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Old 20-08-2015, 07:26   #1
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Florida to Maine Offshore?

'Thinking about cruising Maine next summer and pre-planning the trip. We have a long-legged passage maker and would not want to make the trip at all if we had to do the ICW grind.

We live in St. Petersburg and I'd jump into the Gulf stream at Key West and head north. The trip could be broken up by going inside at Beaufort and the chesapeake- or not. Given good weather, straight through might be a possibility.

For those who have done it, What do you think? Is this a tough trip or one that's commonly done? What month might be best for it and what are the likely weather systems?

Thanks,
Dennis
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Old 20-08-2015, 08:50   #2
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Dennis,
I've not done the specific trip you are planning (Keys to Maine), but I have made the round trip passage between FL and the Chesapeake several times. I also made the passage on a motor yacht from Alabama to Penobscot. On that trip we used Okeechobee to get to the Fl East Coast, which is likely not an option for you due to both depth and bridge height limitations.
In general this not a difficult passage (at least going north) as there are numerous Class A inlets available to go inside if necessary. This includes using the Cape Cod Canal rather than going outside the cape. So it's a good learning passage if you (or your crew) have not made a long (>3 day) passage before.

Coming back off-shore presents a few more routing issues as you will need to avoid getting into the GS once south of Cape Cod. This is done by either staying close to the coast all the way to FL or heading east of the GS. The later will require an accurate analysis of the GS eddies to avoid counter currents. Heading east also takes you further from the inlets south of Cape Hatteras, if that is a concern.

Lots of NE and Canadian cruisers make this passage every year, so you should get a lot of advice from people who have done exactly what you are planning, but in reverse.

John
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Old 20-08-2015, 08:58   #3
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

I Crewed on a 38 foot sloop offshore from Bahamas to Annapolis MD at the beginning of April 2015.
In retrospect, we were a month too early. The consistent lows marching off of the east U.S. will catch you on a 5 or 6 day offshore passage (and catch us, one did!)
In the month of May, I watched the weather over the course we covered, and found far better conditions prevailed through the last two weeks of May.
I won't do that trip again unless it's May.
For whatever that's worth!


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Old 20-08-2015, 09:07   #4
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Weather issues are pretty simple. Avoid hurricane season and avoid mid/late fall through mid/late spring when chance of cold fronts aka northers, nor'easters, low pressure systems, etc is high.

Going north you have the Gulf Stream to help. As mentioned, lots of places to stop if you want a break or need to make repairs.
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Old 20-08-2015, 09:11   #5
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Done this trip a few times now - last time in 2013 from Tarpon Springs - but to Nova Scotia, not Maine. not a big difference. It's an easy run in good conditions, and there are ample places to pull in and wait, or even do a few miles in the ditch, if conditions outside are too narsty.

If you have the crew for it then a straight shot is entirely doable; but you miss a lot of cool stuff on the way. last time we did it was a delivery and we had green crew, so we did Tarpon-Marathon (snorkeled spyglass and got fuel); Marathon-Cape Canveral (had to bring the kids to the spaceport!); inside from Canaveral to St. Augustine (crappy weather); St Augustine - Beaufort (nice offshore run); Beaufort - Cape Cod Canal (outside Hatteras in calm conditions to sandwich marina, Mass. - got to get the currents right in buzzards bay and the canal); then Sandwich - Halifax NS. Total time in transit was 16 days. Last 4 in thick fog. We kept the pressure up by motorsailing a lot because we had to make it back for work.

Like all passagemaking, if the weather is in your favor, then it's pretty easy. We specifically avoided getting too far into the gulf stream in places because it can get lumpy fast in any adverse wind, but we did inevitably get a few nice boosts along the way from the favorable current. No real issues from traffic or geography. a straighforward run with good bail out options all the way. You need to pay attention off hatteras, off cape May (if you get close enough), and running up Buzzards Bay (fishing boats galore), but nothing too difficult.
Fun trip! good luck-
bg
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Old 21-08-2015, 08:55   #6
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

We made that trip with the last shore/inlet stop being Fernandina Beach, all the way to Portland.

It was glorious; furthest offshore was Hatteras, or so, at 250 miles.

We ran out of fuel as we were in the inlet lanes; we're a sailboat, so we sailed the rest of it to our anchorage, dropped the sails, and had a nap.

Two of us made for our style of watchkeeping; one up, one down. Call for relief before you're really tired, then brush your teeth and hit the sack. If your relief is sleeping, make a pot of coffee before calling them. If you hit the sack before you're truly tired, you'll be refreshed and of some use should the watch need help.

We arrived fresh; the "nap" at the end was more celebration than being tired...

We went straight out from Fernandina, turned left at the Gulf Stream, and turned left again at Cape Cod, and got there in 9 days. YMMV on the same route and watch schedule ☺
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Old 21-08-2015, 08:57   #7
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Not sure of your mast height but if you consider going thru Lake Okeechobee and have your boat "tipped" by the boat tipper so you can make it under the train bridge on the east side of the lake after the lock. I have a 53' mast plus 2 feet of antenna and went thru it with my antenna just barely touching the bridge in 2010 when I bought my boat in Tampa. Not sure if he's still in business but let me know if you're interested and I'll try to find his number. He charged about $200.00 for about 30 minutes of work. Good luck with your trip regardless.

Jesse
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Old 21-08-2015, 09:05   #8
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Dennis,

We made two trips from New Symrna, Fl. to Belfast Maine in our 26' waterline Loki Yawl. One trip took 6 days and a few hours, the other one a little over 6 1/2 days. We had mostly SW winds, flat seas with all light air sails up for the Southern portions of the trip, stronger winds or calm for the Northern parts. Some thunderstorms but no heavy winds, very comfortable trips. Both trips were made in July so we kept an eye out for tropical development. Stayed in the Gulf Stream as much as possible, it makes a huge difference in miles per day all of the way to NY. Bring fly swatters for the area around New York..you will need them! Best of luck. James

Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisDW View Post
'Thinking about cruising Maine next summer and pre-planning the trip. We have a long-legged passage maker and would not want to make the trip at all if we had to do the ICW grind.

We live in St. Petersburg and I'd jump into the Gulf stream at Key West and head north. The trip could be broken up by going inside at Beaufort and the chesapeake- or not. Given good weather, straight through might be a possibility.

For those who have done it, What do you think? Is this a tough trip or one that's commonly done? What month might be best for it and what are the likely weather systems?

Thanks,
Dennis
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Old 21-08-2015, 09:28   #9
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Thanks Everyone,
Great advice and all of positive. It sounds like May, June or even July would be good, watching the tropics of course.
Spring's a long way away yet but I've never seen Maine by land nor sea. It's worth planning.
Cheers,
Dennis
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Old 21-08-2015, 09:54   #10
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

It really depends on you and your crew. We've done the trip 4 times from Melbourne Fl to Maine. We visit our kids in NC to break up the trip. We've done the Gulf stream to Beaufort 3 times and a closer to the coast route once because of some new equipment on board. I never trust that stuff until it's had a good sea trial and proven reliable for going off shore. We go inside from Beaufort to Norfolk. We've gone from Norfolk to buzzards bay twice and gone into Sandy Hook, through the east river and down LI sound twice. Both times due to bad weather coming off of Cape Hatteras and heading towards Nantucket. Close to shore was ok but 15 to 20 foot seas on the direct route. Last year we went up the Chesapeake and out Delaware Bay. I don't recommend that route as you spend a day backtracking down the Delaware. Winds in the summer are predominantly south west do it's mostly a down hill trip. We stop at Phiney's Harbor or Onset at the top of Buzzards bay and wait for a favorable tide to go through the Cape Cod Canal. North of the Cape winds tend to be very light in the summer and odd are you'll do a bunch of motoring or motor sailing. From the Cape Cod canal to Pennobscot Bay,is about 24 hours at 6 knots or about 21 hours to Casco Bay. Make sure you put a little dogleg to the east in your route from the canal to Maine and go to the east end of the Stellawagen bank. About 10-15 miles north of the tip of Cape Cod is where humpback whales feed in the summer. We saw about 25 this year including three that breached. In any case adjust your speed so you don't get within 10 miles of the Maine coast before sunrise. If you've never been in Maine waters before you won't believe the number of Lobster pot floats and they are definitely something you don't navigate through in the dark. Be prepared for fog and cool temperatures, especially if you are well acclimated to FL.

We do the Chesapeake on the way back in September and early October when it is much more pleasant. Favorable winds are a bit easier to come by later in the season as well when cold front passages give you more west and Northwest to north winds.
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Old 21-08-2015, 10:05   #11
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Dennis,
I have made that trip several times, usually because my mast was too tall for the intracoastal, and secondly it is much easier than dealing with the traffic, bridges, and shoal water on the intracoastal. From St Pete the dry tortugas are a nice stop, and you can fuel in Key West, I usually head east and pop out around Alligator reef and get in the stream. If there is any wx you can stop in Beaufort , where you lose most of that nice push from the stream.
If you have not been through the Chesapeake it is an interesting diversion, again traffic and shoal water, and you have to then go down the Delaware river, but it is not bad if you catch the tide right, you can anchor over by the nuke plant to await a fair tide.

Same with NY, if you have not been through there it is an interesting trip, offshore is much easer, but it is a kick if you have never been through NY.

You can go through the cape cod canal and wait for good wx at Provincetown (the key west of the north…) and from there it is a pretty easy shot up to SW harbor or wherever you are bound in Maine. Northern Maine by the way is great cruising grounds, not a lot of folks up there and it is beautiful.

May is a bit early, still pretty cold up there, June has always been my favorite. Good luck and have fun, it is a nice sail.

M
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Old 21-08-2015, 10:41   #12
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

It's easy and quicker outside but very boring
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Old 21-08-2015, 11:04   #13
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Just remember the warm weather in Maine is a lot shorter than Summer in Florida.
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Old 21-08-2015, 13:53   #14
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Dennis,

We sailed the US east coast, Bahamas and Florida for almost 20 years and enjoyed Maine and Nova Scotia so much that we have pretty much made those our cruising grounds since 2001. We spent one June in Maine and found that the water was still quite cold which resulted in a lot of condensation issues. It was not unusual for us to use our wood stove on some of the colder nights that June but it could have been a bad year. Lots of fog early in the season which is another reason we didn't enjoy June too much there. By July the water has warmed up enough that fog is not too common and it gets better in August. September has usually been our favourite month with fog being rare, cool mornings but 70's midday usually. We have sailed up through November on a good year but it can get cold but basically as long as the water is not too cold we have found that the boat is tolerable with some heat. The people tend to be very friendly as you get to mid Maine or head down east. I have little experience with Southern Maine but have heard it is pretty expensive. One downside to Maine would be the lobster pots, it is impossible to describe how many are in the water in some places…it can be hard to get you boat through them. We only caught 2 during the 8 seasons we sailed there, but our boat has a full keel and the rudder is protected. If you have an unprotected rudder and prop, maybe bring a wet suit and mask just in case. The lobster pots in Maine are 12 months of the year unfortunately but this also makes it really easy to buy lobster direct from the fisherman almost anytime, bring a big cooking pot if you like lobster! Keep an eye out for toggled lobster pots which have 2 floats on them with the pickup float and a toggle float with a line between them, these are usually in deep water areas, we have seen pots in 250'. Most of the Maine towns were served mostly by water originally and in many places Main street with just about everything you need will run right down to the town landing, so easy walking distance. There are so many towns close to each other with moorings for rent that we would sometimes go a whole season without ever wetting an anchor. Pickup a mooring, make a short row in to pay, get showers, or bring the boat dockside for fuel/water. Lobster were often held in pins so you could even buy fresh lobster, we found it to be the easiest cruising we have found anywhere so far. Lobster season ends in Nova Scotia about the time the boating season starts, so no pots to worry about. The water is also much warmer with an extended fall season. Good luck, James

Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisDW View Post
'Thinking about cruising Maine next summer and pre-planning the trip. We have a long-legged passage maker and would not want to make the trip at all if we had to do the ICW grind.

We live in St. Petersburg and I'd jump into the Gulf stream at Key West and head north. The trip could be broken up by going inside at Beaufort and the chesapeake- or not. Given good weather, straight through might be a possibility.

For those who have done it, What do you think? Is this a tough trip or one that's commonly done? What month might be best for it and what are the likely weather systems?

Thanks,
Dennis
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Old 21-08-2015, 15:00   #15
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Re: Florida to Maine Offshore?

Sailed to Maine in a 38' sloop a couple years ago in early June from Fort Lauderdale. I was heading for Matha's Vineyard as it puts you in a perfect spot for Buzzard's Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. Hit a 3 day N'oreaster when abeam of Cape May so took refuge in Atlantic City for a few nights.
If I do it again, will plan on doing it the same way. I beleive it's best to not stop before New England unless weather requires it. Riding the Gulf steam is a wonderful thing.
After the Cape Cod Canal, you have your choice of day sails or an offshore hop.
I went from the Canal to P-Towne and from there an easy non stop passage to Boothbay.
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