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I plan to go down ditch in Nov 2014 from Chesapeake Bay. Will wait for weather window to cross Gulf. Being my first passage via a 36ft Bruce Roberts Design Spray Cutter I need some advise from some fellow sailing experts. I have 2-3 months to spend before I head back North. Do I go to Bimini first then work my way to Nassau and South towards Georgetown? Or better to go to West End and Abaco ? I will be myself with good experience on Ches Bay. But rookie going to Bahamas.
Your advise w/b appreciated
 

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Warm Weather Sailor
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If you're crossing from Miami do not stop in Bimini. I told that to a couple of newbies from my club who are now stuck in Bimini, been there a week, looks like another before they get out. Go from Miami to Nassau, about 30 hours. They were so worried about the crossing they just wanted to get across the gulf stream and thought they had it made getting to Bimini.

The reason for this is that you usually cross when a front is coming and the wind starts clocking. Most cross when the wind gets to south or west. The secret is to get to Nassau before the wind clocks around to east again after the front passes. Depending on the severity of the front that's usually within the thirty hours. If you stop in Bimini and even if you set out the next day most likely the wind has gone NE or E, a tough slog across the Great Bahama Bank and it will likely be E when you get to to the Tongue of the Ocean, a tougher slog to get to Nassau. The secret is to get to Nassau as fast as possible. Then you've got the Exumas ahead of you. Not stuck in Bimini.

As for Abaco do that on the way home. The weather will be much better that far north later in the year. Go south to the Exumas.
 

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Not really advice but just what worked for me. Lake Worth to Great Sale via White Sand Ridge/Mantanilla Shoal. 36 hours but could have been done in a lot less if I had not wasted time anchoring on the bank in an attempt to get some rest and been more aggressive with my course. I did not want to fight the current to get to West End or pay the docking fee to check in there. I also wanted to avoid the bridge infested ICW to the south of LW. After GS I worked my way to Green Turtle and checked in. Spent about 6 weeks banging around the Abacos. Lots of places to explore and get experience with the cuts, reading the water and anchoring in thin sand.
Everyone I talked to in the Abacos said "if you like it here you will love the Exumas" It was a good first trip for me.
Dan S/V Marian Claire
 

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Yeah, what Rick says.

I single handed to Bahamas from the Caribbean and the from Key West through New Providence Channel back to the Caribbean and its all a piece of piss ( i.e. Easy).

Launch off from the Abacos to Chesepeake in one shot, or if the weather off Hatteras goes dopey from the north duck into Beaufort North Carolina.

I did appreciate having AIS in the Florida straits....and everywhere else.
 

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Good Advice by Vasco.
Bimini (Alicetown) is a good place to stopover (especially during 'homecoming' week) but if you get caught by long intervals of strong easterlies / trade winds you can be stuck there for a long time waiting for the next 'weather window'.

You'd probably do better leaving a bit earlier in the season and to arrive in central/SE FL long before the Christmas Trade Winds set up ... more choices and more 'routes'.

Another way to do this is to cross over to arrive in the eastern Abacos (Marsh Harbour, etc.) before the Xmas Tradewinds arrive and then beam/broad reach down to Eleuthra, then on down to the Exumas, etc. You dont want to be beating 'into' the tradewinds. ;-)
 

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My preferred way is to the Bahamas is through Abaco. If I want to go further south I leave from Abaco to Royal Island in the Eluethras and the to the Exumas via Fleeming Cut.

I leave from Lake Worth to the Memory Rock waypoint and on to Great Sale all in one shot. Motor sailing it takes me 16/17 hours. I prefer to do the Gulf Stream crossing in daylight and then the last portion is after dark but crossing the Banks to Great Sale is very easy. Once on the Banks it is a straight shot to the Great Sale anchorage with a consistent depth of 12 to 15 feet. Anchoring is no problem either as the bottom is good holding sand everywhere.

If you are crossing from Lake Worth in late November or early December there are usually a few other boats making the crossing and you can buddy boat if you wish.

The best place to clear in is Green Green Turtle Cay as someone above mentioned. No need to face the hassles of going to Westend.

A lot of people like the Abacos right through the winter although some find it a little cool with highs only in the 70* to 80* range and lows rarely below 70*. It gets colder in South Florida when the cold fonts pass through. The low for today in Miami is 47* and for Marsh Harbour 67*
 

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My own personal favorite is Norfolk to Green Turtle in one shot, but that may be just me. *grin*

We have some folks spending the winter in Annapolis this year. If you'd like to find a time to come down we can get a group together to share experiences. Any excuse for a gathering.

I'd also be happy to share my own procedures for long haul single-handed trips on the ICW

As for Abaco do that on the way home. The weather will be much better that far north later in the year. Go south to the Exumas.
A lot depends on you. There are many people who do prefer the Exumas first where it is a bit warmer and the winter cold fronts (a bigger wind issue than temperature) are more worn out.

We prefer the Abacos even if it means sleeping with a blanket or even a quilt to have mild days. In the Exumas you are likely to sleep under a sheet but the afternoons can get sweaty. If I'm going to be sweaty I would prefer the isolation of the Raggeds. *grin*

What are you looking for in your Bahamas experience? What have you heard or read about that speaks to you? Do you want deserted anchorages, small settlements, or good-sized towns? Some kind of balance? Any events you don't want to miss? Is this a one-shot visit or will you be able to go back?
 

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I like Rick's plan, but you've got a lot of good advice above. But, don't try and be on a schedule once you get there. Let the weather and the fronts schedule you (you'll understand that after going through one, and your first lesson will be the Gulf Stream crossing).

I've cleared in Bimini, Chub Cay, Marsh Harbor, and Nassau. My favorite places to clear are Chub Cay and Marsh Harbor.


The Bahamas is the one place I keep going back to. I have six trips there under my belt. I find something new and cool every time I go.

Except for easy provisioning, George Town is my least favorite place. It's like a giant RV park, except with boats.
 

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..................... George Town is my least favorite place. It's like a giant RV park, except with boats.
We agree,- 'sort of an adult daycare facility!

We normally cross from Ft. Lauderdale, anchored in Lake Sylvia, at sunrise and cross onto the bank next to Settlement Point (West End) at Indian Cay with our 4'3" draft by 3 or 4pm. We have cleared at Westend, but as others have said, Green Turtle is great. We enjoy the Abacos, Eleuthra and the Exumas, but we never include Nassau.
 

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Lots of good advice above, but as someone mentioned, it would help if you gave us some hint of what sort of experience you're looking for... The Bahamas has a wide variety, do you prefer more solitude/remoteness, or do you favor a more 'social' gathering with lots of other cruisers?

My own preferences generally run to the former, so I'll usually bypass, or spend little time, in places like the Abacos. I really like getting over to Eleuthera as quickly as possible, then meandering down thru Cat Island, maybe down to Rum Cay, Long Island, etc... I love the Crooked/Acklins district if your draft is under 5', but making it that far south given your time frame is probably a bit ambitious for a first-timer, as would likely be making it down to the Raggeds... Depends how fast you like to move, of course...

Then, do the Exumas on your way back, you'll likely be able to do more sailing that way... The Exumas are fantastic, of course, but the area between Highborne and Staniel are becoming increasingly overrun with charter megayachts, it can be a bit harder to find quiet solitude sometimes through there...

My preferred jumping off spot is usually Miami Beach, great spot to hang out waiting for a good window, convenient provisioning, etc, and of course it gives you a good angle for crossing... Lauderdale is good, as well, though very tough to fetch Bimini from there, you'll likely have to pass N of Great Isaac from there... Again, much will depend upon your draft. If you get to S Florida and there's no window in sight, you might consider meandering down thru the Keys while you wait, and riding the Stream across to a place like S Riding Rocks, and coming onto the Bank there...

Agree with Vasco's advice to keep going past Bimini if there's a chance of the breeze moving E... Another good strategy for getting into the heart of the Bahamas as quickly as possible, is to run down the Tongue of the Ocean, clearing in at Morgan's Bluff or Fresh Creek, then crossing over to Staniel via the Decca Channel... Seems to be a little-used route, but a great way to get south as quickly as possible...

I generally avoid Nassau, but must admit it can be a very convenient spot to clear in... I did so a few years ago after a hard slog straight thru from Miami, a night in a marina with a very quick and easy visit from Customs in the marina office was just what the doctor ordered, and Nassau Harbor is always a fascinating drive-by, plenty to see there...

I'm sure you already know this, but the Explorer Charts are the only way to go... Really nice if your e-charts are using Explorer cartography as well, as do Garmin and C-Map... Lots of complaints about Navionics in the Bahamas, for example, and if your e-charts don't support Explorer, you're probably better off not using a plotter at all for close-in work, and relying on paper and eyeballs alone... Of course, that's the preferred mode in general, in any event... :)

Tell us what sort of experience you prefer, and how much you draw, I'm sure you might get more specifics...
 

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If we're talking about favourite spots in the Bahamas, mine is Normans Cay in the Exumas. Many folks say they hate GT (I've said that before) but there is an amazing community of Bahamas cruisers there. And you can play Texas Holdem twice a week. :) That's the beauty of the Bahamas, if you want solitude you can still find it, but if you want to go to adult summer camp (actually winter camp) it's there.

Cleaning conch in Normans. I was the only boat there.


Cleaning fish at Glass Cay, again only one boat there


Anchored in GT


And of course, this beautiful spot.
 

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Dave,
PM me if that gathering happens, I'd like to come.
Norfolk to Green Turtle sounds like a nice shortcut to happy.
Hi Chuck -

It'll happen if we decide it will. I have an 'Offshore to the Bahamas' presentation I've given at Seven Seas U. I'd be happy to offer that up as a discussion starter.

Let's see how many people are interested for some evening (or weekend day) in February. I'll talk to SSU about scheduling a webinar that runs in parallel so that those far from Annapolis can play also.

What do you think?
 

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Good advice from JE on the Explorer Charts. Don't, repeat, don't go to the Bahamas without them. Take all three sets, you never know where you might decide to go.
 

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Hi Chuck -

It'll happen if we decide it will. I have an 'Offshore to the Bahamas' presentation I've given at Seven Seas U. I'd be happy to offer that up as a discussion starter.

Let's see how many people are interested for some evening (or weekend day) in February. I'll talk to SSU about scheduling a webinar that runs in parallel so that those far from Annapolis can play also.

What do you think?
I think I'll be there. Options are options, read my signature :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
WOW Lots of advise which is well appreciated! I definitely will purchase the Explorer Charts and get a plan in place. I have no real interests other than to enjoy the cruising life style. Not into the nightclubs etc or the RV Georgetown scenario. Like to explore w/ dink and relax. Been working non stop for 40 yrs and the time has come to relax. I have the 2014 Doziers Waterway Guide which is giving me some ideas. I keep my boat ( Ishtar) in Havre de Grace Md. Would love to spend some time w/ experienced cruisers in Annapolis area. My plan is to go to sailboat show in Nov and keep heading South!!
 

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Hi Chuck -

It'll happen if we decide it will. I have an 'Offshore to the Bahamas' presentation I've given at Seven Seas U. I'd be happy to offer that up as a discussion starter.

Let's see how many people are interested for some evening (or weekend day) in February. I'll talk to SSU about scheduling a webinar that runs in parallel so that those far from Annapolis can play also.

What do you think?
Auspicious,

please count me in for the webinar.

Regards,
Brad
 
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