Join Date: Jul 2002
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Gulf weather trends
There''s a Tampa Bay-Isla Mujeres race each April and the magazine articles that cover that race usually do a good job of laying out the tactics, arrival procedure, etc. You might see what Southwinds has at their website from past races (http://southwindssailing.com/).
Essentially, from SW Florida the tactical issues are the Stream (along with it''s N-flowing Gulf Spur that slides up the W coast of FL, plus the Warm and Cold Eddies; coming back is easier than going), the prevailing SE''ly winds (going is easier than coming back) and the frontal weather systems which originate from the Lows that sweep, W to E, across N America.
WRT the fronts, the originating Lows are more numerous and deeper during the Dec-Mar time frame. Given the 4 day +/- passage plus some time to let things settle after the previous frontal passage, winter is a more problematic time to make the run to Isla than the Spring (when lighter trades and fewer fronts make it easier & delightful). As you would expect, a stop in the Dry Totugas is a popular choice, either enroute back or in both directions, depending on your schedule, the weather, and how much you like to lay around watching the float planes fly in from Key West, disgorging tourists.
I would recommend you avoid the race and post-race period, when the anchorage & marina are likely to fill up in Isla. Personally, I find much more inviting cruising S of the Mexican ports. There''s a thread on the SSCA BB (http://ssca.org/sscabb/index.php) that discusses the latest (of many) clearance procedures and fees at Isla.
Welcome to SW Florida! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
WHOOSH, lying London but with us home in St. Pete