winds. My wife doesn't like the motion of the boat with a quartering tail wind so I'll try to avoid that for any extended period of time.
     


  13. Gunni

    Gunni

    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    5,836 posts, 1,434 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    So in addition to cold water you may encounter low visibility snorkel conditions this time of the year, making that a bust. I don’t really think of the lower keys as keel-boat marina hopping country. More like anchoring out and making time to destinations like Key West. Maybe work with your charter company and come up with a plan B that includes more sailing and less snorkeling. They can tell you more about marina accommodations. In good conditions (like a beam reach) Key West would be a long day sail.
     


    Kings Gambit likes this.
  14. Cowpokee

    Cowpokee

    Joined Jan 8, 2015
    305 posts, 161 likes
    MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30
    US Kerr Reservoir
    Wow Gunni,that just took some of the wind out of my sails. :sosad: But thanks for the heads up so I won't be going down with unrealistic expectations.
    When I inquired about the need for a dingy, the charter company did elude to the fact that they have some sort of arrangements for their boats to dock at some of the restaurants for lunch or evening dining.
    I can still look forward to trolling for Spanish Mackerel but shoot, I will be content with just sailing for 3 days straight. I am trying to find additional ways for my wife to enjoy the trip as well.
     


  15. Gunni

    Gunni

    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    5,836 posts, 1,434 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    Yeah, sorry to sound like a wet blanket. The Beneteau 37 is plenty nice for anchoring out and carrying more than enough water and provisions for two. If your goal is to build toward couples cruising sailing, living aboard is the authentic experience. The only reason I would go to a marina would be a blustery norther’. But you could tuck in close to the keys and find flat water. Nothing like grilled fresh fish, a bottle of wine and a sunset anchorage. Just don’t scare her, get a script for the scopolamine patch.
     


  16. Roland5048

    Roland5048

    Joined May 12, 2004
    1,159 posts, 370 likes
    Hunter Cherubini 30
    US New Port Richey
    Been following this thread and thought I'd finally put in my $.02. Have spent much time sailing the Keys with the Boy Scout's Seabase out of Lower Matecombe. Three days and two nights does not give you much time. To combine snorkeling, staying on the hook and going ashore, I would leave Marathon and head west to Looe Key for some snorkeling. Watch the depths as some of the balls are in shallow water. Then head to Newfound Harbor to the north and drop the hook for the night. Do not go too far in as it gets kinda shallow. Next day take a good sail to Key West. The Galleon is a great place to get a slip and walk down Front Street to Duval Street where everything happens. Last day, leave early and make the sail back to Marathon. Of course this and all itineraries are weather dependent. If it gets too rough on the outside, you can always stay Bayside. Your charter briefing will be a big help. Have fun.
     


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  17. heritage

    heritage

    Joined Apr 22, 2011
    519 posts, 101 likes
    Hunter 27
    US Cherry Point MCAS
    I like what Roland suggested except that the run from Key West back to Marathon is about 40 nm and typically you will have NE trade winds which make for a long and not-so-comfortable motor sail back. Today they were east at 16 kts. If you can get a south or north wind, it would make it more doable.
     


    Roland5048 likes this.
  18. Roland5048

    Roland5048

    Joined May 12, 2004
    1,159 posts, 370 likes
    Hunter Cherubini 30
    US New Port Richey
    Absolutely agree. It can be a long slog back with the wind on your nose. My advice would be to see what the weather is for that short amount of time and go with what the folks at the charter company suggest. There are some nice snorkeling spots closer in. You're going to be on island time so don't rush it.
     


  19. Will Gilmore

    Will Gilmore

    Joined Oct 19, 2017
    4,276 posts, 2,245 likes
    O'Day 19
    US Littleton, NH
    [​IMG]
    Here is a chart of prevailing winds for march. With a Gulfstream current of almost 2 knots, a Southeast wind could become a beam reach, when sailing East.
    If Key West was a destination, you could make that on day 1 and take shorter sails home (20nm each and have time and room to do a little tacking). With that following current you can make good upwind headway.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     


  20. sailnoproblem

    sailnoproblem

    Joined Oct 10, 2011
    465 posts, 139 likes
    Tartan 34C
    US Toms River, New Jersey
    When you leave Homestead on your way to Marathon, stop at Alabama Jack's for lunch. I love that place. It will get you into the Keys mood. They close at 6 due to the bugs. I assume you are driving to Marathon.
     




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