Sunday, November 12, 2017

Southbound 2017: We Set Another Record

A normal trip takes 9 days, weather permitting. The plan is to depart Hingham at 7:00 AM, cruise non-stop for three and a half days to Morehead City where we refuel, hopefully in two hours or less. Then it's back on the road for three more days with a goal to reach Clewiston Florida at the south end of Lake Okeechobee at sunset on the evening of the seventh day. From there we cruise to Fort Myers where we again stay over night. The following morning we head for Sarasota where we arrive at mid-afternoon.

The total mileage is 1,430 nautical miles.

This plan is rather aggressive as you must hit certain time deadlines to make it work. The most critical is run on day seven to Clewiston. In order to make Clewiston, I have to reach the Stuart Inlet before 7:30 AM and then cover 77 nautical miles of the Okeechobee Waterway, including two locks, to reach the goal just after sunset.

The 77 NM route from Stuart to Clewiston
That said, the record breaking Hingham to Jacksonville leg dramatically altered our schedule as we were now running 12 hours ahead of schedule. The key consideration for the remainder of the voyage is the Okeechobee Waterway where two factors, the inability to run at night and locks that close at 5:00 PM, impose severe limitations on making distance.

So, as soon as we departed Morningstar Marina (5:48 PM on Day 5) we began to consider our options. The principal consideration was the 200 nautical mile distance to the Stuart inlet. With our cruising speed of 8.4 knots we cover 200 miles every 24 hours. This would put us at the Stuart Inlet at 6:00 PM and require that we stop at Stuart for the night.

That stop would also dictate the runs for the remainder of the trip. On Tuesday we would leave Stuart at 6:30 AM to arrive at the St Lucie Lock at 7:30 AM, and then run for 8 hours to reach the Moore Haven lock, which we would reach around 3:30 PM. Then we would tie up along the wall at Moore Haven for the evening. There's nothing in Moore Haven except for a good deal on dockage ($63 for the night). The following day, Wednesday, we would run to Fort Myers or Captiva where we would spend another night. Finally, on Thursday, we would reach Sarasota at three in the afternoon.

Okeechobee Waterway showing the route ffrom Stuart to Sarasota
As readers know, I hate sitting at the dock overnight when the forecast is for favorable weather, which on Sunday evening was the case. We had a four day weather window that predicted low winds and seas under 2 feet all the way to Sarasota.

Sirius Sea Conditions shows favorable wind and seas all the way to Sarasota
So now the question was whether to go around the Florida Keys, cut north just west of Marathon at the Seven Mile Bridge and head north to Sarasota. Measuring from Stuart, that adds 160 nautical miles to the trip for a total distance of 360 nautical miles. The extra 160 nautical miles adds approximately 20 hours of running time and $450 of fuel costs. On the other hand, running the Okeechobee Waterway route comes with between $420 to $640 of dockage expense depending on where you stop. Hence there is no cost differential.

Running in the Hawk Channel
Screen left to right: Chartplotter, Radar, Sonar, Night Vision
Sonar shows us with 6.7 feet of water under the keel
The primary consideration is navigation around the keys. Here there are three options, run outside the reef and buck the Gulf Stream, run the Hawk Channel between the Keys and the deep water outside the reef, or run the shallow intracoastal waterway north of the Keys. Needless to say the choice is obvious. The Hawk Channel from Miami to Marathon provides depth of 12 to 20 plus feet and a wide very well marked channel totally suited for night running, especially for a yacht equipped with night vision.

We passed the Stuart Inlet at 5:41 PM on Monday and headed south reaching:
  • Miami on Tuesday at 3:09 AM
  • Marathon Seven Mile Bridge on Tuesday at 2:10 PM
  • Marco Island on Wednesday at 12:46 AM
  • Boca Grande Inlet on Wednesday at 7:11 AM
  • Venice Inlet on Wednesday at 10:31 AM
  • Marina Jack on Wednesday at 12:50 PM
The run from Jacksonville to Sarasota
The final consideration was the approach to Sarasota. Here too there are three options. Big Pass, New Pass and the ICW from Venice north to Sarasota. A call to Sea Tow for some local knowledge was in order, especially since Sarasota Yacht Club had ceased publishing waypoint data for the approach to Big Pass. Sea Tow informed me that New Pass was closed, which was not surprising, and the advice, well founded, to traverse Big Pass at high tide. Since we would arrive at dead low tide the decision was easy. We arrived at the Venice Inlet at 10:31 AM and headed north on the ICW. The only challenge on this leg is four bridges, two of which open on command, and two at fixed times. 

The run from the Venice Inlet to Marina Jack took 2 hours and 20 minutes. We arrived at Marina Jack at 12:50 PM ending a 580 nautical mile run. The average speed from the dock at Morningstar Star Marina in Jacksonville to Sarasota was 8.7 knots. The total time on leg 2 was 55 hours and 9 minutes. Another record.

Entering the Venice Inlet

Passing the Crows Nest Restaurant at the Venice Inlet
Siesta Key Bridge - Welcome to Sarasota

Approaching Marina Jack
Total miles upon arrival at Marina Jack was 1,517 nautical miles. Even though the run around Florida added 160 nautical miles to the trip, the saving achieved by straight line runs on leg one resulted in an increase distance of only 67 miles.

Bottom Line: This years' trip south was accomplished in 7 days and 7 hours, an ALL TIME RECORD and one not likely to be repeated. The average speed was 8.8 knots. This represents a 0.4 knot increase over the 63's optimum cruise speed of 8.4 knots. While that may not sound like much, it is when the gain is multiplied by 174 hours of running time.

Jim, Les and Guy on arrival at Marina Jack
Notice the shirt embroidered with an image of the 63
Now we begin the winter season at one of the finest marinas in the US (winner of the Dockage Magazine Best Marina 2015).

Ariel view of Marina Jack
Segment Statistics: Jacksonville to Sarasota
  • Total Segment Distance: 580 NMs
  • Average Speed: 8.8 Knots
  • Top Speed: 11.8 Knots        
  • Engine Hours: 67
  • Engine Fuel Consumed: 618 gallons (estimated)
  • Fuel Efficiency: .95 GPNM (not including generator)
  • Generator Fuel Consumed: 67 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Consumed: 685 Gallons
  • Fuel Remaining: 615 Gallons
Trip Totals: Hingham to Sarasota
  • Total Distance: 1,517 NMs     
  • Engine Hours: 174
  • Engine Fuel Consumed: 1,581 Gallons
  • Overall Engine Fuel Efficiency: .96 GPNM
  • Generator Fuel Consumed: 174 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Consumed: 1,755 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Cost: $4,914
Written by Les


  1. Glad you made it safe and sound!. Shared your trip with the folks at "the club"

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  3. Hey Les...

    Glad to see you and Diana are doing well.

    D Merriman IL

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