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  #1  
Old 01-27-2008
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Miami to Marsh Hbr Routes

Hi all,
My wife and I are experienced west coast sailors, based now in San Diego. In 2008 we did two 500 nm crossings from San Francisco to San Diego, one with an Islander 36 and the other with an Island Packet 32. We also chartered a Jeanneau 40 with Conch Charters the last two weeks in June, visiting most of the islands, including Anegada. In addition, we did several cruises with our own boat, Dreamquest - a 1994 Hunter Legend 37.5 to Channel Island Hbr, Catalina, and Ensenada, Mexico. Our experience sailing in the East Coast is limited to Cheasapeake Bay, but have absolutely no knowledge of East Forida Coast and Bahamas, except to know that often the depth in the banks are less than the depth of the water in my slip! Oh, before I forget, I have U.S. Power S quadron grade of Senior Navigator.
Now you know my background I can ask your help for route information. A friend, from Miami, asked us to help bring his Beneteau First 31, to Marsh Harbor, Abaco, February 15. We will be cruising the Abacos until 29 February, when we fly back to Ft. Lauderdale. I have already purchased the 2007 Yachtsman's Guide to the Bahamas, Keneeth Mowbray's Chance the Tide, and have also ordered Dodge's 2008 edition of the Cruising Guide Abaco. We will be acquiring the EXPLORER CHART SEA OF ABACO and the EXPLORER CHARTBOOK NEAR BAHAMAS 4TH ED. All the information I am relating here, plus info about waiting for the right wind conditions to cross the Gulf Stream I learned from you guys! Many Thanks. As per your recommendations we plan sailing from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale (Lake Worth?), and then to the West End. We would like to cross the Gulf Stream in daylight, possibly departing Ft. Lauderdale at 0300 0r 0400. Could you please outline the best route(s) to Marsh Harbor, including hbrs and anchorages, and also avg. times you have experienced doing these routes?
The Pilot Chart for February shows northerlies blowing from NW(Force 5), N, and NE(Force 4) about 30% of the time. The wind seems to blow E, SE, and S50% of the time(Force 4); SW 10% (Force 4), and W 10% (Force 5). These are historical data. What are your experiences regarding wind patterns?
This first message is a bit too long. I did not have time to write it shorter
Many Txs.
Van
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Old 02-02-2008
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Crossing the Gulf Stream

You have obviously done careful preparation, and should be in good shape for a safe trip. I would suggest considering leaving kate afternoon, rather than early morning. Get off shore while it is still light out and you can see traffic. By doing so you will be approaching West End early morning, and will be able to pick up the lights from far off. This will help with your land fall. More important you will arrive with lots of time to negotiate harbor entrance, and to clear customs, etc.
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Old 02-02-2008
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Adding to Van's question, what about the GulfStream Current? I have read (somewhere) that when leaving from Ft Lauderdale, it is usually 2-4Kts, and can be up to 5kts north. Correct?
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Old 02-02-2008
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Van...Welcome aboard and may I say EXCELLENT post and detail about what you are attempting. I assume you have seen my prior advice for a night crossing as the best choice AND my post which details that if you arrive at West End on a weekend or holiday you will be charged for THREE days dockage and have decided that going in daylight and staying at West End after the crossing is still the best choice for you. If not...please write again and I will fill in the details. The one thing that you did not note is the draft of the Beneteau so I will assume 6' as the worst case. Here then is how to get to Marsh Harbour from Ft. Lauderdale sailing only in daylight:

1. Ft. Lauderdale is NOT Lake Worth which is Palm Beach. The crossing from Lauderdale is 80 miles vs. 54 from Lake Worth BUT you have gulf stream help from Lauderdale so the time it takes at 6 knots average speed through the water speed is about the same...9-10 hours for an uneventful passage.
2. This dictates that you leave at first light in order to account for "events" and still leave you time to make it in to West End in daylight if you gt delayed a bit fixing something.

3. If there is wind out of any northern quadrant you should not go. If it is less than 10 knots you can risk it if you are hardy and prepared to get bounced around. If it has been blowing over 10k out of the north for more than a day...it is advisable to wait for 24 hours of non north winds to allow the Stream to calm down. We have had to wait as long as 2 weeks in the winter to find a suitable day for crossing. This does NOT bode well for a tight timetable crossing in February especially when you must allow time for the seas to die down after the wind has come around. I would estimate your chances for on time departure as no better than 50% in February. This does not mean your odds are good to depart the NEXT day since the fronts tend to knock crossings our for 4-5 days and then you may have a similar "window" for departure before the next comes through.

4. The "Trip"....first day to West End and check in with customs. $150 CASH for the 31 ft. Bene.

5. Second day you have a choice to follow the Indian Cay channel or to go to Memory Rock passage on your way to Great Sale Cay anchorage which is 50 miles distant. Memory Rock passage is a few miles further North from West End...but plenty deep regardless of tide for a 6 ft. draft. Indian Cay pasage is tricky for the first hour or two and Explorer Chartbooks waypoints must be followed AND you must do it on a 1/2 tide rising with a 5+ foot draft. The benefit of this route is that it is only few hundred yards from West End. Once through either passage and on the Banks following the course to Great Sale Cay...there is generally 10 ft.+ depth and no coral but a few spots get down around 7 ft. at low tide. No worries. Anchor at Great Sale for the night.

6. Get an early start the 3rd day and you can make Green Turtle Cay the next day. You will need to anchor in White Sound which requires 1/2 tide to get through the entrance channel. If the timing is not right for this...I suggest anchorring instead off the southern end of Manjack Cay which is protected in most weather and is just north of Green Turtle. Both of these Cays are well worth spending some time at...but I will assume you need to push to Marsh.

7. Next day LISTEN on VHF 68 at 8:15 for conditions in the WHALE CAY passage which you must navigate in order to get to Marsh Harbor. The "Whale" is often shut down due to heavy seas and surf from distant winter fronts and storms. Call out on 68 for a Whale report from any vessel before you attempt it as you cannot tell what you will face from a distance. Assuming conditions are good...once through the Whale you will be 11 miles from Marsh Harbor.

So... in a perfect world....4 days. GOOD LUCK!

Eherlily...Gulf stream can usually be counted on to deliver 2-3 knots favorable on a passage from Lauderdale. On a passage from Lake Worth it is a cross current and you need to steer 15-20 degrees south of your magnetic compass heading to waypoint.
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Old 02-03-2008
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Thanks, and more questions!

Wow! Thank you for all the very useful inputs. I will be printing them and adding to my guides. This thread is a godsend.
The departure time, 2/15, had been set by my friend, the boat owner. He did not plan enough time in his schedule for the possible delays due to unfavorable weather conditions to cross the GS. So we will be delaying the departure to March or April.
I have a couple of additional questions/comments regarding the route Miami to Marsh Harbor.
1. The Pilot Chart seems to indicate that the wind direction in the Bahamas is mostly easterly. Does that mean that in the leg from West End to Sale Cay, for instance, you will be beating?
2. I am curious: No one suggested as a route from Miami to Marsh Harbor, one going via North Bimini, Berry Islands, Abaco Soutwest Pt, Little Harbor and Marsh harbor, about 220 nm. Why? Is it because it is lesss scenic, will you be beating most of the way?
Thanks again.
Van
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Hunter legend 37.5
San Diego, CA
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Old 02-04-2008
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Van
1. Actually East and Southeast and South winds prevail...you need to stay on your waypoint course line from WEnd to GSale...so I would plan on motor-sailing rather than tacking...but you could get lucky!

2. The passage you ask about is fraught with perils of shallows, coral, more open water and best of all...you have to enter a narrow cut (Little Harbor or one of the others) which MAY BE CLOSED due to sea conditions when you arrive. You can LEAVE that way if you're up for the passage and can pick a calm day through the cut...but I would not choose to enter that way.
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Old 02-04-2008
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Cam,
Thanks again for the info.
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Old 02-04-2008
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Cam's got it

Vanecida and welcome aboard. You do not want to cross the gulf stream when there is a Northerly blow. If you don't know about confused seas you will surely find out. Last year I sat for 3 weeks in Nassau waiting for a window to come back. Cam's 50/50 chance of crossing on a certain date during this time of year could be a little optimistic. March is much better for anyone on a schedule.
The cold fronts start to be less frequent in March and the water is much warmer in the Bahamas. As I live here and am accustomed to warmer water I don't go in the water until it reaches bathtub temps. I leave the swimming to the folks from a cooler climate, they're used to it.

Fair Winds and have a great trip.

Cap'n Dave
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Old 02-04-2008
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Cam is spot on...I entered Little Harbor with 15-20 from the N.W. made for some stressful moments to say the least.
We left FL. from Snake Creek just south of Plantation Key to S.Bimini then across the bank to the Berry's. Moving North to Abaco, stopping at Hole in the Wall was well worth it,cool place but anchor in settled weather only.
Bill,
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Old 02-04-2008
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Bill...tell me about hole in the wall...never stopped there. What is cool about it ?
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