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Boating in the keys

here and there
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Boating in the keys

Hello all, and thanks for all the valuable information everyone provides on this site. My family and I will be renting a house in Islamorada on the Atlantic side. I will be renting a 22' center console to do some fishing, snorkeling, diving, and just cruising around with the family. After reading a fair amount of posts, I'm now a little apprehensive about the boating.

I've been boating since I was in my early teens, and currently own a 23' wakeboard boat. All my water time has been on lakes and rivers. My concern is H/L tide conditions, charts, and unknown reef heads/sandbars/etc. while out and about. I guess my question is how concerned should I be? I always see the amateur hour folks on holiday weekends and I don't want to be "that guy". Any suggestions or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Also, for dive/snorkel, it's my understanding you just tie up to mooring bouys at the sites. Do I need to be concerned with currents and getting to far away from the boat?

Thanks in advance for any assistance. Looking forward to a great trip.

Key Colony Beach...
Destination Expert
for Florida Keys
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7,641 posts
22 reviews
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1. Re: Boating in the keys

Great question. Just by the fact that you are asking these questions, I think that you will becareful enough not to be "That Guy".

That being said, tides, sandbars, winds, all play a part in anyone ending up being "That Guy".

Most of the rental boats will have a chart plotter of some sort. While a good tool to stay out of trouble, it's no guarantee. knowing the waters, where the sandbars and reefs are is invaluable.

I don't know the waters in Islamorada very well. I've been through there by boat only 3 times, and that was just going through. I wasn't at the helm, I was more of a marker spotter. I think that getting a good chart ahead of time, and staying out in the Atlantic will help. That being said, because of the shape of the reef, I know it has caused several groundings over the years.

I grew up on a lake also. I think this helps, but there is no substitute for experience in reading the waters and tides in the keys.

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173 posts
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2. Re: Boating in the keys

Depending on where you are staying in Islamorada, chart 11449 could give you a feel for the area.


Definitely grab a tide table from Outdoor World. Getting away from the shore is good advise as you can see from the chart depths.

We stayed on the Atlantic side in March and several guests had rental boats that they used.

Marathon, Florida
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for Marathon, Islamorada
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33 reviews
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3. Re: Boating in the keys

We love boating on the bayside in the Islamorada/Tavernier area. But it's tricky up there - like roads through the flats. It's beautiful and worth it if you're confident and aware. We often go from Marathon to Islamorada by boat for lunch - up bayside and back ocean side in a 25ft. Good places to go by boat for food in Isla - Smugglers Cover, Morada Bay, Island Grill, Hungry Tarpon.

South Florida...
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for Miami, Key Largo
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4. Re: Boating in the keys

You'll need fishing licenses - - you can get those on-line before you arrive. The bait shop has these handy rulers that let give you the limits on what you can catch - it's a mixed bag of limits, slots, etc.

Many of the reefs have mooring bouys and yes, you grab the line with your boat hook and (usually) tie on directly. But if the bouys are full or you are in an area without them (say because you want to catch lobster), then you drop your anchor in a sandy patch.

Everyone has to start somewhere - - so ask a few questions and hit the water. Oh, and buy a few noodles. One of my fav activities is to go to the back country, anchor up and just float in the water on my noodle.

Orlando, Florida
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5. Re: Boating in the keys

The best advice I can give you is simply to stay in the marked channels. Lots of boaters think that because they see water from point A to point B, that's all there is. It IS very tricky to navigate the waters but just take it slow, follow the rules of the road (like stay on the right side of the channel, no anchoring in the channel, etc.). Not only is it smart, its quite courteous as well.

Also, a recommendation for snorkeling since you have your own boat is Alligator Lighthouse on the Oceanside of course. It is absolutely beautiful and my fave place to go. You can see the lighthouse from the shore of the Outback restaurant located at the Hampton Inn to give you an idea. And if you are going to be around for a weekend, I suggest hanging out at the "sandbar," along the channel next to Holiday Isle. Tons of boaters gather and anchor, play music, grill food, bring the kids, pets, families, swim...it's a lot of fun. Good luck and just play it safe while boating!

Key Largo, Florida
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for Key Largo
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6. Re: Boating in the keys

If you have an iPhone, there is a great tide chart app for it. I use it and one called "Buoy Data," to help plan my days on the water. They use your current location to give tou info.

7. Re: Boating in the keys

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