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Alternative Anchorage Options in South Florida

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The 2016 Florida legislative session hit South Florida hard with anchoring restrictions in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. As of July 1, 2016, boaters can no longer anchor overnight in Middle River, Sunset Lake or between Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and San Marco Island and Biscayne Island. This has left many cruisers scrambling for locations to provision or simply rest before proceeding to points east. The area has, however, a variety of anchorages and marinas worth checking out.

Remembering the First Crossing

Photo by Terry BoramLake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale is a quiet cove south of Bahia Mar. From Port Everglades channel, follow the ICW north to G13. Proceed towards the Bahia Mar, then head south hugging the east seawall, staying no more than 50 feet off channel depths of 6 – 7 feet. Arrive early in the day since this anchor tends to fill up quickly. Weekends are extremely busy with day boaters.

Provisioning can be done from this location using the dinghy dock at Southport Raw Bar at a cost of $10 (which you will get back if you purchase food). To access from Lake Sylvia, take the southernmost canal in the anchorage west, crossing over the ICW to the canal directly ahead. The dock is at the end of this canal. Publix, Winn Dixie, and Ace Hardware are within a one mile walk.

Colonial Shipwrecks in Biscayne National Park

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South Florida anchorage options : Photo by Terry Boram
Hurricane Hole overlooking the Sandbar, Photo by Terry Boram

Availability of slips and moorings for average sized sailboats are few in Fort Lauderdale, dubbed the “Yachting Capital of the World.” The Fort Lauderdale City Mooring Field is on the southwest side of the Las Olas bridge with only ten moorings for 50-foot LOA. Up the New River are several marinas with side ties along the concrete seawall. Check out City of Ft. Lauderdale at Cooleys Landing which has great access to restaurants and shopping.

No Name Harbor off the Cape Florida Channel leading into Biscayne Bay is a very popular anchorage for jumping off to the Bahamas. Situated within Bill Baggs State Park the anchorage is well protected, with good holding. There is an overnight fee of $20.00 and $8.00 for day use.

Keep in mind this anchorage gets very tight during the winter months when cruisers are waiting for weather windows to cross the Gulf Stream, and weekends fill up with day use boaters.

Wednesday Night Racing on Biscayne Bay

South Florida anchorage options : Photo by Terry Boram
Photo by Terry Boram

The approach is quite accessible from the ocean and bay with an 11-foot deep channel and depths inside from 12 – 15 feet.

Tie your dinghy along the seawall to have access to a washer and dryers at the pavilion by the entrance to the harbor, a Cuban restaurant on the south end of the basin and walking paths to a great beach. The harbor also has a free pump out. A Winn Dixie is a 2-mile walk or bicycle ride away with an Ace Hardware along the way.

If there is “no room at the inn” at No Name Harbor and you are already provisioned, continue west into Biscayne Bay to find several anchoring options. Key Biscayne Bight or as locals call it Nixon’s Sandbar, is on the western shore just north of the R4 at the end of Cape Florida Channel. This is an open anchorage with good protection from north through southeast winds. Heed the markers for the shallows on the north and south side of this anchorage. It shallows quickly. The sandbar to the south end of the anchorage is very popular during the weekends with loud music and plenty of jet skiers. Stay to the north side near Key Biscayne Yacht Club for a quieter experience. There is plenty of water with 10 – 12 feet even close to shore.

Public Locked Out of Biscayne National Park

South Florida anchorage options : Photo by Terry Boram
No Name Harbor, Photo by Terry Boram

For greater protection go inside the narrow channel at the south of this anchorage to enter Hurricane Hole. In the channel, hang close to the north seawall for best depth. Once inside depth is 12 – 13 feet. Neither one of these anchorage has shore access.

This area of Biscayne Bay also has two marinas with slips and moorings both offering access to shopping, laundry and fuel. Crandon Park Marina is located on the northwest corner of Biscayne Bay near Bear Cut. Follow the channel to stay in six feet of water. The marina has slips up to 80 feet LOA and 60 mooring balls for sailboats up to 40 feet LOA. There is a fuel dock and pump out as well as ice and laundry on site. Shopping and restaurants are within walking distance of the marina. You must use your own dinghy to get ashore from the mooring field.

Dinner Key Marina is on the eastern shore in Coconut Grove. It too has slips and moorings available for transients on a first come, first serve basis. The marina has on-site laundry and walking distance to grocery and hardware stores within walking distance. A shuttle runs to the mooring field on the hour between 8 a.m and 5 p.m. If you find the marina full, anchor to the east side of the Dinner Key Channel. There is plenty of room with good holding, however, be mindful the area is exposed to everything but a WNW blow.

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