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Old 16-04-2009, 02:55   #1
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Anxious New Sailors and the Gulf Coast

Okay. The plan WAS...

(Does that sound familiar to anyone?)

The PLAN was to work for another year to eighteen months to build our cruising kitty. But then we found THE BOAT. Our very first boat, as it happens. We just bought her on Tuesday!!

Needless to say that changes everything, and makes life interesting again. Instead of having a year to prepare, we're down to a matter of weeks/months. Which brings me to the reason for this post.

We are NOT experienced sailors. The boat is on the hard in Cortez, Florida, and the absolute earliest I can imagine tying up loose ends and leaving this godforsaken desert is June 1st. Quite frankly I'm pushing for the end of July. HOWEVER. That puts us on the Gulf Coast smack at the beginning of hurricane season. Now, I know hurricanes aren't looking at the calendar going, 'ooh, it's July 1st, time to go hit Florida', but really, it doesn't seem like the wisest course of action to be there, then, given our skill level. We have sailed (and LOVED it) and we learn very, very quickly, but I worry that we won't be skilled enough to get out of the Gulf soon after arriving there. All I can picture is our poor Sofia Terese smashed up against the shore, us homeless and the cats drowned.

What are our options for keeping our boat safe? We can't wait until December because we can't see paying dockage for a boat we're not living on for a minute longer than necessary. Am I overestimating the probable danger? Or am I seeing impossibilities where there are none? Is it conceivable we could sail out of the Gulf and up the East Coast (or to SA)with a month or so of daily practice? It seems to me that it shouldn't be that darned difficult as long as the weather's fairly reasonable.

Please do accept my apologies if this is posted in the wrong forum, but it seemed like the appropriate one at the moment I chose it! I did search the forums (and have been lurking for some time) but haven't really been able to find a topic that was quite close enough to serve.

Also, Kanani, you - along with Chay Blyth - are one of my new heroes!

Mara
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Old 16-04-2009, 03:43   #2
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If you monitor the weather carefully (and you should be doing that anyway) you will have plenty of time to get out of the way of a hurricane. If you're just sailing along the coast you will never be more than a few hours from a safe haven, and you can see hurricanes coming for days ahead. Go for it.
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Old 16-04-2009, 05:32   #3
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Originally Posted by Andy and Mara View Post
Also, Kanani, you - along with Chay Blyth - are one of my new heroes!

Mara
He is pretty good! Havent seen him for a week or 2 on the forum.
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Old 16-04-2009, 06:36   #4
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Dockhead pretty much nails it. Be prudent, and you will get in some sailing. Have a wonderful time, and by the time winter comes. YOU will be ready for the Bahamas, and much more......i2f
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Old 16-04-2009, 08:28   #5
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I guess I have a couple of questions:

Where are you planning on taking the boat during hurricane season?

It's not a new boat - and will likely need SOME work - and you may not know just what until after you've been on it a while.

If you are going to live on the boat during hurricane season, in hurricane territory, have an evacuation plan. We prepped for THREE hurricanes last year.
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Old 16-04-2009, 09:59   #6
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The bad news is that you will be taking over the boat right at the start of Hurricane Season and will undoubtedly have many things to sort out. The good news is that, if you must be anywhere on the Gulf during the season, the Tampa Bay area is probably about as safe as you can get. (It has the lowest incidence of strikes of any location on the Gulf.) You also have the advantage of a relatively smaller yacht--albeit a good one (we owned a '76 Cal 2-29 for 20+ years and know the boat)--with a relatively shallow draft (4'-9") so you can get into places denied to larger yachts.

If you had the sailing experience, I would recommend that you head down to Ft. Myers, take the cross Florida route to St. Lucie (Caloosahatchee River-Lake Okeechobe--St. Lucie Canal), and then head north--out of hurricane country--as soon as the yacht's sorted out. But, you may need a while to develop your skills so weathering out the season may be your best option as the Tampa Bay area gives one a lot of good sailing and cruising options relatively close at hand and the sailing is relatively easy. You can then meander south after hurricane season and make an easy run of it from the Keys to the Bahamas in the Spring.

As to where to stay, while Cortez can be interesting, it is surrounded by shallows and the off lying islands do tend to take a beating during the season, even if they are not hit directly. A better, safer option, can be found in Bradenton or St. Pete where supplies and services are relatively easily accessed. A marina guide can be found at MarinaMate.com - Marinas - Florida: West Coast .

One thing I do suggest is that you get your insurance sorted out without delay. The season is coming and if you don't have insurance beforehand you may not be able to get it. We use Al Golden at IMIS but, with the Cal, you may find some of the other Companies satisfactory as well.

N'any case, please feel free to PM me with any questions as they come up. We're in the neighborhood, so to speak.

Regards,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 16-04-2009, 11:34   #7
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Sailing may be easy in SW Fl but pilotage is the very devil -- shallow water, shifting shoals, channels moved periodically by hurricanes and not shown on any chart. You WILL run aground so be sure to enroll in Towboat USA or one of those other services.


Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
The bad news is that you will be taking over the boat right at the start of Hurricane Season and will undoubtedly have many things to sort out. The good news is that, if you must be anywhere on the Gulf during the season, the Tampa Bay area is probably about as safe as you can get. (It has the lowest incidence of strikes of any location on the Gulf.) You also have the advantage of a relatively smaller yacht--albeit a good one (we owned a '76 Cal 2-29 for 20+ years and know the boat)--with a relatively shallow draft (4'-9") so you can get into places denied to larger yachts.

If you had the sailing experience, I would recommend that you head down to Ft. Myers, take the cross Florida route to St. Lucie (Caloosahatchee River-Lake Okeechobe--St. Lucie Canal), and then head north--out of hurricane country--as soon as the yacht's sorted out. But, you may need a while to develop your skills so weathering out the season may be your best option as the Tampa Bay area gives one a lot of good sailing and cruising options relatively close at hand and the sailing is relatively easy. You can then meander south after hurricane season and make an easy run of it from the Keys to the Bahamas in the Spring.

As to where to stay, while Cortez can be interesting, it is surrounded by shallows and the off lying islands do tend to take a beating during the season, even if they are not hit directly. A better, safer option, can be found in Bradenton or St. Pete where supplies and services are relatively easily accessed. A marina guide can be found at MarinaMate.com - Marinas - Florida: West Coast .

One thing I do suggest is that you get your insurance sorted out without delay. The season is coming and if you don't have insurance beforehand you may not be able to get it. We use Al Golden at IMIS but, with the Cal, you may find some of the other Companies satisfactory as well.

N'any case, please feel free to PM me with any questions as they come up. We're in the neighborhood, so to speak.

Regards,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 16-04-2009, 23:03   #8
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Thank you...

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
If you monitor the weather carefully (and you should be doing that anyway) you will have plenty of time to get out of the way of a hurricane. If you're just sailing along the coast you will never be more than a few hours from a safe haven, and you can see hurricanes coming for days ahead. Go for it.
Dockhead, we intend to afford the utmost respect to nature, and then some. I'd think a humble approach would be pretty much essential for the life we eventually intend to lead.

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He is pretty good! Havent seen him for a week or 2 on the forum.
I stumbled across a post of his from January describing how he got into sailing! Stories like that are always a relief and an encouragement, because we always figure if THEY can do it, WE can do it. Sir Blyth has been our mainstay in that area since the first time we saw "Deep Water"!

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Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
Dockhead pretty much nails it. Be prudent, and you will get in some sailing. Have a wonderful time, and by the time winter comes. YOU will be ready for the Bahamas, and much more......i2f
Ah, I will see you there, then!

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Originally Posted by bstreep View Post
Where are you planning on taking the boat during hurricane season?
Well, that's just it. The original plan was to hang out in Tampa Bay until we got experience, and then head up to Nova Scotia. What wasn't in the original plan was the sudden compression in our timeline.

I assure you this isn't as scattershot and ill-planned as it seems! (Okay, well, maybe it is. Some.) But we're racing several clocks on our end and the time felt like now. So we had to jump!

I suppose my question should have been: is our plan STILL a good plan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bstreep View Post
If you are going to live on the boat during hurricane season, in hurricane territory, have an evacuation plan. We prepped for THREE hurricanes last year.
Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
If you had the sailing experience, I would recommend that you head down to Ft. Myers, take the cross Florida route to St. Lucie (Caloosahatchee River-Lake Okeechobe--St. Lucie Canal), and then head north--out of hurricane country--as soon as the yacht's sorted out.
This sounds like an ideal solution, but you're right, it's probably out of our league for now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
The good news is that, if you must be anywhere on the Gulf during the season, the Tampa Bay area is probably about as safe as you can get.
Are there good evacuation options for Tampa, if it gets hit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
You also have the advantage of a relatively smaller yacht--albeit a good one (we owned a '76 Cal 2-29 for 20+ years and know the boat)--with a relatively shallow draft (4'-9") so you can get into places denied to larger yachts.
I haven't been able to find many negative comments about Cals at all; it leads me to believe we've made a pretty good decision/compromise. (I hope I don't have to eat those words in a few months.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
As to where to stay, while Cortez can be interesting, it is surrounded by shallows and the off lying islands do tend to take a beating during the season, even if they are not hit directly. A better, safer option, can be found in Bradenton or St. Pete where supplies and services are relatively easily accessed. A marina guide can be found at MarinaMate.com - Marinas - Florida: West Coast .
Yes, we looked up the marina on Google Earth and it was just a smidge south of terrifying. Holy Mackerel! It seems like it's going to be very dicey just getting out of the marina.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
One thing I do suggest is that you get your insurance sorted out without delay. The season is coming and if you don't have insurance beforehand you may not be able to get it. We use Al Golden at IMIS but, with the Cal, you may find some of the other Companies satisfactory as well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Sailing may be easy in SW Fl but pilotage is the very devil -- shallow water, shifting shoals, channels moved periodically by hurricanes and not shown on any chart. You WILL run aground so be sure to enroll in Towboat USA or one of those other services.
As to both, please see above re: marina entrance. !!!!

I will have to hie me over to the insurance forums and try to get a consensus...

<oh, wait a minute, I was doubled over laughing at the thought of sailors coming to a consensus on anything>

... on the best insurance companies/agents.

Dockhead, thank you for the tip on TowBoat; I would probably not have thought of it and may not have stumbled on it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
N'any case, please feel free to PM me with any questions as they come up. We're in the neighborhood, so to speak.
Thank you! I will very likely take you up on that.

I think we have decided on a compromise. We're going to be arriving during hurricane season no matter what, so we're leaving Arizona July 12th. We're leaning toward keeping to our original Tampa Bay plan and coming up with evacuation plans from there, but want to make sure that's a good and viable plan for our skill level.

And charts! We must get CHARTS!

Mara
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Old 24-04-2009, 09:27   #9
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Just be prudent! I sailed the Bahamas for years in July. There is always plenty of warning for canes. BEST WISHES IN sorting out the decisions. If it was me I would go.....i2f
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Old 24-04-2009, 12:30   #10
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If you are arriving on July 1, will you be working on the boat on the hard before launch? I tiried to work on my boat on the hard for one week in June after returning from the Bahamas and found it impossilbe due to the heat. What does a Cal 2-29 draw? Can you get through the Okechobee? If you take the "cruise and watch" approach, I would always know "where can I can get to to emergency haul out" along the way if a big one is headed your way.
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Old 24-04-2009, 13:27   #11
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I think your original plan to gain experience around Tampa Bay first is still a valid plan. Hurricanes announce their presence well in advance, and as others have said your boat is small enough to take advantage of the good hidey-holes on the west coast of FL. Don't be afraid of the Okeechobee Waterway - in fact going up the Caloosahatchee River should be high on your list of hurricane plans for the season. There is a great little boat yard way up river that hauls out many yachts if storms come around.

The marina entrances are a piece of cake.... it's those darn boat yards in Cortez that take all the skill...

Seriously - this is all not as big a deal as you imagine it to be.

We're up the Manatee River about 10 miles or so from your boat. If you come up this way be sure to look us up! Ditto on HyLyte's offer to share info about this area - PM me. BTW we used to live in Anthem so we know what Phoenix summers are like...

Congratulations on the new boat!

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Old 26-04-2009, 15:57   #12
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You Can Do it!

We just purchased a 34 ft Wildcat Catamaran and brought her back from Key West! We to had little experience and had a plan that didn't quite pan out. The seller , an experienced Captian was supossed to be sailing up with us but broke a leg! Freddie and I did have our bareboat cert. but that was all and just got it last year and had not sailed since. We sailed up the East Coast from Key west to St, marys Ga in 7 days. Exausted but still grinning from ear to ear. Everything these guys are saying is dead on! Hurricanes will not just jump out at you without warning. Watch the weather continously, get your paper charts and study them to be able to read them. check the calabration of your depth finder. My personal addition is to expect any shoals to be larger and more shallow than charted. Use this time away from the boat to research everything you can about your equipment and the area you will be cruising. Get marina phone numbers programed into your phone and enjoy! the adventure is just begining!
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Old 27-04-2009, 13:16   #13
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If you are arriving on July 1, will you be working on the boat on the hard before launch? What does a Cal 2-29 draw? Can you get through the Okechobee?
Yes, unfortunately we will have to work on it in the humid Florida sun! But I figure six Phoenix summers prepares us for darn near anything. (Though it is... wait for it... a DRY heat. True! There is a difference.)

She draws 4'6", so getting up into the rivers is definitely a first-line plan of action. The more we think about it, the less likely it seems that we will confine ourselves to Tampa Bay the ENTIRE hurricane season.

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The marina entrances are a piece of cake.... it's those darn boat yards in Cortez that take all the skill...
I tell you, it's not the sailing part or even the hurricane part that has me freaked out - it's the darn boat yard! I swear I don't even know where they find water deep enough to launch out there! Andy and I were speculating on whether our boat was actually sailed to her current yard or airlifted in; the latter seems far more likely!

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We're up the Manatee River about 10 miles or so from your boat. If you come up this way be sure to look us up! Ditto on HyLyte's offer to share info about this area - PM me. BTW we used to live in Anthem so we know what Phoenix summers are like... Congratulations on the new boat!
Thank you! We sure do appreciate it and will definitely give you a holler once we get ourselves down there.

Do you miss the Phoenix area?

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Everything these guys are saying is dead on! Hurricanes will not just jump out at you without warning. Watch the weather continously, get your paper charts and study them to be able to read them. check the calabration of your depth finder. My personal addition is to expect any shoals to be larger and more shallow than charted.
Congratulations on both your new cat and the successful voyage from the Keys! I think we'll be just fine and can't wait to meet you all!

Andy and Mara
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Old 27-04-2009, 13:38   #14
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You can get the material from home depot they use in their garden area. Lots of light, and wind come through the material, but the sun is really knocked down. It will work fine with plastic wire ties to tie down. Shade is the secret to surviivin the hot sun......i2f
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