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Old 10-07-2013, 11:44   #16
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

I would definitely recommend, in addition to the cruising guides, charts - the kind now called "paper" charts. Get a copy of "Chart No. 1" which explains all of the symbols on the charts. Study all of these resources before the trip. Have fun.
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Old 10-07-2013, 12:00   #17
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Thanks again Steve. I have spent some time with "Chart No.1" online, but that would definitely be something handy to have on board.
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Old 26-07-2013, 15:58   #18
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Dry Totugas were awesome a few square miles of beautiful shallow water.
$5 a person each visit (14 days per year total) get weathered in and you can not go back for a year.
You can only fish within 1 mile of the fort, none to the north inside the park. Not from the swim beach. No spearfishing in the park either. Beware the rookery during season.
Key West Marinas are $$$$ and moorings are around $22 a day
DON'T TOUCH THE REEFS, DON'T DRAG ANCHOR ONTO A REEF OR ANY SEAGRASS, Are your valves closed, fire extinguishers up to date, life jackets etc. USCG, FWC, Monroe Co, and a few others need to pay the bills.
There are no cans of ravioli to buy (see note about ferry)
Welcome to Florida.


Bahamas are Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 1,000s of square miles of beautiful shallow water.
$150-$400 per boat Covers you for a year and 90 days fishing.
Fish at will except a small Nassau Grouper, Conch, and Lobster have closed season.
Bimini Blue Water Marina is 80 cents a foot
You rarely see the Bahamas Defense Force
Ravioli in the Exumas is $3.70 a can.
Welcome to the Bahamas

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Old 02-08-2013, 11:27   #19
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Thanks for the info Gemini. Sounds to me like you recommend the Bahamas
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:39   #20
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

No ravioli in Dry Totugas? That's a non-starter for me. Thanks for the heads up.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:56   #21
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

You get to meet more friends in the Dry Tortugas on your first day there. Within the first hour I met 3 nice National Park Service police who came out to my boat to greet me.

Four hours later 3 fellows from the Florida Wildlife Commission came aboard for a nice visit.

See- I got very special heads, fire extinguishers, flares and so on. They must be special because lot's of people wants to see them. I had a 2 month old Coast Guard safety inspection decal, and paperwork and everything, but they still want to see all my neat stuff and walk around my boat and look inside compartments and drawers and stuff.

In the Bahamas they only want to have sundowners or cook-outs on the beach, what fun is that?
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Old 02-08-2013, 13:33   #22
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Sounds like lots of friendly folks in DTNP lol
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Old 02-08-2013, 13:44   #23
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

I like both. Dry Tortugas was very cool. The fort was very interesting and since it's a fort maybe fun for a teenage boy. Other than that there is beautiful water and diving, nothing else. Great for me but depends on the teenager whether or not that could get boring.

Weather has already been mentioned. I have owned a 25' deep-V power boat and it can get pretty bumpy even in moderate weather. Plus do check the cruising range of the boat very carefully. Counting in and out of the harbor, etc I would use 150 nautical miles as the round trip distance. If you plan on boating around when you get there to snorkel and such add that in as well. There is no gas or diesel in there so if you run low it will be a big hassle.

I would want a boat with about double the range required to allow for starting and stopping, rough weather that would require slower speeds and higher fuel consumption, etc.

By the way, don't take the word of a broker or salesman on the fuel range, they tend to exagerate. Measure it yourself. Don't ask me how I know this.
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Old 02-08-2013, 13:49   #24
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Thanks for the advice skipmac.
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Old 30-08-2013, 15:19   #25
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

My biased advice is start off from Key West and head to the Marquesas. It is close to half way to the Dry Tortugas and makes a great stop. You can pick up CH2 weather from Key West, go for a swim, or dive, or fish, or just veg out. Plenty of time to drop the hook and make sure it is not dragging before hitting the bunk. Of course you could also stop at Boca Grande and wait for slack tide to cross the Boca Grande Pass (the first stretch of open water you have to cross). There are also several other Keys you will see after leaving Key West before these two spots. Leaving the Marquesas at dawn often means smoother water on the way to the Dry Tortugas as well as a shorter trip.

While diving and fishing is great at Boca Grande and the Marquesas it does not compare to the Dry Tortugas. Make sure to dive Little Africa off Loggerhead. Also consider stopping at Cosgrove Light just off the Marquesas, best soft coral I have seen but you have to use a mooring ball as it is a park.

I think you really need a month to go to the Dry Tortugas because there is so much to see not only there but along the way as well.

The Bahamas is not a bad idea, but requires more planning and you need to be very aware of the weather. You can get stuck and not be able to cross the Gulf Stream for two weeks in the winter and summer storms can be a problem. Not to say the weather can make things bad West of Key West, but the distances are shorter.

Both places are great.
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Old 30-08-2013, 15:57   #26
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

The Tortugas are one of my favorite coastal cruising destinations although I've heard there have been some changes since the last time I was there. I was visited by a park ranger but he was alone and just asked a few questions. In prior times it was not unusual for commercial fishermen to cruise through the anchorage and offer to trade booze for seafood. The last time a small bottle of Captain Morgan got us at least a gallon of fresh shrimp and 10 lb grouper. Now I hear thats not condoned, at least officially.

When others tell you there is nothing there, they are not kidding. There is no fuel, water, food or much of anything besides a few t-shirts and some film. I don't know your boat but an 18 ft with a 150 mile or such cruise range seems doubtful to me. There used to be a head located on shore but a hurricane destroyed it, I don't know if its been rebuilt. Otherwise it is use your own head or, as I've heard, when the tour boats arrive you can use theirs.

Depending on the weather, i.e., water temp, snorkeling can be fun. Water is clear and you can watch rays, barracuda, tarpon, and nurse sharks, the nurse sharks breed there but unless seriously molested are harmless. In the moat around the fort we commonly found good size lobster. As I recall, the only fishing allowed is for a rod and reel, no spear fishing.

We generally stay 3-5 days and then head home, weather permitting. Unfortunately, the last few times I was there the Park Rangers would not relay weather info (liability I suppose) and you will be out of range of Key West vhf. We got hammered a couple times coming home.

Whether you do it now or later, it is definitely worth doing.

Rich
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Old 14-09-2013, 06:55   #27
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Lots of good info here. Congratulations on moving to the best boating area I ever lived in (I moved away in 2004 but I go back every chance I get).

You have no idea how much fun you are going to start having!
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Old 30-10-2013, 00:39   #28
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Re: Dry Tortugas or Bahamas

Just a few more random thoughts. If you have to ask this question the Dry Tortugas seems the best bet. From Key West it is maybe 20 miles to Boca Grande, great diving, fishing, and easy to get to protected anchorages. Depending on how you go it is maybe another 10-15 miles to Marquesas, good diving and fishing and easy to locate wrecks. Look at the google map and choose your anchorage depending on the wind. Maybe 40 miles to the Dry Tortugas and you can get weather reports out of Key West on Chanel 2. Definitely makes it easier to pick your weather window for an easy passage.

With the sequester there have been cuts at national parks. The rangers never came out to my boat or any other boats there. There is an exhibit in the fort of boats Cubans have used to get to the US. Twice while I was there Loggerhead was closed for a short time while the rangers collected Cubans there. The fast boat from Key West serves a buffet lunch for $US7.00, definitely worth it; lots of foot and all the soda, coffee, and water you can drink in the air conditioned comfort. You can also buy ice and water and make arrangements with the fast boat or the sea plane for stuff from Key West. There are composting toilets on the island but they are closed when the fast boat is at the dock; but you can used the air conditioned rest rooms on the fast boat. The rangers post the NOAA weather report daily in the chart room.

It took me six weeks to get from Boot Key to the Dry Tortugas and back and quite frankly I would have stayed longer if Obama had not shut down the ocean. There are several free pamphlets in the chart room with maps describing places to dive. Biggest shock was how few lobsters I saw at the park, while there were plenty at Boca Grande and the Marquesas. Especially since harvesting lobster is prohibited inside the park. One ranger said he thought the salt water crock had developed a taste for them and that was the reason. Make sure you check out the visitors room in the fort. The 3D movie is a real treat and the interactive map is great as well.

I have conflicting information, some say Sea Tow comes out others say no. Which ever destination you pick make sure you have good ground tackle.
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