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Old 29-10-2019, 14:37   #1
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Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

I've been asked to help with a delivery from Annapolis to Fort Lauderdale which should be departing in the next week. The boat is a 50' sailing catamaran with a mast height of 20 meters. The other captain doesn't want to take the ICW because of the mast height. All of my sea experience has been west coast so I am asking for advice on what route would be best to take this time of the year. I've heard pros and cons of sailing close to shore versus sailing offshore. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We are planning to sail her most of the way versus motoring. Avoiding the gulf stream current is a factor as well. In addition, other than a coast pilot, what other publications would you recommend? Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your input.
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Old 29-10-2019, 16:22   #2
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

Well... the answer is IT DEPENDS!!!

There is no answer that is always right. We do this trip every year (usually leaving with the first weather window after November 1). Anybody who insists that one way or the other is the only way is wrong half the time.

Sometimes routing makes sense to sail down the coast--west of the GS all the way, other times it is better to get east of the Gulf Stream ASAP.

The most common "best" route runs between those extremes: close to due south out of the Chesapeake, once east of the GS, stay there until the northwest corner of the Bahamas, then duck in close to shore for the last bit to Port Everglades.

If it's a mystery to the delivery skipper on how to make the choice, it might be worth investing in hiring a weather router to help pick the window and best course.
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Old 29-10-2019, 21:40   #3
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

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Originally Posted by billknny View Post
Well... the answer is IT DEPENDS!!!

There is no answer that is always right. We do this trip every year (usually leaving with the first weather window after November 1). Anybody who insists that one way or the other is the only way is wrong half the time.

Sometimes routing makes sense to sail down the coast--west of the GS all the way, other times it is better to get east of the Gulf Stream ASAP.

The most common "best" route runs between those extremes: close to due south out of the Chesapeake, once east of the GS, stay there until the northwest corner of the Bahamas, then duck in close to shore for the last bit to Port Everglades.

If it's a mystery to the delivery skipper on how to make the choice, it might be worth investing in hiring a weather router to help pick the window and best course.
That's pretty much my experience.

The best Gulf Stream velocity and location information comes from DEOS at Technische Hogeschule Delft. Their website has been done for a while. You can use this instead: https://marine.rutgers.edu/cool/sat_...ast&nothumbs=0 - it isn't as good but it's something. Your best tool is setting the depth sounder to show sea water temperature. Hotter is faster.

If you're going West of the Gulf Stream I'd run along the beach toward Cape Hatteras (I think thats about 165T) and watch sea water temp to minimize foul current. There is a counter current but it's weak. Chasing it around the ocean is not productive. The DEOS data shows the location pretty well. Once you get down to about Jacksonville the best you can do is stay as far west as you safely can.

Absent good counter-current I run the two-bar line (tm) except where the coast swings way west.

For the offshore route I run 135T from the Chesapeake sea buoy until water temp shows I'm across the Gulf Stream and then head South. Keep an eye on water temp for eddies. Generally cross the back over the Gulf Stream at about Fort Pierce. Depending on weather you may end up further East and South and cross through the Providence channels to Ft Lauderdale.

On a 50' catamaran expect eight or nine days.

On a boat that big why not crew up? Weather is everything on this trip and you'll want good updates on board underway. If you don't have weather fax I'd stay west and get in cell range at least once a day. However all things being equal I'd go east to be warmer. You risk getting stuck on the wrong side of the Gulf Stream by weather.
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Old 30-10-2019, 02:24   #4
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Dennis.
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Old 30-10-2019, 04:47   #5
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

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.....
On a 50' catamaran expect eight or nine days.
Say what? Itís 700 to 800 actual ocean miles depending on the exact route. 5.5 to 6.5 days from Annapolis is what I expect on my 50 foot monohull.
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Old 30-10-2019, 05:50   #6
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

The Salty Dawgs will be leaving Hampton, Va for the Caribbean including drops in S Florida, Bahamas etc. the normal departure is Nov 1 or so. It’s probably too late to officially join but they will be weather routed by Chris Parker on a blue water path. You could tag in, tune in and be in Lauderdale in a week or less if you and the boat are ready for this. You could try to connect with them on line.

ICW mast clearance is 63 feet for many bridges.
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Old 30-10-2019, 05:56   #7
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

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On a 50' catamaran expect eight or nine days.
Say what? Itís 700 to 800 actual ocean miles depending on the exact route. 5.5 to 6.5 days from Annapolis is what I expect on my 50 foot monohull.
I usually keep the boat moving pretty well. My best time in the other direction was 4 days 19 hours Ft Lauderdale to Annapolis. Southbound you have to minimize the impact of the Gulf Stream which adds miles. I allow for light or contrary winds in my estimates. I assume not finding an inshore counter current. Habit. I'd rather give a customer an estimate that I can beat than disappoint.
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Old 30-10-2019, 06:40   #8
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

We did Hampton to Virgin Gorda, BVI in 7.5 days in our 58’ monohull, 2016. Exceptionally strong wind from behind. I looks like a mid Atlantic storm right now might be producing similar conditions. Normal winds usually make this a Windward trial.
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Old 30-10-2019, 06:50   #9
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

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Say what? It’s 700 to 800 actual ocean miles depending on the exact route. 5.5 to 6.5 days from Annapolis is what I expect on my 50 foot monohull.

We did that last trip year staying west of the GS and we logged 1,100 nm (from Annapolis) dock to dock. It took us ~5.5 days on a 56' mono. in delivery mode.

While you are correct to say the direct line measurement is ~775 nm ocean miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake to Fort Lauderdale that would be in ideal conditions. Would expect the trip to realistically be more like 950-1,100nm.


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Old 30-10-2019, 11:33   #10
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Fort Lauderdale

There are many options for free on-line weather routing which also take gulf stream current into consideration. I ran the route on FastSeas leaving today and leaving Saturday 11-2-19 (attached). Leaving today, the best route shows the due south route crossing the stream south of Morehead NC, then crossing back when you get near the Bahamas. However, leaving Sat the route shows hugging the coastline the whole way. Transit time was equal both routes 5day19hr (my 41ft mono from mouth of bay, not Annapolis), the offshore route is like 20miles shorter dist. The software gives you all kinds of stats from % time beating, reaching or running the max wind and average wind, sea state, etc... ALL FREE!
Looks like leaving after the front moves through on Friday morning will give you winds from behind most of the trip... Good weather window
One last note, Running close to shore off SC & GA is relatively shallow. So the chop builds up and can be uncomfortable in moderate+ winds forward of beam compared to deep water... But it looks pretty calm if you leave Friday afternoon/Sat
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