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Old 14-10-2012, 19:31   #1
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Cruising Florida Panhandle

To all -
I am looking to plan a trip in May 2013 leaving from Fort Walton Beach, Florida and not sure whether to head East or West. Would be headed out in Catalina 31. Have anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks and am looking for ideas on places to go and what things to expect. I have been to the area before and sailed around but not any lenghty trips. I have many years experience sailing and have another person coming along to sail with along with the possibility of 2 small children to join us. Please respond if you have any input as I am just starting to put this together and open to ideas. Thank you.

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Old 14-10-2012, 19:57   #2
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

May can get a little warm at times. I would go East on the inside towards Panama City and then bump outside at St. Andrews to St. George. and back inside. I am not sure if you are doing out and back or point to point. There is also a big difference between a 1 week and a 3 week trip. You have the option of staying on the hook the whole trip, docking at a marina, or even staying in a hotel after a day sail. Most kids, and grown ups as well, really love the white sugar sand beaches.

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Old 14-10-2012, 21:02   #3
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

Thanks for the reply. Probably going point to point with a few days at a couple of spots. Just wanting to get ideas of where to go and what costs may be as well. In regards to the weather, it most likely would be late April/ early May.
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Old 15-10-2012, 00:05   #4
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

I sail between Southern Mississippi and Carabelle Florida and am fairly familiar with pan handle. I assume its a three week trip since your range is very limited with a one week time limitation. I would suggest Dog Island in the St. George Sound. It is only accessible by boat and has those sugar white sands for which the panhandle is famous. Also, Carabelle is great little town to explore with plenty of facilties. I would take the ICW short cut around the Cape San Blas penansula, especially if you have children on board. THe scenery is fantastic with bald eagles, Osprey and other great wildlife. You can head out/in of Destin and sail due East/West in to and out of of St. Andrews Bay for a pretty decent 10 hour offshore trip. (Watch your hiegth coming out of Destin though, its the lowest bridge on the panhandle). If you sail West once you get past Mobile Bay the water is much darker due to all of the run off from the river systems. However, if you desire to head West Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama offers plenty of beaches and a civil war fort (Fort Gaines) and the barrier islands (Horn, Deer, Ship and Cat) off the coast of Mississippi offer plenty of deserted island to explore. I haven't explored them since before Katrina so I am unsure of how the storm may have effected the natural flora and fauna. Feel free to PM if you have some specific questions or concerns for this area.
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Old 15-10-2012, 05:40   #5
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

I agree with above: with 1-3 weeks stick to the Dauphin Island to Carrabelle stretch...a lot of beautiful cruising, not very crowded mostly, and gorgeous anchorages (will keep your costs down, too). If your mast is less than 50' off water (I think it is...) you can cruise anywhere on the inside along the ICW when you need or want to...very pretty part of the ICW. Great protection on those days the wind is just a bit too high for comfort on the Gulf. Sounds like a fun trip! Good luck with your planning.
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Old 25-02-2013, 11:49   #6
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

Thanks for the info on mast height -- I'd been trying to find that! How shoal a draft do you need to really cruise that area? I know that you CAN take a 6' through there, but won't be able to everywhere. So I guess I'm asking what's the recommendation? Is 5' good? or do you really open up the possibilities if you go to 4'?

Carolyn Shearlock
Formerly S/V Que Tal, a Tayana 37
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Old 25-02-2013, 12:27   #7
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Re: Cruising Florida Panhandle

Bridge heights: Navarre is 50', Brooks (Ft Walton) is 50', and Destin is 49'

I believe these are the three shortest in the Gulf ICW (I think.)

The possibilities are greatly opened with a shoal draft. I will be sorely missing my F-27 trimaran (1' with boards up). Four feet is a good draft for the area, but lots of folks have 5-foot draft boats and do just fine.

Go look at ActiveCaptain, it's a good resource
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Old 25-02-2013, 18:09   #8
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Watch the depths going under the Destin bridge. Crab Island (a sand bar, really) is close to the bridge and very shallow. Ship, Cat and Horn Islands are great spots and pretty much crowd free.

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