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Old 14-07-2015, 10:03   #1
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Location: Lafayette, LA
Boat: Catalina 309 31'
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Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

Hello all, I'm looking for recommendations and/or advice.

This is my first post on the forum. My wife and I are buying our first sailboat and it's currently located in St. Petersburg, FL. We will need to get it back to Louisiana. I'm wondering what people's thoughts are about sailing straight back across the Gulf of Mexico or taking more of a coastal route back here.

My wife and I have both taken ASA 101 and 103 and have some limited sailing experience. The classes were very thorough and I think we had some excellent instructors. The vessel will be a Catalina 309. It will be in the next 2-3 months.

The vessel has a chart plotter, radar, autopilot, no SSB, no AIS. We would be bringing a SPOT GPS messenger along with us and an Iridium Extreme 9575 for safety along with the EPIRB that is on the vessel.

A few more details that may or may not be of use: I'm a certificated single and dual engine pilot so very familiar with weather interpretation and navigation skills. We are not serious risk takers, we will wait for best possible weather window and will have no problem turning and heading for the nearest coast if anything starts going wrong.

Many thanks for any recommendations I can get.
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Old 14-07-2015, 10:11   #2
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

I suggest taking the ICW for the first 2 days as a good shakedown cruise and then cut across the corner and head to Mississippi sound. We really liked it the time we stayed in 40 to 60 feet of water and anchored each night. We only went 50 miles a day but it was the most relaxed trip we made. We had a good nights sleep each night and the autopilot steered all day.
Enjoy the trip.
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Old 21-07-2015, 09:18   #3
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

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Old 21-07-2015, 15:12   #4
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Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

I would recommend you get Sailflow Pro and start looking at it everyday so you will begin to understand Gulf weather. Many boats have made the trip across the Gulf and if you are familiar with the boat and have good weather it is an easy passage. When I made my back and forth passages from Mobile to Clearwater, I went out at Pensacola, in at Destin, then Panama City. From Panama City it was along coast to just SW of Cape San Blas then to Clearwater. I was. Advised to check the West Tampa buoy and if forecast was 10 knots or less and less than 2 feet, Go, otherwise wait. My wife doesn't like uncomfortable seas, so we waited and the crossing south went great. When we returned on our way back to Tennessee in March we waited in Clearwater for a similar forecast, but this time I routed to the same waypoint about 10 miles SW of Cape San Blas - 30 hours from Clearwater, then headed for the cut at Destin until I was 15 miles offshore, then went direct to the cut at Pensacola Bay. Total time to Pensacola Bay from Clearwater was 48 hours. It was 18 NM longer than the direct route but I had bailout options at Port St Joe, Panama City, Destin and then Pensacola. The weather was great both times.

If you don't have much offshore experience,then I'd suggest you work out a similar route to LA that gives you several bailouts enroute. I have a generator we run full time for heat/cooling, a full enclosure to keep us warm and dry and a full compliment of electronics plus Satellite TV to watch the weather Channel and a Globalstar sat phone and Spot tracker. With all that, it is still about the wind and waves where you are at the moment. If you don't like your present condition in a sailboat it can take many hours to fix.

The Intercoastal is a beautiful trip and my wife enjoyed the scenery and it helped her get mentally prepared for the crossings. I've been sailing 18 years and was also a former AF pilot in the early 70's. Navigating with what you have is a piece of cake compared to the limited stuff of the 70's.

This can be the trip of your life or it could well be one that makes you sell your boat. I hope it will be the former and can be if you plan well and are patient.


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Old 21-07-2015, 16:00   #5
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

Can the boat make it? Probably, but it would be prudent to shake the boat down for a few days. Do you have tools? Are the filters new? Since the boat has probably been sitting the first time things get bouncy, the filters may clog. Do you have spares? Do you know how to change the filters and bleed the engine?

My suggestion is to do some long hops. Day sail Tampa Bay to shake down (eat at Bella Brava). Then hop to Cedar Key it is a longer hop and will let you get a feel.

Then you make the call about how things feel. Short hops, longer hops or take a month or so to go home.


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Old 21-07-2015, 16:08   #6
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

You in a hurry? Have jobs to get back to? Then I would take coastal hops from St Pete to Tarpon Springs, then offshore from Tarpon Springs to Mobile. Then icw Mobile to home. That avoids the nastiness off the LA coast, but still makes a fast trip. At this time of year should be an easy downhill ride.

Have time to make a trip of it? Then I would do the same plan to Tarpon Springs, then offshore to Apalachicola, then ICW home. Go slow and have fun with it.
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Old 22-07-2015, 01:06   #7
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

Thanks for the advice so far...

Snore- I will be going down to the boat the week before we plan on leaving. Will get spare fuel filters. I reviewed the bleeding procedure. Would probably try it once at the dock to make sure I could accomplish underway if needed.

We are only planing on day sailing and 2-3 day sails once we get the boat back, but we still need to safely get the boat this way.

Right now I think the plan is ICW to Anclote Key, then short hop to Cedar Key. From there straight across (depending on wind) to a waypoint that would lead us in to Baptiste Collette. We would not be further than 65nm off the coast. Does that seem reasonable?

Besides fuel filters, bleeding fuel, what else would be need to know information before we try this.




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Old 22-07-2015, 03:58   #8
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Re: Sailing From Florida to Louisiana

The most conservative route would be to day hop to either Clearwater or Anclote Key (I prefer Clearwater, simply because you still have access to services), then overnight to Carrabelle during a good weather window.

From there take the ICW to St. Joe's canal back into St. Joe Bay and the gulf & day hop in the gulf to Pensacola, where you can take a nice ICW ride to Mobile Bay, then Mississippi Sound. Low bridges on the ICW between St. Joe & Pensacola force you into the gulf for those legs.

Cedar Key scares me...too shallow from everyone I've ever talked to. No need to force it, and a good overnighter would be a nice shakedown.
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