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Old 06-01-2015, 15:56   #1
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Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Hello all,

First, I do apologize if this is the wrong area to post this discussion, but I wasn't sure where else to put it.

So, I have this dream of retiring and sailing the Gulf of Mexico with my wife. One problem... We live in Minnesota. We are currently looking for a used hull in the 30' - 40' range that we can do a bit of a re-fit to so we can make it our own.

So, my question for the general forum is this. What would be the best way to get down there from Minnesota, US?

We have 2 options to go by water as far as I can see. #1 is to sail down the Mississippi from the Marina in Hastings and hit the gulf that way. The other option is to take the long way around and cruise the St. Lawrence out from Duluth.

Either way, this is a major undertaking. We have a lot to consider and I would appreciate any advice and wisdom from the forum.

Thank you
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Old 06-01-2015, 17:06   #2
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

I can't help you out very much, but welcome to CF anyway.

Maybe some others will help with routing, but you might get started with looking at info on the "Great Loop". It starts somewhere close to where you are. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Loop Maybe check out Katie and Jessie's blog and check out the route getting down to the Gulf? http://katieandjessieonaboat.com/

Where do you and your wife plan to cruise on the Gulf Of Mexico? Honestly, from Texas through Louisiana, it's not so great mainly because of oil rigs. Mississippi Sound and Mobile bay, not so bad. Pensacola to the Keys is quite nice.

Best wishes

Ralph
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Old 06-01-2015, 19:19   #3
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Ralph, thanks for the idea. That looks about like what we are thinking. Our goal is really to hit the Florida Keys area as we have family in the area.
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Old 06-01-2015, 20:01   #4
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

A suggestion, especially if you have a more modest budget. Sell everything in MN, move to FL and buy a cheap (but solid) boat there and live aboard while fixing it up. Much more selection, and at least you'll be where you want to be (fixing boat in exotic places) instead of sitting at a marina in Hastings/St.Paul dreaming about it.

For some background, we lived in Minneapolis up until last year. I seriously looked into doing what you are thinking. What I found, is that the best bet for a decent boat is something already on Superior, and although I would love floating down the big river, going out the lakes would also be a blast. Just much harder to fix it up unless you live up there. Here's another blog to check out: http://gordonsailing.typepad.com/my_weblog/ (look for some of their older entries about their trip from Knife River to the Bahamas)

We have a small 23' on a trailer, and our choice of going 65mph towards the salty stuff could work for you as well, especially if you go smaller.
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Old 06-01-2015, 20:01   #5
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Suggest you consider getting your boat in the Great Lakes. No salt, no rust, short seasons, low use. There are many for sale in Muskegon at Torresens and Great Lakes. I'm sure other marinas as well. We will be leaving next summer by the St Lawrence. Others leave by the Chicago Ship canal or the Erie canal. All but St Lawrence require your mast down. Some carry the mast aboard. Some ship the mast. Check the charts on depth. If you plan the Gulf side of FLA and the keys by Naples & the Everglades you may be depth challenged in many places.

I suggest you download & install freeware Sea Clear or OPEN CPN and the free NOAA charts on your lap top. Also many smart phone apps are available.

SOme useful links.

NOAA Nautical Charts in .png Format
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory - Great Lakes Water Levels
Live Ships Map - AIS - Vessel Traffic and Positions - AIS Marine Traffic
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Old 07-01-2015, 06:03   #6
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, aj.
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Old 07-01-2015, 09:37   #7
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

My suggestion would be to take the inland route, Great Lakes, Ill River, Mississippi, Tenn-Tom system. Don't know your budget but there are a LOT of boats out there, many needing just some TLC. Internet will provide you with tons of info on both the inland route/Tenn-Tom and also the Erie/New York system. Both are great trips, do a lot of research. Good luck.
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Old 07-01-2015, 09:37   #8
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Hi,
We live in northern MN, we are also retired with little previous sailing experience, and we started with the same plan as you and found that buying a boat in Hastings had some disadvantages. The biggest was that the mast would have to be removed till you get somewhere quite a ways south of Hastings. Not the end of the world but also the choice of boats, for sale, was limited.
Our solution was to buy a boat, 37ft Irwin ketch, in St. Pete. FL and sail/motor her down the ICW and then across FL thru Lake Okeechobee to Indiantown FL.
She has been there since April which gave us time to buy most of what she needs before we sail to the Bahamas in mid Feb. Might need a bigger car to get all of the stuff to FL
Good luck
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Old 07-01-2015, 10:03   #9
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Many years ago I took our 33' ketch down the rivers from Chicago to the Gulf, and beyond. A memorable trip in many ways, but one of the strongest threads of that memory was that I did it in a drought year. The water was low low, and it turned out that we need not have taken the mast down, it was so low. So low that a number of the fuel docks and marinas we might have stopped at were high and dry. Oh, and did I mention that it was a drought? In conjunction with a heat wave? Actually before I sound too pitiful, I should mention that there were high points, too, in some of the cities and towns we stopped at, especially in the lower reaches of the Mississippi.
I had somehow never even considered the St Lawrence Seaway, which is what I'd almost certainly opt to do were I to do it again, with particular attention to enjoying the channel islands leaving Lake Michigan.
I agree with pretty much everything others have said about maybe starting the adventure in Florida. We, too, stopped with friends in the Keys, which became our cruising base for a number of years, as we sailed the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Mexico. With a little luck you'll be able to add Cuba to that loop soon.
Bon Voyage!
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Old 07-01-2015, 10:28   #10
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

I am planning on leaving L.Superior early September for a mad dash through the Lakes, Erie Canal to Hudson and NY, then Atlantic and south. Mast down in Buffalo, back up on the Hudson. I have ruled out River Route so far because I want to get to Chesapeake by Oct. Depending on where you actually live now, L. Superior is a GREAT place to learn your boat. Local to Twin Cities is St. Croix at Hudson for building out the boat and sailing. Local to Duluth is Barker's Island, best service in MN or WI, and you can work on your boat in the yard to your hearts content, as well as store it inside for winter work.

Gulf and Keys and Bahamas and more is my retirement plan, too. -- Rolf
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Old 07-01-2015, 10:29   #11
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Also check my post "How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?" in this forum, there were alot of very informative answers there. -- Rolf
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Old 07-01-2015, 10:34   #12
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Re: Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

Welcome aj911501, you've got basically three options to get south; the two you mentioned, plus the Erie canal down through New York to the ICW. I would say the choice of which route to take is dependent on what you're looking for in the journey.

If you just want to go fast, then the Erie Canal/ICW is a good choice. Great history, lots of human activity. If you're looking for a romp through middle America, then the Tenn-Tom would be great. In both of these cases you have to be a motorboat much of the time. If you want a more adventurous and longer journey, take the St. Lawrence. This has the advantage of allowing you to keep your mast up, but it is apparently quite challenging to sail, is not geared to recreational boaters, and is quite remote in places.

We left Lake Superior last season and sailed our boat down to the eastern side of Lake Ontario. We're planning to sail out the St. Lawrence starting this summer, likely heading for Newfoundland. We're doing this route b/c we prefer more remote, wilderness travel. If I was into urban exploration, or I wanted to get south fast, I'd pick one of the canal routes.
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