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Sailing the LJ 32 Schooner on the West Florida Coast.
By Jim Kerr - March 30, 2010
After sailing west Florida from Cedar Key to Charlotte Harbor for about 7 years, my wife and I have been impressed by both the suitability of the area for cruising and the suitability of the LJ32 for cruising in this area. For the first 3 years we sailed in the company of an LJ32 (Ruddy Duck). For the last 4 years we have sailed in our own LJ32 (Ariel).
We sail out of Hernando Beach, Florida located in Hernando County about 40 miles north of Tampa. North of us is the nature coast with many coastal preserves and a relatively sparse population. With Cedar Key about 50 miles north of us and Tampa about 40 miles to the South we have an excellent variety of cruising grounds for our usual trips of 3 to 7 days. There are plenty of fine anchorages and opportunities to go ashore to the south and lots of old Florida coast with a few good anchorage areas as well as some interesting towns to the north. We also find our immediate area excellent for day sails
The wave heights on the gulf are generally 1-3 ft with good sailing winds, especially in the afternoon. This makes for excellent sailing because you can find room to sail a long tack regardless of the wind direction. It is also possible to anchor on the gulf at night in good weather. Year round sailing is possible, this being Florida,but most people sail primarily in the spring and fall with occasional sailing in winter or summer. Heating and cooling equipment can expand this range.
The inlets in this area are very easy to pass through due to the normally calm seas. There are few ominous looking rock jetties found in this area. This makes open water passage more common and enjoyable in this region. We often have a choice of inside or outside passages.
Most of the towns and areas we visit on our cruises have both marina slips and good anchorage areas. We love all these places. Some of our favorites are (North to South): Cedar Key, Crystal River, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, St Petersburg, Gulf Port, Anna Maria Island, and Sarasota.
Despite the reputation for good weather and calm seas most of the year, the weather can change quickly without much warning, resulting in high waves and strong winds.
This area is also known for shallow water, oyster reefs and lime stone rocks and boulders.
Therefore the most suitable boats for this area are seaworthy coastal cruisers of a decent size (say above 30ft) which draw very little water(say under 3 feet) and can be reefed easily (lets say by dropping the foresail). It would also be good to have a full length keel for good hull, prop and rudder protection. Sound anything like an LJ32 to you?
I’ve counted 5 LJ32’s that have called this Florida West coast region home. So I’m not the only one who thinks the LJ32 is a good match for this cruising area. Another great feature is the self tending jib. Just turn the wheel quickly to tack (with the centerboard down).This is a great feature when you have a cockpit full of quests. Handling a large jib without a boom means a certain amount of instruction, shifting people, and maybe a touch of chaos. The high helmsman seat is another good match up for this cruising area. We have a lot of crab traps with their marker buoys and lines and good pilot visibility is very important.
I leave the best characteristic of the LJ32 for last. It’s the tendency for people who pass the boat on the water or at a dock to say “Pretty Boat”. We just can’t get enough of that.
So in summary, the LJ32 is a good old pretty boat in a good old suitable and attractive area.
Update from Pam and Mike Turner moving the Lazy Jack Schooner "Mary' Lis" from Hudson Fl. to Mobile Bay, Alabama Tuesday April 27,2010
All - I'm sure you've figured out by now that predicting our sailing schedule is a bit like predicting the weather. In fact, they're a lot alike, or at least a lot related. But here's the latest. First, after looking over the weather predictions this morning we decided to spend one more day in Suwannee, FL to wait out some dicey wind/wave action that was predicted to come in late in the day. It would have hit along about the time we were an hour out of Steinhatchee, FL, so we'd again have been up against navigating an unknown channel in high winds/waves. So we decided not to do that. Good thing too, it came in as predicted and is getting pretty bouncy even here in our marina, which is a ways up the Suwannee River and pretty protected, so I'll bet it's really rough out in the Gulf. Forecasts for tomorrow (Wednesday) through Friday afternoon are now pretty good - lighter winds and waves, with winds mostly favoring the direction we want to travel. So we've decided the time has come to do the overnight part of our trip (we'd have to do an overnight at some point no matter where we were going - or face navigating a REALLY bad channel/river in/out of St Marks, FL between Steinhatchee and Apalachicola). So, tomorrow morning we'll fuel up and wait for the tide to come in enough for us to get out, which will be around 11AM. We'll then sail a course to be determined by wind direction, up and across the Gulf of Mexico from Suwannee to Apalachicola. Depending on the route we wind up taking (it's a question of where the wind will be coming from and what angle we can sail on it, can't sail more than 45 degrees into the wind and prefer 50 degrees or more) we'll head north/west, and it will be between 80-100 miles of sailing in between the channels. That's between 16-20 hours or so of sailing, and in addition we want it to be daylight when we come up on the Apalachicola channel, don't want to have to navigate an unknown channel in the dark. The conditions and route are almost perfect for us to do this - winds and waves will be light and it's deep water all the way with no serious obstructions. There will be commercial fishing traffic out on the Gulf at night but they are required to be well lit, and they also add a safety factor in that the fact that they're there, means we won't be out there alone. Plus there are a number of Coast Guard stations along the route that we can call for help if we have to. Several "bail out" ports if we need them for any reason - back here, Steinhatchee, St Marks, Carabelle or Horseshoe Beach to name a few. We'll then lay over at least a day to do some sightseeing in Apalachicola. Weather predictions into the weekend show some higher winds and seas, but we have the option of motoring in the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) as opposed to going back into the Gulf, which would be calmer and more protected. Long range planning: if we decide to do more Gulf sailing we would motor on Sunday/Monday to Port St Joe, FL on the ICW; sail Tuesday from there to Panama City; sail Wednesday to Fort Walton Beach; sail Thursday to Pensacola; motor Friday to Ingram Bayou, which is in between Pensacola and home; spend Saturday at Ingram Bayou; and sail up Mobile Bay Sunday to Fairhope. If we instead motor after leaving Apalachicola, it would be depart Sunday/Monday from Apalachicola to Panama City, Tuesday to Fort Walton Beach, Wednesday to Pensacola, Thurs/Fri at Ingram Bayou, and Saturday home. We'd also have the option of going back out into the Gulf to sail between Panama City, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola if the weather was good and we wanted to get more sailing in - and it would cut about 20 miles off each leg of the trip since the ICW tends to meander around some while the Gulf sailing would be pretty much a straight line. But that's way too far ahead to commit to at this point. Suffice to say for now that unless the weather forecast radically alters overnight (as it did last night), we'll leave mid-morning tomorrow en route to Apalachicola and check in again once we arrive there sometime Thursday mid-day. And if we have to we can always hang out here a while longer, it's very peaceful here, albeit remote. Pamela and Mike on board the Lazyjack schooner "Mary'Lis" en route to Mobile Bay, Alabama
Carving, Etching and Rope Work on the Lazy Jack Schooner – Jim Kerr May 8, 2010
No, I’m afraid my wife and I can’t afford the Cherubini. We have,
however, been putting our mark on Ariel (
and the two side light boards constitute the external sign boards. The remaining 6 carvings are interior decorations. Bobbi has also etched the new galley sliding doors and the head cabinet mirror. I’ve modified and added some wood joiner work and I’ve provided the decorative and functional rope work, including a turk’s head on the wheel, splices, whippings, line seizings, and a monkey’s fist. I don’t want to leave the impression that we only work on boat decorations. We’ve also replaced the engine, replaced most of the standing and running rigging, changed most of the electrical system, and we’ve completed many other enhancement and maintenance activities.
If you would like to add some wood carving, etching or rope work to
your LJ32, I have some suggestions (other than marrying a wood carver).
There are some excellent books available to start you on either nautical
wood carving or nautical rope work. I recommend the Marine Carving
Handbook by Jay S. Hanna and the Handbook of Knots by Des Pawson. You
should be able to obtain either book through Amazon.com. If you don’t
wish to do your own carving, I suggest you look up your local wood
carving shows to select someone as a potential carver of your signs.
Many wood carvers will take on this kind of work and charge a reasonable
rate for it. If you live in