Originally Posted by magnusmurphy
Dear Cam and others
Our options: Starting from Atlantic Yacht Basin (Great Bridge Virginia)
1) ICW, Bahamas, back to Florida
2) ICW, Bahamas, Cuba (we're Canadian), Bahamas - Florida (which coast - N or S??)
3) ICW, Bahamas, Windward Passage, Cuba? Jamaica?, Cayman? Belize, Yucatan then back to Florida (Tampa??) then truck the boat to Vancouver
4) Number 3 but instead of heading back North, head to the Rio Dulce and leave the boat there.
How much can we realistically do in six months? We have two teenage daughters to homeschool and plan to do that well. I have no idea how much time one needs to get from Great Bridge to a good crossing point for the Bahamas, nor how much time we'll want to (or should) spend in the Bahamas. Any help appreciated.
Any errors here in terms of route planning taking into consideration time of year? Any recommendations?
Can one safely leave a boat in the Rio if you're not present? For an extended period? Where would one leave it and in who's care?
What is Tampa like as a final destination, from where to ship the boat to Vancouver if we decide on that option? Looking at the prevailing winds, it seems much easier to head to western Florida from the Yucatan than to the East of Florida.
Magnus...I would suggest that doing any more than the Bahamas and the Keys would tend to put you on a schedule and remove the time you'll need with the family to really enjoy and explore. If you DO decide to go to the Rio to conclude your trip, I suggest you drop a note to Steve Pavlidas after visiting his site. He is presently in the Rio and writing a cruising guide and should be able to give you good and current info on storage possibilities and safety there. His site is: http://www.islandhopping.us/
Check out his tide and current page before you commit to crossing the Windward passage or heading to the Yucatan with the family only considering prevailing winds! OK...back to your questions:
It is 1000 miles from Great Bridge to Lake Worth (Palm Beach) where most people wait at anchor to cross to the Bahamas. Using the ICW and figuring 50 miles a day in the winter (limited daylight/weather issues) that means a minimum of 3 weeks making time. You won't be able to do this...so figure 4 weeks. Once you are in Lake Worth you have january Gulf Stream weather to figure on and I would allow 2 weeks in your schedule to wait for the right day. Getting antsy in this phase has caused many a boat to come to grief. WAIT for at least 24 hours of light winds with no northerly component AND a good 48 hour forecast before you go. You will have lots of company!
I have other posts on the crossing process in detail here if you do a search on them. Once in the Abacos...you'll want at least a month to play around and explore all the beautiful places. Then I would suggest buddy boating with others on an overnight passage to Eleutrhra as you begin to make your way to the Exumas. Figure another month in these places and if you want to explore some of the far Bahamas even more time. When you have had enough you can head back north and cross back over to FL at Bimini to either Miami or the Florida channel. From there the Keys can be done in 3 days to Key West, or you can take your time. A trip to the Dry Tortugas would be nice if the "northers" have stopped. From there or Key West...it is an overnighter to the West Coast of FL. (Ft. Myers is good but you could head to Naples if you want to explore more on your way north). I believe with your boat you'll need to make coastal day jumps up the coast since the waterway is fairly shoal and bridges are lower but you can check the charts. FT. Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and Punta Gorda and Sarasota are all good stops heading to Tampa. I'm not familiar with haulout/shipping options there but I'm sure others here can help. A lot of Canadians keep their boats on the East Coast (interior) of FL in Indiantown year to year and come back to have an easy crossing the following year. This may also be something for you to consider.
If you plan to go further than the Bahamas/Keys...you do need to consider that unless you follow the conventional route of a clockwise Caribbean circle, you will be heading into stiff winds or currents and the earlier you go, the higher the risk of big old fronts sweeping thorugh. Pavlidas' guides can help your planning if you choose this option.
My advice would be to go easy. Enjoy the cruising rather than the mileage and everyone will have a great time.
PS...I recognize the Cuba option is legal for you but I personally believe that any travel and financial support from tourism only props up a brutal dictatorship. I also recognize that a lot of folks don't feel the same way. You also even as a Canadian vessel can run afoul of "homeland security" as this clip from another forum illustrates:
Even a Canadian vessel is subject to a certain amount of hassle and possible legal ramifications under the current administration. Especially those foreign flagged vessels leaving from Key West. They are instructed by Homeland Security that if they leave from US soil that they are subject to the same penalties as a US vessel. So care is needed when dealing with them from that perspective. In addition the US Coast Guard is stopping any vessel in the Straights of Florida between Florida and Cuba to determine if they have left from the States and are heading for Cuba.