Cruising the Florida Keys--Page 3
Elliott Key ends at Caesar’s Creek, named for the notorious pirate Black Caesar. It offers passage out to Hawk Channel for boats with drafts of less than four feet. The route winds extensively through shallow flats, but it has ample markers all the way.
Farther south, at the north end of Key Largo, is Angelfish Creek, another passage that's perhaps a foot deeper at MLW but somewhat trickier to navigate because it has fewer markers (though itis marked where necessary).
On the ocean side just south of Angelfish Creek lies the very private and prestigious Ocean Reef Club. Visitors and transients are not welcome to dock, but reciprocal privileges are extended to members of accredited yacht clubs. The marina can get a bit crowded, so reservations are a good idea, even for members!
Back on the bay side in Card Sound you’ll find Pumpkin Key at Mile 1122. It is surrounded by good, deep anchorage offering shelter in winds from any direction. It’s also a popular place and on a good weekend you may find yourself surrounded — by other boats.
At Mile 1125 you come to Card Bank, just below the Card Sound Bridge, then Barnes Sound. Barnes Sound is mostly open, but has some interesting corners for cruising folks to sneak into for a night or two. On the mainland side, south of Manatee Bay, you’ll find Cross Key with a couple marinas.
Cross Key ends at the new Jewfish Creek bridge over the ICW at Mile 1135, the point where the causeway from the mainland makes its landfall on Key Largo. Dockage — with rooms, restaurants and supplies — is available just south of the bridge, at Anchorage Resort & Yacht Club on the east side and at Gilbert’s Marina on the west, which also has fuel. PonTunes Marina, next to Anchorage, also has a restaurant and tiki bar and is home to Queen Anne's Revenge II. She's a 105' schooner with an 85' mainmast and if you're there at just the right time, you may be able to sign up (through the marina) for a sunset cruise on Thursdays through Sundays!
Jewfish Creek is where local fishermen make a sharp turn to the west and head across Florida Bay for the fabulous fishing from there to Flamingo, across the south shore of Everglades National Park. It’s great fishing but no place for a cruising boat — shallow water over thin mud bottom with narrow channels marked mostly by sticks and branches stuck in the mud by fishermen (and just as often moved by other fishermen). Seen from the air, the shallows are crisscrossed by propeller tracks.
On the ocean side, a couple of miles south of Jewfish Creek, a canal leads from the southeast corner of Blackwater Sound across Key Largo and under two 14-foot fixed bridges to Largo Sound. It’s an attractive and completely sheltered area. Anchoring is no longer allowed, but State Park moorings near the southwest end of the sound may be rented. The park reports that these moorings are available to boats of up to 4 1/2 foot draft. Call on VHF 16 or phone Boat Rentals (305-451-6325)at the Park HQ for reservations. There's also a small marina. Eight slips are available for small boats and their two large slips are 20' wide. Per night charges are not high and cover electricity, water and access to all park facilities including pumpout, trash, showers, etc. The sound is also easily accessed from either north or south on the ocean side by boats that can't clear those low bridges.
Many divers believe that the variety and quality of marine life in Pennekamp is the equal of any in the world so Key Largo's waterfront is lined with dive boats and dive shops plus restaurants and shopping to serve its millions of visitors. To add to the diving scene, in 2002, Spiegel Grove, a 510' steel ship was sunk about six miles off Key Largo at 25° 04.00' N; 80° 18.65' W.
And, there's the Diving Museum on US 1 at MM 83 Bayside. Visit www.divingmuseum.com to check it all out. The museum has activities, movies, classes, etc., mostly for divers but often of interest to non-divers, too!
Key Largo is the largest of the Keys, one of the oldest named places in America, and one of the most hospitable places for the cruising boatman, with plenty of dockage and facilities so numerous we can't mention all, but all are shown on our charts, of course. Hotels with docks include the Key West Inn, Mariners Club and Holiday Inn, (Continue...)
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