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labatt 03-28-2009 11:32 AM

Bahamas Northwest Channel at night?
We've got to get out of Bimini! There's a window Monday to Tuesday morning, so we're looking at going from Bimini, north to North Rock to Mackie Shoal to Northwest Channel to Nassau (Explorer Chart waypoints). The south route through Cat Cay is a little shallower at the start and only a half mile shorter, so we figured we'd go north.

Anyway, we're looking to run all night to avoid bad weather Tuesday afternoon. This puts us going through the Northwest Channel into the Tongue of the Ocean sometime between 10:30pm and 1am, depending on wind. Not having done this passage before and learning how a lot of the Bahamas is visual navigation, I'm just curious as to people's opinion. It appears fairly wide open and we have the Explorer waypoints so it doesn't look like a big deal, but I'm interested in talking to people who have gone through this point...


imagine2frolic 03-28-2009 11:53 AM


The light is really visible, and if you have electric explorer charts your eyeball will tell you if anything is wrong.....BEST WISHES......i2f

dongreerps 03-28-2009 12:23 PM

Piece of Cake . . . but several times on that passage I have seen long strings of multiple barges being towed, with really long towlines. They were not well lighted. We identified them only by the obscuration of shore lights as the tow passed between us and the shore lights.

labatt 03-28-2009 12:52 PM

We'll be sure to run the radar and look for obstacles. Going through choke points like this at night is always interesting. We've been out for almost 5 months now, and I still find it interesting how you paint a picture in your mind of where you are going based upon what everyone has told you, and then it's totally different when you get there. Looking at the charts, the Northwest Channel is surrounded by submerged rocks and shallow bars. I don't have electronic Explorer Charts, but I do have the waypoints from the latest edition of the printed ones. We're going to try to stay about half a mile off of the rhumbline to try to prevent a head on collision with another vessel following the rhumbline.

hphoen 03-28-2009 01:59 PM


I came through the two Providence Channels last November, on my way from St Thomas to Florida. We traversed the NW Providence Channel overnight on a Monday/Tuesday. Be glad you have radar! Monday appears to be a favorite day for the cruise ships to leave Florida. We must have seen a couple dozen of them coming at us in all. I had as many as seven at a time on the radar screen.

Slooptattoo 03-28-2009 03:17 PM

NW Chanel Light at Night for first timers
Having sailed this route for over 30 years and living in Chub Cay for 7 years I have sailed this route more times than I can recall. IMHO I would anchor around Mackie Shoal area for a few hours, making sure you are showing a good anchor light, and then proceed on to make this passage in daylight. Make sure also that you stand off in a westerly direction from Northwest Shoal, which is marked by a VERY small black can buoy and is listed on the charts you have, and then set a course for NW Chanel Light. NW Chanel light is the remains of a steel platform that was destroyed by the M/Y "Blackhawk" during the gulf war when the GPS filters were turned off and was used as a waypoint and the waypoint was perfect. The light was carried to Nassau and removed by crane as it was imbedded into the bow of the yacht. Now a lighted buoy is adjacent to the North of the platform. Make sure that you pass to the North of the light, no further than 500 feet to avoid dangerous reefs to the North and South. If weather conditions and lighting are good it is not a complicated passage, the almanac shows a quarter moon for the dates you propose. I personally would reccomend that you do it the first time in daylight. Then the next time you pass through you will be familuar with the passage. Just my 2 cents, I prefer to err on the side of caution. FYI, I am a professional 200 ton Master, recently retired. Most of my 30yr. career was spent in the Bahamas, but that doesn't mean that my info is the most current. I was last through NW Cannel Lite 1 Yr. ago. Good Luck, fair winds & following seas...and most of all HAVE FUN

labatt 03-28-2009 03:54 PM

Slooptattoo - if you have charting software handy, here are my waypoints across the banks... They are proven points, but I get what you are saying about needing to pass close to the north of the light. That's been my primary concern about running at night - making sure we're in the right spot. BTW - I'm showing moonset at 23:55 with 19% showing - won't be much of anything to speak of.

2548.200'N 07915.500'W
2541.000'N 07839.000'W
2529.500'N 07814.500'W
2528.200'N 07809.600'W
2505.350'N 07721.340'W

AlanBrown 03-28-2009 04:23 PM

Just a side note about getting stuck in Bimini.

If you want to get out of Bimini and enjoy a quiet anchorage while you wait to cross the Banks, try anchoring in the bay between North and South Cat Cays. I was able to snorkel for lobster and conch and enjoy some great beach combing on S. Cat while the wind howled out of the E-NE. I had the anchorage to myself.

Have a safe crossing!

labatt 03-28-2009 06:59 PM

I just posted some video on our blog of the wind/wave action here... We can't even safely get out of the marina here - breaking waves all across the channel until you're about a mile off. Fun fun!

AlanBrown 03-28-2009 11:39 PM


Great video and blog. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures in paradise. The folks bouncing around in your video look like folks who have a schedule to meet.

Your current experience with weather and how it can affect travel schedules is a good reminder that Mother Nature rules supreme and that we are always subject to her will. "Hurry up and wait" pretty much describes cruising in the Bahamas this time of year.

As you've been stuck in South Bimini for awhile, I bet you've walked over to the South Bimini Yacht Club for a meal and a couple Kaliks. Is Percy still running the place and is the beer still ice cold?

I spent a fair amount of time there a few years ago and did some scuba diving with them off Bimini and Chub Cay, when they operated a shop there.

Anyway, wait for the right weather and have a safe crossing.

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