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Sailing in the Florida Keys??

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Sailing in the Florida Keys??

Postby Moondance » Sun Apr 09, 2006 8:45 pm

Hi

We're contemplating towing our 26X down to Florida next winter or Spring and making the crossing to the Bahamas. I've read all I can find about it and it seems great.

The only problem I can forsee right now is the Gulf Stream. We'll have 2 weeks for the trip and from what I've read...if the Gulf Stream is acting up we'll have to sit and wait in Florida to make the crossing. We might wait for two weeks for it to calm down.... Soooo...I want to have a back up plan. If the Gulf is not cooperating I don't want to just sit there and wait out our whole vacation.

If we get there and the forcast is not looking good..I'm thinking we'll scrape the Bahamas idea and keep right on driving to the keys.

I'd like to know if anyone here has sailed in the keys and if so where should we go.

I've seen arial photos and it looks pretty nice with that blue blue water and lots of islands.

I'd like to get that Bahamas feeling though.

Does anyone know where we might get close to that or if you have any links or books you can recommend.

Looking for PLAN B
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Postby James V » Sun Apr 09, 2006 8:53 pm

Here is a link for the weather in the gulf stream http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=41009 CANAVERAL 20 NM East of Cape Canaveral, FL. At the bottom of the page will tell you the waves. You can also retrieve old data as well. Per my understanding, if you plan your trip in Nov or May your chances of getting across are quite good.

on edit: give http://www.bluewaterweb.com/ a call or emial. Their staff have gone all over the world and the Store is in Ft Lauderdale. I have heard there advice is 2nd to none.
Last edited by James V on Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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keys

Postby fdeoreo » Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:29 am

Moondance,
the state park in key largo as well as bahia honda are great places to start. you can even stay at a marina there if you prefer, hot showers, dive shop and some of the best snorkeling or diving in amereica. link to the southeast florida state parks here:
http://www.floridastateparks.org/FindaP ... =Southeast
florida has lots to offer, no offense to the bahamas.
francis joshua
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Postby Helaku » Mon Apr 10, 2006 11:36 am

John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, is perfect for launching and exploring. They also have overnight slips. You can always follow the tour boats out to Molasses Reef for snorkling or diving. Once out there you can jump from reef to reef to get away from crowds. All the reefs have bouys to tie up to.
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Postby Tom Walsh » Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:12 pm

I have taken a winter sail vacation in the keys four times now. I have checked around alot for the best place to be in a trailerable sailboat. I always go back to Bahia honda state park marina. It is absolutely beautiful. The park takes up the whole island. It is safe and secure, the marina is on the beach (hard to find a good beach in the keys). The slips are on a low seawall with a walk way. Sheltered from prevailing easterlies that are
usually 15-20kt. You have a place for your trailer right where you can keep an eye on it , parking for you tow vehicle, great resturants, key west
is only 34 mile drive, or power down and sail back in the same day. 2 of the best reefs are 10-12 miles away , power out ,enjoy snorkling in among thousands of colorful little tropical fish, have a lunch on your secure and free mooring, then sail back to the marina for a nice shower
in a clean bathhouse. mallory sq. at sunset and key west or key largo night action. there are some regulars at Bahia Honda that would kill me
for promoting the marina but since the price went up to $2.00 a foot a night the demand has slowed down. see the web site. I'll likely be there next year too. The admiral loves the place too. it's about as good as it gets for the novice but serious sailor looking for adventure and romance of the tropics. No reason to risk more, spend more, and stress more to get to the Bahamas and have no vehicle at you disposal. I have had 1 heart attack , if I have another I prefer It be in this country
Tom
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Postby bjtaksa » Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:58 pm

I am going to Pennekamp State Park on Friday (14 Apr) and will be there through Tuesday (18 Apr). I made reservations with the marina for a slip at the Park for $31 a night. Mooring is $22 a night. They tell me that when renting a slip or mooring, truck and trailer parking is free, as is park admission. Since this is our first outing, opted for a slip (easier to seduce the Mrs.). I will post a review/ summary when I get back.

Incidentally, I found a lot of information here while planning: http://macgregorsailors.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=5026

Brandon
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Postby Chinook » Tue Apr 11, 2006 3:33 pm

In 2003 we cruised our Mac X in both the Keys and Bahamas. You're correct in paying respect to the Stream. We crossed over in early February, and didn't have to wait for a window. The weather cooperated, and we crossed with about 10 knots from the southeast, and 3 - 4 foot swell. While out there we had good weather early, but March was one of the windiest months in recent years, we were told. We cruised the Abacos, which was an excellent choice for a first visit, involving only one major crossing (West Palm to West End) and then a 30 mile or so crossing of the Little Bahama Bank to Great Sale Key. We got as far as Little Harbor, the end of protected water in the Abacos. Our return was interrupted for 6 days at Allen-Pensacola Key, with strong northerly winds restricting us to the anchorage. We moved west after the weather clocked and settled, but by the time we got to West End (after a visit to Lucaya via the Grand Bahama Canal - lowered the mast on the run to clear the bridge) the northerly wind was kicking up again. We were again pinned down for 6 days, this time at the pricey Old Bahama Bay marina. Our crossing was with 12 - 15 knots from the east, and a 6 foot residual swell, which made for great surfing.

We loved the Abacos. We did spend 2 months on that cruise. I'd consider making the trip with just two weeks, subject to a couple provisos. First, I'd not attempt the trip in February or March, with just that much time. April or May would give a better chance of settled conditions, and warmer water too (we encountered 68-70 water temps typically - even with a shorty wet suit the snorkeling got chilly). Only drawback to that time of year is the fact that local lobster season closes the end of March. Another condition would be hitting a suitable crossing window within a day or two of arrival at your point of departure. If you have to waste too much time waiting to go, you'll be short changed on time out there, and might get tempted to return in less than ideal conditions.

We departed from Sailfish Marina in West Palm Beach, exiting via Lake Worth Inlet. It's a good place to cross to West End, but watch out for the current in the Marina. It runs 4 knots through the slips, and can be treacherous. We launched at the County park on the Island and arranged to park our truck for a fee at Sailfish. They have a satellite lot for trailers. It cost a bit, but worked fine and provided good security. Another note: VHF radio marine weather can be sketchy in the Abacos. We were able to pick up coastal Florida NOAA weather broadcasts at West End (some larger boats couldn't) but it tended to disappear east of there. There is no Bahama equivalent. When you get close to Marsh Harbor you'll begin to pick up the local cruisers net daily broadcast (I think it's on channel 68 at 8:15 am). It's a great service and includes excellent weather info. When you're in between, your choice is single side band (if so equipped) or a radio call to another cruiser who has the better equipment. Good forecasts are invaluable in planning your moves out there.

With only 2 weeks, I'd recommend limiting your extent of exploration in the Abacos to Great Sale Cay, Allans-Pensacola, Double Breasted Cay, Spanish Cay, Moraine Cay and maybe Green Turtle Cay. I'm not sure it would be a good idea to try going as far as Marsh Harbor. Could be done, but you'd be moving all the time, which cuts down on time for enjoyment. Island time is a concept worth achieving.

If you end up bagging the Bahamas this time, you might consider the route we took out of South Florida. We drove down through the Everglades to Flamingo and launched there. Good free parking for truck and trailer, and it felt very secure. Very shallow waters in the vicinity of Flamingo, just made for a Mac. We went around to the west, explored Little Shark River, Pavillion Key, and up as far as Everglades City. We dinghied up the Broad River (lots of gators) and then crossed Florida Bay to the Keys. First stop there was Marathon, and then we worked our way west as far as Bahia Honda. We caught some windy weather and had to hang out there for 4 days. We didn't head further out on the Keys because we needed to get back and prepare for the Bahama cruise (this was in January). We didn't care that much for the Florida Keys, something to do with that highway which was always in view and occasionally in the way of crossing from one side to another. Still, the Everglades plus the Keys is a great way to spend a couple of weeks.

Good luck with your cruising plans. All great waters for the Mac.

Happy sailing, Mike Cecka
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Postby bjtaksa » Wed Apr 19, 2006 8:41 am

Well, just got back from Key Largo. The water and weather were both spectacular. Couldn't have planned it better.

Pennekamp's Marina was as advertised...$31 a night for a slip, clean facility, free entrance into the park, free and secure parking, and helpful staff. The boat ramp is large and easily accessable. Even over the Easter weekend the crowds were bearable. The channels are easy to navigate out to the ocean.

The one down-side which we underestimated were the no-see-ums. Didn't know what they were, but do now. Staying aboard required bug spray and a sealed up cabin (which was tolerable due to moderate temps). We had netting for the hatches, but they came right through. Wouldn't want to do it any later in the season, though.

Overall a pleasant experience.
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Postby James V » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:01 am

Here is my no-see-um netting Mod-
http://www.macgregorsailors.com/cgi-bin ... record=647

It does work on keeping them out.

I found out latter that the loop velcro shrank by 3 inches. Please cut long and prewash in order to avoid this.

It is best to leave them on all the time.
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Postby Ron » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:50 am

You could also consider launching from Homestead just before you reach the keys. You could then sail down the keys and back, visiting the places already mentioned.
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Postby Chinook » Thu Apr 20, 2006 7:54 pm

Regarding no see ums, yes they can really drive you nuts. We sewed up a forward hatch cover like described in the mod link. We used a pair of snaps on the front corners, and weighted the perimeter with pencil lead in a nylon tube sleeve. Works very well. We have the BWY wide dodger, bimini and full surround. We sewed up a no see um netting cockpit cover which velcros to the back edge of the dodger, goes over the bimini and snaps to the outside of the cockpit similar to the surround panels. The back corners of the netting are fitted with velcro so we can climb out over the steering seat. It's really nice to be up in the cockpit with the bugs at bay. Interesting note: the no see ums in the cockpit area when the netting gets deployed become immediately attracted to the netting, as if trying to get out, and thus cause no problems. We also made a companionway hatch cover of netting, with lead weights which hold it in the hatch slide track. It's handy for quick deployment, when we don't want to install the full cover. The comment on allowing for shrinkage of the velcro is right on point. The same holds true for nylon tubing and edge strip. We had to make adjustments to the companionway cover due to shrinkage.
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Postby Dimitri-2000X-Tampa » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:01 pm

I bought the 26X screens from macgregorowners.com and they are fine enough to keep out no-see-ums...which we have a plenty of around here. These nasty little bugs don't venture far from shore though. I've found that if you anchor at least 75 yards off shore, they will bug you a lot less than if you are very close to the shore.
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Postby bobmonroe » Fri Apr 21, 2006 8:12 am

We've been using the green mosquito coils for control of noseeums (sand flies)for a long time, if you can stand the smell of the smoke. My wife doesn't like the smoke, but she dislikes the bugs more. Get them where they sell spray, etc.
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Postby Frank C » Fri Apr 21, 2006 4:05 pm

Where do you "burn" these coils?
I've also wondered about buring a citronella torch - any benefits?
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Postby James V » Fri Apr 21, 2006 5:37 pm

Frank C - Yes & no. If the wind is not blowing, Yes. If you have a breeze blowing through your cabin, no as it blows right out. There OK on the cooler nights if you can take the smell.

The same with anything that you put in the air.

Anchoring out is OK if the seas are not too bad. But when the wind dies and then shifts from the direction where the land is, the light breeze can carry them to you.
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