Planning a trip there this summer myself. Not a lot of info. about Andros in the blogs, or so I'm finding out.
Suggest you pick up a 2009 copy of Steve Pavlidis' "Northern Bahamas Cruising Guide". Mine arrived the other day and it has in-depth info. about the 5th largest island in the Caribbean. I ordered mine from the publisher, Seaworthy Publications, [email protected]. Cost around $60.
As far as clearing in at Andros, rather than Nassau, you'll probably want to use Morgans Bluff. Have read good reports on the SSCA website from cruisers who stop there routinely.
From what little I've heard there isn't much at Andros except bonefishing and flies. Never having been there personally I can't, as they say, "confirm or deny".
If you're coming from the Miami area, Alice Town in North Bimini is a Port of Entry, is an easy days sail and VERY casual as to formalities. Warning! Cash only for the cruising permit. There is an ATM right across the street from the Customs House. Nassau, in addition to being a lot more formal, is out of the way for Andros. Bimini to Chub Key to Andros is a better route.
I'm assuming you will be sailing only during daylight. If you get a very early start it's possible to go from Bimini to Chub Key in a day and there is a decent anchorage just outside the entrance to the marina there. If you can't fit in a long day you will have to anchor out on the bank. I have found the crossing to NW rock can be uncomfortable. The water from the Tongue of the Ocean and the Northeast Providence channel all goes onto the Bank there, dropping from 1000 feet plus to about 20 feet and if the current is running the wrong way it can get pretty rough. To get to Andros, however, there isn't much choice unless you go the long way around. I go to Nassau so I prefer going north around the Berries. If you sail all night you can get from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau that way in about 35 or 40 hours. That route is Bishop Rock around Great Stirrup Key and down the Northeast Providence channel. There are anchorages at Great Stirrup and Little Harbor Key but I have never used them.
Good luck and happy sailing,
I haven't been to Andros so I can't comment on anything there. Morgans Bluff, however, on my chart doesn't show as a port of entry and you would have to anchor off for at least a couple of days to get there. North Bimini, Cat Key and Chub key are all Ports of Entry.
Would there be an issues sailing at night in that area? In looking at the charts I'd be tempted to go straight all the way to Fresh Creek (Andros Lighthouse Marina) as an alternative to Nassau and then hop easily to the Exumas after some rest.
Heard anything good about that port of entry?
I also wonder if it's deep enough to approach the Exumas from the West in that way.
It depends on what area you are talking about. If you are leaving West Palm, for example, you can go to within a mile or so of Nassau and never see less than about 2000 feet of water.
If you cross from Ft. Lauderdale and come on the Bank at Great Isaac Rock it is also a safe crossing direct to Northwest Channel but, as I said earlier, I don't like that route. I prefer to go about 25 miles from Great Isaac on the course to the Northwest Passage and then head slightly north of east around Great Stirrup and down the Northeast Providence Channel. It's a little longer but deep water all the way. Once I go off soundings which, with my depth sounder is about 600 feet, I don't see bottom again until just before the Nassau harbor entrance. If you have competent crew it's an easy ride through the night. And a beautiful one, I might add.
Depths across the Bank run about 40 feet so you don't have to worry about draft. A broker I knew in St. Augustine told me her husband sailed with Ted Turner and they used to race Maxis across here, so I guess it's not too bad.
I have no personal knowledge of Fresh Creek but you certainly won't make in daylight without a stop, either on the Bank or around Chub Key. Your choices are limited. Leave Florida, pass Bimini and anchor on the Bank or stop at Bimini and Chub Key. As I said earlier, I don't like the NW Passage. It's narrow and surrounded by reefs. The last time I was there, two years ago, the markers were gone. If you go that way I would certainly want to pass there in daylight...and have my chartplotter on.
From Fresh Creek I can't say much for part of the trip but it looks OK on the chart to Highbourne Key, where I have been. I go south SSE around the Yellow Bank to Highbourne. You have to pick your way past Highbourne but once that is done you're in the Exuma Sound, which is deep all the way to the south end of Eleuthera and, to the south, Cat Island. As always, once you're near land you need the Mark I eyeball turned on and tuned. I haven't been much past Highbourne and day sailed in Exuma Sound from there.
I have anchored out in Bimini to get cleared. They tried to force me to get a slip. I told them I just need to be stamped, and I am gone, or I will clear in Nassau. They stamped me.
I have anchored, and taken a berth in Nassau. When anchored I climbed the wall at customs, and did my paperwork. They will come to the boat while in a slip.
Nassau is a good place to top off ice, and small items before the Exumas. Everything until Georgetown will cost a leg, and or arm in between. I would prefer leaving from Miami if Exumas are you destination. Less fight against the stream, and a much shorter distance.....i2f
I'd do Bimini for clearing in, quick & easy. I took a slip at the little marina just south of the customs dock, it was pretty cheap(like .70/foot) when I was there in '07. Then you can stop in Nassau to provision if you want without worrying about customs there, then head on over to the Exumas.
Just a quick note on clearing into Bimini. I couldn't find my "Q" flag so I tied a yellow dishtowel to the flag halyard, hoping no one would notice. I needen't have worried. I checked into Browns marina and asked the dockmaster to contact Customs and Immigration, just as I customarily do in Nassau. He said "No need. It's just down the street.". I went over. paid my cruising fee and asked where Immigration was. They said "right next door". Well, next door was a little about 10 x 20 shed, divided into two halves. One half was the Bahamas Tourist Board and the other was Immigration. I walked past a rather large fellow sitting in a golf cart in front of the building, reading. I said "Good afternoon". He looked up from his book, replied "Good afternoon" and went back to his reading. I went inside and found the building empty. I called out "Hello". No answer. I waited a few minutes and looked in the back room behind the counter. Empty. I went outside and asked the man in the golf cart if there was anyone from Immigration about. He replied "I guess dot would be me". We went inside and 5 minutes later we walked out, me with my Immigration forms and him back to his book. I love island time.
BTW, don't buy anything in Bimin if you can help it. I went into the Butler and Sands liquor store to pick up a bottle of rum. It was $16. I said "I only pay about half that at your store in Nassau". He replied "That's because here it's imported".
My husband and I do the Bahamas run from time to time. Morgan's Bluff is an excellent place for customs. You have no problem with depth in the channel. It is dredged for commercial barges and ships. Andros supplies 40% of the water for Nassau.
We normaly leave from Cowspen, Plantation Key. Early so when we cross the Snake Creek bridge it is on demand.
We (why is this line on?) sail to South Riding Rock, spend the night in the banks, then arrive in Morgan's Bluff around 1400 hours. You anchor in 10 to 12 feet of depth, drop dinghy, go through small opening in front of you, dock by gas station, ask the lady to call customs. It takes them about an hour to drive. Very courteus and attending. Pay the $300 cash only, and of you go. We spent 2 nights there last trip, very nice, quiet, but do not want to be on this anchorage with a North wind.
We then went to Fresh creek. Most people don't go there, although we don't know why. It is quaint town, small. Did you know there is a US Coast Guard base in Andros? Do you know if your a diver, Fresh Creek offers the best dives in the Bahamas other than the Jimentos? We are talking 90 ft deep. Excellent reef, fishes galore!!! A great dive. The anchorage is protected in all kinds of winds.
May I recommend you pick up the "Explorer Chartbooks". They are excellent!!!!
Allens Cay, another one of our favorite Islands. Enjoy!!
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