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Old 28-01-2024, 17:11   #1
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Planning a gulf trip

Hey everyone, my family and I are planning a trip from Miami to New Orleans. I've plotted a few routes up the coast in the gulf but am considering a trip up the ICW instead. I would love any input or personal accounts about the pros and cons of each. I know that we will hit the keys first rather than crossing through okeechobee, and will be staying close to shore rather than making any of the extended crossings, but beyond that I'm just not sure about the route. We are a family of 6 VERY amateur sailors on a 32' Catamaran (Sailcraft Comanche). We would prefer to stay under sail rather than motor as much as possible and are running 2 yamaha 9.9s which keep us at a comfortable 7 kts running mid to low rpms in neutral conditions. We have almost no offshore sailing experience but would of course sail cautiously giving heed to the weather and would run very well equipped regardless of whether we're on the coast or ICW. Thanks in advance for any and all help!
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Old 28-01-2024, 18:24   #2
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Re: Planning a gulf trip

You may not be able to use the ICW south of Marco Island (Coon Key to Marco Island). There is a bridge with a clearance of 55 feet that I barely made it under with a 48 foot air draft at a mid-tide. So if heading north from Key West you may want to make it a long day and skip the Cape Sable/Shark River/Ten Thousand Island area. Good point is you miss millions of mosquitos. Bad point is the 10,000 Island looked like an interesting place to explore. You will lose cell service about 7 mile north of the Keys and not get it back until Marco Island. Cayo Costa (Pelican Bay), Stump Pass, Venice, Madeira Beach, Clearwater are all good places to hide out if the wind is from the north or west. East winds off the land are your best sailing conditions. You might get 5 consecutive days with north winds so plan extra time. I have not been much north of Clearwater and most people skip the shallow Big Bend area of the state and sail overnight to the Panhandle. Hopefully someone else will have tips for that area. Pay attention to commercial ships when crossing Tampa Bay shipping channels. The ships move faster than you think. I live in Madeira Beach with two good grocery stores, fuel, and help if you need it. It is about a mile north after you enter Johns Pass. Stay south approaching the entrance to stay away from shallows just north of the markers.
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Old 28-01-2024, 18:57   #3
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Re: Planning a gulf trip

In the past, I've used Moser Chanel by Boot Key (Marathon Key) to cross from the Gulf side to the Atlantic side of the keys without going all the way down around Key West, but you need to be on top of your game to get though there without getting into trouble with lack of water depth. If you have a good chart plotter with current electronic charts & a good look out during daylight hours, that might be an option. It can be a dangerous spot of you make mistakes. The approach from the gulf side has a lot of things to watch out for. Trying to get into some of the anchorages just south of Miami can be similarly challenging.


Be aware that in much of the keys, you will be in a zero discharge zone & pumping anything overboard can land you some aggressive trouble.
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Old 20-02-2024, 14:45   #4
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Re: Planning a gulf trip

Quote:
Originally Posted by KismetAdventure View Post
Hey everyone, my family and I are planning a trip from Miami to New Orleans. I've plotted a few routes up the coast in the gulf but am considering a trip up the ICW instead. I would love any input or personal accounts about the pros and cons of each. I know that we will hit the keys first rather than crossing through okeechobee, and will be staying close to shore rather than making any of the extended crossings, but beyond that I'm just not sure about the route. We are a family of 6 VERY amateur sailors on a 32' Catamaran (Sailcraft Comanche). We would prefer to stay under sail rather than motor as much as possible and are running 2 yamaha 9.9s which keep us at a comfortable 7 kts running mid to low rpms in neutral conditions. We have almost no offshore sailing experience but would of course sail cautiously giving heed to the weather and would run very well equipped regardless of whether we're on the coast or ICW. Thanks in advance for any and all help!
I have sailed across the gulf from Key West to Houston direct and another time it was Key West staying within a 90 mile arc of land at all times insurance requirements). In addition I have motored inside from Tampa Bay to Clearwater and across to Carrabelle Fl (Dog Key) and then the ditch all the way to Houston.

I can tell you without doubt the most peaceful trip was the direct route - direct Key West to Houston or NOLA. When you stay within 90 miles of the land - you run right thru the production platforms in the GOM and all the service vessels (running flat out with no on the bridge it seems)....lots to keep you busy on those night watches.

Driving the ICW past Mobile AL is open water mostly till you get to the Rigolets then back into the ICW There are few anchorages that I am aware of (and you do not want to run the ICW at night - EVER!) and few fuel stops. It takes a lot of planning and talking to those who have done it.

New Orleans is loads of fun kinda. If you are staying in NOLA the Seabrook marina is nice and close to the ICW but in a VERY dangerous part of town - be inside the locked gates before dark is best or at the very least take a taxi....no walking outside the Marina gates. The guys at the marina there are really nice and helpful.

All in all - i found the ICW to be not fun once past Mobile!!! Being 90 miles offshore not much better and the direct route very peaceful (although the Gulf can get pretty nasty at times (watch fronts coming down....)

However, going up the Mississippi River would be very taxing - lots of big traffic

And you will have to go thru at least one lock to get to a marina.

Have fun
Dennis
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