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Old 02-12-2012, 05:02   #1
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Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

Good morning everyone,

Hubby and I have 2 weeks off mid february and want to sail to the keys from our home port of St. Pete. Was wondring if this is a good time weather wise and if you all have suggestions of good stopping points along the way? We also love to dive and any interesting dive sites would be great info as well.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:08   #2
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

There and back in two weeks? thats close to 400 NM divided by mayby 10 cruising days(with good weather).40 mile stops-Venice,Pine Island,Marco,Little Shark(51 NM) and Marathon might get you there in 5 days depending on WEATHER! Done it many times that time of year
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:53   #3
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

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Originally Posted by beachlvr0168 View Post
Good morning everyone,

Hubby and I have 2 weeks off mid february and want to sail to the keys from our home port of St. Pete. Was wondring if this is a good time weather wise and if you all have suggestions of good stopping points along the way? We also love to dive and any interesting dive sites would be great info as well.
From the Southwest Channel Sea Bouy at Tampa to Key West is about 221 miles. With your boat's waterline, about 27.29', your average cruising speed will be about 5 knots in favorable winds. That's a run of about 44 hours assuming you're able to handle it which, at you skill level, is questionable. As for weather, take a look at the February Pilot Charts for the North Atlantic. Much of your sailing will be to windward. Unless the exercise is for the sake of the going and coming, you'd be pushing it in February, particularly with cold fronts blowing through every 4-5 days (although they will give you more favorable winds if you're able to handle them). Moreover, unless you've got anti-freeze in your veins (or 1/4" wet suits), I think you'll find most of the water rather too cold for diving unless you can get up to the reef off Marathon.

You might plan your trip but with alternatives closer at hand. St. Pete to Desoto Point on the Manatee River or to Jewfish Key on the east side of Longboat, then Venice, then Pelican Bay or Cabbage Key inside Boca Grand and then down the inside to perhaps Roosevelt Channel at 'Tween Waters or down to Glover Bight on the north side of the Caloosahatchee River off Iona Cove. Such an itinerary will give you a lot of options yet with sheltered water when the weather gets sideways. You will also be able to come and go within the ICW, if necessary.

N'any case, there are many threads on the Forum that discuss the various routes and options along Florida's southwest coast. Use the search function.

FWIW...
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:14   #4
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

We did it in two weeks out of Sarasota in a Pearson 385, but it was summer and in good weather. We went to Fort Meyers, then direct to the Dry Tortugas, then short-hopped back. (Key West, Naples/Venice - it's been a while.)

So the distance is doable. The weather at that time of year is something else.
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Old 02-12-2012, 12:25   #5
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

I have done it twice in January from Marco Island to Key West in one overnight hop. Both times I had the remnants of a front behind my and it was easy broad reach sailing.

Coming back you will have to wait for easterly winds, which are prevalent that time of year. May be a bit of a bash to windward though if the wind stays out of the northeast.

David
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Old 02-12-2012, 15:31   #6
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Thanks everyone. The weather info helps. We haven't set anything stone and are always open for change.
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:37   #7
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

See the
Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida
SGEB-48Florida Sea Grant - Boating & Waterways - Anchorage Inventory
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:55   #8
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Having done the Tampa to Key Largo kayak/micro cruiser boat race 5 times, I can assure you there will be weather. The race is held the first week in March each year, so it is a fair indicator of the type of weather you can expect. In the early 00's I battled hyperthermia when it was in the 80's, another year there were 4-6 rollers in the Gulf off Naples pier and finally in another year I started to go hypothermic when a 30 degree cold front with what felt like matching winds caught me in the Shark River.

Others with more sailboat experience have spoken to the time to get a sailboat there and back.

Don't be discouraged, as far as Marco there are good marinas, and even Everglades National Park has some spots to hide. Generally, if the wind conditions are too rough to sail, the winds exceed the flight envelope for most biting insects, so you should be relatively bug free.

Bill
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Old 07-12-2012, 16:06   #9
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Thanks for the encouragement Bill. I think we will go and be flexible with our end point. It is after all about the journey and if you never get out there you never get experienced.
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Old 07-12-2012, 16:17   #10
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

It's actually the perfect time of the year to do it, because you are very likely to be able to pick up a norther and have a nice sail down, and then hopefully be able to wait for a southerly and have a nice sail back. I usually wait for the front to pass by to let the worst of it blow out a bit and then sail down on a petering out norther so you don't arrive there with tons of wind and waves. I usually leave from Ft. Myers Beach on the way down as it gives you a little better wind angle and a little bit less time offshore--one overnighter. It's also easy to get out of in the early hours even if the wind is blowing a bit. I love that trip.
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Old 07-12-2012, 17:36   #11
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

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Originally Posted by beachlvr0168 View Post
Thanks for the encouragement Bill. I think we will go and be flexible with our end point. It is after all about the journey and if you never get out there you never get experienced.
We have done it twice in "cruising" mode.

Once took 8 days - end of March with the last front of the season. The other took 9 - end of April with SE winds the whole trip down. And NE the whole way back............

But that was from Hudson to Marathon.

Everything I have read here warns about schedules.

My choice would be to leave on day one and try to calculate a return by watching fronts. Have you been in FL long enough to know how to watch the fronts come through? Not hard - watch front and jetstream mostly.
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Old 07-12-2012, 18:22   #12
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

I've sailed the route many times. I would suggest exiting the Passage Key channel and turning left. Not much more of a schedule other than that. You have so darn many great places to drop the hook along the way.

You will always have the ICW as a back-up plan all the way down to Ft. Myers Beach (which is also a great destination) should the weather get sour. In-between, too many places to drop the hook to count.

Pelican Bay is one of my favorites. Lemon Bay is another. If you have northern blood and a good wet suit, diving off the beach for sharks teeth in Venice is another great stop.

After Ft. Myers you can stop in Factory Bay, Marco island. After that, heading south is pretty much open. Little Shark river is a good hiding place if you need it. Pretty buggy though-

Have you reviewed the anchorages on Active Captain? Really a great site to get some other points of view from sailors navigating these waters. Helps to keep the planning on track too, which is half the fun.

Have fun and enjoy the trip!
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Old 07-12-2012, 20:34   #13
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Re: Saint Petersburg to The Florida Keys

Plan B:

Stock boat. Take the boat for a weekend sail on the first weekend of Feb to Sanibel/Naples and dock it for a week. Arrange a ride home. Arrange a ride back the next weekend. Sail to the Keys and have a blast. Return to Sanibel/Naples or all the way home depending on weather.

Have a great time.

Wes
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