I am planning to take my CSY 33 in early June from Ft. Lauderdale to Charleston, SC. What would be your suggested route? Would you stay in the Gulf Stream? Would you play a more conservative route close to the coast? If that is the case, where does the large traffic stay? And where do we need to worry about container ships or other cargo vessels?
Sue & Larry respond:
The beauty of your upcoming trip is that you have the ability to combine offshore legs with interesting and scenic inland routes. If this is your first time making this journey, and you're not pressed for time, there are some great stops you might want to consider.
The only cruisers who would take the Gulf Stream north from Ft. Lauderdale to Charleston are those who are in a great rush to get north, and even then it is done with caution. The Gulf Stream can be your best friend or worst enemy, as it can get rough very fast with confused, irregular seas. This results in a most uncomfortable ride for those caught in its grips.
If you do decide on sailing offshore the whole way, you'll likely find yourself exiting the Gulf Stream in northern Florida. From here, you can either sail a rhumb line directly to Charleston, or follow a series of waypoints closer to the coast. Many sailors opt for the latter, as it provides you the opportunity to easily duck in should conditions deteriorate.
As for shipping traffic, there will be plenty since you'll be passing many major ports along your route. A watchful eye and good VHF radio communication are all it takes to avoid problems that stem from crowded shipping lanes. If you're ever unsure about a ship's intention, simply hail the vessel on the VHF. Most professional captains like to know your intentions as well.
The best inlets for approaches in all conditions along your route are: Lake Worth; Fort Pierce; Port Canaveral; St Johns River; St Mary's, GA; Port Royal, SC; and Charleston.
If conditions prohibit you from sailing your entire route offshore, don't hesitate to try the ICW. It's a wonderful way to see America from a different perspective. Fernandina Beach, FL; the coastal islands in Georgia with their wild horses; Savannah; Beaufort; and of course your destination, Charleston, are all some of our favorite places to see and visit by boat.