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Old 26-06-2020, 11:09   #1
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Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

I have done the ICW between Houston and S. Florida 4 times and I have had enough.

I'm looking for information from someone who has experience sailing the northern Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, I would like to sail from Houston/Kemah to Pensacola, FL. area.

I have always heard there are unmarked well heads in the northern Gulf, especially off the coast of Louisiana. Can someone tell me how far off the coast I need to sail in order to be certain I won't hit an unmarked obstruction during the middle of the night?

Thanks much!
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Old 26-06-2020, 11:44   #2
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Re: Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

To answer your question, pull up a chart and look at the shipping lanes. That is how far offshore you have to go to be devoid of any wellheads or platforms. It's a long way out. To me, not feasible.

In 2015, we left Kemah and headed east on the ICW to the other side of New Orleans. Then dropped down into the Gulf, headed to Pensacola for a week, then back to Orange Beach, Alabama for over-wintering the boat. Came back the next year and went to Bahamas. On trip back, we jumped into the Gulf at Fort Myers, plotted a course to Grand Isle, where we refueled. Although we were in a Seawind 1000 cat sailboat, the Gulf was glass and we ended up motoring. No platforms on that leg. Leaving Grand Isle, you are almost immediately in platforms and wellheads. Charts are no help as many have been removed, and some new ones not on chart. It's radar and AIS at night, and a good watch. You will have to change course for platforms or Gulf shrimpers. But it is also short course.

In 2019, returning from Bahamas in new boat, we left Fort Myers and headed straight for Grand Isle. But lots of wind (and waves), so didn't need fuel and we diverted to Freeport, Texas. Took ICW from there back to Port Aransas home. Here are some plots of our Inreach track both trips.
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Old 26-06-2020, 11:48   #3
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Re: Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Originally Posted by sailjumanji View Post
To answer your question, pull up a chart and look at the shipping lanes. That is how far offshore you have to go to be devoid of any wellheads or platforms. It's a long way out. To me, not feasible.
Thanks for the info... Yeah, I was just looking at how far out of the way I would have to go if following all the shipping lanes... UUUGGG.. Hmmm.. decisions, decisions... I really hate the ICW between Kemah and NOLA..! The rest isn't so bad..
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Old 26-06-2020, 16:22   #4
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Re: Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Originally Posted by Sail n Dive View Post
Thanks for the info... Yeah, I was just looking at how far out of the way I would have to go if following all the shipping lanes... UUUGGG.. Hmmm.. decisions, decisions... I really hate the ICW between Kemah and NOLA..! The rest isn't so bad..
To me its the NO section that is a pain. Bridge openings by appointment, and canal delays, and only a few places to anchor.
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Old 27-06-2020, 09:42   #5
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Re: Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

Install Open CPN on your laptop, download the NOAA charts and use a gps puck. I was surprised how up-to-date the charts were, relative to platform markings when I last crossed in 2018. Beyond a depth of around 200 meters, they thin out considerably. Even where they appear "congested", they're miles apart. AIS is extremely helpful concerning the shipping lanes, oilfield traffic, and shrimpers.
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Old 27-06-2020, 10:34   #6
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Re: Navigating Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Originally Posted by Rigdaddy View Post
Install Open CPN on your laptop, download the NOAA charts and use a gps puck. I was surprised how up-to-date the charts were, relative to platform markings when I last crossed in 2018. Beyond a depth of around 200 meters, they thin out considerably. Even where they appear "congested", they're miles apart. AIS is extremely helpful concerning the shipping lanes, oilfield traffic, and shrimpers.
NOAA charts show platforms, wellheads, even subsea wellheads. They show up whether they are removed, or are still present.
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