Looking for help planning trip: Mobile, AL to carribbean in May / June - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 11-06-2006
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Looking for help planning trip: Mobile, AL to carribbean in May / June

Greetings,

I'm new to cruising, and am beginning the process of putting together a trip leaving from Mobile, AL and heading down to the Carribbean. We'll leave in early May and return to Mobile around mid - late June. I have no particular requirements for destinations but thought the Bahamas would be an easy stop, US/BVIs might be nice if we can make it that far down & back in the timeframe..

I've got about 6 weeks to get the boat down and back. As I've never made the trip, I'd be grateful for any suggestions on places to go, and any suggestions on a reasonable general itinerary that wouldn't be too rushed given my timeframe.

I also may have friends fly down to meet us for a week or two, so it'd be nice to end up a few times at locations with good transportation access to/from the USA.

Though I'm not yet experienced at offshore passage, I will have several crew members who are.

This will be my first try at something like this - so I'd greatly appreciate any advice - general or specific!

Thanks,
Pelham
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Old 11-06-2006
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Pelham,

I am going to give more general answers to your questions, for the most part. First of all, I want to say that contrary to what might be the general belief that sailing the gulf is nothing more than big lake, nothing could be further from the truth. The gulf can be as bad or worse than the Atlantic or Pacific... espcially when you get further south and fronts build across gulf and then go from the deep water to the shallow continental shelf. This can cause what would be large swells in the Pacific (for example) to become the large square waves sailors often refer to. They have a real tendency to break in a northern blow, so be very cautious. It is as dangerous in the gulf (in some cases worse) than a lot of the Atlantic and Pacific. Of course, there are many areas of the A&P that are worse, but I am speaking in generalities. Just want to make sure you have a realism check before punching out.

Second, the Bahamas would seem a much more relaxed cruise than going all the way to the Carrib... at least to me. I figure, straight pasage averaging 6-7 kts, you can make the Bahamas in 8 days or so. If you are going to run the coast, I would count on more than that. So that is two of your weeks right there. That leaves maybe four weeks, assuming the weather totally participates (It is insanity to sail out into the gulf with a early hurricane or a late cold front blowing through).

If you look at the thread before this one, I went through some detail on running from Tampa to the Tortugas... which would be along your path. Thus, you could make a long run to Tampa. Spend a day or two to recuperate (since you do not know how you will handle a passage). Then, spend a week or better in the Tortugas. From there you would have about 2 days or so to the Bahamas/Abacos, etc. That right there is a full trip and will eat up most of your time. In my opinion, a person can get lost just in the Tortugas... but that is another story.

Does that help at all? If you have some more specific questions, you can PM me. Camradarie has made that trip a few times too, I think. He would also be a good source if he does not mind helping you.

Have fun and fair winds.

- CD
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Old 11-06-2006
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You can't make the Caribe in that time. Plan on the Keys and some Bahamas and you'll have a great time. You don't say how many crew you will have but in good weather a 24 schedule can get you to Key West in about 7-10 days figuring 125 miles per day and allowing for weather. From there it is a 3 day jaunt to the Bahamas (bimini). So just to get to the Bahamas and back will take 4 of your six weeks. Cruising around the Exumas for a couple of weeks will leave you lusting for more so you might want to plan on 8 weeks! You can pick up crew/guests in Miami or Key west easily and Georgetown or Nassau are possibilities in the Bahamas though Nassau is not a great place for a boat. Other possibilities like Freeport and the Abacos exist if you have 8 weeks. Good luck & make sure you have a good source for weather on board as you will be at the edge of hurricane season and tropical depressions/storms can wreak havoc with your schedule! Get the Explorer chart book for Exumas to plan your trip and feel free to write with any other questions.
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Old 11-06-2006
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Just curious Camraderie, why do you feel Nassau isn't a good place for a boat? Also, why do you feel it takes three days from Key West to Bimini? Are you averaging with the upstream return?
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Old 11-06-2006
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Yot...
I allowed 3 days for the approx 180 mile trip to Bimini to allow for layover/weather and also for the additional day trip to actually get to the Exmuas! Yes you can do Key West to Bimini in a day and a half if the stars all align correctly! I am not a big fan of doing the Hawk Channel at night but some do. Coming back...stars and CURRENT must align!

Nassau comments were made because the holding in the harbor is terrible. Thievery is rampant unless you go to one of the good marinas which are presently over $4/foot. Plus...Nassau ain't the Bahamas...the only reason to sail there is to pick someone up...just my opinion.
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Old 11-06-2006
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Sailing on a schedule is pretty foolish...the weather gods will usually screw you for it. Cam's idea of scheduling three days for what is a day-and-a-half passage in most boats is probably wise, but the weather gods could still get you for it.
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Old 11-06-2006
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My only comment is to get some charts and measure some distances. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of the distances between places and the directions. The Bahamas are not really between Mobile and the Caribbean. And working to the east is hard, you are on the edges of the trades and going to windward in the trades is not fun.
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Old 11-07-2006
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GC...what misunderstanding are you referring to? Or do you mean the original question?? Anyway...No one ever said the Bahamas were on a straight line course between the BVI's and Mobile. You just can't go any other way and get to the Caribe without getting bashed. And you can't get anywhere in the Eastern Caribe from Mobile in 6 weeks and back.
An interesting alternative would be to Key west then Isla Mujeures instead...but I would still opt for the Bahamas for more varied cruising in their limited time.
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Old 11-07-2006
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Thanks camraderie, points taken. My only experience of nassau has been on large motor yachts with unlimited budgets so I didn't realize the holding was so bad. GC1111 the OP actually brought up Bahamas. Anyway, what's wrong with this chart?
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Old 11-07-2006
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Thanks to all for the suggestions.

CD - Thanks for the words of caution on the Gulf. We will certainly approach it with the respect it deserves. In the months preceeding our start we'll try a few overnights straight out from Mobile out into open water just to get a feel for how we - and the boat - handle open water passage. As I mentioned a few of the crew have made similar trips, but not all of us. And even for the experienced ones, its been a while..

To CD and Camaraderie - your suggestions are what I imagined would be the smart thing - Bahamas and the Keys shouldn't be too rushed and will leave plenty of time to accomodate any weather.

Thanks again and I may contact you again as I start getting more of a trip plan together...

Cheers,

Pelham
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