1. Channel entrance and depth we have a 7 feet deep keel.
The channel into AliceTown is relocated by blasting through the coral bed. Its deep and well marked; but watch your drift in this channel if a 'rip' is running. Use your EYEBALLS in this channel as the markers have changed probably since you were last there.
Dont do this channel at night until you are very familiar with it.
Be aware that there is now a high-speed fast-passenger ship that goes between Miami to the Bimini Bay resort on N. Bimini .... see the schedule on the Bimini Bay Resort website and time yourself not to be in the entrance channel when this ship is also there.
2. Which marina to stay with?
There are 3 smaller marinas 'just inside' AliceTown near the ferry terminal: Browns, Bimini Blue Water & Seacrest ... I prefer Seacrest but it really doesnt matter. Of course there is the Bimini Bay Re$ort
3. What is needed to clear customs and immigration.
US Passport and either $300 (or $150 if ~35 ft or less in boat length).
Animals need a Bahamian Import cert. $10 ??? and a Certification of Health from a US vet.
Beware of the dog pits there, so keep your dog WITH YOU at all times.
4. How to properly choose a bearing to beat the Gulf stream and not over sail south or north.
To Bimini, I typically add ~20° to the compass heading until I start to be 'released' from drift then straight to the Bimini entrance channel to AliceTown. Dont sail a straight-line waypoint course across the GStream; but, add that 20° early and then 'adjust' when past midway. This will cause you to sail a 'soft S' course to Bimini.
The chart listed 'anchorage' just to the south of S. Bimini is now scoured out; but, shallow drafted catamarans do still anchor there quite close to shore.
Best weather info to cross the stream is Chris Parker @ Caribbean Weather on Single Side Band (listen in)
4045 USB 6:30am AST / EDT, 1030 UTC
WINTER: (November into March):
8137 USB 7:00am AST / 6:00am EST, 1100 UTC
4045 USB 7:30am AST / 6:30am EST, 1130 UTC
This is good.
just figure out your estimated boat speed as accurate as you can and then plot your different headings relative ti bimini arrival point as boat speed changes. You do this before you leave of course with dividers, paralell rulers and a maneuvering table (print off goog
for instance, if i leave from west palm beach and want to get to west end marina then first i plot my course whicch is 95 degrees true for a distance of 55 miles. I add in the variation for the chart I am using to the current year.
Next i say "i think from past sailing in these conditions and this angle of sailing that i can make 4.2 knots towing the dinghy."
so then you divvide 55 miles by 4.2 knots (nautical miles) and your estimated time enroute is 13.09 hours. Yet your not done.
as was said your crossing the gulf stream with a 2.5 knoy current estimated and and estimated direction of 5 degrees from your departure point.
Now you bring out the maneuvering board.
1. From the center of the board is your departure point. So with your ruler make a line from your departure point to 95 degrees true which is your course to steer.
2. From the departure point to 5 degrees true draw another line representing the direction of the gulf stream.
3. Make a tick on the course to steer line at 4.2 which represents your boat speed. Do the same on the line for the gulf stream at 2.5 which represents its estimated speed.
4. Take your ruler and place it so that its border is just on the two ticks you made. Now slide the ruler without moving it from its angle to the departure point and trace a third line to whatever angle the ruler states. For this example your heading will be 122 degrees true. So now add variation for the chart and date and that will give you the magnetic course to steer the boat whille your underway.
Last to figure the speed and estimated time enroute use your divders and open them up to the distance of the two ticks you made representing speed. Keep one ***** on the current speed of 2.5 knots and put the other on the heading line of 122.5 and you have your new estimated speed with current set and drift calculated in. So now hope you can sail faster than 4.2 knots because otherwise your velocity made good will only be around 2.4 knots making your wstimated time enroute more than 21 hours!!
This brings me to the last piece of reiterated advice. Make sure you take as much fuel to motor the whole way if need be.
P.s.- dont try it with any wind from the north or east with a northerly direction.