Sombrero Key Travel Guide

  • Boat moorings
    Boat moorings
    by grandmaR
  • Sombrero Key Light
    Sombrero Key Light
    by grandmaR
  • Moorings and diving / snorkleing boats
    Moorings and diving / snorkleing boats
    by grandmaR

Sombrero Key Sports & Outdoors

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    Moorings and diving / snorkleing boats

    by grandmaR Updated Mar 17, 2004

    From Captain Pip's website (they rent boats to people for the day)

    Reef mooring buoys eliminate the need to drop anchor on fragile coral reefs by providing boaters with a convenient means of securing your boat. Anchors, line and chain can break and damage living coral formations. Buoys are available at frequently used reefs within the Florida Marine Sanctuaries. The buoys usually encircle shallow coral reefs and should be used instead of anchors.

    -Buoys are available on a first come first served basis.

    -Smaller boats are encouraged to tie off to one another, thereby allowing larger vessels access to buoys. Remember, the larger the vessel, the more potential damage to the coral (if an anchor is used).

    -Please maintain idle speed/no wake in the vicinity of the mooring buoys. Watch for swimmers, snorkelers, and diver bubbles.

    -Approach slowly from downwind/current. Idle directly to the buoy without meandering among other dive boats. Reverse the procedure when leaving.

    -Buoys have been placed to provide clearance of most boats when tied up during normal conditions. To avoid grounding, use caution when approaching and while tied to a buoy. Larger than average vessels must check depths so that contact with the bottom is avoided.

    Equipment: -To secure your boat to a mooring buoy, run you line through the loop of the floating pick-up line and cleat both ends to the bow of your boat. Add enough line to create a horizontal pull on the eyebolt, otherwise the eyebolt will be pulled out. If the buoy is pulled underwater, you must let out extra scope. On rough days, add extra scope to the pick-up line to improve the ride of your vessel in rough seas and reduce wear on the buoy system.

    -Sailboats should not leave up large sails as steadying sails when on a buoy; this puts too much strain on the eyebolt.

    -Inspect the buoy your boat is tied to; you are responsible for your vessel. Check that it is holding as intended and inspect the buoy. Report problems to any of the Sanctuary offices, Sanctuary patrol, or the Florida Marine Patrol on VHF Channel 16.

    -If there are no buoys available, anchor only in sand, NEVER IN CORAL. Always check to be sure that your anchor is not dragging and your anchor chain is not contacting coral.

    Snorkelers should wear float coats to avoid having to stand on the coral.

    Related to:
    • Diving and Snorkeling
    • Sailing and Boating
    • Fishing

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Sombrero Key Favorites

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    Sombrero Light from a mooring

    by grandmaR Updated Mar 17, 2004

    Favorite thing: In 1854, the Lighthouse Board contracted with George Gordon Meade to build a lighthouse halfway between the Sand Key and Carysfort lighthouses. Since General Meade had built those two lighthouses, he was given the task of locating the site for the new lighthouse. He recommended several different styles of lighthouses to be built at this point including masonry, an iron structure with a masonry foundation and a completely iron structure. The first two structures proved to be too costly.

    The US lighthouses site says: "Meade had also suggested that the lighthouse be componentized. That way it could be built on shore to make sure all the pieces fit together, then disassembled and taken to the site where it would be put back together. The one thing that wasn't too well know was the effect of seawater on iron. Would it cause it to rust? The English had been conducting a test regarding this matter and had found that a process of galvanizing iron had protected the iron from seawater for over 15 years with no evidence of corrosion. Meade had lined up a company in Philadelphia to have the galvanizing work done."

    After the work began, a hurricane on August 29, 1856, destroyed the works at Coffins Patches (which was another name for the site), but the next year, Meade started again. He used 12-inch galvanized iron piles, which he sank 10 feet into the coral rock. He estimated that these piles should last 200 years before eroding to the point where structural integrity might be compromised.

    The lighthouse was first lighted on March 17, 1858. To distinguish this light from the flashing lights at Carysfort and Sand Key, the Sombrero Key Lighthouse contained a fixed first-order lens made by the firm of L. Sautter et Co.. This original lens was removed in 1982 and placed on display at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.

    Fondest memory: The Sombrero Key Lighthouse is the tallest reef light in the Florida Keys and the last one built by George Gordon Meade. Meade had estimated the cost at $118,405.60, but due to the damage caused by the hurricane, the actual cost had come to $153,158.81. This was one of the few lighthouses along the Florida coast which remained lighted throughout the Civil War.

    In the 1880's red sectors were added to the lantern to provide a red light over the most dangerous sections of the reef. In 1912, the kerosene wick-lamp was replaced with an incandescent oil vapor (IOV) lamp.

    The 160-foot tower has a focal plane of 142 feet above sea level - flashing a light five times every 60 seconds that can be seen 15 miles at sea. The current optic is a solar-powered (VRB 25), installed in 1997.

    There are two platforms on the light (which are not open to the public) which offered various accommodations. The lower one, 15' above sea level, was for storage, a workshop and a hoisted launch and lifeboat. The second platform, 40' above sea level, contained living quarters. A cast-iron cylinder leads from the living quarters to the lantern room to provide keepers with protected access. There was no room for families at this lighthouse - just the lighthouse keeper and his assistants.

    Hurricane Donna struck the lighthouse with 200 mile per hour winds. In 1960 the light was automated. This meant that keepers no longer had to stay at the light. Only one boat was kept at the light, and at least one of the keepers drowned.

    A model of this lighthouse (also labeled "Lighthouse at Coffin’s Patches,") is also on display at the Key West Lighthouse Museum.

    Related to:
    • Sailing and Boating
    • Diving and Snorkeling
    • Fishing

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