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Old 12-02-2018, 16:22   #1
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Sailing from Marathon Florida to Isla Muheres Mexico

A Crossing - the Safest Option

Rene and Michael aboard Sea Mist and Pam and Don aboard Rainbow’s End were planning a crossing from Marathon Florida to Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Neither crew had made such a big jump before, although both had sailed extensively.
As every cruiser knows, there are 3 critical considerations in every sailing trip - that being Weather, weather, and weather.
So we started by looking at a variety of weather sites including Predict Wind, Windyty, and NOAA. We seemed to be able to predict 3 or 4 days with some accuracy but any further into the future seemed to be more of guesswork. We had a route from the Freyer book, but no information about the Gulf Stream, other than general information about where the current is usually in sections of the year.
Our trip consisted of 24-hour sail to the Dry Tortugas with one overnight stop to refresh the crew and visit the historic Fort Jefferson. From the southernmost tip of the USA we planned to spend 3 overnights sailing south-west to Isla Mujeres.
After gathering all of this pertinent information we made the essential decision that insured our success. We consulted the weather expert, Chris Parker and asked his help in planning the trip. He would ascertain a weather window and provide us with a plan for the trip. We thought it would consist of a weather forecast for the various days, but it was much more comprehensive than that and the charge for the service was minimal considering we were risking our boats as well as our lives for decisions that may not be well informed.
As it turns out, the advice was invaluable. Here is a sample of part of the trip plan.

Tue6 morning-midday 22-10N/85-20W: E@12-16g20k Seas 3-4' Stray squalls +5k possible; Fair beam reach sailing.

Tue6 evening-night 21-15N/85-40W: E-ESE@14-18g22k Seas 4-5' Fair broad reach or downwind run sailing now heading due W into N flowing current.

This cryptic message gave us all we needed to plan our trip.

The time and location gave us the route. The wind speed and wave height helped us plan what to do with our sails. The current information was invaluable as when our track started to deviate or the boat slowed down we understood what was happening.

In general, the weather was very close to what Chris had projected, sometimes the wind shifts came a little later and sometimes the wind speed and waves were even bigger than the predictions. But all the conditions were safe. Perhaps they were somewhat uncomfortable and even made some of the crew feel ill. That is to be expected when sailing.

And so Chris planned a perfect crossing for us. We sailed to the Dry Tortugas. Rested and visited Fort Jefferson for 2 days while the seas laid down - all part of the plan. From there we started the long crossing in bright sunny and mild winds, looking forward to our time in Isla Mujeres. This part of the journey was more arduous but perfectly safe as far as weather and currents were concerned. Of course, the overnight time was challenging, but we used the AIS to dodge the cargo and cruise ships. Autohelm was invaluable to relieve the burden of the person on watch and it handled the boat well in heavy wind and seas.
But the most critical element was that we knew that the weather as we progressed would be in the safe range. That gave us the confidence to meet every challenge head-on.
We proceeded everyday sailing or motor sailing as fast as we could until the last 12hours. We tried to gauge our time so that we would arrive at our destination mid-morning o’clock. The crew on both boats had learned a lot about longer passages, our own endurance and the value of solid information provided to us by the expert, Chris Parker. The plan was impressive in every aspect!

Google Chris Parker to view his website.

Rene Yapp
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