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Old 02-05-2017, 14:35   #1
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First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

I think I'm in that stage of learning where what I don't know really negates what little I know. With that in mind...

My thoughts are currently toward an economical 22' to 25' boat while I learn to sail, and then move up to something larger for Caribbean travels and/or liveaboard in a few years. But I'm concerned about local conditions here at home. In the Beaufort, SC area, the tidal currents can move at up to 4-5 knots. With a short waterline length, a smaller boat would just match that speed and, it seems, be completely at the mercy of the tides here.

With a trailer sailor, I could put in at a nearby ramp and only be half a mile from the Atlantic where, I think, tidal currents wouldn't play as big a role. Then again, protected waters might be better for a noob like me. Or maybe the answer is to start closer to 30 feet? Dunno...

I'm also concerned over the fact that in my eight months of living here, I've only seen sails twice off the Atlantic side. There are charter sailboats in nearby Hilton Head and in Charleston, but not here. Only the shrimp boats. Maybe there's a reason for that as well.

I would appreciate any opinions on a good first boat for these conditions. I don't want to buy something and then feel like I have to use my engine to get anywhere.
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Old 02-05-2017, 18:27   #2
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

Or unusual to have to anchor and wait out a tide if you are in an area with fast tides. The difference in speed kind and between a 30' boat and a smaller isn't all that much. Go with a 8-9 HP motor and you should have about as much speed as you'll get from a boat under 26'. Get a tide book and plan your sailing around the prevailing currents if they are that strong. No big thing.

The reason you haven't seen many sails offshore is any one going from FLA to points north will be well offshore in your area. Stick a ruler on a chart of the East Coast and you'll see why.

My first 'big boat' was a 26' in Honolulu. All sailing is in the ocean there. No difference from enclosed waters except for the long period ocean swells. Of course you don't go out when weather is predicted to be bad unless you want the experience.
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Old 02-05-2017, 19:56   #3
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

Yes, you do need to learn the local currents. We've been thru the area a couple times and if you get the currents wrong, you may as well anchor and wait or them to turn or you will be running at 90% throttle, making 1-2kts.
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:44   #4
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

Sounds like the length issue is negligible at best, then...good to know. I'd like to keep my motoring to a minimum as I learn to sail, but that might be unavoidable here. I know a good bit about the currents out in the barrier islands, having kayaked along the edges of the rivers quite a bit. Sounds like I'll need a good resource for tide/current times closer to Beaufort, though.

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The reason you haven't seen many sails offshore is anyone going from FLA to points north will be well offshore in your area. Stick a ruler on a chart of the East Coast and you'll see why.
That explains the lack of thru-traffic. I still wonder about local day sailors, and where they go. I'm leaning toward something small enough to trailer and spend much of my learning time in the Atlantic so...I guess I'll be out there alone!

Thanks to you both for the input!
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:56   #5
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pirate Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

Its pretty simple really.. go out with the tide.. come home with the tide..
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:59   #6
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

As mentioned the real key here is to learn about tides and currents...there are times when a strong wind into a strong tide is downright dangerous...producing big waves. I live in Miami and even the cruises ship entry, Govenment Cut, can be dangerous for small boats.

I sail a 55 ft boat with a 175 hp engine and I spend a lot of time timing tides so that I am going with the tide near slack rather than against the full flow.

Good luck.
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Old 03-05-2017, 14:16   #7
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

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Its pretty simple really.. go out with the tide.. come home with the tide..
LOL! That's what I've been doing in the kayak, so I guess I can apply that to something with sails! On a king tide, I can put in from my back yard in the marsh. I'll ride the current about an hour before high and then ride back a few hours later. I can't quite get back to the house by then, but I can get close enough to cart it back.
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Old 03-05-2017, 14:19   #8
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

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Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
I sail a 55 ft boat with a 175 hp engine and I spend a lot of time timing tides...
I won't sweat starting on a 26' then. Sounds like it's a battle for everyone. Thanks for the info!
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Old 05-05-2017, 04:40   #9
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

Working the tides, which we all do in the UK, is part of the pleasure of sailing for me and many others. As an example, we left Weymouth (South Coast of England) one day last season on the first of the east-going tide, with a stiff north-Westerly (offshore) breeze. We needed all six hours of tide to get past St Alban's head and Anvil point. We made it ok, but if we'd continued we'd have encountered a foul tide at Hurst Narrows, the entrance to the Solent. That is not worth attempting after an hour of ebb, so we anchored in the beautiful Studland Bay for a few hours for a meal. We then sailed across Christchurch bay and up the Western Solent to Cowes with a fair wind a flat sea and the sun setting. A beautiful day. It would have been a grim struggle if we hadn't used the tides effectively.
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Old 05-05-2017, 04:51   #10
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Working the tides, which we all do in the UK, is part of the pleasure of sailing for me and many others. As an example, we left Weymouth (South Coast of England) one day last season on the first of the east-going tide, with a stiff north-Westerly (offshore) breeze. We needed all six hours of tide to get past St Alban's head and Anvil point. We made it ok, but if we'd continued we'd have encountered a foul tide at Hurst Narrows, the entrance to the Solent. That is not worth attempting after an hour of ebb, so we anchored in the beautiful Studland Bay for a few hours for a meal. We then sailed across Christchurch bay and up the Western Solent to Cowes with a fair wind a flat sea and the sun setting. A beautiful day. It would have been a grim struggle if we hadn't used the tides effectively.
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Old 05-05-2017, 05:10   #11
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Re: First boat: hull speed vs tidal current

As others have mentioned, you simply have to pay attention to the tides. It's simply part of the Zen of sailing... go with the flow!

Seriously, we learned to sail in NY/NJ with some pretty strong tides on the Hudson & East rivers. I always heard about "what a nightmare" Hellgate was and was scared silly the first time we traversed it... must be monsters out there!

The simple matter was that folks insisted on doing things on "their" schedule and got themselves in trouble. We passed through Hellgate a bunch of times with no issues whatsoever by paying attention to the tides.

If we got to the battery to early, we would anchor for a while, if we got there too late, we would spend the night and catch the tide the following morning.

So again, pay attention to the tides; for that matter, pay attention to all the conditions that impact your ability to sail. Plan your trips accordingly, have a backup plan & don't be afraid to use it!

Don't worry about the size of your boat, enjoy yourself, learn and when/if the time is right, trade up.

best,
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