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Old 09-06-2014, 15:34   #1
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Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

Hello, My wife and I are new to this forum and new owners of a beautiful PSC 34' sloop that we sold our house to buy and start living aboard to renew our sailing dreams. I am an experienced, licensed boater who has captained day sailing charters and sailed a bit around the Keys and VI's, but I am a bit rusty with my sailing and nav skills. I will be attempting to deliver our new home with two other experienced boaters from Charlotte Harbor to Key West the third week of June. I am looking for any helpful tips regarding timing and anchorages if we decide to make it a 2 or 2 1/2 day trip...thinking leaving Burnt Store Marina first light and trying to get south of Marco to an easy overnight anchorage somewhere, then continuing to Key West or at least the top of the NW Channel the next day, possibly anchoring at the channel entrance if it gets late. Other option is to motor sail straight through on a direct route, being that we are out of "trap season". Any and all thoughts welcome. Thanks!
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Old 09-06-2014, 18:47   #2
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

I have done this trip a couple of times, always from Marco Island. Leave in the early afternoon for an easy overnighter. Depending on winds you will arrive at the NW channel near dawn or later in the morning. I wouldn't try to run the channel in the dark so time your arrival accordingly.

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Old 09-06-2014, 19:20   #3
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

I've anchored off little shark river down by cape sable, when the weather is nice. Bit of a run from Charlotte harbour though, 100nm ish. When the weather is not nice, I've anchored in little shark river. There you WILL need bug screens.

I've also anchored off the north side of the keys in good weather and anchored off a beach in the gulf in calm weather.
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Old 09-06-2014, 20:07   #4
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

Just made the trip (again) from Naples to Key West in early May enroute to the Exumas.
If you leave in the early AM you will be able to anchor at Marco Island. This time of year you will mostly have east winds so you could anchor off the beach of Kewaydin Island, south end (not too far as there are shoals near Marco). As previous per previous response if you leave in the middle of the afternoon you will get to the NW channel in the morning. The channel itself is pretty straight forward...a couple of the channel markers are unlit which makes traveling at night a little more problematic. Figure on 15 hours or so, although I have made it under 10 hours. Little shark river would be out of the way.
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Old 09-06-2014, 21:08   #5
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Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

I've made the trip several times in different boats from a 32 foot Tahiti ketch to Island Packet 380 and 40. We usually anchor at Cabbage Key, leave there around 7 AM go out Boca Grand Pass and arrive at the NW channel next morning around dawn. It's about a 24 hour sail/motor sail. Burnt Store would add an hour or two to our typical trip.

If you want to do a two day trip you could go into Indian Key and anchor in Russell Bay for the night. It's a long day sail to Key West from Indian Key, but with summer hours you can make it if you motor sail. I haven't done it in summer, but have been to Indian Key in November and January with no bugs. If you go to Indian Key, just make sure you stay south of the Romano shoals before heading into the pass. There is a buoy south of Romano shoals that will take you a little farther south than necessary for a 5 foot draft, but is the safe way in. North of that buoy, you will see some 9 to 10 feet water, so if that makes you nervous, just take the safe route. From Indian Key to Key West NW Channel entrance is about 70 NM.
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Old 14-06-2014, 19:36   #6
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

Thank you all for the responses. Mostly along the lines of my thinking...just a tiny bit too far to make the timing convenient but all doable. Going to be virtually no moon and I do not have radar hooked up yet which makes me hesitant for the straight through all nighter but we will have a solid crew if the weather is favorable. Going to be buggy no doubt in some of the anchorages, but we have good screens. Appreciate the good feeback.
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Old 14-06-2014, 20:14   #7
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Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

There are VERY LARGE radio towers out in the gulf and if you go out Boca Grande Pass direct to the buoy at the NW channel to Key West. You will get close to two of them, one, within a couple of miles. At night they can be intimidating if you don't know they are there. They have radar and start sounding a horn and light as you get within a few miles ( I think 5, but may be closer). They are on the night leg if you leave Cabbage a Key around 7 AM as my above post.
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Old 15-06-2014, 15:49   #8
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

If you go over to Indian Key or anywhere along the 10,000 islands you will be going out of your way quite a bit. Was down around Lostmans River on Friday and the Mosquitos were vicious and they will swarm you in seconds!
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Old 24-06-2014, 10:24   #9
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

Todd and Celia,

Anchor off the southeast coast of Gasparilla Island(just inside the harbor) in 8-10 feet of water over good holding sand and gravel for a fast departure(Cabbage Key adds an hour plus to your trip). Boca Grande Channel is deep and well marked and head directly for Key West. If the pots are gone, it's a great sail and a better trip than jumping the coast. However, whenever we sailed the Gulf, we always carried a pole with a sharp knife at the end for any lines that are floating about in the Gulf. Watch your weather and have a great sail.
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Old 25-06-2014, 06:45   #10
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Re: Charlotte Harbor to Key West - Tips Wanted

Todd, Panther Key or Indian Key are both good stops with excellent anchorages south of Marco. They can be entered or exited in the dark if necessary. South from there, you will have the Little Shark River if you need to duck in somewhere before crossing Florida Bay. I would recommend a daytime crossing of Florida Bay. Good luck. Chuck
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