Join Date: Mar 2013
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Best Area To Sail
I live near new orleans and keep my C30 on the north shore. Lake Pontchartrain is OK for sailing, but winds are generally mild, like most of the gulf coast. The lake is very large, 40 miles wide and 24 across at the widest. It averages 12-15'depth, with large shallow areas on the far west and far eastern ends. There is a long bridge that intersects from south to north right in the middle. Most sailing and moorings are on the east side of that bridge. The western side of the lake is bordered by vast marsh and swamps. If you like solitude, that area offers some quiet anchorages and amazing wildlife. There is also Lake Maurepas to the west through a deep pass. Lots of power boaters and fishing, but almost no sail boats.
Along the south shore, east of the causeway bridge (new orleans) is where most marinas and recreational activity is. Most of the marinas are still in some level of repair from Katrina. You would be about a 15 minute drive from the french quarter at any of the marinas on the south shore. What i like about south shore sailing is during warmer seasons- spring, summer, & fall - the winds are primarily out of the south. You can have some awesome sailing along the shore out about a mile or so before any waves are built up. 15mph winds and no chop or swells. There aren't any protected coves to speak of which kind of rules out most anchoring. Much of the shoreline is lined with massive concrete seawalls ( steps ), but there are some nicer areas several miles to the east.
The northshore is a little less corporate and lined with several marinas and small towns. The shoreline is mostly undeveloped, marshy, but not far from civilization. I like to think it's the best of both worlds, some quiet sailing areas, but nice small towns with good restaurants usually within walking distance.
I get by ok with 5'3" draft, but definitely pay attention to the depth sounder near shore. Access to the gulf of mexico is easy and offers lots of good cruising. Mississippi is lined with sandy beaches and casinos if you're into that sort of thing. Marinas are mostly new , rebuilt after katrina, well equipped with reasonably priced fuel, and relatively cheap to stay. I spent $1 per foot per night at Gulfport & Biloxi which included electric, and clean restrooms/ laundry. Point Cadet at Biloxi is adjacent to one of the big casinos. We walked over and ate at their massive buffet. It was typical casino buffet food. It looks good enough to be on a magazine cover but tastes like it was frozen. Some things were good- snow crabs. I know this has not much to do with sailing. The islands off the coast of Ms ate excellent uninhabited destinations. Eastward, there's not much until Dauphin Island, Al. I love this place, but is more of a fishing community than sailing. There's one Marina and access is limited to about 4' draft. There is a pub the eastern side of the bridge that has 3 deep slips, ok food, cold beer, & good times though.
Mobile Bay is similar to Lake Pontchartrain, fairly shallow and choppy on windy days. There are nice towns on the eastern shore. East of Mobile, the water clears up and turns emerald green against sand as white as sugar. There is a lot of touristy beach stuff from here on eastward. It truly is beautiful here though. There are nice anchorages along the ICW which is kind of narrow for sailing in most places In Al.
East of there is Pensacola Bay, which is good sized, deep, and accessible to The Gulf, Santa Rosa Sound, and extremely touristy pensacola beach. The scenery is spectacular in my opinion. Water can get thin, but is soft all along the area from New Orleans.
Forgot to add, marina and fuel prices increase dramatically on the east side of Mobile Bay.