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Old 01-04-2017, 13:22   #1
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Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

I'd like to go snorkeling to a reef 4 miles offshore from the Florida keys, and am tempted to just zip over in the 10' RIB on a calm day. Itd take less than 30 minutes to get there, and we'd carry a handheld vhf.

Is that too far from shore to go in a RIB dinghy even if calm and no bad weather forecasted? I feel like it'd be ok, but was wondering what people's guidelines/limits are on something like this?
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Old 01-04-2017, 13:43   #2
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

We've done similar distances in our dinghy. Just be aware of your fuel consumption, some dinghy motors can surprise you.
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Old 01-04-2017, 13:53   #3
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

On a calm day a fine rib should be making around 20 knots, so it should be only about 10 minutes to the reef.

I would make sure the rib has a second engine on it, just in case. 4 miles can be out of VHF limit unless your shore station is nearby and quite high up.

What you want sounds 100% fine but you have to play safe and make a plan B (and preferably a plan C). You are on the water, things can change in minutes. PLAY SAFE. BELT AND BRACES.

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Old 01-04-2017, 13:55   #4
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

Have communication, cell phone or handheld vhf, this is what I do , motors can and do breakdown.

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Old 01-04-2017, 13:59   #5
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

I would probably add a PLB to your gear as a last line of defense. And a patch kit and air pump, lol.
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Old 01-04-2017, 14:09   #6
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

Oars?

Also I would time it so that the return trip would be with the rising tide. I know that FL doesn't have much in a way of tides but even a little bit would help if rowing.

I have an older Avon 310 which I row when needed. Don't have a motor as I don't want to keep gas on board. It actually rows quite well for a soft bottom inflatable (floor is 3 plywood slat sections). But I don't think I could do 8 mi r/t in it.
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Old 01-04-2017, 14:50   #7
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

Back in the early 1960's when I was young and foolish I used to take my 8' plywood pram dingy with a 6 H.P. mercury 4-5 miles off the beaches of Staten Island to go fishing for Blues and stripers. I think I had a life jacket but little else in the way of safety equipment.
No one knew of my float plan and I would come and go with the tides. If anything happened I would have been fish food. I lived at the Great Kills marinas in the summers and almost every one knew me as the kid who would gladly give a ride out to someone's mooring or give a tow to a disabled boat. I used to get invited on family's outings to the golf balls (radar outposts) for clamming, boat deliveries up the East River and one trip up the Hudson to see the rolling Stone's Yacht at the 79th St yacht basin in Manhattan.
Once I was pulled over by the Police boat in New York Harbor off the Stapleton piers for no registration numbers. I used to really get around with that little dingy.
I never thought what I was doing was dangerous. If I had a 10' unsinkable rib I would have widened my horizons. If you have a float plan and comms and someone knows where you are and when you'll be due back I say go for it and enjoy, but accept if anything happens it's on you.
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Old 01-04-2017, 15:12   #8
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

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Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
Oars?

Also I would time it so that the return trip would be with the rising tide. I know that FL doesn't have much in a way of tides but even a little bit would help if rowing.

I have an older Avon 310 which I row when needed. Don't have a motor as I don't want to keep gas on board. It actually rows quite well for a soft bottom inflatable (floor is 3 plywood slat sections). But I don't think I could do 8 mi r/t in it.
Tidal currents would not be an issue unless close to a cut between two keys. The Gulf Stream, depending on where could be pushing you north a knot or three. I would be more concerned about wind direction.

Also if you did have any problems there would probably be a dozen boats minimum within radio range. Plus USCG has really high towers and some pretty good radios. They could pick up even a handheld easily from several locations in the area.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:07   #9
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

As skipmac said there are hundreds of boats at any time in the keys zipping back and forth. We've taken tenders out to the reef many times. Lots of jet skiers go out to the reefs at key largo.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:27   #10
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

4 miles? I regularly take trips in my dinghy of 10 or more miles each way, sometimes in open sea.

It's all a question of weather. A 10' RIB gets scary REAL fast, if the weather picks up. In a calm, smooth sea, it's nothing to knock out 4 or 10 or 20 miles.

Obviously, take enough fuel, water, paddles, PFD's, VHF, PLB, bla bla bla.
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Old 01-04-2017, 16:44   #11
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

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Originally Posted by daletournier View Post
Have communication, cell phone or handheld vhf, this is what I do , motors can and do breakdown.

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Waterproof or protected comms. I have a dry bag that stays in the dink bow locker when we are cruising. It holds VHF (waterproof), flashlight, small dink pump, tools and spares. Also put cell phone in a small bag or dry box in the dry bag if in a cell coverage area. Good oars and an anchor too.

If Im more concerned about the route I put the InReach in there too.

Its not that far, but engine trouble and an unexpected offshore breeze/squall could change things suddenly.

At least in the Keys your odds of getting assistance are quite high.
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Old 02-04-2017, 09:29   #12
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

Anywhere around Key West, you're pretty sure that merely waving a margarita high above your head would get you all the help you need, pronto.

You're almost within yelling distance of help when on the reef. Might watch where the dive boats go with their snorkelers and follow their lead. Will bring you to some good spots.

It's well worth the effort, beautiful beyond words.

I'd add, wear an inflatable vest while snorkeling. It's easy to get so distracted that you venture far from your dinghy, and you (or your guests) might surface to find you don't quite have the energy to get back to your boat.

As for safety equipment, about the only 'essential' in my mind is the vhf. Channel 16 and you're saved!

Enjoy !!!
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Old 02-04-2017, 09:33   #13
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

We usually try to have another dink come with us when doing remote area dives. Much safer if you throw a prop or the engine dies.
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Old 02-04-2017, 09:48   #14
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

Be sure to file a float plan with someone
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Old 02-04-2017, 11:04   #15
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Re: Safe dinghy range to offshore reef?

As long as you have a good anchor and enough fuel you should be good, a handheld VHF could be handy.


You will probably get advise to take a life raft, flares, 2 cell phones, sat phones, GPS with AIS and locater beacons, couple of SARTs and an SSB, spares for the engine, spare engine, notify the coasties and next of kin, make sure your will is up to date etc. but then again it is probably safer to watch a utube video of the reef and not take the risk.
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