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Old 09-19-2020, 07:56 PM   #1
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Cruising To The Dry Tortugas

We think we have a five or six weeks window to get in a little cruise before Christmas.

Mapping out a trip down to Stuart, across the lake to Fort Myers and down to the Dry Tortugas. Then either retracing or going up through the Keys to the AICW and home.

Its all pretty straightforward except for one part. Where to kick off from to the Dry Tortugas.

I have looked at WaterWay Guide and there are dozens of "marinas" at the nearest jump off points in SW Florida. But when I look at the listings I am really struggling to find somewhere that is suitable - many are small local docks that have zero facilities, and the in-outs look iffy. There are one or two that work, but they are at the northernmost extreme of the listings.

Granted I haven't finished going through them all but so far haven't found a suitable place.

Has anyone done this jump from the SW and where did you jump from?
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Old 09-19-2020, 08:18 PM   #2
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If you're a Yacht club member with reciprocity, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club might work with a guest slip. Marco Island is physically a good jump off point but I don't know if any of marinas are available.
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Old 09-19-2020, 08:45 PM   #3
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If you're a Yacht club member with reciprocity, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club might work with a guest slip. Marco Island is physically a good jump off point but I don't know if any of marinas are available.
Just had a look. Its approx 100nm. Given October and November cruising so shorter days sounds like a 3am or 4am start from there.
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Old 09-19-2020, 08:46 PM   #4
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Done this trip numerous times.

Spend night in Ft Meyers, at City Marina, Legacy, or Ford.
Ft. Meyers downtown is two blocks away and worth a stroll. So is Ford museum tour.

Or go to Pink Shell marina on the beach.

Next day make Marco island. Lots of places to anchor, we go back in to a little basin surrounded by homes about three miles in.

Next hop is Shark or Snake River. Not sure of name. Clear the shoals then go up river at mark and anchor in a little protected basin.

From there it is a one day run to Key West and another day to Ft Jefferson.

We have not gone straight across, at seven knots you would need to time a daylight entry.

There are so many crab traps I gave up running at night, too risky. We have encountered them forty miles offshore.
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Old 09-19-2020, 09:40 PM   #5
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Have made the Tortugas trip many a time from the west coast, jumping off variously from Egmont Key (at the mouth of Tampa Bay), Venice Inlet, Boca Grande Pass, and San Carlos Bay (essentially at the Caloosahatchie River entrance). Among all those departures, I liked the latter best. Pushed-off from there at about 1600, ran through the evening and overnight at around 8 knots, and raised the loom of the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key before sunrise (my preferred landfall timing). Eased into the anchorage around 0800, as other boats were leaving, and had my choice of spots. Had the hook on the bottom and secure next to Ft. Jefferson in time for a nice calm breakfast, and then ashore to explore.

Now, coming from the east coast, you have an even better option. Don't cross the Okeechobee Waterway on the way there - cross on the way back. My ideal scenario leaving from Jacksonville would be to go down the Atlantic ICW and through the Keys (either Hawk Channel or the Florida Bay route) all the way to Key West. Enjoy the charms of that exotic port of call until you've had your fill, then push off early one morning and head west to the Tortugas. You'll have an easy sleigh ride with the easterlies behind you all the way, arriving in plenty of time to anchor at Ft. Jefferson in daylight.

That plan sets you up to leave out of the Tortugas on a northeasterly heading, heading for wherever you please on the coast of SW Florida. The Shark River at Everglades City is very cool. Marco Island or Naples are okay, but you can easily run up to the Caloosahatchie River entrance and make downtown Ft. Myers your next stop.

The main reason to favor this clockwise circuit of south Florida is to avoid bashing into the always sloppy and sometimes downright miserable head seas when you go east from the Dry Tortugas to Key West. Many's the time I've gotten beat up on that leg. It just sucks.

If you insist on going to the Tortugas first, and the putting into KW, make your course out of the Tortugas a big dogleg, heading NE until you're well to the north of Rebecca Shoal and the Marquesas. Then gradually quarter back around to the SE and approach Key West via Northwest Channel. It's less glamorous than arriving via Sand Key Channel, but vastly more comfortable.
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Old 09-19-2020, 09:48 PM   #6
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Have made the Tortugas trip many a time from the west coast, jumping off variously from Egmont Key (at the mouth of Tampa Bay), Venice Inlet, Boca Grande Pass, and San Carlos Bay (essentially at the Caloosahatchie River entrance). Among all those departures, I liked the latter best. Pushed-off from there at about 1600, ran through the evening and overnight at around 8 knots, and raised the loom of the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key before sunrise (my preferred landfall timing). Eased into the anchorage around 0800, as other boats were leaving, and had my choice of spots. Had the hook on the bottom and secure next to Ft. Jefferson in time for a nice calm breakfast, and then ashore to explore.

Now, coming from the east coast, you have an even better option. Don't cross the Okeechobee Waterway on the way there - cross on the way back. My ideal scenario leaving from Jacksonville would be to go down the Atlantic ICW and through the Keys (either Hawk Channel or the Florida Bay route) all the way to Key West. Enjoy the charms of that exotic port of call until you've had your fill, then push off early one morning and head west to the Tortugas. You'll have an easy sleigh ride with the easterlies behind you all the way, arriving in plenty of time to anchor at Ft. Jefferson in daylight.

That plan sets you up to leave out of the Tortugas on a northeasterly heading, heading for wherever you please on the coast of SW Florida. The Shark River at Everglades City is very cool. Marco Island or Naples are okay, but you can easily run up to the Caloosahatchie River entrance and make downtown Ft. Myers your next stop.

The main reason to favor this clockwise circuit of south Florida is to avoid bashing into the always sloppy and sometimes downright miserable head seas when you go east from the Dry Tortugas to Key West. Many's the time I've gotten beat up on that leg. It just sucks.

If you insist on going to the Tortugas first, and the putting into KW, make your course out of the Tortugas a big dogleg, heading NE until you're well to the north of Rebecca Shoal and the Marquesas. Then gradually quarter back around to the SE and approach Key West via Northwest Channel. It's less glamorous than arriving via Sand Key Channel, but vastly more comfortable.
Thanks. Well worth thinking about. Sloppy I don't mind if the experience is worth gaining (we've had more than "sloppy" in the gulf stream..

Key West isn't in our plan since we live in FL and have been there by road and cruise. But maybe worth it for the jump west.
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Old 09-19-2020, 09:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Blissboat View Post
Have made the Tortugas trip many a time from the west coast, jumping off variously from Egmont Key (at the mouth of Tampa Bay), Venice Inlet, Boca Grande Pass, and San Carlos Bay (essentially at the Caloosahatchie River entrance). Among all those departures, I liked the latter best. Pushed-off from there at about 1600, ran through the evening and overnight at around 8 knots, and raised the loom of the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key before sunrise (my preferred landfall timing). Eased into the anchorage around 0800, as other boats were leaving, and had my choice of spots. Had the hook on the bottom and secure next to Ft. Jefferson in time for a nice calm breakfast, and then ashore to explore.

Now, coming from the east coast, you have an even better option. Don't cross the Okeechobee Waterway on the way there - cross on the way back. My ideal scenario leaving from Jacksonville would be to go down the Atlantic ICW and through the Keys (either Hawk Channel or the Florida Bay route) all the way to Key West. Enjoy the charms of that exotic port of call until you've had your fill, then push off early one morning and head west to the Tortugas. You'll have an easy sleigh ride with the easterlies behind you all the way, arriving in plenty of time to anchor at Ft. Jefferson in daylight.

That plan sets you up to leave out of the Tortugas on a northeasterly heading, heading for wherever you please on the coast of SW Florida. The Shark River at Everglades City is very cool. Marco Island or Naples are okay, but you can easily run up to the Caloosahatchie River entrance and make downtown Ft. Myers your next stop.

The main reason to favor this clockwise circuit of south Florida is to avoid bashing into the always sloppy and sometimes downright miserable head seas when you go east from the Dry Tortugas to Key West. Many's the time I've gotten beat up on that leg. It just sucks.

If you insist on going to the Tortugas first, and the putting into KW, make your course out of the Tortugas a big dogleg, heading NE until you're well to the north of Rebecca Shoal and the Marquesas. Then gradually quarter back around to the SE and approach Key West via Northwest Channel. It's less glamorous than arriving via Sand Key Channel, but vastly more comfortable.
Double post.
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Old 09-21-2020, 08:05 PM   #8
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Doing some more planning on this.

For those that know the area, how does Marco Island to the anchorage at Shark River, Shark River to KW, KW to DT, sound?

Those distances look much more comfortable.
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Old 09-21-2020, 08:17 PM   #9
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Doing some more planning on this.

For those that know the area, how does Marco Island to the anchorage at Shark River, Shark River to KW, KW to DT, sound?

Those distances look much more comfortable.
Shark River to KW is a long run. You may wish to stop in Marathon in between. Shark River is in the heart of the Everglades and worth the stop.
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Old 09-21-2020, 08:26 PM   #10
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Shark River to KW is a long run. You may wish to stop in Marathon in between. Shark River is in the heart of the Everglades and worth the stop.
I'm seeing it as around 58 nm? A nice run for us.

From the reviews I read it does sound like a great opportunity to anchor in a great natural out of the way spot in the Everglades.
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Old 09-21-2020, 09:33 PM   #11
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Anywhere in the Keys is pretty nice. If you're OK with the run to KW, you should do that. Hard to go wrong.
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Old 09-21-2020, 09:40 PM   #12
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BTW, I mis-spoke. Or mis-wrote. Meant that "the Shark River or Everglades City are very cool. Agree that Shark River to Key West is an easy and usually lovely run.
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Old 09-21-2020, 11:32 PM   #13
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We anchored overnight at Shark River a few years ago. It was a very interesting spot, plenty of water, and we were the only boat there. This was in the summertime however, and the bugs were fierce as soon as the sun went down. Big biting horseflies.

The run to KW was pretty easy from Shark River IIRC.
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