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Old 30-08-2012, 13:24   #1
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Sailing the Ditch in February

Beginning next week, I am planning to sail the Ditch south from NJ and eventually to Florida and the Bahamas. The problem is I only have five weeks for the first leg. I’ll have to leave the boat at some marina for three months and resume the trip in February. I was wondering how far south I need to go so that I can sail without freezing when I resume in February. By the way, I originally allotted 10 weeks for the first week of the trip but a slip of my Swiss Army Knife resulted in cutting three tendons and a nerve in my hand. This led to microsurgery, casting, splinting, and extensive physical therapy. But as they say, Man plans, God laughs.
Jeff Wolfe
PS: Does anyone know of any good marinas in the area where I can leave the boat?
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Old 30-08-2012, 13:30   #2
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

South GA or north FL may be far enough but will depend. I live in north FL and in Feb it can be comfortable for most of the month and then you get whacked with a cold front and freeze your posterior for a few days or even a week or so.

So unless you want to get down Palm Beach or south you do run the risk of some cold but probably not too much.

Also if you stay further north it would be a LOT cheaper to leave the boat than south FL.

Brunswick Landing Marina in south GA is nice and very reasonable.
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Old 30-08-2012, 13:41   #3
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Jeffery, check how far south your ins will let you go as well. I did Marathon Key to Charleston in 10 days several years ago. Underway by 7:20-8 hook down 1 hour before sunset. So you should be able to get pretty far I'm 5 weeks. Depends on how quick you want to travel. In feb I'd be away south to avoid cold weather.
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Old 30-08-2012, 14:16   #4
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

Should be doable almost anyplace south of Norfolk. I'd think of leaving your boat somewhere around Oriental where there are reasonable marinas and docks of various sorts. It will be cold, but you probably won't have snow and such then, though it isn't unknown then. Average highs at Oriental in February are in the 50s and average lows about 35 degrees. Of course that doesn't mean you won't have a few cold snaps. Another option might be one of the Norfolk area marinas, where it would be easier to hook up with flights home and such. Oriental is not close to a major airport, but there are enough cruisers there that someone is bound to offer you a ride.
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Old 30-08-2012, 14:25   #5
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

Jeff,

I brought my boat down from Maryland in November 2010, to a marina in North Carolina (Cherry Point -- it's military, so you probably can't use it). We left North Carolina on Dec 28 for Miami. There was a sheen of ice on the water in NC, but the ICW was navigable. So I would say that you would want to at least make it to NC or SC before leaving your vessel; otherwise you'd have to winterize your water tankage. The good thing is the marinas are reasonable pretty much all the way down to the Cape Canaveral area. While the Brunswick Landing Marina mentioned earlier is cheaper, it's also a bit run down. The Morningstar Marina where we stayed is also in Brunswick, has good security, and courtesy cars for shopping, etc. I would recommend them in a heartbeat as I kept my boat there for eight months after coming back up from the Keys.
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:00   #6
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I would 2nd the Morningstar Marina in Brunswick. Great crew and nice facilities. About a mile off the ICW.
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:15   #7
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

If you can get to FL check out Palm Coast Marina. They have slips with no services they lease out very inexpensive. No tide.
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:28   #8
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

Thinking back to when you are leaving, you will need to be tied up by the first or second week in October. Most people would not want to head south of Norfolk at that point in order to stay out of the way of hurricanes. My usual recommendation is not to leave the Chesapeake until around the end of October. However, the Chesapeake can be pretty cold and wintry in February. Best compromise is somewhere sheltered near Norfolk, or maybe northern North Carolina if you can get into a pretty good hurricane hole type of situation. There have been lots of late season hurricanes in recent times due to increased water temperatures.
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Old 30-08-2012, 16:53   #9
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

What kind of boat? Do you have heat? Do you have insurance limits? Are you exploring or do you just want to get the boat South?
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Old 30-08-2012, 17:12   #10
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

I brought my boat from Annapolis in mid October one year. There was ice on the docks in the am in Annapolis. It wasnt a bad trip at all really. I was in Mid FL aboard in Feb 2010 and some nights it was freezing... like 32 degrees. Had to buy a space heater! It just depends on the year but shouldnt be an issue for a hearty sailor.... if there's a late 'cane.... you'll get lots of warning. If you are in the ditch, you can get wherever you need to with a weeks time.....
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Old 30-08-2012, 18:59   #11
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

There is cold and there is water cold,guess which is way worse.Above posts are all relevant,I once did his trip in Nov. /Dec. froze my yankee tail off. Get the warmest gear you can find and some kind of protected steering position (dodger is minimum) with heat below to warm up . Five weeks is enough time but day are short during winter mos. so you had better make the best use of every scrap of daylight. Really a cool trip with lots of natural beauty and history.Injustice to refer to the ICW as the Ditch.
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Old 30-08-2012, 19:40   #12
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

Actually, by mid February things are starting to warm up again. January is the tough month.

With five weeks I'd try to get to Charleston. Good marinas, restaurants,
and air service. Lots of people live on their boats through the winter. Marina's have special winter deals. Leave a light bulb on in the engine room and drain any exterior pipes (like swim step showers) and the boat will be fine.

But you don't have to get that far. Oriental is fine. The River Dunes marina is wonderful and has very good rates ($8/ft month). It will be colder but the boat will be fine.

Once you get back to the boat in February you will need some heat on colder days. Space heaters at night at a marina will be fine. You can also run a small 600 watt heater off an inverter while underway if you have protected steering. Eight hours in a 45 degree wind is really tough. Every year we see people underway in an open cockpit with ski goggles and face masks. It looks miserable.

The picture is in mid January on the ICW near Charleston. The navigator helped.

Carl
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Old 31-08-2012, 22:08   #13
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Re: Sailing the Ditch in February

Looks to me that it would be best if I could get down to the Carolina's, Georgia even better, if I want to have an enjoyable sail in February. I've sailed a number of times in Charlotte Harbor at the end of January. Some years were great but I had a few where it was downright cold, especially on the water. I can't say that I much enjoy sailing if the temperature is below the mid 50's. My boat is a Catalina 310. It has auto-pilot but no radar. Also, most of the time I'll be single handling. My son will be with me for some of the time and although he's sailed with me many times, I'd need to be by his side most of the time. So sailing on the outside or at night is not a possibility. Anyway, my interest is to enjoy the sail and meander around a bit. If I don't get down far enough, I'll probably have to hire a captain to sail it down further.

And then there's the hurricanes; they worry me. Certainly not a good time to be sailing but I have to play the cards I've been dealt if I want to be in the the game. I remember once chartering in the BVI when hurricane Lenny (1999 I think) showed up in November. My insurance has no limitations within the US.

Thanks all for your suggestions.
Jeff
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