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post #1 of 12 Old 05-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Advice needed

Okay, I've been doing a lot of thinking about possible small cruises I'd like to make in the future. Right now I'm just daydreaming, since I don't even have a sailboat yet. I don't intend to end this summer without one, though.

I will be getting a trailer sailer/pocket cruiser, since I don't live near any good cruising water.

One of the cruises I'd LOVE to make - actually been dreaming about this cruise for years - is Key West to Dry Tortugas.

Moving on to my actual question...I realize that my question is pretty vague and over-simplified, but what what I'm looking for is an off-the-hip answer, hopefully from someone with first hand knowledge of the area.

Here goes: Is doing the sail from Key West to Dry Tortugas tantamount to suicide, or is it a pretty safe venture?

I suppose my question gives away my ignorance of the area, but I don't mind. I've always been the sort to say "I don't know" when I don't know something.

In my defense, I've studied the charts of the cruise route, I've read blogs and watched Youtube videos of the cruise. Seems to me that, making consideration for the season to rule out the worst weather, it should be a safe, fun sail.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Peace,

6P

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. - John Lubbock
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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Quote:
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Is doing the sail from Key West to Dry Tortugas tantamount to suicide, or is it a pretty safe venture?
I don't have any knowledge of the specific route you are asking about, but like anything I'm sure it is more dependent on the sailor and his/her vessel than it is on the route/sailing area. A calm inland lake can be suicidal for someone who doesn't know what they are doing. On the other hand expert sailors with sound vessels venture into the roaring forties and furious fifties and live to tell the tale. If you would provide a little more information regarding your experience and your (intended) vessel it may be easier for someone to give you a useful opinion.

Best,
Bob

Last edited by CaptFoolhardy; 05-04-2011 at 01:32 PM. Reason: syntax correction
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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If I were you, I would spend my money in getting a proper training from a certified sailing school, get your ASA 101, 102, 103 up to 105 course done. At the same time, volunteer as a crew from any captain who is willing to take you, be humble, work like a dog and learn as much you can. Joining a sailing club is a good way too......etc. By then, if you want to get your own boat you are ready mentally and physically.

There are many ways to get about doing what you want, but this is my way. YMMV. Good luck.


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post #4 of 12 Old 05-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Welcome aboard nightrider.

Capt, here's a little bit more info about myself (as well as a partial answer to rockDAWG's advice).

I do plan to get my ASA 101, 102, 103, and 105 before going on this trip - or any that involve getting out of sight of the launch on the lake I intend to frequent.

I have absolutely zero experience sailing, but am a fairly experienced (and trained) powerboat operator, as I operate a small rescue boat as part of my job. I would imagine that sailing and operating a powerboat are apples and oranges; just thought I'd throw that in there to say that I'm comfortable on (and respectful of) water.

As far as intended vessel...that's a bit more open right now than I can intelligently discuss. It's really going to be a matter of what I can find that meets my needs - which I am still zeroing in on. I had already planned, when I have a specific list of what I'm looking for in a sailboat, to post that here. Love this forum.

Again though - not putting anyone on the spot for specific answers. Just generally speaking, would say, a MacGregor 25, or a Catalina 22, or a SJ21...y'know, just a decent trailer sailer...be able to make this trip safely, assuming that the crew was physically fit, mentally prepared, and well trained before hand?

Peace,

6P

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. - John Lubbock
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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Getting to the Dry Tortugas will be a pleasant downwind sail and there are plenty of anchorages once you are there. It would be a good place to explore for a couple of weeks.

But and it is a big but getting back to Key West will be a 70 mile beat into the wind unless you are very very lucky. I would not want to have to do it on a fixed schedule even on a biggish boat.

A Catalina 22 could make the trip esp. if you waited for a good weather window for the return but you could be waiting for weeks.
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Getting to the Dry Tortugas will be a pleasant downwind sail and there are plenty of anchorages once you are there. It would be a good place to explore for a couple of weeks.

But and it is a big but getting back to Key West will be a 70 mile beat into the wind unless you are very very lucky. I would not want to have to do it on a fixed schedule even on a biggish boat.

A Catalina 22 could make the trip esp. if you waited for a good weather window for the return but you could be waiting for weeks.
Thanks for chiming in.

Hmm. Well, I suppose when I do it, time is one thing I will have...

But yeah, you're totally right. Just looked at some wind charts for the area and "very very lucky" does indeed seem to hit the nail on the head.

Looking at it like that, it's still something that I want to do. Taking the prevailing winds into consideration - if you were going to make the trip, how do you think it would be leaving from Marco Island instead of Key West? Granted it's a longer distance, but it seems that one would be on a reach the whole way there and back. Maybe not as pleasant/relaxing as drifting along downwind - more like sailing, that is (hehe) but it seems to me that one could come far closer to a predictable (if not fixed) schedule doing the trip that way. Any thoughts?

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. - John Lubbock
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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Quote:
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Getting to the Dry Tortugas will be a pleasant downwind sail and there are plenty of anchorages once you are there. It would be a good place to explore for a couple of weeks.

But and it is a big but getting back to Key West will be a 70 mile beat into the wind unless you are very very lucky. I would not want to have to do it on a fixed schedule even on a biggish boat.

A Catalina 22 could make the trip esp. if you waited for a good weather window for the return but you could be waiting for weeks.
You can only stay for 14 days, so waiting for weeks isn't an option.

The main thing is to learn what your doing first. ASA 101 and 103 are the important ones to start out on, personally I don't see the need for others in less you just love getting certs. After that you need to build up as much experience as possible, including many day sails and overnighters closer to land on the boat you'll be taking or a similar one if you're chartering. Also study the weather there, and study weather in general. Watch it for a while to get a clue of the patterns, which will be different during each season. Finally start planning your trip and wait for the ideal pattern. If you time the trip right, you can actually catch favorable wind in each direction, or at least give yourself a really good chance of avoiding dangerous weather. Remember to bring an EPIRB and a backup VHF just in case, as well as all the supplies for your entire trip, there are no provisions there.

I recently sailed from Tampa Bay to Garden Key and then on to Key West and finally Miami. Unfortunately I had a schedule I had to keep to, so we left in somewhat foul weather, but the reward after 200 miles of open water was well worth it. It's quite a place. Keep sure to respect it when you get there and obey the regulations as the rangers there are very strict and the environment is a national treasure.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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sixpoint,

hello from key west. another consideration on a key west to dry tortugas run is rebecca shoals. when wind and current are opposing, it can be lumpy and treacherous. by all means, get both instruction and experience before you try this. that said, follow your dream.
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-04-2011
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The stretch of water between the Marquesses and Dry Tortugas can be nasty, especially if you're thinking about cruising along the hump, which is the skinny water between the Marquesses and Rebeca Shoals. When the tide is running hard, and in opposition to the wind, the waves here can be nasty. However, when conditions are right, slight tidal change, moderate winds, you can make a wonderful passage to the Tortugas through some of the most beautiful water in the region. This one can be a crap-shoot, but if you're properly prepared, it's a wonderful trip. There is a catamaran that runs from Key West to the Dry Tortugas daily. I highly recommend taking the trip on the cat and observing the waters they traverse. It's well worth the expense.

Gary
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-05-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sixpoint View Post
Thanks for chiming in.



Looking at it like that, it's still something that I want to do. Taking the prevailing winds into consideration - if you were going to make the trip, how do you think it would be leaving from Marco Island instead of Key West? Granted it's a longer distance, but it seems that one would be on a reach the whole way there and back. Maybe not as pleasant/relaxing as drifting along downwind - more like sailing, that is (hehe) but it seems to me that one could come far closer to a predictable (if not fixed) schedule doing the trip that way. Any thoughts?
Its about 105 miles and while it might be a reach going to the Dry Tortugas it is likely to be a beat coming back and unless the wind is south of east you may not even be able to lay the course. Motorsailing is not really an option on a typical trailor sailor with outboard.

If you can pick your weather window and have a secure forecast on SE winds for your return I think that the Marco Island return route is favourite. Both routes require a night sail on your sort of boat.

Which ever route you take be awre that the crab pot density is almost unbelievable in some spots. Make sure you have a means of freeing yourself if you get caught. It is less likely on a boat with the prop out of the water but s**t happens.
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