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Old 08-06-2010
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Newbie crossing bahamas to fL hurricane season

I intend to purchase my first real (displacement exceeding 1,500lbs) sailboat and immediately cross from Freeport Grand Bahamas to Jacksonville Florida. I have never sailed out of site of waypoints, know nothing about sailing in the Gulf Stream, and will be most likely single handed. Is this completely insane, or can it be done with some prudence?
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Old 08-06-2010
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You need at a minimum GPS, charts, and an accurate source for weather. The biggest problem is singlehanding in that area. Running up the Gulf Stream you will have a lot of company. A lot of big company. I strongly advise getting some experienced crew. You don't say what type of boat you have but I'm guessing a 48 hour trip. You've got to sleep sometime.

P.S. You probably will want an autopilot even with crew.
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Old 08-06-2010
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You don't need GPS, but having it would be a good idea.

You will want good charts, a compass, and good weather information as FSMike has pointed out. An autopilot or some other sort of self-steering is almost a necessity IMHO.

The real key to crossing the Gulf Stream is to wait for a proper weather window. Ideally, you want to wait until the winds are from the south, and have been for at least 24-36 hours and hopefully, they'll stay from the south. If the winds are from the north, the Gulf Stream will be really quite a nasty place to be, with the current opposing the wind.

I would recommend having at least one other person along for the trip. You could do this single-handed, but it will not be easy.
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Old 08-06-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailive1 View Post
........Is this completely insane, or can it be done with some prudence?
Sure it's doable, but do take the prudant choice. As said above, watch the weather and take the easy hops or keep them as an option. Take a daysai to West End and anchor inside Indian Cay at Barracuda Shoals. Leave early the next morning for Ft. Pierce inlet and anchor just southwest of the Ft. Pierce North Bridge. Get a good nights sleep. If the weather is poor stay inside and if it's good sail north up the coast. Study your charts beforehand for ducking in at Port Canaveral. Ponce Inlet, St. Augustine Inlet and finally St. Johns River BEFORE the weather is harsh. Good weather can be predicted for the time to sail from Freeport to Jacksonville except for the afternoon "pop-up" summer squalls, but they can give you a blast of 60 knotts and 20 minutes of 40 knotts. If your alone and inexperienced, you can become tired and stupid. If you have the time, break it up for good weather, good sleep and good times. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 08-07-2010
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Thanks for the advice!

Thank you so much for your advice, it's all very helpful. Captain Force in particular for the specifics. It'll make a difference. I think I might have an experienced crew member lined up, so that's a plus. The boat I'm buying is a 33' 1986 Prout Quest. Pretty sure no auto pilot, but if I do single hand I'll take your advice and get some sleep in Ft. Pierce or cape canaveral.
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Old 08-07-2010
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The real key to crossing the Gulf Stream is to wait for a proper weather window. Ideally, you want to wait until the winds are from the south, and have been for at least 24-36 hours and hopefully, they'll stay from the south. If the winds are from the north, the Gulf Stream will be really quite a nasty place to be, with the current opposing the wind.

QUOTE]

You can ignore the above as you are going East to West IE with the prevailing winds. Just make sure you are in a period of settled weather with no named features within 3 days MINIMUM of you.

As other have said if you are single handed do not try and do it in one shot.

You COULD do this without a GPS but it would be so much easier with one that it is a no brainer. A Garmin 72 is about $120 and will give you great peace of mind especially as you skirt around the Great Bahama bank with currents running on and off the banks as fast as you are sailing OR as you approach the Florida coast and wonder where is that pesky inlet AND is it the right one?

If the boat is Delphimus it is listed as having a GPS but a preprogrammed spare is good insurance anyway. It is also listed as having an autopilot. So maybe not Delphimus.

I really don't like single handing without an autopilot esp on this sort of trip. You are looking at 15 to 20 hours from West End to Fort Pierce. Hand steering for that length of time is very tiring. In my opinion making the crossing without at least one other person to helm or a reliable autopilot is not a good idea.

So leg one Freeport to West end area
Stay in the Marina [ expensive] But you have to go there anyway to clear customs and immigration.
OR after clearing out anchor on the banks somewhere. Watch the currents and only do it in good light around miday so you can see the coral heads.

Leave the West End area late afternoon sail overnight keeping well south of the course to Fort Pierce. Always aim off to the south on this crossing as it is easy to go north and tough to get south.
Clear in with US customs and immigration this may be a pain for you as you may have to visit the offices which are not on the docks like the Bahamas.

I would call customs before hand and make sure of the procedures. I am assuming you bought the boat in the Bahamas.

So with a friend or an autopilot you should have a pleasant trip to Fort Pierce.

After that it's up to you, inside on the ICW you just have the stinkpots and PWCs to worry about go outsid eand you can usually sail rather than motor but getting back inside is always something of a worry. Mind you with a Prout you only draw what 2 foot 6 inches so thats easier.

Last but not least make sure you have uptodate charts for the entire area not just the ones you expect to use - stuff happens on boats - you never know where you might need to enter and it does sound dumb asking the coastguard to come out and lead you in as you are a lost boy.
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Thank you for the info TQA. It's great to get all of your different perspectives! I have to take exception to your suggestion to ignore the advice about apposing wind and current though. I think the resulting push up effect on the sea state will be an issue regardless of my direction of approach don't you think? Why do you think I should sail at night?

The boat does have auto pilot btw.
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The advice Sailing Dog gave is correct. Wind over tide out in the Gulf Stream is NASTY. But it really concerns people trying to get from Florida to the Bahamas by riding a cold front as the prevailing EASTERLY windflow will usually turn westerly as a cold front comes through but then can go North very quickly giving you the wind over tide situation.

Quote:
Cold fronts are most common from November until Spring and can bring both stronger and changing winds. What I almost always see as cold fronts come through is the
wind will begin to clock around from the southeast to the south. As the cold front gets a bit closer, the wind will continue to clock, usually quickly through the southwest, and
west, usually fairly light and then blow stronger out of the northwest as the front gets near and stay there for a while. The winds will continue to clock to the northeast and
possibly increase even more in strength as the front passes. Winds will continue to clock around to the southeast and usually moderate as the front moves on. The northeast
wind can last a while and cause "rages" at many of the passes where the deeper ocean meets the shallow banks.

I presume you are thinking of making this passage in the next few weeks. Just check Windguru and make sure you have winds between ENE and S with no named features lurking close by. These would be the norm.

Why do you need to sail at night?

Well West End to Fort Pierce is about 90 miles, allowing for the Gulf stream you are going to sail about 75 miles so at 5 knots you need 15 hours at 6 knots you need 12 and 1/2. Don't push the boat; it is early days for you and reefing down a little and keeping the speed around 5 knots allows for a sudden increase in wind speed.

You want to arrive at about 10 am so the sun will be over your shoulder as you enter Fort Pierce making it easy to see where you are going.

Sailing overnight also allows for you to have a slower than expected passage only averaging 4 knots and still arrive in daylight.

Please do not try to enter a strange harbour or inlet at night, in fact any night entrance is a high risk activity, countless boats have been lost attempting them.

Oh Yes just one thing more to make you take even greater care; I believe if you sink or strand in Florida the coasties will charge you something like $24k a day until you remove the wreckage and clean up any spills.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Going to Jax you should leave the Gulf stream South of Daytona as the Stream is 70 miles off-shore at Jax. There will not be any gret inlets North of Canaveral so you will be own your own. St Augustine inlet is ok but can be tricky and very rough. Look for a good weatehr window. Today would not be good as ther is a tropical storm approaching Bermuda that will stir up the seas alog t.he East Coast
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I'd have to second what TQA said about not approaching a strange harbor at night. Making a harbor entrance that you don't know without the benefit of daylight can be a huge problem. Usually it isn't, but making landfall at night is not a good practice to get into.
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