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Old 05-01-2021, 05:35   #1
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Key west north to Tampa

When is the best time to sail north from Key west towards Tampa?
I am planning on a possible trip late March or early April
We will be in a 45’ sailboat

Thoughts comments?!
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Old 05-01-2021, 05:42   #2
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

That is still early enough in the season that south Florida might still catch a late cold front. I would just watch the weather and wait for a good window and head north. If it deteriorates before you make Tampa there's plenty of places to pull in and hole up.
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Old 05-01-2021, 05:49   #3
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

Ditto on the fronts. They can be as close as 4 days apart in the Spring. The obvious place to put in is behind Sanibel Island, where the access back off shore is quick and there is good anchorage.
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Old 05-01-2021, 21:36   #4
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

Curious what it is exactly about the cold fronts that make west coast florida passages ideal? I’m planning some trips down the coast myself and have heard the cold front mentioned.
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Old 06-01-2021, 04:48   #5
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

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Originally Posted by zemurray View Post
Curious what it is exactly about the cold fronts that make west coast florida passages ideal? I’m planning some trips down the coast myself and have heard the cold front mentioned.
Actually it's the opposite. A cold front arriving in Florida typically brings strong winds from the north and is time to hide out, not go out.

As the leading edge of the front passes over the easterly trade winds clock around to the south to west to NW - N and eventually back to east. So not only will you see rain at the head of the front followed by strong winds but heading towards Tampa from the keys the winds will be on the nose.

Also on the SE coast of FL the northerly winds from a cold front will be blowing against the north setting current of the Gulf Stream which can generate large, steep, breaking waves offshore.

So winter sailing in Florida the goal is to wait for a break between the fronts to go somewhere and watch the weather closely for the arrival of the next front to make sure you aren't caught out when it arrives, which can sometimes be very fast.
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Old 06-01-2021, 10:15   #6
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

+1 to SkipMac… Back in May a co-worker and I sailed from Clearwater to Key West in his Hunter 35.5 and had on and off winds. Did some sailing in Key West and turned around to come back where we holed up in Charlotte Harbor on the North side at Bull Key Anchorage... Gets a little swirly with wind against current and you will see water boiling alongside your boat but good holding. We waited until the wind was supposed to shift East at 20 and we came out and stayed within 2 miles of the coast and we were home by the next evening.
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Old 06-01-2021, 12:48   #7
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

If the wind goes west of south, a cold front is coming and you're in for a blow. The cold front will continue to clock the winds SW then W then, depending on the strength of the front, NW with a vengeance. This will pick up the seas and make sailing uncomfortable at best. "West of south, you'll get kicked in the mouth"!
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Old 07-01-2021, 19:51   #8
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

If you see weather coming, All you really have to worry about is that stretch between Key West and Marco Island. Crab pots galore ! Then, pick your weather window from Marco to Fort Myers Beach. Once at Fort Myers Beach, you can take the protected ICW route all the way to Tampa. Wave as you go by at Maker #26 on the ICW in North Boca Grande.
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Old 07-01-2021, 21:43   #9
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Actually it's the opposite. A cold front arriving in Florida typically brings strong winds from the north and is time to hide out, not go out.

As the leading edge of the front passes over the easterly trade winds clock around to the south to west to NW - N and eventually back to east. So not only will you see rain at the head of the front followed by strong winds but heading towards Tampa from the keys the winds will be on the nose.

Also on the SE coast of FL the northerly winds from a cold front will be blowing against the north setting current of the Gulf Stream which can generate large, steep, breaking waves offshore.

So winter sailing in Florida the goal is to wait for a break between the fronts to go somewhere and watch the weather closely for the arrival of the next front to make sure you aren't caught out when it arrives, which can sometimes be very fast.
Thanks. That makes more sense. The only other question I would have is if you are hugging the coast, and heading towards the keys, wouldn’t a northerly component wind be a good thing as it wouldn’t be creating a large swell off the gulf like a south wind would? Excluding the gulf stream crossing, I’ve researched that one well.
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Old 17-01-2021, 06:17   #10
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Re: Key west north to Tampa

Hi, Paul,
There are two ways to do the trip: 1.) Key West to Charlotte Harbor if weather is dicey and then Charlotte to Tampa or 2.)Straight shot to Tampa. Weather and winds are fickle/unpredictable this time of year and you'll have to plan motoring/sailing to your destination. We tried to sail Tampa to Dry Tortugas last April but couldn't get the favorable winds so we sailed Tampa to Charlotte Harbor and waited for a weather window that never came. However, we did not want to motor and would have had several good windows if we did. So, it's your choice.
One last caution. Once offshore with a 20K plus wind, the Gulf gets very messy with breaking, short-fetched waves. NOAA weather is ,in our experience, very chancy and we always use several weather sites before committing to a passage. You can still get some nasty cold fronts this time of year.
Good sailing . . . Rognvald
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