Miami to Marathon
12 February 2012
We’ve finally moved on from Miami. Having spent a fun and relaxing three weeks spread between Miami Beach and Key Biscayne, the time came to leave. We left Crandon Park Marina to spend the night at No Name Harbour, further down on Key Biscayne and closer to the short route which meanders from Biscayne Bay into the Florida Straits. We have decided to head down the Keys to Marathon and see what we’ll do from there.
Long time blog followers will recall that two winters ago we went to Marathon and spent several weeks here. On that trip down we took for the most part the ICW (Intracoastal Water Way) route or inside route. There are, in fact, three routes from Miami to Marathon and Key West; the aforementioned “inside route being one, the others are the Hawk Channel Route and the Florida Straits (Ocean) Route.
The inside route takes you south and then west, between the keys and Florida mainland. This is the skinny route as there are parts where the controlling depth is less than 5 feet and when we did this route two years ago we brushed bottom several times. You really have to play the tides, even though the tidal range is about a foot and a half. This route takes you through several sounds, mangrove creeks and eventually, Florida Bay. We really enjoyed this route even though you certainly need to be on the qui vive otherwise you’ll be making a call to Tow Boat US.
The Ocean route takes you out into the Atlantic/Florida Straits and in addition to the normal challenges of offshore sailing, you have to contend with the Gulf Stream, the challenges of which I’ve spoken about numerous times in the past.
The Hawk Channel route is probably the most popular route for deep draft boats. While it would appear to be in the Atlantic, in fact, it is a narrow route between the mainland Keys and the chain of barrier reefs which essentially parallel the Keys. It has lots of water and offers some protection from the larger seas of the Florida Straits, particularly if there is or has been east winds.
So, we opt for the Hawk Channel this year, particularly because we are travelling in the company of Blair and Laurie on their Morgan 462, Odissea XX which draws six and a half feet rendering the inside route impossible for them.
It’s about 100 miles from Miami to Marathon and, obviously cannot be completed in the daylight hours of one day. There are numerous crab and lobster pots along the route; nothing like in Maine, but makes travelling at night somewhat perilous. Fortunately, about half way there is a fair weather anchorage near Key Largo, in the lee of Rodriguez Key.
We leave No Name Harbour at the crack of dawn and motor and sail the 50 or so mile to Rodriguez Key under grey skies and threatening showers and make it comfortably to our selected anchorage early in the afternoon. We are the only two boats in this particular aspect of the anchorage although there are several other cruisers elsewhere in the general vicinity.
We enjoy a peaceful night and leave at 6:30 am the next day to complete our journey to Marathon. There are numerous very heavy showers along our route and while they are not squally, we go through several very hard downpours. Great way to wash the salt off of the deck!
We arrive in the Marathon/Boot Key Harbour area just after 2:00 p.m. I contact the City Marina who maintains the extensive mooring field but am told that they are all taken and we’ll have to anchor. Not normally an issue but the anchorage area is also quite congested and there is a strong cold front with associated heavy winds coming the next day. So we and Odissea XX enter the congested and complicated harbour, picking our way through the multitudinous fleet of boats to find a safe place to anchor.