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Old 23-06-2015, 18:10   #1
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Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

Hello! I would like to sail my 30 ft sloop to Pensacola from Tampa, departing around 21 July. Need to be in Pensacola no later than 26 July, and depart for return to Tampa 30 July. Plan on taking my time and gunkholing there and back.

Any advice? Tips? Words of Wisdom?


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Old 23-06-2015, 19:47   #2
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

I'm crewing a trip from Bradenton to Biloxi next week. It's my first trip so I'll let you know how our progress goes. We're stopping along the way as well.

Do you need crew?


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Old 24-06-2015, 06:07   #3
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

Pretty easy overnight run between Tampa-Pensacola areas. As always, the GOM can get bumpy so pick your weather window carefully...especially in hurricane season when sqaull activity increases as does the possibility of tropical weather. Gulf squalls can be intense with lots of lightening so don't take them lightly. Ive had winds go from 5 knots to 50+ in a matter of seconds on the leading edge of a Gulf squall...reef early, reef deep. CAPE/lifted indexes measure atmospheric stability and give a general indication of likelyhood and severity of squalls.

Pilot Chart for July shows a high probability of E-SE winds. Great for Tampa-Pensacola...not so good the other way round. During winter months you can wait for a cold front to shift the winds, but obviously less of an option in summer months. During the summer months big wind shifts are often associated with tropical weather, not a good weather window. Pilot Chart also shows slight favorable current (~0.7 kts) for the Tampa-Pensacola run...unfavorable the other way round.

Pick a land fall point anywhere between Port St Joe and Pensacola based on forecast wind direction...and then cruise your way over to Biloxi. Other way round, anywhere from Tarpon Springs to Tampa Bay is good. Further N the near coastal waters get shoal way offshore.

Also check location of Gulf Loop Current. Its unusual for it to meander this far NE, but I've run into it 160 nm South of Mobile (also very unusual).
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Old 24-06-2015, 06:20   #4

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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

Belizesailor's advice is seconded.

That said, if you don't want to sail right across, the usual MO is to gunk from Tampa to Tarpon Springs, and then a much shorter hop across to Carrabelle and then you can coastline it from Carrabelle to P'cola. Of course, the inverse is also relevant
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Old 24-06-2015, 06:33   #5
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

Typical route (assuming that direct is not your plan) is to sail up the coast to Anclote Key then an overnight leg across to East Pass off of Carrabelle. You can anchor at Shipping Cove on the Dog Island side to get a nap. Down Apalachicola Bay (stop in at the Apalachicola City Marina for a visit) and up the River through Lake Wimico. At the intersection of the Gulf Co. Industrial Canal you will have the option of heading to St Joe Bay or on through the GICW to Panama City. St Joe Bay, St Andrew Bay, Destin, and Pensicola are the four passes along the coast. All easy except Destin can be a challenge with the wrong weather conditions.

GICW also runs from PC to Pensacola if your stick is shorter than 50ft. Actually the GICW runs even if your stick is longer than 50' you just can't get under the fixed bridges with a tall mast.

You might consider putting your WC house on the market before you leave because you won't want to ever go back. Best area in the State for knocking around in a small sailboat.


Just stay away from Cape San Blas (bad in wrong weather and VHF Marine weather can be a little iffy in this area) Use Sailflow if avaliable.
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Old 24-06-2015, 06:40   #6
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

July 21 - July 26 for Tampa to Pensacola, I wouldn't consider that enough time to gunkhole or taking your time on a 30' sailboat. Just did it the other way around taking mostly a month or so.

With five or six days......and good guess..... Tampa bay to St. George Island - better part of two days and the night between. The next day on the inside to Port St. Joe. And the next leg offshore to Pensacola pass is another overnighter, arriving before noon maybe.

That would mid day of day five. Would be good if you could budget more time for the trip if you would like to spend more time exploring the barrier islands and enjoying the sunrises, etc. It's very relaxing in the more remote panhandle anchorages. I miss them.

Nice trip, just did it with two laps of the panhandle just for fun before coming south to st. Pete area.
Life begins at the waters edge.
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Old 24-06-2015, 07:05   #7
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

That isn't that much time to goof off, winds in July seem to be light, but it's HOT. And I mean God awful, Africa hot, prepare yourself for the heat as much as you can and have a good motor and plenty of fuel, you may not do as much sailing as you would want.
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Old 24-06-2015, 07:41   #8
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

We brought our 42' GB Trawler (8mph) North from Bradenton straight up to Dog Island (Carabelle) which was about a 185 mile trip. We left at 8AM and arrived at 9AM the next day. We had good weather - 2 to 3's until around midnight, then things really built up to closer to 8 to 10's but well spaced as swells. All was coming on our rear starboard side. Main point is while this wasn't predicted by any of the weather sources we were studying, it is enough distance both in length and away from shore that you should be prepared for such changes. From there we went inside to our home port at Dauphin Island, AL (mouth of Mobile bay) which took another 3 days of 70 plus mile days. We of course didn't have air height to worry about.

I do believe you may find yourself a little short on time especially when allowing for bad weather days which can and will happen during this time of year. Good luck with the trip!
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Old 24-06-2015, 07:55   #9
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

If your actually leaving from the Tampa Bay itself, it's going to take the better part of two days just to get to Tarpon Springs in a 30', assuming your not sailing overnight. Hopefully you are aware how shallow the water can be. Don't rely just on your chart plotter, and make sure you have charts along (trust me on this one, personal expirence). Crab pots are ubiquitous in the Gulf anywhere from Passegrille to Tarpon Springs. Do that at night and your likely to need to either have a cutter on your prop, or your diving to clear it up.

As mentioned, make sure of your weather window. July is not the greatest time to be out in the Gulf if any weather is brewing.
If your attitude resembles the south end of a bull heading north, it's time to turn around.
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Old 24-06-2015, 09:21   #10
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

Depending on your draft, there are not many places between Tampa and Pensacola where you can duck in if you run into foul weather.

I made this trip during a March of the year after waiting a few days for a good weather window. It took about fifty hours, mostly beautiful with an escort from a huge pod of dolphins that stayed with us twice for about twenty minutes each time.

A storm came in a day earlier than predicted and made for a rather sporting arrival; the Gulf is no joke. As we approached the inlet under sail in greatly reduced visibility from very heavy rain, I saw a giant stationary blip on the radar and feared I was somehow off course. Finally, we got close enough to see that it was a gigantic oil platform that was going to be towed out. Those damned things are terrifying!

I was very happy to see the well-protected Palafox Pier and Yacht harbor!

Fair winds,

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Old 25-06-2015, 05:06   #11
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Re: Sail Tampa to Pensacola Advice Wanted

We sailed up from the Tampa area 2 summers ago in mid July on the delivery trip to Pensacola from the BVI.

We sailed across to Panama City on that leg in about 36 hours. The Gulf wasn't too bad, the weather was typical for that time of year, soupy. You will see squalls and calm. Make sure no tropical storms or the like are brewing before you cast off.

Have a large time, we did.

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