Charleston, SC to Bahamas - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 20 Old 04-29-2018 Thread Starter
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Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Hi all!

I'm planning on sailing my Grampian 26' to the Bahamas from Charleston, SC.
I'm not completely inexperienced, but this will be my first trip of the sort.
Hence I'm not in a rush to do the trip and am taking my time to gain more experience and plan well.
My question is what time of year is best to do the trip? I'd prefer to cross over from SC as opposed to sailing down the ICW if realistic.

Thanks!!
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post #2 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Well don't do in hurricane season. It doesn't have to be one or the other far as long off shore of the ICW. You can always hop down coastal wise till FL and then wait for a weather window. The crossing itself isn't a big deal really deal as long as you pick the right window, which is pretty well known.

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post #3 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Ignoring all other factors, there are two "best" times for crossing.

Spring. Wait until after the risks of late cold fronts is lower, usually mid May but before the risks of an early hurricane increases usually July.

Fall, after the risk of hurricanes is dropping usually late Oct but before the odds of an early front increases, also late Oct.

The downsides, the spring crossing puts you in the Bahamas for the summer so hurricane season, less wind for sailing, warmer temps and the sun can be ferocious.

The fall crossing is always a crap shoot. Plenty of hurricanes happen late in the season and plenty of winter fronts happen early in the season. Best you can do is look for a weather window that shows neither happening for a few days out (3-5 days is about the max you can depend on for reliable forecasts), go for it and hope nothing pops up while you're out there.

Another downside sailing direct from Charleston, you'll have to deal with the Gulfstream. At the latitude of Charleston it's fairly wide and typically starts 60-80 miles off the coast, just about where you want to turn south to hit the northern Abacos. In a small boat the 1-2 kt current will take a big bite out of your speed to the destination and if you encounter winds from NW to NE while in the Stream can get very, very bumpy.

So you should go inside the Stream which means following the coastline south or sail fairly far offshore to cross the Stream and head south on the other side of it. The first option is not much different that taking the ICW, the later puts you far offshore and possible farther east than you want to be for your destination. This is also a fairly ambitious sail if he/she has no offshore experience.
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post #4 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

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Wait until after the risks of late cold fronts is lower
Why would you want to miss the cold fronts? They bring the good winds with them and would likely be blowing in a good direction for his sail.
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

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Why would you want to miss the cold fronts? They bring the good winds with them and would likely be blowing in a good direction for his sail.
Maybe so with a weak front but an average to strong front can kick your butt. Would prefer not to get caught out in 30 kt or stronger winds in a 26' boat. Also if you are in the Gulf Stream and you catch a front with north winds, even moderate winds against the current can make for very large, steep and possibly breaking waves. Again not a safe place for a small boat.
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post #6 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Leaving from SC in a 26 ft sailboat with the aim of finishing up in the Bahamas is a VERY BAD idea. You are going to be fighting the Gulf Stream and the prevailing Easterlies.

Head down the Inter Coastal Waterway until you get to Miami. Dinner Cay anchorage is one place to wait. Miami to Bimini is the shortest crossing. West Palm Beach to memory Rock is a possibility but is longer and you do not have any easy bailout options in the Bahamas.

Wait for a suitable weather window. There are lots of threads on here which discuss this crossing and suitable weather windows.

EG https://www.sailnet.com/forums/genera...mi-bimini.html

I use passage weather as part of my decision making.

I have made this crossing in a variety of conditions and and generally find that I am motorsailing at least part of the time so make sure your fuel tank is topped off.

Make sure you have charts and current information on all possible bailout inlets in Florida. Some inlets are unsafe without local knowledge. Remember " IF IN DOUBT STAY OUT" . People lose their boats and some die every year running these inlets. West Palm is one of the safest.

I usually leave in the evening planning to make landfall around 10 am.

I would have AIS but be aware that Haitian freighters are not likely to be so equipped.
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post #7 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

You don't mention your plans after you get to the Bahamas, but if you cross from SoFla to Bimini (around 49 miles), it's such a short trip, I'd have no qualms of doing it in the hurricane season. With weather reporting as it is these days, you can hardly get in trouble. A summer crossing will most likely be a lot calmer, be less likely to have a northerly wind (this makes any stream crossing very dangerous) and have less current than in any other season.
With a 26 footer, there are plenty of places to hide in a storm, though I am not suggesting you do so if you aren't very experienced at anchoring your boat in heavy weather (and have the ground tackle to do so), but as long as you have good internet available, you can stay on top of the weather. Facing facts, whether you are in Charleston, SoFla or the Bahamas, you may have to deal with hurricanes during the season anyway, so why not take advantage of the calmer summer weather to cruise a small boat? There are a lot of cool, out of the way anchorages available in the summer, that just are not tenable in the stronger easterlies the rest of the year.
But, to reiterate, you must have reliable internet weather if you wanted to sail the Bahamas in the hurricane season. Not having reliable internet weather is the biggest thing that limits our summertime cruising, here in the Caribbean!

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post #8 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Capta Iím surprised you donít blow the money for Chris Parker or like service. He sends a daily email which is quite good for the Eastern Caribbean which you can get on Sailmail via SSB or sat-phone. Basic service is cheap and even with boat specific routing not bad. For no money you can listen in on his transmissions. A subscriber is nearly always leaving from where you are and going to where you want to go so heíll likely cover the area youíre interested in. Iíve never done that as I think subscribing is worth it as then I can ask questions and chat via email as well as voice.
Also you can get weather from the government(s) and usually on local radio. Find getting weather is one of the reasons for SSB and satphones and a decent commercial radio.

s/v Hippocampus
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post #9 of 20 Old 04-29-2018
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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

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Capta Iím surprised you donít blow the money for Chris Parker or like service. He sends a daily email which is quite good for the Eastern Caribbean which you can get on Sailmail via SSB or sat-phone.
It's free if you just have a receiver to hear the daily forecasts (even a portable one)

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Re: Charleston, SC to Bahamas

Yup free to listen to as you and I said. But agree with Capta itís preferable to make your own decisions and to do that you need information from multiple sources. The SSB is a PIA c/w internet to do that task and you chew up a lot of dimes with the satphone so getting good internet is wise. I look at them (gribs, weather maps etc.) on the iPad and have yet to find a small printer I like. Still think other sources are adequate for a short sail to a locale where a buying a beer is enough to get decent internet. My problem has been getting enough bandwidth so itís not an all day project.

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