Of course the waether is not 50% predictable, but I like to leave beaufort
just after a cold front. Typically the wind is from the north west clocking around to the SE. It will be strongest out of the NW and gradually decrease as it clocks before becoming SW ahead of the next front. You will often even get a day or two of almost calm winds. I've had times when I had to motor
for two days because there was no wind at all between fronts in Feb. The secret is to make sure the cold front is a single
front without a second one close behind and that the low is well north of Hatteras. If the low is coming from GA or SC you'll definitely want to skip that front as those tend to form nor'easters off of the coast of NC. It's also best if the center of the high is forecast
drift south into SC or GA and is large. It means calmer winds and some motoring. Highs off NC and VA tend to put strong easterly winds off the coast of Florida
and St. Augustine is one inlet you definitely do not want to run in a strong Easterly wind. If the wind does get strong from the east go in at St. Marys and go down the ICW
though there are a few place between St. Mary's and Jax that you may only want to do at half tide or more. I got down to less than a foot under the keel
in one spot just south of Fernandina this year at low tide and I only draw 4 feet.
I always stay inshore on the way south to avoid the gulf stream
. You can cross frying pan shoals at the marked channel about half way out. I've done it several times and oddly enough always at night and it's never been a problem. There's a lighted buoy at each end of the channel but the middle ones are not lit but show up well on radar
. They are not as close together as it looks like they are on the chart. I've done this channel in seas of 6 feet with no trouble. My favorite route
is pretty simple. Beaufort to the frying pan shoal channel to the Charleston sea buoy to the second channel marker outside of the breakwater at St. Mary's. If the weather looks good to go all the way to St. Augustine Aim at the St. Mary's sea buoy instead. This route
keeps you inside of the lanes used by the freighters going into Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah so you only have to worry about them when crossing the entrances to the ports
. The freighters tend to stay out about 10 miles farther.
My 2 cents....change welcome