Stage 1: Launch to Placida
There are pretty much only two routes: In the ICW our out. If there is any component of a North wind, we'll run the ICW. Sure, it's a ditch, but it is a heavily populated ditch, so we might get to see something interesting.
If we go outside and it gets hairy (like last year,) we can re-enter at specific passes: Longboat, New Pass, Big Sarasota, Venice, Stump, and Gasparilla. These are varying distances apart and each has its own problems. We'll have to keep a close eye on the weather so we don't get caught outside. Read more...Meanwhile, I've been watching the weather and coming to grips with the reality that we could have very uncooperative winds for the first two days of the event. Right now the weather-guessers have the winds pretty light at less than 10 knots and generally from the south. This is bad, because we want to go south. We can sail into the wind, but it is at the cost of a lot of extra distance. Also, if it's light we are pretty much faced with going out into the Gulf. Tacking back and forth in the narrow confines of the Intracoastal Waterway would get us there eventually, but it would take a lot of extra time and energy. During last year's Florida 120 event, we had to travel roughly 14 miles to our first stop with about five miles of the route up a narrow channel. It took 95 tacks to get from start to finish and the boat covered 21.5 miles over the water to get 14 miles up the bay. I was absolutely wrecked at about two-thirds the distance and had to stop for almost two hours to get rehydrated and re-energized.
We've got to go 68 miles on the first day and we've only got 29 hours to do it. If we're going to make it before the deadline, then going out in the Gulf is the only way. Andrew's post talks about some of the trade-offs without getting gruesome. Paying attention to the weather is critical because you don't have a lot of options to come back inside before it gets bad.
Of course the weather forecast could change completely between now an Saturday. I'm kind of hoping for a 15 knot north wind to carry me all the way down to Placida on the inside route. But you all know the warning about being careful what you wish for, don't you?