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Old 19-09-2015, 20:01   #1
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Panhandle or Southeast Coast

One day, we want to cruise. We live in Central Illinois, for now. We are busy (and happy) with rewarding careers, raising four kids. My wife and I grew up with speedboats and houseboats, which is what you get with inland lakes. But now, we have figured out how much we love sailing. We mess around with a little Laser in a small lake, on weekends, but it's not enough. On vacations, we take charters on the ocean, but that's not enough. We are looking to buy a daysailer (maybe a Colgate 26) that we can keep in a marina either in the panhandle or along the Southeastern coast. We dream of someday living aboard and cruising, as many of you do, but for now, baby steps.... If we head south, we can get to Pensacola in 12 hours, and the farther west along the panhandle we go, the longer our drive. If we head southeast, we can get to Savannah in 13 hours, and north or south of Savannah adds time. What do you recommend?


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Old 19-09-2015, 20:09   #2
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Can't speak to the east coast, no experience there.

But Pensacola has a nice large bay to day sail on right there. Probably more reasonable slip prices than most areas, too.

Some unpopulated barrier island anchorages as well for weekending.

The panhandle area is my favorite of all Florida waters I've experienced.
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Old 19-09-2015, 20:22   #3
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Pensacaola is a great town. Great sailing, great minor league hockey and baseball. We are members of Pensacola Yacht Club. I highly recommend the area. Let me know if you would like more info.


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Old 19-09-2015, 20:28   #4
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

+1. Pensacola would be a great spot for a daysailer.

Dont know Savanah.

I really like SW Florida as a cruising ground, but for a daysailer in FL, Pensacola is a very good option.
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Old 19-09-2015, 20:51   #5
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Oooo, good question. Let me ask you this, because I think this will help me and others to answer you.

How much of a percent is the sailing in your decision making? And what kind of sailing do you want to do? And how much of a percent is culture. Fun town/city to vacation in, food, entertainment, that sort of thing.

Because if it was purely as the closest place to store a sailboat and sail big water that's one thing, if it was a place to store a sailboat and sail big water and also have a fun place to vacation and stay aboard your boat, go out to town at night, have some amenities like that.

Because culturally Savannah is quite more famous than Pensacola and the east coast of Georgia and Florida is a different cultural place than the panhandle.

What kind of sailing do you want to do? Do you want to just sail for fun? Or are you going to train yourselves for bigger things and use this plsce as your training ground. Do you see more day sails of trips at anchor.

Tentatively I vote Savannah
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Old 19-09-2015, 21:54   #6
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

We've spent many vacations on the panhandle in Destin, Santa Rosa, Navarre and Panama City. My wife was born on St. Simons Island. We were looking at Savannah, or marinas south of there, and it looks like a great historical area to explore. But on the other hand, our boys are 12, 10, and 7, and our girl is five, and while they love the water, and while the older ones love sailing, they don't care much about "history." We want to actually get to sail. I think the sailing experience is more important than what's on shore at this stage. But I'm not sure.


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Old 19-09-2015, 23:29   #7
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The history is where you are, dig it.! I too, am looking forward to other cruising grounds. My son and his family, love Savannah. It's also nice, to like where you live for work. Good luck.
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Old 20-09-2015, 02:57   #8
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Dare I ask which area would be better suited for a boat requiring "thicker" water? Say 6'-7'.
Also, which, if either, has more social & cultural opportunities for a middle aged adult? That & a sense of community, if one were considering relocating?
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Old 20-09-2015, 04:15   #9
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

There is a lot of thin water in FL, but also extensive marked channels leading to the Gulf. Deep draft will limit your exploring, but its doable.
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Old 20-09-2015, 05:46   #10
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Pensacola is a nice place but very hot in the summer months.

From around April through November, the Sea Breeze is like clockwork and kicks in SSW-SW anywhere from 11am - 1pm at 8-12 knots.

The yacht clubs have many organized races including two annual 20 mile Seabuoy Races. There used to also be a race to Mexico.

Channels are well marked but getting into Bayou Grande to the navy marina (and the other 2 private marinas up Bayou Grande) used to be a problem for 6' draft boats but that my have been corrected by now. Active Captain may tell you. I knew a guy with a Tayana 37 that came in on high tide. (His boat was destroyed during Ivan when it was knocked of the stands at the marina he had stored it at for the storm. He didn't have insurance and he was a liveaboard) His girlfriend, after they broke up, bought a newish Hans Christian and was also able to get in there. The broker that sold her the boat helped and also became her new boyfriend.

The town used to be like a small town but changed quite a bit from 1996-2008. There must have been 10 high rise condos built from Ft Walton Beach to Pensacola during that time also .......maybe more.

My son and I sailed catamarans then but watch the monohulls and knew lots of the owners. They would mainly sail the bay out to Ft Mcree or the pass and back.

My son and his friend would sail to Pensacola Beach and meet girls. He was 15 and crew members were a similar age. They did get caught in two rather rough thunderstorms though with plus 30 knot winds but made it home safe each time. The boat was a Hobie 16. I was watching with binoculars freaking out as they were swallowed up mid bay by one of the storms. Maybe the fact that he already had 5 years experience sailing (racing) helped.

We kept the boats tied down just above high water in front of our apartment. Slip fee at the time for the monohulls was $50.00/month at this apartment at the time. It was this why until Ivan destroyed it in 2004 and then was turned into a condo.

Some would sail to Pensacola Beach (Inside beach) and hangout especially the younger crowd which is what we did on the catamarans at the time.

There are marinas in and around Pensacola and Pensacola Beach.

I was also there for 5 hurricanes. Ivan was a cat 3/4. It destroyed lot of stuff including 80 plus monohulls but that weather system seems to have changed now. Katrina was 1 year after Ivan but even though it was 180 miles below Pensacola it bought in water levels similar to a small storm.

Sailing on the outside from Pensacola Pass to Destin Pass is maybe 50 miles in the beautiful, clear (most times) gulf water. The catamaran fleets used to do a 100 mile race which started in Ft Walton, out Destin Pass, back in Pensacola Pass and back to Ft Walton through the narrows. The wind Clocked around if conditions were prevailing. NE for the morning start at 0700. The wind would clock all the way around to SW-W with maybe a lull around 10am where we would be near Navarre on the outside. We could usually complete it in 9-14 hours depending on the boat, wind, and Skipper
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Old 20-09-2015, 06:39   #11
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

"Do you want to just sail for fun? Or are you going to train yourselves for bigger things and use this plsce as your training ground." It's got to be fun, first. Otherwise, it is too much trouble to take a family of six on a 12-13 hour car ride, to go spend 3-4 days doing something that isn't fun. But we know that the more we sail, the better we get. That's maybe why the 12 year old is better than I am.


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Old 20-09-2015, 06:43   #12
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

In the panhandle, there are a lot of options between Pensacola (a 12 hour drive from home) and Port St. Joe (a 13.5 hour drive).


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Old 20-09-2015, 07:41   #13
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

I lived in Savannah for 8 or 10 yrs. Odd as this may sound but sailing wise there is not much there, once you leave Savannah, it's a long way to anywhere and if we are talking weekend and or maybe week long trips in a small boat, the Panhandle is where you want to be.
Depth is a real issue in both the Big Bend area and around Tarpon springs, but not seemingly around PC, etc.
Although I'd look for a bigger boat, I believe costs will be very similar, just you have less boat


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Old 20-09-2015, 07:53   #14
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

Another option is sailboat racing (small boats) on the lakes near where you live now. You will get more time on the water that way. And the weather may be better in summer in there. Pensacola is very hot mid to late summer. Extremely hot!

I started in and around Memphis, TN. We raced mainly in the TVA Lakes in Mississippi but a couple times in Nashville. There was quite a huge fleet of Lasers there in the '90's.

Then my job took me to Pensacola.

Here is an example in your general area:

http://www.clsasailing.org/
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Old 20-09-2015, 08:27   #15
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Re: Panhandle or Southeast Coast

My wife and I have lived in the Destin/Niceville/Ft Walton Beach area for over 30 years as we have raised our kids (all grown and gone now!) We have sailed on Chocawtahatchee Bay that entire time - weekends on our old 1966 Coronado 25, then a 76 Catalina 22, then an 85 Cal 27, and now our "semi retirement" dream boat, a 1979 Pearson 365.

Great Place - Great Coast - Lots of cruising destinations (Mississippi Coast, Pensacola, Choctahatchee Bay, Panama City Bay, Pt St Joe, Apalachicola) are available for weekend and week long trips

Here is a link to our Cal 27 which is now available since I've bought the Pearson
a few months ago. My wife says its time for her to be sold! There are lots
of boat slips available in this bay area.

cal-27-ver-1

Feel free to contact me offline if you want any details of this area - would be
glad to share info with you!

Joe
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