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Old 04-01-2013, 20:11   #1
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First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

We are planning to return from the Rio Dulce, Guatemala to the east coast of FL. in March, 2013. We will be making the crossing from Isla Mujeres, MX and plan to stop in The Dry Tortugas. Any local knowledge as to where to anchor, how to get to the anchorage, are there any protection, how is the bottom for anchoring?

Thanks for any helpful information.
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Old 05-01-2013, 05:55   #2
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

I believe that the only overnight anchorage is within one nautical mile of Fort Jefferson Light, on Garden Key.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:19   #3
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

its been a few years since I was there but you really need local and current knowledge. The channel into the anchorage on the east side of the fort has changed several times in my experience.There are usually boats in the anchorage you could radio but I personally wouldn't go in there without charts (even tho they are usually not too accurate at least they give you an idea).
The anchorage at the east side of the fort is also where the fast (tourist) power cats from key west land. There is almost no wind protection but you are surrounded with shoals/reefs that break down the waves. Holding is very good in heavy sand. Photo below is our dog and trawler taken from the parks dept. dock
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:39   #4
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

Definitely be certain of your navigation the first time through. The SE entrance is plenty wide and deep, after all Ft. Jefferson used to be a coaling station for ships, but it does take a spiral-like route into the main anchorage by Ft. Jefferson and it does have some potentially nasty hazards to navigation if you get it wrong.

There is a northern entrance as well, but coming from the West the SE entrance will probably be more convenient for you.

The holding is good if you are in the main anchorage relatively near the Fort. If you venture further East/SE then you get into shallow water and the bottom is covered with coral rubble. Protection is also good.
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:04   #5
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

Approaching from the southwest, the channel between Loggerhead Key and Garden Key is quite wide and unobstructed although one does need to proceed to the northwest side of Garden Key to get into the channel to the anchorage near the Fort. One can anchor to the southeast of the Fort, or to the west, if weather conditions require it. It would be wise to contant Customs and Immigration before stopping there, however, as, to my knowledge, the Tortugas are not a Port of entry although, if you have a DTOPS Decal, that might not be a problem. Note, however, the Park Police headquartered at Ft. Jefferson are not particularly tollerant of any funny business so it would be wise to check before you depart Isla.

FWIW...
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:13   #6
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

Yep, Homeland Security these days is not happy if you don't proceed directly to Key West to clear in. Having said that, if you just anchored with all the rest for one night and didn't go ashore or anything you could probably get away with it as you would theoretically still be in transit. There are always park police there, and the CG patrols out there often.
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:41   #7
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

Yes, the last time I was there, 2004, the "barney fifes" were pretty full of themselves.
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Old 07-01-2013, 21:31   #8
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Re: First Time Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

Use the SW channel into the park, turn ESE at R6 and follow that channel into the anchorage on the south side of the Fort. Look for the sand to drop the hook, although I haven't had issues in the grassy areas either.

I don't know what CBP expects when stopping at DT, but you could always be waiting out weather or have boat issues you need to sort out.
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