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Old 24-06-2014, 17:20   #1
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Cruising In South Florida

Are there many interesting cruising destinations in say, the southern half of Florida?

Aside from the Keys-- or hopping over to the Bahamas-- the cruising guide that I have for this area mentions almost exclusively going from one marina to the next. I guess that's still cruising, but are there any anchorages near parks, beaches or anything natural? Hmm, and how bad are the gators and pythons?

Do the northern Keys anchorages get very crowded in the winter?
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Old 24-06-2014, 18:34   #2
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

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Are there many interesting cruising destinations in say, the southern half of Florida?

Aside from the Keys-- or hopping over to the Bahamas-- the cruising guide that I have for this area mentions almost exclusively going from one marina to the next. I guess that's still cruising, but are there any anchorages near parks, beaches or anything natural? Hmm, and how bad are the gators and pythons?

Do the northern Keys anchorages get very crowded in the winter?
Probably the best way to divide Florida cruising areas is East Coast, West Coast, and the Keys.

Aside from the St. Johns River and the Okeechobee Waterway most of the East coast is the ICW with cuts to the Atlantic Ocean that can be hard to transit under some conditions. There are some anchorages as well but the dense population on the East Coast means fewer anchorages and more rules.

There are several rivers on the West Coast and a lot more places to anchor and feel like you are cruising. There are also some fairly large cities if you want a marina/dock to hit and stock up on foot, water, or what ever. Once you get South to the Everglades there are a lot of places to anchor, depending on your draft, that feel like real cruising. There are not really a lot of "good" anchorages in the Keys. Boot Key is the exception, it is often described as the best natural anchorage in the Keys; even if there are problems with government rules. The Keys do get crowded in the winter.

The Keys also are best divided in to three parts, the Atlantic side, the Gulf side, and West of Key West. My favorite place is West of Key West. It is real cruising and at least to Boca Grande safe, easy sailing. The trip to Dry Tortugas can be hard in the wrong weather, or easy in the right weather window. The Gulf side, like the Everglades, is also like real cruising, but again you need to be careful about your draft.

It is not likely you would see a python or gator in salt water. The Okeechobee water way is a great cruising destination and might get views of gators, but unlikely you would ever see a python. In the Everglades you might see a gator, or very unlikely a crocodile. Any place in Florida you almost for sure will see mosquitoes the size of small dogs. While it is unlikely you will see any noseeums almost for sure you will get bitten by them.
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Old 24-06-2014, 18:51   #3
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

The south end of Biscayne Bay has some nice remote places to anchor. You are in Biscayne National Park in most of south Biscayne Bay. There are crocodiles in the Biscayne Bay but it's unlikely you'll see one. They are very shy and less aggressive than alligators. This fellow came into my back yard but I couldn't get near him before he dove into the water.
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Old 24-06-2014, 19:43   #4
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

There is excellent cruising in Biscayne Bay and the Gulf side of the Keys, if you have less than 5 feet of draft.

Free anchorages abound; marinas are expensive. Basically, you can anchor anywhere you have enough water. It is protected, so 20 knots is a good sailing day.

Try the old Miamiarina anchorage north of the Rickenbacker Causeway; No Name Harbor; Boca Chita Key, Coconut Grove Sailing Club as a way to get to Coconut Grove; Jewfish Creek and Sunset Cove on Key Largo; Lorelei anchorage in Islamorada; Boot Key Harbor; and more.

Farther north, you sail from inlet to inlet.
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Old 25-06-2014, 06:37   #5
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

ggray, There are many, many many anchorages on both coasts of Florida. We have been cruising Florida for many years. We worked for one of the major cruising guides and when we attempted to get the publisher to add more anchorages we were told that anchorages don't buy advertising. That is precisely why we came out with our anchorage books to provide a good companion to most cruising guide giving boaters the best of both worlds. There are plenty of interesting places to visit on the east coast with anchorage close by. The Keys are a great experience if you have never been there, but also expensive. The anchorages in the Keys are not as plentiful as you might think and your boats draft will make many inaccessible. The west coast is a different cruising ground altogether and hands down our favorite. We are currently researching anchorages for our Gulf coast book and have found that you can spend weeks or months going from one anchorage to another and never travel more than 5 or 10 miles in a day. And many of the anchorages are spectacular. There is less hassle and regulation attempts on the west coast. If your draft is over 5 feet, the Florida Bay side of the Keys are probably not going to work for you unless you are OK with transiting some areas only at high tides. The weather in the Keys in the winter also limits anchorages. Winds from the north will make Florida Bay a very uncomfortable place and southern winds will affect the other side. Winter winds in the Keys can blow for weeks. We have spent a month in Marathon just trying to get to Miami. Many cruisers are opting for the Florida west coast as an alternative to the Bahamas, be it because of the high costs in the Bahamas or weather patterns. Hope this helps. Chuck
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Old 25-06-2014, 07:35   #6
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

You've had some great replies there so there's not much I can add, except that I agree. FL is a great place to cruise, for one thing you can find a place to anchor almost anywhere because the water is shallow. In fact, in a sailboat, there are relatively few marinas that you can get into, so most of your sailing is anchoring. Just do it! pete
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Old 25-06-2014, 07:45   #7
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

Remember in the winter the snow birds return and the marinas fill up.

At least here in Punta Gorda, our marina goes from about 40% occupancy to 99% occupancy from November to April.

I know you looking for anchorages, but if you choose to use marinas, call in advance for availability.
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Old 25-06-2014, 07:46   #8
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

Sorry pete but I don't agree that there are few marinas to use if you sail. For 17 years we cruised both coasts of Florida on our Mariner 40 Ketch with a 6 foot draft. And there are very, very few marinas we could not get into. Chuck
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Old 25-06-2014, 11:00   #9
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

Quote:
Originally Posted by ggray View Post
Are there many interesting cruising destinations in say, the southern half of Florida?

Aside from the Keys-- or hopping over to the Bahamas-- the cruising guide that I have for this area mentions almost exclusively going from one marina to the next. I guess that's still cruising, but are there any anchorages near parks, beaches or anything natural? Hmm, and how bad are the gators and pythons?

Do the northern Keys anchorages get very crowded in the winter?

The OP may want to provide more details about what "are there any anchorages near parks, beaches or anything natural?" means. Sure No Name Harbor is near/in a park and several other anchorages mentioned are as well. But my definition of anchoring off the Coconut Grove Sailing Club (where I raced one designs as a high school student) does not fit into "anything natural" cruising.

That is why I mostly discounted the East Coast. While there are anchorages there they are often crowded year round with folks who often live on boats that never move, often because the engines don't work and there are no sails. True this can also happen in the Keys and to some extent on the West Coast, but not nearly as much.

Perhaps as important as what natural places to cruise means is the amount of time the OP has to cruise. One could literally spend a life time cruising around Florida and not see it all. Knowing how long a cruise will be will help select the best place to cruise.
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Old 25-06-2014, 11:23   #10
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

Quote:
Originally Posted by ggray View Post
Are there many interesting cruising destinations in say, the southern half of Florida?

Aside from the Keys-- or hopping over to the Bahamas-- the cruising guide that I have for this area mentions almost exclusively going from one marina to the next. I guess that's still cruising, but are there any anchorages near parks, beaches or anything natural? Hmm, and how bad are the gators and pythons?

Do the northern Keys anchorages get very crowded in the winter?
Click over to ActiveCaptain.com, register (it's free), and use the interactive cruising guide to view the coastal waters of Florida and particularly the southwest coast. There are many good anchorages that are identified together with user reviews and comments. FWIW...
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Old 25-06-2014, 11:47   #11
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

What's your draft?
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Old 26-06-2014, 09:24   #12
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

Thanks for all the info!!

This looks very encouraging. If not for this winter, perhaps the next.

We have a catamaran drawing 3 1/2 feet, which helps, but we can't heel her over and spin her around! Also makes marina space less available, but as I said earlier, not looking for so much of that anyway.

My query about beaches, parks, etc. was that we look for interesting places to walk, sit and swim. Oh, and the dogs. That can be a problem in some parks.

I'll look for your books, AG.

And I'd forgotten about Active Captain. Thanks for the reminder.

Thanks to all of you!
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Old 26-06-2014, 09:30   #13
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

With a 3 1/2 foot draft, your options are plentiful. Most marinas have T-docks for transients so finding dockage for a catamaran isn't as difficult as you might think. Many of the anchorages we have explored are behind the Gulf barrier islands and offer short walks, sometimes just across the street, to some beautiful white sand Gulf beaches. There are also lost of anchorages near State Parks. The dogs may be restricted in some of the parks. Have a great trip. Chuck
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Old 26-06-2014, 09:48   #14
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Re: Cruising In South Florida

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Thanks for all the info!!

This looks very encouraging. If not for this winter, perhaps the next.

We have a catamaran drawing 3 1/2 feet, which helps, but we can't heel her over and spin her around! Also makes marina space less available, but as I said earlier, not looking for so much of that anyway.

My query about beaches, parks, etc. was that we look for interesting places to walk, sit and swim. Oh, and the dogs. That can be a problem in some parks.

I'll look for your books, AG.

And I'd forgotten about Active Captain. Thanks for the reminder.

Thanks to all of you!
The bad news is dogs are a problem throughout much of eastern Florida. A very dog unfriendly state.
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Old 26-06-2014, 10:46   #15
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pirate Re: Cruising In South Florida

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The bad news is dogs are a problem throughout much of eastern Florida. A very dog unfriendly state.
Day by day the pythons are slowly extending their range with few or no predators. They will eventually take care of any dog problems. My .357 is loaded with snake shot.

Wherever you go OP, stay out of the Shark River, or the Python River as I call it. I'd say more but I'm still hoping to sleep tonight.

Why'dja have to mention pythons?

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