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Old 21-07-2012, 09:43   #1
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Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

We are planning on cruising from Galveston to Key West, then to Bahamas...not sure where from there. We will need to cross Louisiana. From what I understand, the waters off the coast are dotted with platforms, some not marked and is fairly dangerous. I am also unaware of any marinas or anchorages along the way. I know the other option would be to take the ICW. My husband is not very keen on this idea. Says there is way too much traffic, and the smell is terrible. Would like to hear others experience on this. Would also like information on places to stop and anchor on both routes. We plan to travel the coast to Key West. Would like to make an easy trip and travel 80-100 miles per day. Max 120. Information on good places to anchor or marinas along the way is appreciated. We will be in a 60' Chris Craft, wide berths are a plus. I have also noticed that many marinas require that you dock at the stern only. This poses a major problem for us unless we are allowed to tie to a side pier or if they have very long finger piers.
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Old 21-07-2012, 12:47   #2
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

I've covered most of the Gulf Coast from Texas to FL via both the ICW and offshore (but it has been a few years).

From Texas to New Orleans (NOLA) is not very small boat friendly via either route. Offshore: lots of rigs and other oil field hazards...and of course the Gulf itself which can get quite nasty. Via the ICW: Not a lot of options for small vessels and there is commercial traffic to contend with, but they are generally pretty accommodating.

Transiting the Mississippi to NOLA is an interesting experience, but you do have to be comfortable dealing with commercial traffic and locks.

The options for recreational vessels get better from NOLA east. In fact, from NOLA to Pensacola is quite a nice cruising ground. I have not run this area post-Katrina so someone else might have more current info on which marinas are now operational.

The ICW ends east of Pensacola so you must run offshore. The shortest hop is to work your way over to Port St Joe and then cross to Crystal River (about 145nm). Alternative, you can jump across to one of several other stops along the west coast of Florida such as Tarpon Springs or the Tampa Bay area. The west coast of Florida is a great cruising ground -- all the way from Tarpon Springs down to Key West -- take your time and enjoy it.

A few related notes:

- On the ICW route: be very careful transiting the Morgan City intersection. Be sure and check in with VTC (Vessel Traffic Control). This is a very busy commercial intersection and it is not uncommon to encounter large, cumbersome, oil field traffic -- like rigs being towed in for service. You can (could) tie along side at the wharf in town. Friendly place and some good local restaurants.

- There is a busy commercial traffic intersection at Lake Charles also -- though not quite as potentially hazardous as Morgan City in my experience.

- Houma, LA. Always liked this stop. Good food and good people and nice little municipal marina under the twin bridges.

- The offshore rigs start to thin out after you get east of the Mississippi, but you will still encounter some as far east as Mobile Bay.

- Get up-to-date information on the Gulf Loop Current -- it can meander surprisingly far north -- ran into it once just south of Mobile Bay!

- Radar and AIS both very good ideas for offshore in this area offshore. Because of lots of commercial traffic and lots of rigs.

- Be very aware that not all offshore rigs/hazards are plotted on the charts or even lighted at night for that matter. I sailed right by a large drill pipe sticking about 6' out of the water offshore one night....no markings/lights whatsoever....and through an area thick with production platoforms that were unlit (sometimes they power a group off the same genset -- so if it goes out -- they all go dark). Mooring bouys, the size of cars, for oilfield supply vessels are typically not lit.



Another option to consider is a straight offshore run to Key West, but a Chris Craft is really not the ideal boat for this option (better suited to calm inland waters). With this boat, and wanting short runs, I would probably stick mostly with the ICW route.

Once you are in Key West you have lots of short distance options for making your way to the Bahamas (lots of posts on this subject here at CF).
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Old 21-07-2012, 14:45   #3
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As I suspected, neither option sounds very good to me. We do not plan to cruise at night so maybe the hazards of the gulf will not be such a big deal. Thanks for the tip on Morgan City. We understand the traffic in Lake Charles, as that is where we are originally from. If we take the ICW, would only be to NOLA, and then the Gulf from there, probably stop in Gulf Port or Biloxi and then on to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, AL. onward from there along the Florida Coast. I just dreamt getting across Louisiana. My hubby is experienced but I am a new boater. I can see all the ships and traffic causing me some CONCERN! Note to self...don't forget the Valium.

Belizesailor, I appreciate all of the input. Wondering why you feel the boat would not be the best to do a straight crossing. 60' Chris Craft Roamer, aluminum hull with a brand new bottom job. Twin diesel engines with spare parts. All of the latest electronics. ...I have not had any concerns of the vessel, itself. Just the best way to get there.
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Old 21-07-2012, 15:21   #4
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

We just took the ICW from NOLA to Ingram's Bayou and back and I have to say it wasn't bad. There was no "smell" and the only time you're in any sort of really narrow part is right when you enter/exit Mobile Bay.

The traffic isn't bad. All of the boats out there that we saw responded promptly to any hail on VHF c16 and were very nice, and we're an old slow sailboat!
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Old 21-07-2012, 15:41   #5
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

Actually, there are plenty of us Texans that make our way to the Bahamas. Here is my friend's blog from their trip last year - Jascat to the Bahamas

Others that have done it recently -

http://www.pipemuhbligh.blogspot.com/

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I find the Waterway Guide Southern Edition useful for planning. If you look at some charts, with good weather windows you might make most of the trip staying in the safety fairways offshore.

We are hoping to be in the Keys by Thanksgiving, and Bahamas by Christmas ourselves.

Best wishes,
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Old 21-07-2012, 15:50   #6
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

We cruise the ICW thru Louisiana all the time, never really smelled anything but some mud a time or two!!LOL We do it in a sailboat mostly and never had any problems with commericial traffic ! they have been rather helpful really !! Its a nice cruise if ya dont mind locks go to New Orleans, if ya don't like locking go to Houma and then out to the gulf thru the Houma ship canal. and make a one day run to gulfport Ms. and then on to your final port ! just a thought
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Old 21-07-2012, 16:12   #7
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzybro View Post
As I suspected, neither option sounds very good to me. We do not plan to cruise at night so maybe the hazards of the gulf will not be such a big deal. Thanks for the tip on Morgan City. We understand the traffic in Lake Charles, as that is where we are originally from. If we take the ICW, would only be to NOLA, and then the Gulf from there, probably stop in Gulf Port or Biloxi and then on to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, AL. onward from there along the Florida Coast. I just dreamt getting across Louisiana. My hubby is experienced but I am a new boater. I can see all the ships and traffic causing me some CONCERN! Note to self...don't forget the Valium.

Belizesailor, I appreciate all of the input. Wondering why you feel the boat would not be the best to do a straight crossing. 60' Chris Craft Roamer, aluminum hull with a brand new bottom job. Twin diesel engines with spare parts. All of the latest electronics. ...I have not had any concerns of the vessel, itself. Just the best way to get there.
While either route across Louisiana is not the most appealing in the world, either can be done safety in a small boat, as long as you are prudent and keep a good look out. Running only during the day (either along the coast or on the ICW) certainly helps increase your margin of safety (...from having run parts of both routes at night...)

Good to hear that your boat is well equipped and maintained -- I've seen a lot of tired old Chris Crafts out there, which probably biases my perspective a bit. I don't want to get us side tracked too much on a discussion of the type of boat (that could go on forever) -- its the boat your going to run so that's a done deal -- but in general there are power vessels which are designed for more serious offshore use such as the Nordhavens. A relatively flat bottomed hull shape, like the Chris Craft, is not ideal for offshore heavy weather use. Just keep in mind that the Gulf can get really ugly, treat it with respect and chose your weather windows carefully.
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Old 21-07-2012, 17:10   #8
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Thanks so much for all of the great advice. Taking the ICW and heading into the gulf from Houma sounds like a good option. Nice to hear that boat traffic as a rule seems to be friendly. I am just a nervous nelly, not really...just want to be safe and take all precautions.

Belizesailor, I can appreciate your comments. I know our boat does not have much of a draft. Another reason, I guess, I choose to follow the coast. The boat is in fantastic condition and we certainly intend to keep it that way. I am not into being thrown around so will watch the weather closely. LOL!
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Old 22-07-2012, 09:38   #9
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzybro View Post
Thanks so much for all of the great advice. Taking the ICW and heading into the gulf from Houma sounds like a good option. Nice to hear that boat traffic as a rule seems to be friendly. I am just a nervous nelly, not really...just want to be safe and take all precautions.

Belizesailor, I can appreciate your comments. I know our boat does not have much of a draft. Another reason, I guess, I choose to follow the coast. The boat is in fantastic condition and we certainly intend to keep it that way. I am not into being thrown around so will watch the weather closely. LOL!
Yes, the commercial traffic on the ICW (mostly tugs) are typically quite accommodating and there are some bright spots along the way -- like Houma.

The ICW where it passes under the twin bridges at Houma is quite narrow (only wide enough from one tug-barge to pass through at a time)...so pay attention here and listen for traffic on VHF. If there is a tug-tow in front of you then wait for them and follow them through. Just under the bridges is (or used to be) a great little municipal marina.

Another detail I recalled, in the extensive flat bottom area off the SW FL coast between the Dry Tortugas and Ten Thousand Islands (north of Key West) there is heavy trawler activity at night. Be aware off this if running this area at night. The commercial fishermen along the Gulf don't tend to be as accommodating as the other commercial traffic. And, best to come into Key West (whether the N or S entrance) the first time in the day light -- channels can get a little confusing there especially as you get close in and have lots of background lights from the town.

Have a good trip!
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Old 22-07-2012, 10:01   #10
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

The Marina in Houma is still there and is a GOOD ONE !! right in town, Good food close by, grocerys, fuel! leave there any time of day and go to Cocodrie, down the Ship Canal. spend the night, leave eary(first light andif the weathers good be in Gulfport Ms before dark ! have fun and if ya give us a shout we will even feed ya LOL
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Old 24-07-2012, 21:37   #11
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Re: Advice on crossing the Louisiana coast.

This may help, too. I found a NOAA site that has free Nav Charts, up to date in PDF format. BookletChart

They are smaller scale charts that print section/page on standard printer paper to make up a chart booklet set and cover all US waters and details of areas..

I just DLed the whole Lake Michigan set and current maritime warnings from there. They aren't legal for commercial vessels, but are for recreational.
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