Driving Overseas Hwy to Key West is slow and tedious with lots of traffic and an overdose of commercial billboards for restaurants, billboards for resorts, motels, diving experiences, day trips to the reef. Never ending. That said, sailing in the Keys is totally different and provides the un-rushed, and laid-back character of the chain of islands with its pristine waters and marine wildlife.Cruising the Keys is a great option to avoid the weather-dependent Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. You can cruise the Keys in virtually any weather because you have three basic route choices.
- Outside the reef in the Gulf Stream with deep water but with a South to North current of about 2 to 3 Knots.
- Inside the reef using Hawk Channel with minimal current effect.
- The Intra-coastal waterway, which is slow going due to the zig-zag channel and its irregular markers.
First-time charterers are always amazed at the distances involved in cruising these waters. We get many requests for boats to cruise from Miami to Key West and back, for example. Yes, it’s about 135 Nautical Miles, while this doesn’t seem a whole lot, if you break it down in to bite-sized chunks, things begin to make sense.
If you estimate an average of 5 Knots traveling South along the Hawk Channel, it would take you 27 hours of sailing non-stop to reach Key West.
Since you can only travel during daylight due to the shallow water and reefs, that gives you 8 or 9 hours of sailing a day that equates to basically, a three-day trip without stopping off anywhere. i.e. a week of hard sailing – no sight-seeing.
PLUS three days back to Miami, so that is a total of 6 days of sailing non-stop. Not quite what you signed up for I imagine.
There are options however, that depend on your inclinations. Here are some of my own preferences.
These are not things you can change. This is what the insurance companies call “acts of God”. The bareboat company will probably be unsympathetic and perhaps your boss will too….