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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good morning,

My father and I have just completed leg 1 of our journey, taking our '98 Dufour 45 classic down the Chesapeake, through the ICW to Charleston, SC. We're taking a two weeks off to perform boat maintenance, plan, etc.

Knowing that a north wind makes the Gulf Stream nearly unpassable I was thinking about taking the ICW further South in order to make days not suitable for crossing productive. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find many established routes south of Hilton Head, SC until Florida. Why does no one seem interested in crossing from say Savannah, Georgia? Are there good departure points between Charleston, SC and North Florida aiming for the Abacos? Any advice or experience that can be shared is greatly appreciated, if anyone has questions about our ICW experience I would be happy to share (although my knowledge is limited to one trip, albeit a very pleasant and successful one).
 

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The further south you set off for the Bahamas the better. Miami to West End is an easy sail. Jacksonville to West End much harder because you are heading into the Stream.

Do not be seduced by straight lines. The easiest route from Charleston, and we have done it several times is:

Outside from Charleston to Jacksonville then close to shore down the Florida coast where there is a counter-current going south. If the weather is bad just stay in the ICW

Personally I would go as far as Lauderdale, many would recommend Riviera Beach, so that I rode the Stream to West End.

Whatever you do you have to counter the minimum of 30-40 miles of northing that the Stream creates as you cross and it is much easier to make the corresponding southing on the Florida coast.

Going outside is really very benign and easier than the ICW providing you pick the right 2 day weather windows. If you jump off far north you will be out there long enough for a low to march off the coast and you are likely to be in some very nasty conditions.

Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So basically too much time fighting the Gulf attempting a crossing above Florida? We'd prefer to run 24 hours and have constant progress towards our destination, so I'd prefer not to cross from Florida over the bank, I'd rather start more north and aim for the East side of the Bahamas (Abacos). Does anyone attempt this type of crossing? A Florida crossing means another week in the ICW, which is totally possible, but less than preferable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
York Sailor- Outside Charleston-Jacksonville to avoid the tide/ shoaling issues in Georgia? Crossing the Stream on that leg or hugging closer to shore? Why wouldn't you jump from Charleston straight to the Eastern islands of Bahamas? Too many weather concerns, too much time in the Stream? Is it simply not preferable, or does it border on not possible?
 

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I am assuming that because you chose the ICW that you are not comfortable with being off-shore for several days in 40 knots of wind and 15-20 ft seas.

We are too big for the ICW but we never used it when we had a smaller boat or did deliveries. If you draw 6ft Georgia can be difficult.

We came down from Charleston November last year and we went into Jacksonville for fuel and breakfast after a night of near gale force winds and seas. There we met a 4 man semi-pro crew that had bailed into Jacksonville after 4 days of being uncomfortable.

My wife loves being out in that stuff and we might go directly but it is not guaranteed to be benign.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
We did the ICW for multiple reasons, partially due to lack of experience on the ocean, but most importantly to save time. I can't say I'd be thrilled to be in seas of 15-20 feet and winds at 40 knots, but the boat is certainly capable, with the right crew I'd say there isn't much our boat couldn't handle. Since our crew is somewhat short on experience I want to make a crossing that is reasonably safe, and somewhat ease into it, but still challenging, adventurous, and enough to push my skills and comfort zone.

I feel we can get a reasonable forecast 4-5 days in advance, and would not attempt a crossing, especially such a long crossing, in North winds or similarly bad weather. The weather concern gets us back to the original question, would it be prudent to take the ICW down into Georgia and cross from there if we cannot start our crossing as initially planned from Hilton Head, SC? (is the initial plan even safe/ reasonable, or overly ambitious?)

Personally, I'm interested in a more ambitious crossing than Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini, but there is a fine line between ambition and stupidity. I'm trying to embark on a challenging journey, but still keep a reasonable level of safety. If a long leg from SC or Georgia is not safe I'll make alternate plans, but if it is just not as comfortable or easy as the shorter hop from FL I'll stick with my plans. Basically, your feedback seems to be that a long leg is a bit more difficult and risky, but not unreasonable or unsafe if properly planned, does that properly sum it up Yorksailor?
 

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DO NOT LEAVE FOR THE ABACOS FROM ANY FURTHER NORTH THAN FORT WORTH.

Evening departure from Fort Worth sees you at Memory Rock at about 10 am. cross the banks to Great Sale Cay and anchor catching up on sleep.

There are umpteen threads on this. Basically No North in the forecast and turn back if you are getting beat up!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
TQA- Can you elaborate as to why you say do not leave from more North of Ft. Worth? Is it not possible, or just less enjoyable? I'm not interested in being conservative, just reasonably safe, so I don't want to deviate from my plans without clearly understand why my plans are misguided, if they are. While your advice my be sound I can't simply take your word for it.
 

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http://www.sailnet.com/forums/gener...related/102885-sailing-ne-florida-abacos.html

Here is a similar thread where TQA, quite sensibly, argues as above, and I argue that it is possible to just go sailing and see what happens. However, my approach is not for the inexperienced which is why I suggested getting to Riviera Beach or even Lauderdale.

It is not possible to hug the edge of the stream as at Lake Worth the Stream is very close in. I stay within 4-500 yds of the beach, weather permitting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yorksailor- That thread was very helpful, seems to me that a shorter hop, from Ft. Lauderdale or whereabouts is the much safer and more well traveled route. However, at this point I think we'll arrive in Charleston, head south through the ICW until we find a weather window we like and make the crossing as soon as we can, be it Hilton Head, Ft. Lauderdale or somewhere between.

I like the go sailing and see what happens attitude, anything that will happen will happen out there (Captain Ron is an integral family movie). I feel with reasonable planning and a well equipped boat it would be fine. From my previous understanding, and from what I'm hearing if weather is bad don't f**K with it, but if weather is good virtually any city would make a good departure. Certainly some departures are easier, and shorter crossings make weather predictions more reliable, but as long as conditions are good I should be as well. I understand Mother Nature will punish the unprepared and the overly confident, but this trip is supposed to be an adventure. I won't back down from a more challenging passage without just cause, but before attempting a more challenging passage I will make sure to prepare diligently. Thanks for the advice, smooth sailing guys.
 

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I'm curious as to what response you were hoping for? It sounds like you have no intention of following the advice of those with more experience.
 

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TQA- Can you elaborate as to why you say do not leave from more North of Ft. Worth? Is it not possible, or just less enjoyable? I'm not interested in being conservative, just reasonably safe, so I don't want to deviate from my plans without clearly understand why my plans are misguided, if they are. While your advice my be sound I can't simply take your word for it.
Why it is simple the Gulf Stream is relentless. Every second you are in it you are being carried North at 4 knots in the center although it lessens at the edges.

The prevailing wind is E to SE.

So say you leave Charleston and Head for Walker Cay. Your track is a little S of SE. So the wind is more or less on the nose and the current is pretty close to being on the nose too.

What will your VMG [ velocity made good ] be do you think? This is assuming you are motoring into wind and current.

It is 400 miles roughly to Walker Cay. Do you have enough diesel?

My guess will be a minimum of 5 days with 7+ more likely.

Remember with every day you are out there the risk of encountering a fast developing cell which will turn the wind to the North increases. I cruised for 7 years in a bullet proof steel ketch. I got caught out in the stream south of Hatteras by such a cell. It is the ONLY time I had green water on the foredeck more or less all the time and ONLY time I had water building up in the cockpit and the ONLY time I worried about the boat breaking.

So stock up in the Publix at the North end of Lake Worth. WAIT FOR A GOOD WEATHER WINDOW light easterlies or south easterlies or anything from the south or south west. Be VERY CAUTIOUS about leaving in west winds as they are normally followed closely be a northerlies.

Have a pleasant overnight motor sail to Memory Rock
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
DRFerron- It is certainly not that I do not value others advice, but I will definitely be making my own decision, and the advice and resources from this thread are only a fraction of the decision making process. I wanted to hear why people do not typically make the crossing where I'm considering. If the reasons were significant, if there were risks or issues that could not be properly managed then I would reconsider my itinerary.

Although I'm planning on the road less traveled, my understanding is that my plans are not unreasonable, just more difficult, and with diligent planning and patience a longer crossing with more significant time in open water sounds possible. My intended route is certainly not the easiest or the safest, but if properly managed it, it sounds relatively safe and not overly difficult.

Basically, I wanted to hear if I was way off-base and missing something, and so far the answer seems to be no, I'm just ambitious and optimistic, but I see no reason not to shoot for a more challenging approach knowing I can always fall back to the suggested routes.
 

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Oh yes one extra thing if you do make it to Walker Cay do not go swimming in the sea. Do not go in up to your waist or even your ankles without being very alert and on the look out for sharks.

Some idiots [ look like divers to me ] have been hand feeding bull sharks from the shore.

Any wonder there are regular shark attacks in the Bahamas. Like this one in August this year. Largo man at Tampa General after shark attack in Bahamas | Tampa Bay Times
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
TQA- That is a more thorough response and as such, much more helpful. I envision waiting for a S wind that matches the current (totally clear why you don't cross in a north wind), being able to cross the stream at a roughly 30-45 degree angle, with winds of a similar angle off the starboard side(very little tacking, hopefully little motoring). Our main diesel tank holds 56 gallons, which lasted 300+ miles in the ICW, and we'll have 25 gallons on deck as reserve, so I'm anticipating being able to motor for 400-450 miles without issue, so should be ok even if we do not use sails (and we will sail as much as possible).

While I'd be in the Stream longer than the perpendicular cross over from Ft. Lauderdale, I think it is possible, but I do see why it would be a more difficult trip. I also expect a 5-7 day trip from SC to Bahamas, but to get to Ft. Lauderdale from Charleston is at least 4-5 days in the ICW, certainly not a time saver, but certainly safer.

Having a good, reliable weather forecast sounds critical, without that my intended crossing is impossible. If I get a favorable 7 day forecast, trusting that the first 3-4 days are accurate (should be clear of stream after a few days, so N wind is less of a concern) then I think I can go for the harder crossing. If I do not get a great weather window I have no intention to force it, and will just ICW further S. If weather takes long enough to clear I will end up in Ft. Lauderdale and be making the safer cross anyway. Thanks for the advice, hopefully I don't seem overly stubborn, I just don't want to sacrifice my ambition unless absolutely necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Gotcha, we plan on doing a lot of self-directed dives, but I was worried about scuba in the Bahamas with all the shark feeding they do. Part of why I want to take a road less traveled, dive sites will be more isolated and I'm less likely to find sharks habituated to divers having food.
 

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You might want to ignore the Fort Worth advice as that's in Texas!

Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth are all excellent inlets.
 
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