Travel & Places United States

How to Sail to the Dry Tortugas

    Self Sail

    • 1). Keep a copy of the NOAA Chart #11438, the chart for the Dry Tortugas and south Florida Keys, aboard your sailboat. Plot your course from Key West to the Tortugas. Key West is a popular starting harbor for sailing trips to the Tortugas.

    • 2). File a trip report with the Coast Guard and with a friend or relative. Give estimated times of arrival, planned course, and all frequencies you use with your boat radios. Include any cell phone or satellite phone numbers in the report.

    • 3). Get a proper weather report prior to departure, and sail according to the report. For the region, use the NOAA Key West station for accurate and updated weather reports.

    • 4). Fill the boat's fresh-water tanks to capacity. There is no water source at the Tortugas. Your sailboat needs to be properly stocked with drinking and cleaning water.

    • 5). Bring an EPIRB. These are Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons. If an emergency arises, hit the emit button on the EPIRB to alert Coast Guard and rescue officials of your dilemma.


    • 1). Contact sailing charters out of Key West. Ask them about custom sailing tours to the Dry Tortugas.

    • 2). Provide the captain with your dates of travel, how many days you wish to be out, how many in the party, and if you wish to have day tours on to the islands or any snorkeling, fishing or scuba add-ons. Ask what the charter rate is for the trip and if it includes meals.

    • 3). Book your trip dates. For the trip, pack extra sunscreen, sun hat, long-sleeve shirt for sun protection, camera, and any motion-sickness medicine you may need. Bring any prescription drugs you need as there are no services on the Tortugas. Bring extra cash for tips for the sailboat crew and to pay for entrance fees to the Dry Tortugas National Park.

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