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Old 14-10-2008, 11:38   #1
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Safe distance offshore?

For travel up or down the East Coast of the US. What is considered to be the safe minumum distance for a sailboat offshore when the coast is the lee shore? Please consider the chance of squalls or storms driving your boat toward the shore, or equipment failure.

When sailing South to Key West you wouldn't want to sail against the Gulf Stream. If you can, you would want to sail in the eddies of the Stream which would be flowing South between the Stream and the coast. Therefore, you would need to be close to the coast.
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Old 14-10-2008, 11:50   #2
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I sail at times with one hull on the beach. I see you are from Cocoa, so you are probably familiar with the shoals off the cape. I sail between them when heading south, and have done so with 30knts on the quarter. After Palm Beach at times I am less than a half mile from the beach to stay out of the current. In bad weather putting you on a lee shore. There is always the ICW.......I2F
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Old 14-10-2008, 11:53   #3
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Jim,
I don't have experience of the US east coast and maybe there are special circumstances that effect this decision, but I've plenty of experience sailing up and down the Oz west coast and more often than not it's been with a SW (ie onshore) wind.
Fact is, with an ability to get good weather forecasts today, its possible to sail along just off the surf line if that's what you want to do.
Of course if the forecast indicates stronger winds are coming, it seriously pays to gain some sea room, but how far depends on now long the storm might last, and if something went wrong, how long it take for you to be blown back onto that lee shore.
I am sure someone more local can give you some specific recommendations.
Good luck
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:05   #4
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Thanks,

Another thing to consider is where the shipping lanes are. You might want to stay closer in to avoid being in the lane.

In moderate winds and seas sailing near the shore is no problem, especially in the daytime. You can see and hear the breakers. Also, there is little chance of equipment breakdown.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:18   #5
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Jim,

Have you done much night sailing? If not you will be surprised how well you can see at night. In your immediate are there is no shipping lane designated, or truly followed. Boats are coming from every angle to, and from Florida. Plus there's fishing trawlers, areas where sports fishermen hover, dive areas, so it is a keep your eyes open situation constantly.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:29   #6
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John, I have a friend who is from Mudeford, England. Does that ring a bell? He used to participate in the local yacht club regattas there.

I have frequently noticed that a line of storms forms just off the coast here in Cocoa Beach. Sometimes just before sunrise, sometimes around 0900 to 1200, and sometimes around 2000 to 2300. They seem to be associated with or influenced by the Gulf Stream. Sometimes, especially in the summertime, they seem to just sit there and pound the ocean for hours. I don't think that it would be fun to be out in the Gulf Stream underneath one of those storms.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:35   #7
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Imagine

Yes, I have been out there at night. So, far I've been able to avoid bad weather while I was sailing at night. And, you are right, you can see lights very far away.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:38   #8
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It's not, but sometimes you just get what is delivered to you. If you can almost set your clock to these. Then you know what time to leave the coast.

EXAMPLE, if weather passes through between 9am & noon. Then leave the coastline at 6am. Not the dock, but the coastline. That means already out the jetty. The Gulfstream is pretty much ugly in any north wind near 20 knots plus.

We usually leave Green Cove Springs on a northern storm, and anchor down in Miami in 48 hours. This year crossing the Gulf from Miami to Bimini took 17 hours in a 20-30 eastern wind. It wasn't one of our best sails!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:43   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Easterly-30 View Post
I have frequently noticed that a line of storms forms just off the coast here in Cocoa Beach. Sometimes just before sunrise, sometimes around 0900 to 1200, and sometimes around 2000 to 2300. They seem to be associated with or influenced by the Gulf Stream. Sometimes, especially in the summertime, they seem to just sit there and pound the ocean for hours. I don't think that it would be fun to be out in the Gulf Stream underneath one of those storms.
Rain is one thing, but you definately don't want to get struck by lightning. I was hit just off PAFB last year and it cost a small fortune to replace what was blown up.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:43   #10
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A safe rule of thumb is to stay “off soundings”, that is, in water of 100 fathoms (600 Ft) or deeper.

Another rule of thumb is to stay more than a thumb's width from the shore, as shown on the nautical chart being used.
Thus, with a large scale chart, that provides few details of nearshore hazards such as rocks, a thumb's width would represent a great distance, and the boat would be farther from shore; whereas on a small scale chart, in which more detail is provided, a boat would be closer to shore.

Estimating Distance Off
In clear weather, one can distinguish the shapes of tall houses, trees, lighthouses, etc. from about 8 miles offshore. The distance to the horizon however can be quite small. if, in a small boat, your eye is 5 feet above the water level, the distance to the horizon is only 2.5 miles away. Although the distance can be more accurately estimated using the formula
Distance to the horizon in nautical miles = 1.17 times the square root of your height of eye

Distance off can be estimated by taking two bearings on the same object several minutes or more apart.

The navigator takes the first bearing when the object lies at an angle of 45 degrees off the bow. and times until the object is 90 degrees off the bow. The distance traveled between the 45 degree mark and the 90 degree mark is equal to the distance from the object (nm).

Some other rules of thumb:
* A light-colored beach can be seen at approximately 4 miles offshore from the deck of a typical small boat.
* Breakers will be seen at the horizon at about 3 miles off.
* You can just begin to distinguish beach and sea at 3 miles off.
* Individual windows in buildings can be distinguished by day or night at about 2 miles off.
* A large buoy is visible at 2 miles.
* A small buoy is visible at 1.5 miles but color and shape will not be clear.
* The shape of a small buoy can be distinguished at about 1 mile.
* The color of a large buoy can be distinguished at about 1 mile.
* Trees can be counted at about 1 mile.
* A person is seen as a moving black dot without limbs at 1 mile.
* Movement of a person's legs or arms can be distinguished at about 400 yards.
* Faces can be seen, but not necessarily recognizable, at 250 to 300 yards.

* The width of one finger held vertically at arms length subtends about 4 degrees of arc, two fingers held tightly together at arms length covers 10 degrees of arc, and four fingers together with thumb extended covers 25 degrees of arc.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:43   #11
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Jim,
Small world.
Mudeford is maybe 7 miles from where we live.
But honest, the UK is not such a small incestuous place we all know or are related to everyone else:-)
Cheers
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Old 14-10-2008, 13:00   #12
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Thanks Gord, Those were the kinds of rules of thumb I was looking for.

Tropic Cat, Did the lightning kill your handhelds? handheld GPS, handheld VHF? I'm thinking that I will install a metal safe or box to keep mine in that would be grounded. That way the lightning would, hopefully, travel around them to ground and we would still have our backup units. Also, did you feel the charge?

Imagine, Green Cove Springs to Miami in 48 hours sounds excellent. How far offshore were you then? I'm estimating that three miles out would be ideal most of the way.
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Old 14-10-2008, 13:38   #13
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I'm reading a book at the moment "Cruising the NSW Coast" (Australia) . Its as close to a bilble as any pilot for this area. Its says: "Resist going closer than 12 meters" (36 feet).
Well, stuff me if I'd be within cooee of 12 meters! You sandgropers, Swagman and I2F are a hell of a lot more corageous than me! Although I do remember in the racing days the skippers pushing fairly close.... but thats racing.

Tack into shore in the bays and off shore near the headlands.

As we head up our coast over the next few weeks I'll do a bit of testing. But I do prefer Gords idea (enhanced): Zoom the plotter right out and squash a fat thumb between the coast and the boat!


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Old 14-10-2008, 14:05   #14
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Quote:
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Tropic Cat, Did the lightning kill your handhelds? handheld GPS, handheld VHF? I'm thinking that I will install a metal safe or box to keep mine in that would be grounded. That way the lightning would, hopefully, travel around them to ground and we would still have our backup units. Also, did you feel the charge?
Lightning killed everything attached to the 12v DC wiring. by everything...I mean everything from starters and bilge pumps, to florecent lights...Everything. Also, Everything mounted to the top of the mast was either blown off or disintergrated.

Battery powered cell phones and hand held GPS on the Salon table were unaffected and still work fine to this day.

The hit was to the top of the mast, the charge came down the mast wires and found a path into the hulls and down the drivetrain. Soaking wet and in bare feet, I felt nothing at all at the Helm. Not even a tingle. Sails were down and I was heading into the storm cell, so wind and horizontal rain were in my face in 50 knots of wind. My head was down when the lightning hit. When the 'bang' came, I looked up just in time to see my mast head tricolor splash off the starboard quarter. A second later plastic began raining down on me as pieces of the Windex and steaming light were blown backward into the cockpit.

The hulls were undamaged, and electrics / electronics were the only casualty. The boat has no lightning protection of any kind.
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Old 14-10-2008, 14:17   #15
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Tropic Cat, Wow! That's some story! Sorry it cost you so much.
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