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Old 19-11-2014, 19:31   #1
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Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

Hey sailors!

My roommate and I are about to take my 1970 Morgan 38 from Corpus Christi TX to Key West and I'm looking for a bit of last minute advice. I know these topics have been covered in other threads, but we're also looking to see if anyone else is making the trip this season, so I figured it was worth the post. We very much want to be in the Bahamas by New Years Eve.


We're trying to decide if we should...
1) go all the way across (heading EbySE to about a hundred miles N of the Yucatan then NE to Key West) we figure it would take about 7-11 days.
- or -
2) take the ICW all the way to Panama City Beach then broad reach south a hundred miles or so off the coast of Florida to Key West. No need for the bulk of extra fuel and supplies, the mast is short enough to fit through, etc.

We are good sailors but somewhat inexperienced offshore sailing. Contigo is a proven offshore sailing vessel and totally ready to go. We have good equipment like radar, storm sails, solar panels, good roller furling, strong mast newly stepped, full heavy keel, etc.

Our main hesitation is winter "Northerners" in the Gulf every week or more, as well as the dominant wind being from the East or E-by-NE. Sounds like a very uncomfortable, into the wind sail. Potentially more dangerous than we'd like?

The ICW is protected but its a big loop and we'd have to deal with traffic and limited entry and exit points. Is there a website that lists the exits to the ICW? Maybe take the gulf to Panama City Beach then South to the Keys?

What are your thoughts? Is anyone going East around the same time looking to buddy boat?

Capt. Hank
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Old 19-11-2014, 22:07   #2
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

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Originally Posted by TenaciousH View Post

We are good sailors but somewhat inexperienced offshore sailing. Contigo is a proven offshore sailing vessel and totally ready to go. We have good equipment like radar, storm sails, solar panels, good roller furling, strong mast newly stepped, full heavy keel, etc.
Welcome to sailing from the Texas Gulf Coast. There are a few posters from Texas on here, but not many. I guess we all have two choices....go the long way around, or straight across. My wife and I go the long way round. It's a mostly pleasant way to travel, with a few "oh sh!t" moments thrown in here and there. It has taken us 28 travel days to get to Marathon (Boot Key), and 27 days returning a few months ago. So, if you are going ICW, you best be getting along soon. Figure on plenty of weather delays this time of the year (not included in our travel days). Some of this (once past Pensacola) will be offshore hops. You could start looking to go outside once in Mobile Bay, but rigs are heavy before then.

Admitting "somewhat inexperienced" offshore, I can only hope you don't go across the Gulf this time of the year. I'm sure you noticed the 40 knot winds this week? I didn't look at the offshore reports, but a friend did. It was ugly. I guess 20' seas. Seriously, you are not likely to get a favorable forecast to get you across without some demanding conditions. Plus you can't get a reliable forecast long enough to get you across. Can you and your boat do it? I don't know, but you better be sure before you leave.

Keep in mind, even if you go the long way around, you'll still have a long crossing from Apalachicola or Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater Beach (150-165 nm), along with some other offshore work getting down to the Keys. Weather will still play an important part (northers). Actually, you'll be on Mississippi Sound and Mobile bay a few days. Not nice if it's blowing stink.

By what you say, maybe you're about as experienced as we were when we left. You will learn so much going the long way. Probably more than sailing straight across. A word of caution: If you don't know much about inlets, do some studying up before you head out. That's the tricky part about offshore passages. You must come back in, and that can be a boat killer if you get it wrong. Be especially careful if you come in to Destin (in the dark like we did). Research any inlets on Active Captain. If it says "local knowledge" be very careful! Check tides, and plan to arrive at or near slack. Many times it get bumpy with an outgoing tide, but depends on the winds.

Once you get to the Keys, it's a piece of cake crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Then again, plenty to learn once you get there too.


Just so you know, it's 1000 miles to paradise! how hard could it be???

Best wishes with your trip which ever way you decide to go, and you guys be careful out there!

Ralph
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Old 19-11-2014, 23:01   #3
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

don't go across from Texas head to Mobile Ab to Tampa. go right after the front passes, that will give you the time you will need to cross. People don't realize how nasty the gulf can get with wind in the 40's its like the bearing sea. its shallow making for short breaking waves and they are the worst kind.
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Old 20-11-2014, 07:58   #4
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

Agree with the above, follow coastal routes, the GoM sucks when its rough, steep close waves, ripping fronts, very unforgiving, not fun in any weather. They don't call the large ferry that runs to key west from ft myers the vomit comet for nothing.

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Old 20-11-2014, 09:41   #5
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

I just got back to Galveston from Isla Mujeres on Sunday. The forecast was for a small front to be 15-20 kts for about 8 hours. Well, It ended up being 35-40, sustained the entire night. Dropped to 30 during the day. Back up to 35-40 at night. and on for three nights and days.

10 ft short period seas.

That sucked.

Anywho, I'm going back across, likely to Key West (probably Marathon) as well, on my way to the Virgin Islands. However, I'm leaving in the first week in January.

Like mentioned above, I'll be going behind a norther, but heading east staying decently close to land. (100 miles or so) so I can duck in somewhere if need be. Then turn south along Florida's coast.

I hear a lot of old salts around here(Galveston) mention this is the way they usually go anyway to take advantage of the gulf stream, and not beating it as if you were to take the rhumb.

If you end up heading out a little later, hit me up. Misery loves company.
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Old 20-11-2014, 09:49   #6
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

Ah, one more thing not a lot of people talk about.

Off the coast of lousiana/texas there are a lot of rigs.

A lot are derelict.

Some have lights and horns.

Some have one or the other.

A few have none.


Radar, bright moon, and an alert night watch are great to have.
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Old 20-11-2014, 09:55   #7
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JStone View Post
I just got back to Galveston from Isla Mujeres on Sunday. The forecast was for a small front to be 15-20 kts for about 8 hours. Well, It ended up being 35-40, sustained the entire night. Dropped to 30 during the day. Back up to 35-40 at night. and on for three nights and days.

10 ft short period seas.

That sucked.

Anywho, I'm going back across, likely to Key West (probably Marathon) as well, on my way to the Virgin Islands. However, I'm leaving in the first week in January.

Like mentioned above, I'll be going behind a norther, but heading east staying decently close to land. (100 miles or so) so I can duck in somewhere if need be. Then turn south along Florida's coast.

I hear a lot of old salts around here(Galveston) mention this is the way they usually go anyway to take advantage of the gulf stream, and not beating it as if you were to take the rhumb.

If you end up heading out a little later, hit me up. Misery loves company.
Yeap you have it right
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Old 20-11-2014, 10:00   #8
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JStone View Post
Ah, one more thing not a lot of people talk about.

Off the coast of lousiana/texas there are a lot of rigs.

A lot are derelict.

Some have lights and horns.

Some have one or the other.

A few have none.


Radar, bright moon, and an alert night watch are great to have.
Anything near shore can be a problem, Radar to me is a must have.
I get my sleep when there is no wind I just drift and sleep with the radar on. when the wind is kicking I am usually to excited to sleep hahaha I love sailing.
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Old 20-11-2014, 11:39   #9
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

We are leaving in a few weeks from Seabrook, tx via ICW. Destination southern bahamas. Might do some jumps out into the gulf here and there but mostly keeping to ICW till Pensacola then down to the keys.We hope to depart december 12-15 stopping at harbor walk down in galveston for a day or two. We are Rain Dog, Pacific Seacraft 34 ( navy and tan canvas) drawing 5ft.
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Old 21-11-2014, 07:59   #10
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

We're also leaving out of Seabrook for the keys and then Bahamas, using the ICW until about Pensacola. But we promised to spend Christmas with my mother here, so our plan is to leave on the first weather window in January.

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Old 21-11-2014, 08:34   #11
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

From Pensacola I'd skip Destin and go in to Panama City, real easy entrance and very well marked, deep channel. I've gone straight to Tarpon Springs from PC, and have also jumped over to hide behind Dog Island at Carrabelle.
Dog is a good anchorage, but a long dinghy ride into town.
Dog to Tarpon springs is about as short a jump as you can make it, not much between them, but a lot of shallow water. People do go to Crystal river and Cedar Key, but depth concerns me too much.
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Old 21-11-2014, 12:01   #12
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Re: Corpus Christi TX to Key West in December - Cross or ICW?

My wife and I have been across 4 times in our 36' S2. Cameron to Ft Myers, Key West to Galveston, Galveston to Progresso (detoured from Isla Mujeres arrival due to hurricane Ida), and Isla to Galveston. I prefer to be well outside the rigs before we turn East. It's much more relaxing if there's nothing to run into. Radar is a must have. Be ready for nasty weather but the Gulf is not shallow if you are 200+ miles out, look at the charts. Dependable self steering is another must have if unless you have a boatload of crew who love misery. Do not go directly across unless you are ready to sail in 10 - 20 foot seas. Good luck. www.koplinsailing.com
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