Heading South from NY to Bahamas - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 18 Old 08-30-2008 Thread Starter
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Heading South from NY to Bahamas

Yes another thread about setting off from the north east, down the intercoastal and to the Bahamas ...I did read the others but like everyone else I do have to post my own

Anyway my girlfriend and I just got back from an awesome 9 day cruise (just posted a thread with pics and all in the cruising section) and fell in love with the whole thing so much that we came up with a radical idea to quit our jobs, sell our cars, pack up the boat and head south to the Bahamas for 6 months to a year. Last year we had a smaller 25 foot sailboat and loved cruising but it was more like camping out.

We upgraded to a Morgan 323 this Spring which was decked out with all the best gear and maintained to immaculate standards by the PO. It has brand new radar, gps, dickson heater (so we will have heat for a late start south), windlass, refrigeration, you name it is has it so the good thing is we don't have to worry much in terms of upgrades. It also has 4' draft so the Bahamas shouldn't be a problem. The boat displaces 11,000 punds and has a DL ratio of 314 so it is very heavy and relatively comfortable when the seas pick up. Cruising on this is so much more comfortable and less stressfull as I am not as worried as I was when I had the last boat. Long story short...we have the boat, we have the mindset, we think we have the money and even though we have came to this decision in such short notice, we still think we can make it happen for this fall.

So in my initial stages of figuring this all out here are my plans:
First figure out the finances to make sure we have the cash, read, read and read some more to find out as much as I can about this trip, the ICW, where to enter, when to reach the Bahamas, etc. Based off the other threads it seems like October is the month to go. I think I can get everything ready by Oct 15th but again I am looking to all of you for advice to either push that tentative date back or forward. We do have the cabin heater though. Once I know it is a go...hopefully by the end of this week, I will quit work, put the car and motorcycle up for sale, and start the preperations on the boat.

I plan on getting a short haul to re paint the bottom, change zincs, etc, engine maintenance (although it runs like a charm but I do want to do all the prevenative stuff I can). I am also thinking of replacing the standing rigging as it is the only thing on the boat that hasn't been replaced or upgraded by the PO. It looks to be in excellent shape still but I don't want to be 10 miles off New Jersey in a blow in October heading down to Cape May and have it give out then. All in all I should have a solid month of dedicated time with no work to do the little bit of maintenance, read and plan and prepare for this.

I am usually the type to plan and read about every facet of anything I do way in advance but due to limited amount of time I figure I will focus my efforts on the first part like when to leave Long Island, NY. Where to enter the intercoastal, and basically how to pace the initial part of the trip till I catch up with the rest of the crusiers heading south. I don't think I will have any problem figuring the rest out along the way such as which part of the Bahamas I will want to cruise, and the rest of the ICW. I figure I will meet so many people along the way and will learn off their advice, Sailnet and the books I will bring.

Now here are some questions. I know I have read in other posts about must read books for the trip but if you guys don't mind sending the titles my way again I would appreciate it. If not I can go back and search for them.

Next is the date. Oct 15th. Too late or not bad? We don't mind pushing long days till we catch up with the rest of the pack in the beginning till we get further south so is this do able?

Where to enter ICW? - Based off other threads and the charts I am thinking of leaving Long Island from NYC and doing an over nighter on the outside to either Atlantic City or stright to Cape May, NJ. I have experience sailing in all types of conditions and feel confident knowing how to sail and handle my particular boat but I have not done an overnight passage. It is not the wind and waves I am worried about but more the large tanker and cargo ships. I feel confident we could easily do it on our own but I think I can also recruit a buddy or two with offshore overnight experience to accompany us on that portion. Any thoughts? Any one made that leg? From Cape May I will plan on heading up the C&D and then into the Chesapeake.

I would love to explore and stop at a few spots in the Chesapeake and I am sure in the Fall it is awesome but time line wise how long would you set aside to get from NYC to the head of the Chesapeake and then how long would you stay in there or would you try to make a fast passage further south to warmer weather? Again I am going to read the books and I think it was PBzzer who said in another thread to look at the average temps which is a great idea but I am looking to hear from others experiences who have done the trip.

For now I will leave it at that and wait to hear some responses but I am sure I will conjure up some more questions and ideas. Thanks in advance to anyone who replies.


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post #2 of 18 Old 08-30-2008
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Nick, hurricane season runs till Nov. 1st or so, so Oct.15th certainly shouldn't be too late. Be careful with the NJ coast, if you look at the charts it runs shoal much further out than you might think, making for some nasty rough water when the wind and currents are opposed. The inlets aren't passabel in heavy weather either--so you'll want to keep searoom unless the weather is very good with a solid forecast.

Coastal traffic shouldn't be a problem, as long as you are keeping a deck watch.
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post #3 of 18 Old 08-30-2008
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Hanna should be there in the next two days.
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post #4 of 18 Old 08-30-2008
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I have made the trip to the Bahamas from the south shore of Long Island 3 times most of the time by myself on the boat. When to leave depends on your tolerance for cold weather on a boat. I do not like cold weather so my preferred departure time is as soon after Labor Day as I can have the boat ready.

My preferred route:
1) First night just inside Fire Is. Inlet.
2) Manasquan
3) Atlantic City
4) Cape May
Those are all fairly comfortable legs - roughly 30 miles
5) Through the Cape May canal and into Delaware Bay. Long day all the way to Chesapeake City in the C&D canal. This only works if you get the tidal currents right in the Delaware Bay. Don't try to fight them.
6) Now you have started your cruise. Take your time and enjoy Chesapeake Bay. Lots of great places to see on your way to Norfolk.

You will really enjoy your first trip down the ICW, leave yourself plenty of time to do it. Get several guides, I will let others recommend which. Plan on 35-40 mile days (statute miles on the ICW). You will get a good introduction to ICW bridges and etiquette as soon as you leave Norfolk. There is a burst of bridges to get through.

Learn passing etiquette and bridge etiquette. (and signals).

But most of all, have fun. It is a great trip.
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post #5 of 18 Old 08-30-2008
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Hmmm...where to begin? First...you can do this and while your timing is tight, it is not out of the question. We've left the Chesapeake as late as 11/15 and been fine...but cold!
Maptech chart kits for the East Coast
Explorer Chart Kits for the Near Bahamas and Exumas
Skipper Bob's Guide to Anchorages on the ICW
Dodge Guide to Abacos and Pavlidas guide to Bahamas.
Dodge Guide to SE US inlets is also most helpful if you need or want to skip a section of the ICW.
You also need to visit the BOAT US forums section called EAST COAST ALERTS for the latest info on shoaling and dredging etc. once you get your charts so you can mark them up. Skipper Bobs site and the SaltySoutheast cruisers forum has a lot of info too. Don't skip this step or you WILL be aground somewhere! NEVER follow the line in your chart plotter map in the ICW! Eyeballs and depth sounder only!!
Buy a towing policy from Boatus or Seatow.

LOTS of fuel filters (suggest six!) and learn how to change them and bleed your engine before you leave. They will clog at the worst moments.
Have a head rebuild kit as well. Think about an epirb...liferaft is probably overkill if you have a decent dink and leave in good weather to cross the stream. VHF radio is good operating condition is a must and a portable shortwave with SSB band is helpful. Entry fee to the Bahamas is $150 for your boat. You will need a US Customs decal ($25) for return to the USA AND passports.
Down the East River and over to Sandy Hook NJ to await good offshore weather. First night Manasquan inlet. Second night Atlantic City. Third night Cape May...and if your mast is 55' or less you can go out the back way and up the Delaware Bay to the C&D Canal for the forth night. Days 5-8 spend working down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk...lots of different choices here for anchorages.
ICW starts at Norfolk...figure 3 weeks minimum to south Florida and more likely 4 weeks from this point.
With good gulfstream weather you can cross over and be in the Abacos or Exumas in 10 hours...but you may need to wait up to 2 weeks to get that good weather.
Do an advanced search with keyword Bahamas and my screen name and it will bring you a bunch of threads on crossing and the Bahamas. Everything else noted above can be googled but if you can't find something...give a yell. You are gonna never want to come back!

No longer posting. Reach me by PM!
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post #6 of 18 Old 08-30-2008
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I will echo Cam about the Chesapeake -- it's easy to sail right through November, especially with a cabin heater. So if you get here in late October, you can take a nice leisurely trip down the Bay to Norfolk. There WILL be more than a few days when it will be better to stay put, but by and large you'll have nice sailing. Expect some frost on deck in the early morning hours as November progresses, but it will melt fast.

Let us know if we can help in any way.

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post #7 of 18 Old 08-31-2008 Thread Starter
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Thanks Cam, GC, Hellosailor and JohnP for the advice. I am going to start to order those books and charts and I should know by tuesday or wednesday whether this is 100% going to happen this year (which I think it is). Hopefully then by the end of this week or next I can leave my job and start preperation son the boat.

Will keep you guys posted


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post #8 of 18 Old 08-31-2008
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Doesn't sound like you need any more motivation but I thought you might enjoy the blog of another young couple that did a similar thing. I met these folks in Oriental on their way south and have enjoyed following their adventure.

Enjoy and good luck.

Mike, Kylie and Meggie...on our way

Regards, John


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post #9 of 18 Old 08-31-2008
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I would echo others commenting about hurricane season! I sail the central Chesapeake Bay and would add that almost ALL the hurricanes we have experienced have happened in September! That said, the best time to sail in the Chesapeake is October. We have 4000+ miles of shoreline with so many coves and anchorages you could spend a lifetime sailing here (I have and will continue to explore and learn). Places to avoid and not to miss include: Don't Miss Annapolis, Baltimore Inner Harbor, RockHall, St Michaels, West River/Galesville, Solomon’s Island, Tangier Island, Deltaville, Mobjack Bay to name some of the Don't miss places. Some of the AVOID include Annapolis during the 2 weeks of Sailboat/Powerboat shows, Most of South River (too many big powerboats), Kent Narrows (shoaling requires local knowledge).

An important tool for your planning is a new item on the net:>>
http://demo.geogarage.com/noaa/ this is a link to a set of NOAA charts that are overlaid on googlemaps page! It is great for planning any trip. (I read this in current 9/08 Sail Magazine).

Joe McCary,
Sailing on The Central Chesapeake Bay, West River, MD on my Catalina 27, Aelous II with my wife and friends.
Sailing Blog:
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post #10 of 18 Old 09-03-2008
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Not much to add, but my wife and I just did the trip in our old Catalina 30.
We worked our way down from Massachusetts - anchored in Sandy Hook Bay for the night on Oct. 9th. Headed out the following morning on an overnight run to Cape May, spent a few days in Cape May (can strongly recommend Utsch's Marina)then headed through the cape may canal (don't forget, fixed bridge) and up Delaware Bay. We anchored for the night behind Reedy Island to wait for a good tide the following morning to get us through the C&D... we made Reedy Island to Annapolis, but it was a looong day! One more overnite should get you down the Chesapeake to Portsmouth...

Enjoy the trip,

Carlos & Maria
SV Rocinante

If you'd like to read a bit more about our trip or see some pictures, you can follow this link.
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