edbulmer, There are many beautiful choices for your Keys cruising. Although, as said above, the ICW
is not passable south of Marathon, the Big Spanish Channel may be available with your draft
for running on the Gulf side and into Key West
via the NW Channel. Also, keep in mind that those referrences to Hawk's Channel arte not "offshore". The outer reefs
keep Hawk's Channel relatively calm. If your draft
is less than five feet there are many pleasant and protected anchorages
on the bayside. If you use Hawks Channel you can find good anchorages
at Rodriquez Key (except NE) , Tavernier, Channel Five (under the fixed bridge), Moser Channel and Newfound Harbor.