Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec - SailNet Community
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Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

Hi,
I'm planning to move my Tartan 34 from Virginia to South Florida towards the end of November. My plan is to sail ICW to Beaufort, SC, and then sail directly outside from there to Florida.
I'm not new to sailing, but this would be my first trip down the East Coast. I would really appreciate any input from all of you experienced skips out there.
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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

I would take ICW to Beaufort NC, anchor there for the night, leave really early on the outside (it’s over 60 nautical miles) pull into Wrightsville inlet for the night, go inside next day and out through Cape Fear River, then outside to Miami close to shore if weather allows, or pull into any of the good inlets along the way if tired or to avoid bad weather.
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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

I suppose it depends on what your plans and constraints are. Maybe you need to be at beaufort SC to meet family/friends? Or perhaps you enjoy a leisurely "motor boat ride" down the ICW? Maybe you are looking for a longer offshore experience? Are you solo or do you have crew? Do you need to be in Miami at a certain date? These would all factor into your choice.

in regards to the ICW from Norfolk to Beaufort NC, it's a fun trip, deep enough, some locks and draw bridges. You'll get to sail some in the Albermarle Sound, Pungo River, Pamlico River, Bay river and Neuse River. Continuing on the ICW south from Beaufort NC there are some shallow spots, but check Active Captain or Waterway guide for that. Pay attention and you'll be fine.

All things being equal, I agree with Kriss, go outside at Beaufort NC (not SC) and make the hop to Masonboro inlet (Wrightsville beach). That is a long day. I Dont think you'll be able to do it daylight this time of year unless your boat is much faster than mine (ok ok most boats are faster than mine :-) ) Both Beaufort Inlet and Masonboro Inlet are well marked, wide and deep. I'd give them plenty of respect at night and be very cautious of entering either in wind-against-current situations.

If you have a good weather window leaving Beaufort you could consider setting a course to go around Frying Pan Shoals (Cape Fear) and continue further south on the outside if that's your thing. There are a number of good bail out spots between cape fear and Miami (there are also some really bad ones so do your research and know which inlets are safe).

I've done this route a number of times and I prefer hoping offshore. I find that the ICW can be tedious and exhausting, but also interesting and fun in it's own way. no right or wrong here, and I'm pretty sure that no matter what you decide it will be better than a day at the office :-)
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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

Great tips Krisscross and Bristol299bob. Thank you so much.

I am a sailor at heart and try to minimize listening to engine's buzz. I will be sailing with my wife, who is a sailor herself. Our objective is to bring the boat down to South Florida quickly and safely. I studied the charts and I really like the idea of sailing from Beaufort NC outside to Wrightsville, then motor along Masonboro Island to Cape Fear River, down the Cape Fear River, and finally go outside again for some more sailing. I looks like it's only about 300 miles from there to Jacksonville, Florida. We have sailed 250 miles non-stop on Lake Ontario on multiple occasions.
Can you suggest several good hiding places between Southport and Miami if the weather does not cooperate?


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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

Off top of my head, the good inlets south of Southport are Georgetown, Charleston, Hilton Head, Fernandina, St. Augustine, Ft. Pierce. Look at your charts. Good inlets have good depth, lighted buoys, and plenty of channel markers. Making them at night can be very unnerving, especially in rough weather.

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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

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Originally Posted by krisscross View Post
Off top of my head, the good inlets south of Southport are Georgetown, Charleston, Hilton Head, Fernandina, St. Augustine, Ft. Pierce. Look at your charts. Good inlets have good depth, lighted buoys, and plenty of channel markers. Making them at night can be very unnerving, especially in rough weather.
Add to that no shoals running from shore on either side which encourage breakers rolling across the channel and no rip roaring current so they are impassible when wind is opposite current.


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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

Cape Fear to Jacksonville, is good run, if the weather allows. If you do motor along Masonboro is. and exit Cape fear. I stopped at the little Marina at Carolina State Park to clean up, top up and wait for the current to turn. the Marina is right there as soon as you clear Snow's Cut, As I recall, we walked into town along the park road ( a good walk!) to get a few supplies.

Also, if you want to actually go to up the city of Jacksonville, keep in mind that it's still about 20 miles up river once you clear the inlet.
They did have free public tie ups in town, starboard side, along the Wall just before the Bridge! Watch your stuff though, a buddy of mine had his dinghy stolen from the Ruth Chris's across the river.

Have a great trip!
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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

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Originally Posted by krisscross View Post
Off top of my head, the good inlets south of Southport are Georgetown, Charleston, Hilton Head, Fernandina, St. Augustine, Ft. Pierce. Look at your charts. Good inlets have good depth, lighted buoys, and plenty of channel markers. Making them at night can be very unnerving, especially in rough weather.
Agree with Kriss, I'll add Port Royal, St Mary's and Port Canaveral.

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Cape Fear to Jacksonville, is good run, if the weather allows ....
Agree with Tempest, Cape Fear to Jacksonville would be a great 3-4 day adventure.

With two aboard you will both be very tired when you arrive, it's hard to get into a decent rhythm for 2 in only 3 days. Plan to anchor and sleep before deciding on your next move!

Nights are chilly this time of year, and since you are favoring a north wind to make your way south the days & nights underway will be even chilly-er. Thermos or two of hot water, coffee, hot chocolate, soup, stew all of these are your friend for this trip.

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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

Great tips again All of you. Thank you so much for all your input.

We are bringing a lot of winter clothing for this trip and we are planning to avoid overnight sailing unless we are outside. We are not familiar with anchorages so we will play safe.

In terms of sailing outside, the Gulf Stream is further out up North and closer to shore as you go South. We don't want to be too close to shore to avoid most obstructions there, but at the same time we have to watch for the Gulf Stream. What is the best distance offshore for this trip? I understand it varies, but are there must be the most optimal route from Southport to Florida on the outside.


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Re: Best route from Norfolk to Miami this Nov/Dec

You won't be in the Stream from Cape Fear to Jax. Without looking, I believe the furthest point we were offshore on that run was about 36 miles. I could see the cloud bank sitting over the stream off to the east though.

If you go to Passage weather, Drill down to, Maps, North Atlantic, Cape Hatteras to Florida and then look for the tab at the top of the page that gives you approx. position of the stream. That's one site. There are others.
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