Miami to Key Largo loop

Crew: Teddy, Alicia and Sheck
Miles/duration: ~180 miles over 4 days/3 nights.
Fuel consumed: ~42 gallons (about 4mpg)
Fuel cost: ~$210

Hours on motor: 1117 to 1133 (16hrs)

Day One:
I picked up Alicia in Orlando and we made our way south through Miami, arriving at Black Point Marina in Homestead around 6pm. This is a huge launch with 6 active ramps and loads of parking. By the time we were ready to launch it was around 8pm and there was still a steady flow of boaters coming in and out, but with the 6 ramps we had plenty of space. Launching the boat went smoothly until I went to drive the van back up the ramp and was spinning both rear tires on my 2WD Sprinter van. After some panic I decided to air down the tires and luckily that worked like a charm and we were safely out and parked. I’ve found even on steep ramps my rear wheels need to be in 4-5″ of water to get the boat off of the trailer, luckily when I’m retrieving it I don’t need to be as deep. We set off from the docks in the dark, relying on my Navionics charts and spotlight for channel markers. We planned a route to a nice cove off of Sands Key and found a good anchorage for the evening. There was a bit of chop and a stiff breeze but we made it without any issues. Off to bed!

Day Two:
Winds died down overnight and we had a good sleep, the anchor firmly planted with no drift. As the sun came up we got to appreciate the blue hue of Biscayne Bay, and the ability to see the bottom even 15-20′ deep. After a quick breakfast we motored to the National Park Service harbor on Elliot Key, finding 30-40 empty docks and vacant showers/bathrooms. We were pretty surprised at how desolate the marina and campground were, but delighted just the same. We went on a hike and Sheck and I did our daily run. The only downside were the bugs, if you strayed too far from the coast the mosquitos and no-see-ems were intense. We cruised down the west side of Elliot Key and made our way through a channel and out into the open ocean. Soon off shore the waves built, and with a stiff breeze they continued to get larger. With snorkeling destinations in mind we decided to head back inland and explore mangroves and Biscayne Bay instead. We found a really cool mangrove tidal stream near Adams Key and went fishing for a while, relaxing and watching the sea life. Later in the afternoon we headed through Card Sound and did some snorkeling there, not finding much but enjoying the clear water. We continued south on the inter coastal waterway, grabbing fuel towards the top of Key Largo. We topped off with 14 gallons at $6.69/gal… ouch! As the sun began to set we found a streamway through the mangroves, with a secluded lagoon about a half mile inland. The stream was 5′ deep and about 25′ wide, perfect for our little boat. We anchored in solitude and it was a great little spot, lots of fish and creatures to listen to and observe.

Day Three:
We had an early start and were off around 7am, first stop a shore visit to take Sheck out for a pee break. Finding a place to come ashore (for free) was a challenge, but we noticed some dinghys and kayaks parked in front of a municipal building in Key Largo and went there. There was a little walkway through the mangroves and it was accessible by boat, if you could draft less than a foot… so we fit perfectly! Dog walk done we set off into the ocean headed towards Molasses Reef. The waves were 2-3′ and spaced just a few seconds apart, so it was a rough ride out. As we made it further off shore there was another layer of waves 5-6′ tall and spaced widely, the two swells together made things pretty exciting. We made it to the reef (about 5 miles off shore) and found a nice mooring ball. The snorkeling was AMAZING! So much marine life. We spent almost two hours drifting on a line behind the boat, often swimming down to the reef to get a closer look. It was amazing, and the water was a nice 78 degrees. We also saw another C-Dory 22 out there! Back on the boat we were both feeling pretty seasick, so we headed inland towards Mosquito Sands for some respite. We each took a quick nap and felt rejuvenated, which was good because we had a lot left to see… Benwood Wreck: Broken up but full of life. We saw a saw our first sea turtle and a shark. Grecian Rocks: Shallow and amazing little snorkeling spot, so many fish and corals to look at. Christ Of The Deep: Cool I guess, not really my thing but it was neat seeing something I’d seen so many photos of. Carysfort Lighthouse: SO MANY SEA TURTLES. Great little stop, we went to take a photo of the boat in front of the lighthouse and got so much more than we’d asked for. Turtle Reef: Cool sand dollar. We finished off the day with a nice cruise in the sunset back to Elliot Key. Took Sheck for a walk and headed out to a sheltered anchorage for the night.

Day Four:
It got WINDY during the night, but the anchor held firm. For Sheck’s morning walk today we headed to Boca Chita Key and found some dockage nestled between boats, we got lucky on finding a spot though because this place was BUSY. After some hiking and a run we headed north through Biscayne Bay towards Miami. We anchored near Stiltsville, a collection of former prohibition era clubs out on stilts far offshore. We snorkeled for a while and then as the sun started to fall, made a long tour around the eastern section of Biscayne Bay and back to the marina. Pulling the boat was uneventful on the way out, I aired down the tires and since I could winch the boat onto the trailer, I didn’t need to move the van into the water to get it loaded. What a great trip!