Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Fort Lauderdale
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Re: South Florida-ish to Bahamas...Making it happen in mid to late novermeber
Its been done in boats your size. Look for a good 2-3 day weather window..or more for your small boat. By weather window, it usually means crossing in advance of a cool front moving through with no wind component from the North and never in winds above 20 knots.
The dominant wind pattern in SE Florida is a Southeast / East winds. Which tends to put the Bahamas a slog into wind and wind driven surf. However, in the winter timeframe, we get somewhat frequent "notherners" which are cool fronts that dive down from the north. These can arrive as frequently as every 4-7 days.
In advance of these fronts, the wind patterns shifts from SE/E to a South, then West...then rapidly to North/Northeast pattern. Typically, people target a slow moving front...which gives several days (2-3 ideally) of West/Southwest winds ahead of the shift to North/Northeast. A breeze with a westerly component and southerly component tends to settle the waters off of Florida and calm the stream...although *ANY* winds of 20 knots plus (even S, SE, SW) will kick up nasty stuff out there.
So once a window is found, a crossing is made ex-post haste. Departure points are typically Lake Worth (Palm Beach inlet) for West End, Fort Lauderdale for Bimini or West End, or Miami (No Name Harbor) for Bimini.
People leave their inlet and make as much southing as possible. Staying in 25 feet of water and motorsailing to take advantage of a southward eddy that flows counter to the Gulfstream. Once around Haulover (for those from Palm Beach of Fort Lauderdale), you make your turn to the left and drop the hammer and get across the Gulfstream as fast as possible. Its important not to try and maintain a destination, but to cross the 40-50 miles to the Bahamas banks quickly. The stream will move you 2-4 knots north...so if you're doing it right, your track should look like an "S", as you'll likely have to do some southing when you make it over to the Bahamas.
Whatever you do, DO NOT end up in the Gulfstream with the winds 20+ knots from the North, Northeast. That is a recipe for big, blocky waves called "marching elephants" and you will get beat up, as will your boat.
If the window isn't big enough...hang back and enjoy Miami.
BTW, why Bahamas. Your boat seems perfect to enjoy the Florida Keys....and no messy Gulfstream crossing or $150 cruising permit/entry fee to deal with.