Rating: 5 Anchors!
We found out about this little hurricane hole from our neighbors on M/Y Willow at Yacht Haven Marina near Boot Key Harbor, Marathon down in the Florida Keys. They raved about it and how they had plans to go there almost every week because they loved it so much. Not only is it beautiful here, but like I said, it’s a pretty stellar “hurricane hole”. A hurricane hole is basically a sheltered location that protects you from the wind. Our time in the marina is up, so we needed a place to anchor out. We were also looking at the weather outlook for later this week (Thursday night and Friday morning) and with the prediction of 30 knot wind gusts (for an approximate MPH result, multiply the knot value by 1.151…so 34.5mph) we were not going to risk it in the more open anchorage we enjoy down in Big Pine Key.
Getting into the Little Crawl Key anchorage is tricky. It’s best to wait until high tide unless you have a very shallow draft, 4’ or less. Ours is 3.5 and we still had some interesting areas to maneuver. Of course we arrived at low tide, however…the area surrounding the anchorage is a sailor’s paradise! First, there is the Coffins Patch Sanctuary just 3.6nm from the Key. We sailed near it and hung out for a bit to take a dive in the crystal clear, turquoise waters.
After that, we motored (not enough wind to sail today) near shore to check out a popular sand bar area. We were diligent to stay away from the crowds, and luckily there was a little place for us to play and let the dog run around. This was my first experience with a Florida sandbar and it was beyond cool! There were tons of things to see such as hermit crabs, rays, blue crabs, shells, sea biscuits, fish, and more.
Once we were done playing and snorkeling around the sandbar, we decided to try our best to get into the anchorage. It wasn’t quite high tide yet but we (read: Captain Steve) were confident in the boat making it in there ok. Luckily, the channel markers to get in are located at the sandbar so we didn’t have to go far. The channel is an odd shape, I’d describe it as an “S” shape. Some markers are missing and we noticed our chart plotter was “off” and not showing us lined up with the markers in real life. We stuck close to the red markers which is suggested in reviews of this area. The only marker we didn’t stay close to was the last red one due to some shoaling and shallow water near the shore.
Once we got through the inlet, it was fairly easy to find a spot in the cove. There were only two other boats so we all had about a third of the cove to ourselves. The depth of this area is listed on charts at 6-8ft and we found it to be about 6’ total depth with 2’ still under our keel at low tide. As soon as we found a spot to anchor, we dropped in the SUP boards and headed for a hidden opening in the mangroves. Upon first glance, you don’t even know it’s there…but if you watch for awhile…you’ll start to see kayakers and paddle boarders appear out of nowhere! We had to check this out, it was another suggestion from our marina neighbors on M/Y Willow. Off we went, Cody on the board in front, Bella, Steve and I all on one board! While this does make the case for us to invest in another SUP board, I will say…the board we do have is amazing since it can hold all three of us well! This little section of the mangrove paddling trail is about 1.5-miles and circumnavigates Little Crawl Key. It takes approximately one hour and features a mangrove tunnel, deep water lagoon, grassy flats, sandbars and open ocean. There is also a longer route that is 5 miles long, and yet an even LONGER route that connects to the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail!
That night we battened down the hatches, literally, and got ready for 30 knot winds. This task list included deflating the SUP boards, zipping up the sail bag, wrapping up the jib, and basically strapping down or stowing away anything that can catch wind. Before the wind shifted and we got stronger gusts, we made an effort to move the boat a bit closer to the mangroves on the windward side so that we’d have a little bit more protection. It really helped, and last night, besides the howling winds…we had a restful and calm sleep. The anchor held really well, as this is a muddy/dense clay mix bottom. We still had our anchor alarm on just in case. We were hoping to just be here for a few days but a chain of winter winds are headed this way and if we leave, we might lose our spot and not be able to get back to this secluded area. Sadly that means our window to go to the Bahamas is also pushed back a bit…however…we really don’t mind spending that time here!
https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/curry-hammock-state-park https://activecaptain.garmin.com/en-US/pois/46464/Reviews https://floridadep.gov/parks/ogt/content/florida-circumnavigational-saltwater-paddling-trail-segments-information