Boca Chita

Oh boy was it blowing! There we were, sitting in Tarpon Basin, waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Ever since we’d left the boat yard it had been blowing like stink. I mean 20 – 30 knots daily. We screamed southbound down the west coast of Florida and then east along the Keys on our way up to Miami. The plan was to meet up with friend there, check out our favourite spots, watch some beautiful people, hang out with friends, have a few cocktails and then the weather would be perfect and we’d zip over to the Bahamas. HA! Always remember, it is not up to you where you go. So there we were, in Tarpon Basin, just north of Key Largo. Yes it’s a perfectly protected anchorage but there’s not much there. (Although I am happy to report that the city has now installed wifi and if you anchor close enough you can pick it up on your boat. Of course with the wind direction we couldn’t anchor close enough.) After a couple of days of staring at mangroves and going through our library it appeared that the wind had died down slightly. It’s only 40 miles to Elliot Key, on a northeast course somewhat protected for the first 10 miles then we would shift more northerly. The wind was E15 – 20. We looked at each other and thought, it can’t be that bad. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. We pounded straight into a 4 – 6′ chop at 25 knots. It was like standing under a firehose. When we got to Elliot Key the anchorage had a lovely swell going through so we continued on to here, Boca Chita, another 3 miles of pounding north. Once we got into the basin, ahhhhh, calm. And a seawall to tie up to.

Boca Chita Key is a lovely little national park, 22 miles south of Miami down Biscayne Bay. We discovered this park through a friend with local knowledge. According to the chart it is 4′ depth in the entrance channel. We followed the markers and never saw less than 5 1/2′. There’s the seawall to tie up to, picnic tables, barbeques and a path that runs the island. The path is 1/2 mile which after several days aboard a 27′ boat is heavenly. The downside is the mosquitoes and the crowds. Fortunately for us since it never blew less than 30 knots while we were there the mosquitoes were gone! If you’re there in less than 25 knots bring out the bug spray. And never ever go there on a weekend. You can also anchor on the outside so long as the wind has some east in it. Less bugs outside but no where to walk.

The lighthouse here is a tapered 65 foot beacon built from native coral rock and boasts interior stairs designed to imitate medieval stone masonry. The lighthouse was built by Mark C. Honeywell who owned the island from 1937 to 1945. The Honeywell Corporation tycoon thought the lighthouse would help his boat captain to have a landmark for use as a navigational bearing.
When the tower was finished, with the pomp Honeywell was accustomed to, the lighthouse was lit. But not for long. Honeywell, it seemed had never thought to tell the Lighthouse Service about his little project. They soon informed him that the lighthouse was not charted and hence constituted a hazard to navigation. Within hours after it was first lit it was extinguished.

A couple of times a week the park brings visitors on a tour and they open the lighthouse. Go ahead, tag along they don’t mind. Keep in mind, there are no garbage facilities and no power. Also, they ask for a $20 a night mooring fee which you can pay at the information board – it’s the honour system. Personally I have no problem with a small fee like this. It’s a nice facility, clean, well-maintained and close to a major city. There should be more of them. Enjoy!

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