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Old 23-10-2019, 13:19   #1
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Dry Tortugas Passage - Weather/seas help

I'm a fairly new sailor with around 1,500 miles under my belt; mostly solo. My current cruising grounds are South Florida and the Keys. I recently sailed from Fort Myers directly to the Dry Tortugas (my first overnight sail) and had a perfect sail down; winds 10kts out of the east. Seas were calm and following. I spent a week in the Tortugas; waiting on decent weather for a smooth sail back. On the day of my departure winds were predicted east 5-10kts, with 2-3 foot seas. No significant weather events had transpired in the past few days; so it should have been a perfect passage. So that morning I leave the bank out the Southeast passage bound for Key West; staying on the north side of the shoals. As soon as I got off the bank I encountered angry seas like I've never experienced before; I literally had to bust through every wave, some of which I know were over 8 feet. It was like walls of water all around me; until the waves crashed over top of my boat. To be honest; it scared the **** out of me! Getting to Rebecca Shoal was the longest 4 hours of my life. So, my question is this: Where did I go wrong; or is this just sailing? In my research there isn't a wind against current situation in that area; ground swell should be minimal. Weather was settled, granted I was beating, but I've never seen calm winds create those kinds of seas. I'm just trying to figure out how to avoid a situation like this again; as my next trip to the Tortugas I will have my wife on board and she will never get on the boat again if we encounter seas like what I experienced. Is the North passage smoother and more settled way of getting between the Key West and the Tortugas? Pilot charts states that seas between the Tortugas and Rebecca Shoal are very dangerous, but I'm having a hard time of finding out why that is. Any advice or explanation so I don't run into these same conditions next time? Am I just being a big baby? Should I stick to sailing my local fishing hole? My boat is an Endeavour 37 sailing sloop. Thanks
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Old 27-10-2019, 13:01   #2
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Re: Dry Tortugas Passage - Weather/seas help

I was a commercial fisherman in the Keys in the early eighties. That stretch between Dry Tortugas and Rebecca Schoals is always rough. My theory is that its a current thing. I remember one trip when my captain and I encountered 30' seas in our old, poorly maintained 33' wooden boat. It took the 2 of us to work the wheel to keep us on course. During that transit the rudder stuffing box had a bolt break resulting in our taking in water. We slowed the water down by plugging the hole with the remains of a teeshirt and using some electrical wire to keep the rudder post upright! Thank the Lord for watching over fools and idiots!! We ended up having a successful fishing trip but that was my last trip on that particular vessel!
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Old 27-10-2019, 13:51   #3
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Dry Tortugas Passage - Weather/seas help

Iíve been that way a couple of times myself, always going the North route though and had smooth rides, basically close to the ferries route
Both times were in Summer though
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Old 27-10-2019, 19:52   #4
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Re: Dry Tortugas Passage - Weather/seas help

Like Hodidoo Ive usually found the return route to KW to be rougher than prevailing conditions. Localized current and/or influence of Rebecca Shoal I assume.
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