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Old 06-01-2016, 14:19   #1
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Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

I tried this thread earlier, but I think I accidentally deleted it.

Looking to move a boat from Key West to Pensacola. I'd like to give myself the possibility to sail it the whole way up, if possible, and I'll probably be keeping it fairly close to shore and stopping along the way.

What are the odds I'll be able to do most of the trip sailing, and when is the best month? I'm thinking April/May, April being easier for me. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to carve out some time in stone, allowing time for both the sail and waiting for good weather.

I'm looking for some wind maps of those months for the area (Florida Gulf Coast), if anyone knows where I could find some of those. Thanks.
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Old 06-01-2016, 14:25   #2
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

From Clearwater north there is no "shore" to keep close to. Best to wait till Aprip to avoid northers and ride the typical easterlies there.
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Old 06-01-2016, 14:31   #3
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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From Clearwater north there is no "shore" to keep close to. Best to wait till Aprip to avoid northers and ride the typical easterlies there.

I guess my question is whether April is late enough to avoid the weather issues.
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Old 06-01-2016, 15:01   #4
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

Split trip in two--- KW to St Pete/Clearwater-- then on to Pensacola that way you can wait for smaller weather windows of 3-4 days instead of 6-7 days. at any rate you don't want to face a norther out there.
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Old 06-01-2016, 15:05   #5
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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Split trip in two--- KW to St Pete/Clearwater-- then on to Pensacola that way you can wait for smaller weather windows of 3-4 days instead of 6-7 days. at any rate you don't want to face a norther out there.

Yea, that's probably the best way to do it. Trickier logistically, but maybe more sensible. If the weather keeps looking good, go for the whole ball of wax.
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Old 06-01-2016, 15:49   #6
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

Princes,
The best month to sail N, S, E, or W is May. You generally have settled weather, warmer temperatures day and night, lighter winds and the strong Northers have disappeared. Remember, when sailing the West coast of Florida, you generally have Easterly winds in the morning followed by Westerlies in the afternoon--especially close to shore. It might not be possible to sail the entire distance since you will probably encounter periods of calms/light winds. However, your advantage is that from KW to Pensacola you will be offshore with less vagaries of wind than along the coast. If I wanted a "no-brainer," I'd go in May. if you want stronger, perhaps, more consistent winds (with the gamble of a late season Norther), go in April. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 06-01-2016, 16:46   #7
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

I did that route in early July on a trip that started in Tortola. I used the onshore and offshore breeze up the west coast until Clearwater, when we cut across to Panama City, we ran the motor some then. On the Northern Gulf of Mexico leg, we stayed within a few miles of shore to take advantage of the sea breeze in the afternoon on into Pensacola. July has its own set of issues with the 'H' word though.

There is a counter current that is a tributary for the Gulf Stream up the west coast that you may need to consider as well depending on how far offshore you sail.

Where are you headed in Pensacola?
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Old 06-01-2016, 16:54   #8
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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Where are you headed in Pensacola?
I said Pensacola because more people would know it, but I'm really going to Destin.
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Old 06-01-2016, 17:06   #9
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

Pay special attention to the pass at Destin. I won' run it and many locals feel the same. Some do but local knowledge is required for best results. Try to follow a local sport fishing boat through that pass as it changes continually. A few years ago a 41' Coast Guard boat was pitch polled in that inlet.
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:36   #10
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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Pay special attention to the pass at Destin. I won' run it and many locals feel the same. Some do but local knowledge is required for best results. Try to follow a local sport fishing boat through that pass as it changes continually. A few years ago a 41' Coast Guard boat was pitch polled in that inlet.
No worries. My boat won't make it under the Destin bridge, so I have to come in at Panama City Beach anyway. Also, I have been through that pass in a power boat, and know the potential challenges, but thanks for the tip.
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Old 07-01-2016, 09:39   #11
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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From Clearwater north there is no "shore" to keep close to. Best to wait till Aprip to avoid northers and ride the typical easterlies there.
What do you mean there is no shore?
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Old 07-01-2016, 16:05   #12
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

I think they mean there aren't good anchorages in that area. Exposed, and shallow.


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Old 08-01-2016, 20:12   #13
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

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I think they mean there aren't good anchorages in that area. Exposed, and shallow.


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Old 08-01-2016, 20:32   #14
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

Cedar key is a nice stop. Then on up to Carabelle. Weather is different every weeks but. Northerly is unlikely after April. done trip many times. Doubt you will be able to sail it all if making several stops as there will be a few days of light winds in any say 10 day period.
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Old 08-01-2016, 21:59   #15
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Re: Best month for sailing from Key West to Pensacola

There are plenty of stops along the way if your draft is 5 or less.

In addition to Cedar Key, it is possible to hide from weather at Crystal River if you are careful of the tides.

Steinhatchee can be done with 5' if you make sure you don't come in on a negative tide, which are not uncommon. If you ground there, it won't be mud or sand. There are floating slips available there, but that is about all.

It is possible to daysail from Tarpons Springs to Cedar Key (anchor), to Steinhatchee (slip), to Carabelle (either), then go inside all the way to your destination.

The NE Gulf of Mexico is not a place to be caught by a strong front. If you chance weather there, have a very stout boat. No matter what size the seas are there, they will remain on a 5-7 second period, and be shaped like a giant chop, not round like waves.

Look at the history from the buoy at Middle Ground, and you'll see what I mean.

The only of the above I have not personally visited is Crystal River, but I know plenty who have. None of the above are "cruising destinations" with lots to do, but they all beat 12-18 hours in a giant confused chop washing machine. Been there done that, and won't do it again. I have made that run many times, both the "rim route" and straight across, and have learned to be patient and wait for the right window, or shorten the runs to the available window.

If you are BoatUS or SeaTow, call their operators in the area and avail yourself of their local knowledge. Beware of shrimpers steering crazy courses, they are following a depth contour, and often the autopilot is steering waypoints while everyone is on deck fishing. You have to watch for them, as they will never know you are there.

Wait until April, and consider making hops as weather allows.



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