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Old 13-01-2014, 17:33   #1
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Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

Hello all: I am considering helping a friend bring his Gulfstar 50 from Beaufort NC to the vicinity of St Augustine FL. He wants to leave in mid-February. I've already checked the N Atlantic Pilot Charts for that month. Not too much help since the nearest relevant wind roses are basically at the beginning and end of the trip, and they are quite different (not surprisingly). Basically, calling for force 5 coming from anywhere. I had planned on staying in less than 100' of water, however, so the surface conditions aren't really relevant anyway. I was wondering what experienced sailors could tell me about the AVERAGE surface and wind conditions at that time of year. The boat has a fully enclosed cockpit.

Once of the reasons I'm a little concerned is that I have no experience on a cutter/ketch, and the other two guys who will be on board have only about a year's worth of mainly coastal daysailing experience. Of course, we can be patient and wait for weather windows, and I understand that all bets are off when a front comes through. I'm just wandering what the average conditions are around shore (100' depth), and whether you think this might be too much for our combined level of experience.

As always, I'm grateful to have this forum to turn to. Thanks a lot for your help. Pete
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Old 13-01-2014, 17:45   #2
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

Check passageweather.com great weather prediction site.

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Old 13-01-2014, 17:50   #3
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pirate Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

As your sailing relatively shallow waters check Magic Seaweed and Wind Guru as well.. give better swell patterns and sizes...
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Old 13-01-2014, 18:22   #4
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

Out of curiosity, why so close to shore?

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Old 13-01-2014, 18:55   #5
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

Time your passages to stay ahead of the approaching cold fronts. The weather is usually pretty nice a day or two ahead of the fronts. Duck into port for a couple of days to let them pass, then ride the northerly breeze behind the front once conditions allow. I would not want to get caught off the east coast when it starts to blow 40+ in a boat with an inexperienced crew, takes all the fun out of it.
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Old 13-01-2014, 19:55   #6
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

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
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Old 13-01-2014, 20:08   #7
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

First read a copy of "Albatross" by Deborah Scaling Kiley.
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Old 14-01-2014, 02:13   #8
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Re: Coastal conditions: NC to FL in Feb

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin84 View Post
Out of curiosity, why so close to shore?

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To avoid the gulf stream current. pete
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