90% of Mexico is off of my list, but I flew to Cozemel a couple of weeks ago to check it out. They are still working hard to protect the island, and keep the area safe for tourism.
There were a lot of boats, and numerous ex-pats that said it, (the island), was still safe. And I wandered all over the island in a rental jeep, no problems.
I can't vouch for the future, as their legal, (political), system needs some work, but for now the locals still look out for the tourists.
I figure it will be a good challenging passage.
The idea of going to the Gardens, and hanging a left is a good one. I've gone out there several times fishing, and planned to take that route, as I am very familiar with the water, and rig locations up to there.
The idea of coastal sailing down Florida, even though The most likely course will only be a couple of hundred miles west of the Florida coastline, I really didn't want to coast hop.
I am planning to coast hop to Florida and back as a trial run. (going the same distance, but within reach of repairs until I am confident in the boat).
I haven't picked a boat yet, (my current one is too small for that ambitious a venture), but there are several full keeled solid cruisers in my price range.
Right now I am planning the next 5 years voyaging, and really want a good Gulf crossing under my belt, (maybe as a crew?).
I have sailed the stuf of of Texas too and cannot imagine wanting to sail across from Texas to LA. Just my personal opinion. You will be doing some crossings even if you buy the boat in FL. THe jump from Panama City across was two days IIRC. But after the gale, it was beautiful water and a great sail. As soon as the cold front passed through, it was wonderful sailing and nice winds. DUring it.. well, I will post you some pics.
FOr us (we have kids), we wanted to see a lot of these placs and Pensacola and Panama City, just for starters, is beautiful and fun. We may actualy spend some more time going up there and cruising that area. Appalachicola is known for its oysters and you will be in the the heart of it. St Pete/Tampa is filled with great cruisers and lots of museums and awesome things to see. Charlote Harbor/Cabbage Key is my old haunt and I know most people passing through stop at Cabbage Key there and anchor out and have a "Cheeseburger in Paradise" which they say inspired Buffets song, but in reality, I think it may have been another restaurant. Ft Myers Beach is a wonderful jump off point but also has its own flare and if you time it right, the International Sand Building FInals are there... aomongst many other things. THe TOrtugas are one of the most beautiful places we have ever been and is FILLED with history. It is also on your way.
You can make the trek straight across. I have two set of friends that have done that. One set got caught in a cold front in the gulf and had to get rescued, the other spent about a week at sea crossing to Key West form the gardens. Both said they would not do it again and hated the part from TX to LA as you are committed. ALso, if you jump across, better have an SSB or you will not have any communications.
As far as ship traffic, we saw suprisingly little except some going into the MObile/LA area and some into Tampa, but nothing like my trip off of Caliafornia around LA/San DIego. THat place was a highway for ship and military traffic.
ALl in all, I would probably suggest you stop and see some of the awesome places along the way. You may end up doing what many cruisers do - like it so much you never leave it.
Let me know if you need anything else.
Gulf Crossing (it was FREAKING COLD)
A nice little Gale when caight into a cold front. BTW, you are looking into the face of a sea... there is no horizon there!! THat is NO FUN, but when you go, you are committed. THat is why I would plan on "gulf hopping" to really watch your weather unless maybe leaving in April or May.