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Old 06-01-2009, 05:58   #1
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Florida Bay crossing

In the last 6 months we have made two round trips to the Keys from St. Pete. On two of the legs we were hit with some really bad weather. On the return leg in Oct. we were 50 miles off shore and was hit with 27 plus knot winds and wave action that was in the 8 foot range.( wife states 10ft) I have read a number of posts about crossing the Gulf Stream, but have not seen much about Florida Bay. Florida Bay is a longer distance than the hop to the Bahamas. For both trips the weather forecast was good. The return trip had a forecast of 10-15 knots ,East, 3 foot seas. The trip started out that way but about 5pm the world changed!
So my questions are:
Best weather for crossing?
Best jumping off point, Naples vs Marco Island , etc?
Never go weather; East wind?
Keep inland heading before turning west?

Thoughts and experiences about Florida Bay would be helpful and interesting.
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:34   #2
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We've always gone from Channel 5 to Shark River to Marco Island or Marco Island to Shark River to Channel 5 (depending on which way we're headed). Each leg is short enough to do during daylight and hopefully short enough to prevent any unexpected bad weather. We've never had any problems, in fact it's always been a very plesant trip. Of course, we were always headed to or from Taviner or Key Largo in the keys ..... had we been headed to or from Key West or Marathon our route might have been different.

Bill A.
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Old 06-01-2009, 09:28   #3
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The area between Cape Romano and Smith Shoal always seems to have rough weather. What it does not have is the well defined, relatively consistent, current of the Gulf Stream as does the Florida Straights. The Stream does effect the West coast of Florida, however, sometimes with a northerly set, sometimes on-shore and sometimes setting southeasterly, nominally parallel to the “coast”. I place the term “coast” in parentheses here because along this stretch, the coast-line shown on the charts really doesn’t demark the shore but merely the commencement of the Everglades, with contiguous water extending easterly nearly to the east coast of the Peninsula. Accordingly, the wind has much more effective fetch over water than the charts would seem to indicate which, coupled with the local direction of the Stream, can have significant effect on prevailing seas in the area.

On our passages to/from Key West, we have found that westerly winds are preferable but rare. More often, the winds are from the east and southeast. During the day these are commonly interrupted by the effects of the heating of the Everglades and the resultant on-shore “sea breezes” which can all but cancel the surface winds within 30 to 40 miles of the “coast”, at least as far south as Cape Sable. Unfortunately, these sea breezes also give rise to lines of towering thunderheads all along the “coast” which invariably begin their march seaward as the sun sets. With this, one finds oneself playing “dodge ball” with the resultant squall lines as on our most recent passage, where we were simultaneously tracking 5 different squalls on radar, all within 20 miles. Unfortunately, because the water is so shallow, not more than 50 feet deep even 40 miles off-shore, these squalls build up vicious little seas very quickly. While one might avoid contact with them directly, the blast of out flowing winds from these squalls’ can easily be suffered many miles away.

For my part I prefer to try to time a passage so that we cover the stretch from Smith Shoal to Cape Romano—about 70 miles—during daylight hours. With this, going north one can duck into Marco Island behind the squalls in late afternoon, or miss them entirely while going south. Otherwise, one can only reef down, grit ones teeth, and make do.

FWIW…

s/v HyLyte
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Old 06-01-2009, 18:48   #4
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Well, sounds like a trip down the coast, then jump over to the lower keys working our way west is in the plans for the spring. The reefing down story from the last trip has been fun for dock talk, but I would rather tell the same story over and over again than have a new one! Thanks for the input.
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Old 06-01-2009, 20:33   #5
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Key West North

Quote:
Originally Posted by George Raffa View Post
In the last 6 months we have made two round trips to the Keys from St. Pete. On two of the legs we were hit with some really bad weather. On the return leg in Oct. we were 50 miles off shore and was hit with 27 plus knot winds and wave action that was in the 8 foot range.( wife states 10ft) I have read a number of posts about crossing the Gulf Stream, but have not seen much about Florida Bay. Florida Bay is a longer distance than the hop to the Bahamas. For both trips the weather forecast was good. The return trip had a forecast of 10-15 knots ,East, 3 foot seas. The trip started out that way but about 5pm the world changed!
So my questions are:
Best weather for crossing?
Best jumping off point, Naples vs Marco Island , etc?
Never go weather; East wind?
Keep inland heading before turning west?

Thoughts and experiences about Florida Bay would be helpful and interesting.
We have been running from Cape Coral to Key West for years. We really love it down there. This year has been the worst winds ever. We just headed back last Tuesday, with 5-7 foot seas and 20 knot winds out of the northeast. It took us an extra 2 and a half hours. They were predicted to be less than two and 5 knot winds. Last July, on our day to head back north, we got reports of 3 to 5 foot seas. We turned around after 25 miles in 10 to 12 foot seas and ended up spending an extra 3 days in Key West (conch harbor marina). Three times I buried the bow in a second or third swell. It was very scary.

Once past Cape Ramano, it always seems to settle down.

The prior couple of years you could water ski down and back with such flat seas.

I just think it is a cycle we are in.
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Old 06-01-2009, 20:35   #6
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As a followup, you can always head up Hawks Channel to Moser Pass. There you can cut a short distance up to Cape Sable and hug the coast north. The problem with this route is it adds several hours.
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Old 07-01-2009, 05:54   #7
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Missnmountains,
You recapped my trip better than I could or did! Florida Bay kicked my ...... We were to far to return to Key West and could not sail east into the wind returning inland. I thought about falling off the wind and running with the weather , but that would have taken us into deeper water and higher waves and wind. So, we just "grit ones teeth, and make do" per HyLyte.
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Old 07-01-2009, 06:33   #8
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George--

For the last few weeks the Stream has been essentially on-shore and northerly along the west coast. The following is from Passage Weather:



While the overall drift is shown as around 3/4's of a knot, in the shallow water closer in, it's actually quite a bit faster. With a nor'easter and northerly flowing water, and with only 50-60 feet of water, you get terrific seas. Running in-shore only makes things worse as the depth decreases. Farther off-shore the set is more easterly and slower; and, with deeper water, the sea's lay down. Next time try heading off to the west of the Marquesas before turning north.

FWIW...

s/v HyLyte
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Old 07-01-2009, 17:40   #9
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I was concerned that the futher west the wind would build. After reviewing your chart I can see that I was in the middle of wave action from the current vs the wind. I have been "coastal sailing " for 40 years , but my lack of true off shore experience is obvious. Thanks for the help! If you sail over to Pass a Grille YC stop by Tikihut and I will buy you a cold one. George
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Old 07-01-2009, 17:46   #10
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George-

Your memory must be failing. You already did! When we visited during our Spring cruise last year! So--how do you like the Club now that SPYC is on the scene?

Cheers,

s/v HyLyte (of BYC)
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Old 08-01-2009, 04:53   #11
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I need to start drinking more..... Club is excellent! The activity is a lot of fun with the increased number of boat visiting over the weekends. Make sure to shoot me an email before your next visit.
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