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Catalina Direct Discussion Topics / Catalina 22 Discussion Area / Cruising Areas / Florida Keys Sailing
Author Florida Keys Sailing
Andrew Shaw
Vero Beach, FL

Boat Name: Sunny Daze

Model/Year: C-22 1971

Hull No. 851

Hailing Port: Vero Beach, FL
10/15/2004 5:07 PM Pacific Time

Can anyone offer any advice on sailing through the keys. Thought about launching in Largo and taking a week to sail to Key West and back. Would appreciate any info offered.
david martin
hutchinson island fl

Boat Name: barefoot gourmet

Model/Year: cat 22 1977

Hull No. 7942 (?)

Hailing Port: Hutchinsom Island Fl
10/18/2004 6:38 AM Pacific Time

I dont know if you will get all way and back in a week especially if you get the northers we are getting now . Pennecamp state park is a great place to launch and leave the truck & trailer , you can call them in advance . Give me a call on my cell 772 201 7799 and I will give you my input also Phillip and Sharron in Fellesmere have a lot of experience down there
Chris Hadden
Newfane, Vermont, USA

Boat Name: no name

Model/Year: 1974 Catalina 22

Hull No. 3439

Hailing Port: Vermont
10/18/2004 7:59 AM Pacific Time

I have sailed the keys. I used to launch in Key Largo. I can't recall the name of the place now. It was near pennecamp but on the other side of the road. Big field with a bunch of boats on trailers. Good cement ramp, docks, fuel etc.
I don't think a week is really quite enough time. It could certianly be done but you will be pressed for time and if you get any bad weather you may not get back in time. It has been a while so I can not really remember the names of all the places we went. Overall we had a very good time. Lots of different sailing conditions. The bay side was flat, shallow and if you get off the intercostal you can feel a million miles from civilization. We side tripped up to cape sable and flamingo. I really enjoyed that. You could lauch in Flamingo too. Great ramp and about a 20mile sail to the keys. Anyway crusing south from key largo we sailed down the bay side till we reached a pass that had a bridge we could get under. From there we went down the ocean side. I think we stopped two nights before arriving at key west. We actually stayed at a marina at stocking island. This proved to be a good move. We went out on the town for several nights. My first time there and I had a good time. The return trip was wind on the nose and we motored a lot of the way. It sucked. Very rough, grin a bear it situation.
As far as anchoring. I was not all that impressed with most spots on the ocean side. Boot key we stopped at which was so crowded we had serious issues finding a spot. Not my idea of a good anchorage. I think I also stopped at bahi honda which was OK and then at the bridge (5 mile?) I anchored both sides of it. The little spot on the bay side was so close to the road and sodium lights if felt like sleeping in a rest area.
Anchoring on the bay side did not seem like an issue. Just lift up your board and head to any isolated mangrove island. I was down there for about a month and we had some spells of very calm weather. One night I anchored right off the beach of cape sable. Totally exposed but not a ripple on the water. Gorgeous, no people. good fishing. Just perfect with the exception of some very very serious bugs that arrived right after the sun dropped. Next day I set off across Florida Bay to the keys. I was out of gas and there was no wind. I think I made about 10miles before dark. So in the middle of Florida Bay no land in site. I throw the anchor out and turn on the anchor light. Next morning is still mirror calm dolphins swimming by just amazing......I did get my wind later that day.

Good luck with your trip
Chip Ford
Marblehead, MA

Boat Name: Chip Ahoy

Model/Year: 1974-Swing Keel

Hull No. CTY032820374

Hailing Port: Marblehead, Mass.
10/19/2004 5:08 AM Pacific Time

Andrew, I lived in Marathon (on Vaca Key) for about five years between 1979-84 after we cruised the Idle Hours II down the Intercoastal Waterway one fall. (Photo taken in cut from Boot Key Harbor between Boot Key and Key Colony/Sombrero)

After bringing her back up to Massachusetts and selling her I drove back down, started a small sign-painting business and became a resident, living in a trailer park just north of the Seven-Mile Bridge. After a few years I met a couple with an old 60' Alden schooner and soon became a partner in it and the planned restoration project. (Photos taken during the Columbus Day Regatta, Biscayne Bay)

Now there was a tough boat to sail in the Keys, with its 8 foot draft. We kept Yankee Girl in Boot Key Harbor and could only get her out through the main channel past Sombrero Light and through the reef. We sailed down to Key West once and anchored off Loo Key for some snorkeling: had to use the Zodiak to get in to the reef, but it was worth the effort!

The local saying down there, "Just another boring day in paradise," is pretty close to describing life in the Keys, along with "maƱana." Barbara and I visited a few years ago and I was surprised how much had changed (the "box" stores and fast-food restautants have moved in, etc.) -- and how much really hadn't. I rented a Whaler and we took it out to the reef for some great snorkeling in those crystal-clear waters again.

The worst weather down there are the northers: they come in fast and ferocious, but you'll get plenty of warning if you pay attention to weather forecasts. The approaching wall of black sky is often preceded by waterspouts.

Bahia Honda is about 12 miles south of Marathon. Information about Bahia Honda is available at:

I've got a friend, Jeremy, who's just become a park ranger on Long Key, Mile Marker 67.5, which puts it about 17 miles north of Marathon. He lives aboard his Cal 27 with his girlfriend Sylvie, is a certified diver and holds a captain's licence (six-pack). They plan to cruise over to the Bahamas in March, but if you want me to put you in touch with him, write me. You can get my e-mail address at the bottom of my website's homepage.

Chip Ford --
Marblehead, Mass.
1974 C22 Swing Keel #3282 - "Chip Ahoy"
Chip Ahoy website:



Model/Year: 1990 C22

Hull No.

10/19/2004 1:45 PM Pacific Time

Dear Andrew:
We live very close to you and the Keys are our favorite place to sail in the Fall, Winter, and Spring.
I would Not expect to sail from Key Largo to Key West and back in one week despite the fact that we have done it. We were just too lucky. The winds went around the clock perfectly for our trip but that was chance. Three long days to get there; two days there; and three very long and fast days back. Our stops each way were Long Key bight and Bahia Honda. I do not expect to have such luck again.
For additional detailed information contact us at: with your address and we will send you a package of information we have plus we can answer other questions.
Philip & Sharon Merlier "Swizzle Stick"


Model/Year: 1990 C22

Hull No.

10/19/2004 2:17 PM Pacific Time

General Information About Sailing the Florida Keys:
Routes to get there: Use the Florida Turnpike and the Sawgrass Expressway (DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH MIAMI).
Launching: John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo is the very best place to launch and store your tow rig.
Sunshine Key Marina at mile marker 39 is another possible place to launch although we have never used it.
Some suggested anchorages (but there are many, many more): Largo Sound has mooring bouys. North side of Rodriquez Key is always our first anchorage after launching. Long Key Bight is very nice. Bahia Honda is nice of you anchor close in. Just about any place on the Bay side is very nice for anchoring.
Points of interest on the water: Snake Creek Bridge between Plantation and Windley Key is the first possible place to cross over to the bay side (WATCH OUT for the strong current going through the pass). You can also get gas and ice as you pass through. Indian Key State Park is a nice place to stretch you legs but no good for overnight. Channel Five (just North of Long Key) is an excellent cross over point. Fiesta Key KOA Campground is a good place to get gas, ice, and limited supplies. Also can buy a shower there. South/West of Bahai Honda on the Gulf/Bay side has nothing of interest. The ocean side is much better.
The Key West area is very nice for sailing and the Marquesas Keys are interesting.
The Dry Tortugas National Park is a very interesting place to visit but do not expect to return to Key West due to the strong prevailing winds.
Sailing tips: Watch for strong currents in all the passes. Off shore there is a current from southwest to northeast. Always watch your depth finder and the water color. Sailing and snorkelling off shore is always very nice but DO NOT ANCHOR ON THE REEF. Alway anchor in sand, grass, or mud.
Anchor away from land to avoid bugs.
Essential gear:
Plow anchor. We have both 14lb and 22lb Delta anchors. They work best in the flat limestone and mud with grass bottoms that you will find. A Delta 14 fits perfectly in the anchor well of the newer C22s.
Bug Protection.
Hats and sun protection.
Anchor light
Snorkel gear
Heavy fishing gear and needle nose pliers for trolling.
Foul weather gear if you have it.
Storm sails if you have them.
Weather: Usually very good yet storm fronts can be impressive. Prevailing wind is from the northeast but usually goes around the clock every few days.
Fishing: Trolling is usually very good.
Snorkeling: Very nice except in unsettled weather when the water looks like milk. There are many places to snorkel and you can do snorkelling while your boat drifts.
Cruising Guide: "Cruising Guide To The Florida Keys" by Capt. Frank Pappy
Diving Guide: "Diving and Snorkeling Guide To The Florida Keys" by John and Judy Halas and Don Kincaid
Charts: "MapTech Chart Kit for the Florida West Coast including the Keys".
If anyone would like more detailed printed information on sailing the Florida Keys you may contact me with your address at:
In summary I STRONGLY recommend the Florida Keys for Fall, Winter, and Spring sailing.
Philip & Sharon Merlier "Swizzle Stick"


Model/Year: 1990 C22

Hull No.

11/11/2004 11:25 PM Pacific Time

Important Update Of Regulations At Pennekamp State Park In The Florida Keys: Pennekamp State Park is one of the best places to launch your C22 in the Florida Keys. It also has very good secured parking area for your tow vehicle and trailer. However, this year they have changed to requirements regarding the use of their facility for such purposes. In order to launch your boat and go out for more than the day you must purchase an "Annual Season Pass" which is good for one year from date of purchase at any Florida State Park. They stated the price was $91.00 however they only charged me $80 so who knows what the real price is. Then all you have to pay is the daily parking charge which they said would be $5.00 but they only charged me $4.65 so who knows. They require you to fill out a float plan and they call the Coast Guard if you do not notify them when you return. Your stay is limited to 14 nights. They also no longer give you the combination to the front gate as you are not allowed on the park grounds after dark. Pennekamp remains the best place to lauch in the Keys despite these new regulations and expenses.


Model/Year: 1990 C22

Hull No.

11/21/2004 7:20 AM Pacific Time

Sailing The Florida Keys in October & November 2004: Having recently returned from a 13 day circumnavigation of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West I thought I would list some of my observations so that others would have an idea of the conditions in the Keys during late October and early November should they consider going.
Winds: 8 days of NE @ 15 - 20 knots
5 days of E - SE @ 15 - 20 knots
1 day of SE @ 5 or less knots
1 day of N - NE @ 10 - 5 knots
1 day of N - NE @ 10 - 15 knots
The wind never died at night which was nice. With the winds always out of the East side of the compass it made for an easy two day run to Key West on the ocean side but then we spent the rest of our time beating our way back on the calmer bay side. This is often the case in the Keys.
Temperatures: Daytimes were in the 80s
Nighttimes were in the 70s
Water was 78 - 82
We only encountered one mosquito the entire trip and she may have been a stowaway from home.
Despite the wind the water remained clear on the ocean side however the bay side turned to milk.
The Keys are very quiet in October. You can really get a sense of the wildness of nature. All the summer Miami residents have gone home and the "snow birds" don't arrive until mid November. On the other hand if you also want a different kind of stimulation Fantasy Fest in Key West is crazy and fun and a fairly cheap affair if you arrive by boat.
As you can see you must be fairly seaworthy and well prepared to sail the Keys in October and early November however you will be rewarded for your efforts.
Philip & Sharon Merlier "Swizzle Stick"
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