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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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bell ringer
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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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Aspiring Boat Bum
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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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Aspiring Boat Bum
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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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Bombay Explorer 44
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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 http://www.sailnet.com/forums/general-discussion-sailing-related/104505-miami-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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Master Mariner
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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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Capta I’m surprised you don’t 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 he’ll likely cover the area you’re interested in. I’ve 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.
 

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bell ringer
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Capta I’m surprised you don’t 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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Yup free to listen to as you and I said. But agree with Capta it’s 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 it’s not an all day project.
 

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Master Mariner
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It's free if you just have a receiver to hear the daily forecasts (even a portable one)
I'm not a big fan of "forecasts". Whoever produces them doesn't have their as$ on the line. Everything available to the forecasters is available to us on the internet. I prefer doing my own forecasting. As mentioned above, it can be time consuming, but hey, what else do I have to do in the hurricane season?
 

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Master Mariner
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have yet to find a small printer I like.
I screen shot anything I want to track and can even turn them into movies (sort of stop action) to see the exact movement of the various systems I'm interested in over a period of time. This really helps "visualize" the situation as it develops.
Hurricanes aren't just wild entities. Their movements are generally dictated by the highs, lows and fronts ahead or on either side of their track.
 
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Do the same. But at home print out the various models and put them side to side. Still trying to understand the 500mb and find it helpful to be able to simultaneously compare. On the boat Sailmail comes in through a windows based toughbook but at a Internet cafe or a bar use the iPad. Just easier to carry and safer in its waterproof case. Guess it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Miss printing stuff out.
 

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Freedom Chip Counter
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There are many good cruising guides to help plan your trip. Check out www.waterwayguide.com for good tips and chart recommendations for the Bahamas. It's about $150 to clear into the Bahamas and receive a 3mo visa (this is also your fishing license). Also check www.noonsite.com for the latest fees, procedures and other useful info. There a few not so lumpy days in the Winter, but by far the Summer months are best for crossing. As others have said, do not try to cross the stream in a small boat if the winds are coming anywhere out of the North. Trades in the Summer are typically from the East, SE. If trying to make West End start from the Hilsboro inlet or Ft Lauderdale. In a small boat, West Palm (Lake Worth Inlet) is too far North...The Stream will take you North of your destination and you'll have to back track. Plan your anchorages in the Bahamas, there are some that are great, but can be dangerously exposed if the weather comes from the wrong direction.
 

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Did you sail to the Bahamas? Do you want to go again? I'm in search of a sailboat going from Charleston to the Bahamas, one-way.
Let me know if you're going or if you can help me with any information.
Dankeschoen!
 

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Did you sail to the Bahamas? Do you want to go again? I'm in search of a sailboat going from Charleston to the Bahamas, one-way.
Let me know if you're going or if you can help me with any information.
Dankeschoen!
I will be going to the Bahamas in early November from NC and can stop in Charleston.
 

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TQA is offering very good advice.

Via OUTSIDE, From Charleston there is usually southerly counter-current to the GS going south closer in to the beach ... until mid Florida where the GS can be VERY close in to land. I assume you're experienced in 'running' small Atlantic Coast inlets; if not only use the Class-A inlets during 'stink' onshore weather.
The prevailing SWesterlies will make it a beat to FLORIDA, unless you wait for periodic Nw'er and/or NW 'gale', typically from mid October through Jan/Feb .... simply wait a day or so for the NW'er to quiet down then ride it's back (usually in relatively flat water due to the lesser fetch), all the way down to ...... you enter 'the easterlies'
..... I'd suggest Ft. Lauderdale !!!!! (with stops in Brunswick/Fernandina/St.Augustine/Cape Canaveral/Lake Worth-Palm Beach ... (its actually less miles travelled along the ICW in Florida when you count up the mileage into and out of the inlets). Lauderdale will give you an approximate 40° better angle (both wind AND GS current) for entering the ABACOS either by WEST END (Old Bahama Bay Marina) or 'Memory Rock' a few miles north of west end and into the Little Bahama Banks.
Leaving from Lake Worth Inlet with a SE'er will radically slow you down versus the GS current, its usually better to let the GS current 'help' or at least not hinder you - from "Lauderdale" as its much 'faster' to West End from Ft. LaDeeDah. Dont attempt to enter WEST END (Old Bahama Bay Marina) on a strong W to NW wind (for the first time). With 5-6kts boat speed you'll need an extra ~20° 'steering to port' from Lake Worth or Lauderdale ... or From Biscayne Bay/Miami.

If you desire to go further south into the 'far' Bahamas or lower ... then I suggest you go down Biscayne Bay, anchor near Angelfish Creek (VERY narrow), carefully cross the reefs at the outside side of the Hawk Channel, and head for Bimini .... will be a 'sled ride' with SW-SE winds. The entrance to Bimini can 'rage' at times, pick your weather window carefully. From Bimini its a long slog across the Grand Bahama Banks to Nassau etc., but if the weather is benign, simply anchor on the banks, well out of the main track near the NW Channel between Andros and 'the Berrys'. A good stopover if you get 'good boost' when sailing is Morgan's Bluff on the top of Andros.
IMO - Bimini nor Nassau are not 'safe' at night unless the marina has (armed) 'guards'.

For a first time in the Bahamas, Id suggest the Abacos. Get the "EXPLORER Chart Books" for the NEAR/FAR, etc. Bahamas. Most older Garman Chartplotters (of 10 years ago and older) have the 'good' EXPLORER Bahamas charts. These Chart Books will contain a lot of GOOD info on anchorages, etc. From the Abacos to 'further' down ... its usually easier from the Abacos, IMO.
Note: if youre taking a pet along you have to pre-"clear" the pet and have a 'recent' (24hr. prior veterinary certs) for entry into the Bahamas ----


Advice for a short water line boat going across the GS ... when you are leaving an inlet for the Bahamas, look carefully at the eastern horizon as you pass through the inlet; and no matter the wind strength, if you see what looks like a 'parade of elephants' marching in step along the far eastern horizon .... head back in to your anchorage until the seastate lays down a bit.

For WHEN to cross the GS, get yourself a cheap but adequate digital SSB/Ham (AM/USB/LSB) radio **receiver** ... use a 'long wire' for your antenna - up the rigging and go to https://www.mwxc.com/marine_weather_services.php for the SSB timing of the "Chris Parker" forecasts. Dont rely on NOAA as those broadcasts for this particular area are too broad and dont adequately cover the near Bahamas nor the far side of the Gulf Stream.

Best sailing in the Bahamas is usually early to late spring and into early summer. Lots of folks hide out in Florida during winter and cross over at the end of Feb. If you need to go early, I suggest to cross over well before midDecember as the Northern Bahamas can get 'blustery' in winter. less so the further south you go.

hope this helps. ;-)
 

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Explorer Charts data are invaluable in Bahamas. Paper version is 70$... the app with their data are iNavx, Aqua Map and Embark, choose one of these...
 

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Thats $70 per
There are 3 total.
Decide where you want to go
considering only the price without considering which app is best:
iNavx 70$/year
Aqua Map 35$/year or 70$ Forever use
Embark 24$/year

Another thing to consider if is possible to share purchase iOS/Android (if you have both you hate to pay twice).
I'm sure that Aqua Map allows this. Do anyone know if embark and iNavx can share the purchase? I don't found this FAQ in their website
 
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