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Old 25-03-2019, 05:13   #1
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Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Hi All,

Relative newbie here (taken bareboat skipper cert/coastal cruising cert), subsequently chartered 4 times - three in Pacific Northwest, once in Belize. Crewed and skippered on 25 foot race boat over 5 year period.

I'll be semi-retiring in a couple of years and will (finally) be able to pursue my dream of a long sailing trip. I have been looking at options for locations and lots of material on Carribean, South America etc.

I was looking at charts and started to think about a circumnavigation of the Gulf of Mexico (Clockwise, Florida, FL Keys, Cuba, Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida) as a first trip. This process would likely take 2-3 years as I would only have about 3 months a year to actually sail (thats the semi, in semi-retirement). In between times I would store the boat (wet slip for short gaps, dry slip for longer) along the way.

This would be coastal cruising with the idea that there would be two days at sea, then marina/moorage for a couple of days to go ashore and check things out.

I have not been able to find much reading material on such a trip which makes me think is either not pleasant, impractical, or there are just way better options.

My wife and I tend to like the road less travelled (onshore at least) and so the busy-ness of the Caribbean is a bit of a turn off.

At this early stage, I am looking for any and all info, perspectives, guidance or advice. This trip would be made in something like a 35' well equipped, but older boat (probably no newer than 85, if thats relevant). The boat is yet to be bought, but the budget for the initial purchase and upgrades is set aside, so any advice on boats/boat types is also welcomed.

Thanks in advance.

DB.
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Old 26-03-2019, 07:42   #2
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Certainly do-able. Ive cruised all of your proposed area except the E coast of the Mexican mainland (not including the Yucatan). Its rare for cruisers to visit this area because its not that appealling. Neither is the Texas coast. Both are industrialized oil patch areas. Though there are some exceptions along the way like Rockport & Port Aransas, TX.

The oil patch thins out as you move E and is very sparse by the time you get into the waters of Mississippi & Alabama. No drilling offshore of FL so no oil patch there.

The best cruising in the GOM (Gulf of Mexico), for my taste anyway, is starting with the the W end of the Mississippi sound all the way to the FL Keys. Southern Louisiana, like the Barataria Waterway area, is also interesting but best suited to a small power boat (though I have cruised much of it in a sail boat under power)

The Waterway Guide covers all of the ICW on the GOM coast. The ICW runs the entire coast of the GOM except the "big bend" (Apalachcola) of Florida.

https://www.waterwayguide.com

There are individual cruising guides which focus on specific areas of the GOM, but all that I know of are dated. See Claiborne Young's Guides (Keys & West FL) & Campbells for the Texas Coast.

For Cuba, Ive used Nigel Calder's excellent guide, but it too is very dated now. I believe there are some more up-to-date guides available now.

For Belize and the Yucatan see Freya Raucher' excellent guide. Freya also wrote a Florida Keys guide, but Ive never used it.

There are threads here on the Mexican E coast and cruising the GOM. So search for those too.
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Old 26-03-2019, 07:54   #3
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

A shoal draft boat would serve you well on this adventure, especially in the ICW. Preferably not one with a "reverse danforth" keel (wing keel)...those set nicely in the muddy shoals of the ICW.
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Old 26-03-2019, 10:15   #4
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Thanks Belizesailor - all very good info and much appreciated. This subject of oil platforms has come up in some of my other reading as well. Sounds like not the most pleasant cruising. I am currently in Florida (Madeira Beach) and use the ICW in a small power boat 2-3 times a week. Time for me to switch to bigger adventures though
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Old 26-03-2019, 11:36   #5
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Certainly do-able. Ive cruised all of your proposed area except the E coast of the Mexican mainland (not including the Yucatan). Its rare for cruisers to visit this area because its not that appealling. Neither is the Texas coast. Both are industrialized oil patch areas. Though there are some exceptions along the way like Rockport & Port Aransas, TX.. . .

Indeed. I can think of quite a lot of places I would prefer to spend 3 years cruising. There are a few very beautiful spots on this route (SW Florida; Yucatan) but hundreds of miles of ugly industrialized shallow coast, and the GOM itself is in my experience rather unpleasant -- shallow, bad weather (dead calms, horrible heat, or storms), lots of fishing boats and oil platforms, so lots of hazards, otherwise plying the "ditch", which gets old fast.



With 3 years, you can go anywhere, even if you're only sailing 3 out of 12 months. If you don't want to go too far, I would just head to the Caribbean, or even go up the East Coast of the U.S., where the further North you go, the better it gets, with the best cruising of all in Maine and across the border in Canadian waters. In 3 years, you could cross the Atlantic, cruise the European Atlantic coasts, then cross back into the Caribbean and spend a whole year there. For my money, that would be a vastly more rewarding way to spend three years, than dodging oil platforms in the GOM.
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Old 26-03-2019, 12:53   #6
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Thanks Dockhead - good steerage.

I think as I get deeper into the research I am coming to the same conclusion. The carribean is looking more interesting all the time - I think I just need to find a book called 'quiet corners of the caribbean' or something!!

I had certainly not considered that the coast was industrialized as much. I had in my mind idyllic little fishing ports

As for crossing the atlantic, I'll want to do ALOT more sailing before I would tackle such an endeavour. I know people do it all the time, but I would want to be SO sure of what I am doing. Maybe once I get to sail consistently for a good few months of the year I'll feel different. Right now I am so 'weekend warrior'!

Appreciate you taking the time to respond.

DB.
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Old 26-03-2019, 20:23   #7
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

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Originally Posted by OKDB View Post
Thanks Belizesailor - all very good info and much appreciated. This subject of oil platforms has come up in some of my other reading as well. Sounds like not the most pleasant cruising. I am currently in Florida (Madeira Beach) and use the ICW in a small power boat 2-3 times a week. Time for me to switch to bigger adventures though
Madeira Beach puts you in easy range of the great cruising ground of SW FL...from Tarpon Springs all the way to the Keys. Many miles of interesting coast line to explore.

Maybe start with that, build a little experience, jump to the Dry Tortugas for a little open water experience. From there its a short hop to Cuba and/or Mexico.

The "road less traveled", compared to the E Carib is the W Carib (Cuba, Jamaica, Caymans, Mexico's Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras' Bay Islands, the Colombian Islands of Providencia/San Andreas, Panama, Colombia, ABCs). Loads of territory to cover where its easy to find isolated anchorages and small villages without the crowds or high costs of the E Carib...and WAY more appealling than Mexico's E Coast.
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Old 27-03-2019, 04:11   #8
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Hey Belizesailor,

Thanks for all that info. Your suggestions make sense (particularly the progression) and sounds like it would be way more interesting to explore the caribbean sea. I have spent a bit of time in Costa Rica and Panama (on land) and thought they were really great places to visit.

Based on your comments, those of Dockhead, and the reading I have been doing, it seems like the Caribbean Sea is a way better option.
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Old 27-03-2019, 05:36   #9
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

I wouldnt totally discount the N-W coasts of the GOM either though. From Mississippi Sound to all the way around to the Keys is good cruising, but you wont find the beautiful waters and reefs of the W Carib there (except in the Keys & Dry Tortugas). All of the destinations along that coast are only day sail apart, with one exception: the jump around Apalachacola, which is only an over night run.

I grew up along the GOM coast and have spent the past 15 years all over the W Carib. Currently at anchor, Yansaladup, San Blas, Panama...one of the many jewels of the W Carib.
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Old 27-03-2019, 07:12   #10
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

I saw a really nice Halberg Rassey 35' near San Blas just the other day.

I just looked up the islands - looks amazing. Also looked up Wildcat 35. Nice looking cat!!!!! Perfect for Carribean cruising!!

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Old 27-03-2019, 08:09   #11
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

The San Blas are indeed beautiful and unique (due to being the semi-autonamous territory of the Kuna indians).

Wildcat sailing in the San Blas:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/a1xymokpmd...as_HD.mp4?dl=0
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Old 27-03-2019, 09:50   #12
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

The W35 with its 3.5' draft is also a great boat for the shallow waters of the GOM coast. Mine has been back and forth between TX and FL several times, both offshore and ICW routes.

My previous boat drew about 5.5', I used to have to squeak thru many places along the GOM. Switching to 3.5' draft opened up a lot of cruising options. Instead of being a shoal to be carefully negotiated, 6' depth became a potential anchorage!
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Old 27-03-2019, 16:16   #13
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

While I agree 3 years is a bit much, I disagree that the GOM doesn't have much to offer.

Texas has some nice places to visit, Galveston is a nice old town to visit. Head south more to Padre Island with a nices waters and beaches. Great Mexican food too. Port Aransas is a big sport fishing port. Louisiana has beautiful stretches of ICW that anyone I have read that does cruise it, loves it. You can visit New Orleans, which is a food and drink mecca, via Lake Pontchartrain. (stop and say hello). Excellent fishing in the GOM especially off LA coast. The oil patch only really extends to the shelf, after that the drillships/platforms are fewer and farther between, plus they are very well lit. Gulfport, MS and Mobile, AL both have old town feels with nice old yacht clubs if that's your thing. Pensacola Bay is fantastic fishing and snorkeling/diving (lots of wrecks). Two old forts are on both sides of the bay are nice to check out. Further east on the panhandle, you have Destin, Panama City that have beautiful beaches and interior bays. I don't know much past that, so I can't comment. I think the GOM has a good bit to offer if you give it a chance. The people are what make our coast too.

If you need advice, shoot me a PM and I'll help you with routing, especially in southeast Louisiana to Pensacola area.
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Old 30-03-2019, 08:15   #14
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Started out in Norfolk, Va. this year on my '81 Hunter 27 with Florida as my destination. After exploring the Okeechobee and then heading over to Florida's west coast, decided to keep going over to Lake Pontchartrain. With a 4.5-ft draft I opted to sail from Anclote Key straight across to Carabelle and avoid the Big Bend and its shallow waters/long channels, etc. Madeira Beach, as someone stated earlier, is a good starting point. The anchorage north of the Welch Causeway Bridge adjacent to the American Legion is a good place to anchor with a short dinghy ride over to the public dock (actually owned by the Publix supermarket about 100-yds from the dock...and there's a McDonald's next to the dock as well!). Good place for re-provisioning.

From there it was up to Three Rooker Bar just south of Anclote Key and waited for an opportune weather window. Departed there on March 10th and motor-sailed straight across to Dog Island and St. George Sound in 36-hours (FYI am Single-handling). After months of the ICW, St. George Sound and the Appilachicola Bay were a welcome relief..one can actually sail and not be restricted to staying "inside the lines". The GIWW from Appilachicola over to Port St. Jo is a pleasant trip. From Port St. Jo I headed "offshore" and did the overnight trip over to Pensacola and the Caucus Channel.

I must admit that the Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Bay are spoiling me. Have been bouncing around the area for the past week...numerous good anchorages, nice marinas, lots of room to put up the sails and go.

Am heading over to Lake Pontchartrain next week and possibly points further west, but may end up returning to this area to spend the rest of the summer. Next winter's plan is to do the Keys and the Bahamas on my way back up to Norfolk, Va. All this in a 27-footer...a 35-footer with 5' draft or less will serve you well. Fair winds!
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Old 31-03-2019, 04:35   #15
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Re: Circle The Gulf of Mexico???

Great info Teknishn - I appreciate the breakdown of your journey. I live right around the corner from that anchorage you mention. Keep us posted on your progress (I have sent you a PM).

Thanks!

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