To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Ph. IV, day 15, The Conch Republic

We've moored in the Garrison Bight Mooring Field. Our location is 24°34.704′N 081°47.151′W; putting us on one of the furthest balls out in the mooring field, a full mile from shore.

Key West Sunset
Key West Sunset

Big Lesson Up Front: Taking your own boat to Key West is difficult. I don't recommend it. A better approach is take your boat to Marathon and take the bus to Key West.

Key West's waters are shallow and exposed. They're full of military bases, and expensive marinas. The Garrison Bight Mooring field is tolerable, but spread all over the place. A ball a mile from shore means the dinghy ride in takes at least 20 minutes.


The long run up and through Man o' War harbor, around Fleming island is filled with the buzz of jet-skis down by the cruise ship terminal. The anchored boats go almost to the tip of Fleming Key.

Stick close to Green #3 when coming in from the Hawk Channel. A Red 2B Nun is needed around the turn there. We saw a sailboat hard aground, using all of their sails to try and pull themselves off the shoal they'd run onto. Looking back over our shoulder, we could see how the reds made it look like there was fairway there.


The moorings are of an ancient style. There's no pennant hanging off the ball to make it easy to pick it up. If you look at the mooring balls in Jensen's Beach or Boot Key Harbor they have a big, visible ball, with a small, secondary float that holds the proper eye. Indeed, they have a tiny bonus float that's there to make it super-easy to grab something with your boathook.

Nothing like that in Garrison Bight.

There's a big galvanized ring on the main float and that's it. Grab the huge ring and lift the entire chain up from the bottom of the ocean. It's only about 10 feet of heavy chain, so it probably weighs almost 30 pounds.

On the the first ball we tried, the chain didn't pull up cleanly. CA tried to save the catch, and held on a hair too long.

At some point, you can't easily disengage the boathook. In principle, you simply push down until it unhooks. But, when you have a heavy length of chain, you can no longer push it down far enough to free the hook from the chain. So you throw the boat hook in the ocean.

They float.

So she got out the secondary boat hook (we have 3.) I circled around slowly. She hooked the first hook and -- delicately -- lifted it back onto the deck.

The second ball we approached had a bunch of line tied to the galvanized ring. This made it hard to hook.

I didn't quite get close enough to the third ball. After the problem with the first ball, she didn't try anything heroic. I circled around, got closer, and she caught it, hauled the heavy chain up to a place where I could thread our mooring lines through it.

It was glorious.

  • CA grabbed two balls cleanly. She abandoned one and I didn't get close enough to one.

  • CA recovered a boat hook.

  • And. We threaded the line through mooring smoothly after a clean hook and retrieve.

My job in all this is to follow her directions as she leans over the bowsprit. When she hooks the penant (or the ball), I hit a big reverse to take off all way, leave the transmission in neutral, and scoot forward to thread one of the two lines she has staged.

We figured out that I need to be more forward to do the heavy hauling on the mooring lines. She stands aft where she can manage the hook and cleat off the lines. This means that when we do a starboard side retrieval, I run up the port side to get forward of her, and thread the starboard side line through the eye.

We thread a second line from the opposite side of the bowsprit; this requires some time to run the line around and back. It often means she'll cleat the first line before we even mess with the second line.


We're set to explore the Conch Republic over the few days. But. We're also expecting on some days when the waves in the mooring field will be too big to safely get into the dinghy.

This is a the same problem with the Jensen's Beach Mooring Field. From some directions, there's a huge fetch, meaning huge waves.

We don't know enough about propane fuel consumption, yet, but the 20-minute dinghy ride seems like it could be brutal. If (if) our dinghy really does burn fuel at a rate of about 1 gallon (4 lbs) of propane per hour, that will mean 15 lbs -- 4 gallons -- will last us four to six days. As the tank gets down to 3# or 4# over the 18# tare weight, we'll have to start bringing a second (full) tank to shore. When one tank is empty, it means any job on shore involve a trip to a place that will replace the empty tank. Ugh. But. Necessary.

The one advantage gasoline seems to have is being able to transfer small amounts of gasoline from a big storage container to the fuel tank on the dinghy. This lets you comfortably top off the fuel in your active gas tank. You can take the storage container ashore once in a while to top it off.

These 20# propane tanks are right awkward.

If I was smart, I'd buy another planter base and cut slots in it for a second propane can to stand in the dinghy on those days when the tank seems almost empty.


Attribute Value
Depart Torch Key 24°39.803′N 081°25.583′W
Arrive Garrison Bight Mooring Field 24°34.704′N 081°47.151′W
Distance 29 nm
Time 5h 30m
Engine 5h 30m