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Old 22-11-2015, 07:27   #1
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Bahamas bound routing options

Hi all
We plan our first Bahamas getaway in mid March through April 2016. The boat is a 40 ft sailboat. We have never crossed the Gulf Stream nor did we complete a major passage. But we sailed more than 1'000 NM on the ocean, preferrably in calm conditions.

The boat will be launched in Stuart, FL. During the 6 to 7 weeks, we would like to see the Abacos, maybe the Berries, aiming for a laid back and easy going time.

We plan to go to Lake Worth and cross the stream in a very good weather window to West End. Then moving onwards throu the Indian Cay towards the Abacos. But if the weather is unfavorable, we tend not to wait for many days, but proceed southwards. I know that the leg to Ft. Lauderdale on the ICW would be amultiple days pain, considering the countless bridges and the required vertical clearance of 63 ft. So this would be on the outside, we think.

We then could cross from Ft. Lauderdale to West End or continue to Miami, Key Biscane in order to cross to Bimini. When looking at Explorer Charts, one could plan to go from Bimini to Freeport and West End by crossing the Northwest Channel, which should be doable in a good day (40 to 50 NM). But I did not find any route nor reports for this.

What would it be like to go from Bimini to West End? Is it easier / less weather dependant to cross from Bimini to West End than crossing the Gulf Stream? Or would it be advisable to go from Bimini to the Berries and onwards via Man O'War to the Abacos? Is crossing the Northwest Channel a rough ride, or does it require any special considerations, such as not to go in any particular wind direction, etc.?

Any thoughts, advice will be highly appreciated!

Thank you very much!

Marco


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Old 22-11-2015, 08:10   #2
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

If your goal is the Abacos I would skip Bimini and cross from Lake Worth, or a bit south, to Memory Rock or Matanilla shoal and on to Green Turtle. Stop at Great Sale if you like. All depends on weather.

If you cross to Bimini keep going across the bank to Morgan's Bluff on Andros and then to the top of the Exumas. The Exumas is where the real Bahamas start, IMO.
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Old 22-11-2015, 08:20   #3
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

I am following this post, wife and I will be doing a similar trip from Key West
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Old 22-11-2015, 08:34   #4
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

I agree with jcapo. We've waited as much as 3 weeks to cross so it's better if you are not on a tight schedule. For a first time trip, I'd recommend the Abacos.
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Old 22-11-2015, 08:41   #5
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

With only 6 weeks or so, I'd choose the Abacos.

Your plan to cross from Lake Worth inlet to West End, then make your way thru Indian Cay cut, is a good one. We've done exactly that several times. We usually clear customs and spend the night at West End.
Get the Dodge book on the Abacos. The waypoints are spot on. We draw 5.5 feet and I want half tide, or better, thru Indian Cay cut.

Once you're thru the cut, the Little Bahama Bank is like cruising with training wheels. The water is never more than 25 feet deep, so If something breaks on the boat, or a storm pops up, all you have to do is get off the waypoint rhumb line and drop the hook.

Lots of great places between Great Sale and Green Turtle, then, when the weather is right, a quick pass thru the Whale and you have a whole new set of places to go, including my favorite, Hopetown.

When you cross to West End, everyone will tell you not go with a north component in the wind, but if you're sailing, you'd rather have east or south, not southeast. You'll be traveling east, but you'll be heading southeast.

Have a great time!



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Old 22-11-2015, 08:45   #6
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Thank you all so far! To skip the wait for a window, I'd like to plan several routes.

I still would like to hear about crossing the Northwest Channel from Bimini to Freeport /West End. Any experiences? I'm curioud, why there is no waypoint route for this journey in the Explorer Charts?! Is this leg to simple?
Marco
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Old 22-11-2015, 09:03   #7
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

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Originally Posted by Swiss sailor View Post
Thank you all so far! To skip the wait for a window, I'd like to plan several routes.

I still would like to hear about crossing the Northwest Channel from Bimini to Freeport /West End. Any experiences? I'm curioud, why there is no waypoint route for this journey in the Explorer Charts?! Is this leg to simple?
Marco
I've gone the opposite from West End to Bimini several times. Turn right out of Bimini and turn right when you get to West End. Its all deep water with north current. No Explorer chart way points needed.

You will want to wait for a weather no matter where you cross from and to.
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Old 22-11-2015, 09:31   #8
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Jcapo, what wind will be favorable for to cross the Northwest Channel?
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Old 22-11-2015, 09:43   #9
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

From Stuart/Ft Pierce to West End with the right weather,no Northerly component or less than 10 kts with little seas we crossed it in 22 hrs motor sailing. The most logical jumping off point would be Lake Worth with a nice large channel and a good anchorage to leave from early, you will arrive in 12-14hrs.
We've made the Gulf Stream crossing from any point along the Miami to Stuart route and with the right weather it's a no brainer.
If you're intent is on crossing further south via Miami/Lauderdale area cross over towards Bimini and let the stream carry you North, you'll end up around Isaacs Light somewhere. From there jump across the channel to West End and check in. This route is about 14-16 hours. Be aware there's a lot of traffic in this route especially on a Friday overnight and most nights with good weather. We came across this weekend and counted a dozen cruise ships 4 tankers and a dozen container ships of all sizes along with all the people taking advantage of the good weather to cross. A good AIS system here goes a long way.
There are anchorages outside the marina at West End if you don't want to spend the money but only in calm conditions. From there you have all the Explorer routes in to the Abacos and again a no brainer.
There isn't much to do or see in the Berries. They are typically visited when transiting through to the Exumas and provide a nice stopover after crossing from Miami/Lauderdale area and before crossing to Nassau and onto the Exuma Bank.
Good luck and we may see you out there, this year we're staying in the Abacos as they're in our back yard from Grand Bahama.
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Old 22-11-2015, 10:01   #10
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Rather than go to West End from Lake Worth which requires some southing in you route, I go to Memory Rock waypoint and then on to Great Sale Cay. The last portion I do in the dark which is done after I have reached the Banks. Anchoring at Great Sale is very easy as the bottom is sand every where. I then clear in at Green Turtle Cay.

If you are uncomfortable with travelling at night, then you can anchor on the Banks before it gets dark.

The weather is pretty much the same no matter where you leave from in Florida so there are no options but to wait for a weather window. The biggest factors are choosing a route which doesn't put you at odds with the Gulf Stream, wind with no Northern component and an arrival point that you can safely get into in the light available. It's very nice to get some sail up to smooth out your ride.

While waiting for a weather window in Lake Worth check to on VHF 16 if anyone else is going to the Bahamas.
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Old 22-11-2015, 10:10   #11
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Having done two this summer, I'd recommend - if you are confident about getting out of
Stuart (we went from Ft. Pierce) - that you do the Abacos directly. Or, if you want to go further south, the same advice, as the Abacos are really easy on a short time schedule.

Check in at Grand Cay (short walk up the northwest road - turn right after you land - to the end, in the Post Office; temporary home of Walker's Cay Customs and Immigration). Dock the dingy at Rosie's and walk the short way up the road after anchoring near the wrecked barge; keep to the right as you come in. Or, if you have the draft, you could come in the harbor, from the south; we didn't...

Easy in/out, and you'll have all the Abacos to yourself if you stick to the outer islands, or enjoy all the populated ones; both our trips were 6 weeks. Check out the report as the most recent in my log link in my sig; we went back after another 6 weeks ashore, and that trip was also 6 weeks, but I've not yet written the log...

But do get a favorable window. Despite much handwringing, our best crossings have been as the wind clocks after a prolonged not-north, but as it starts to the north.


The fastest way (least time in the Gulf Stream) will be to point (not COG) your boat due east and make your fastest time possible. Make any needed southing once you are not in the GS, such as as you leave Stuart or Ft. Pierce, or as in our first one, coming from the top of the banks.


As you see in the referenced log, we came in over the top, because that crossing wasn't an ideal wind. The log I've not yet written was the best - it was a SW wind backing as we got a good southing out of Ft. Pierce. You can see that trip's track by going to (no leading www needed) tinyurl.com/FlyingPigSpotwalla, clicking on the name on the top, and putting adjustments to 5 months. You can see the track of the first (unfortunately overlaid on the second, for viewing purposes) by adjusting the time to 8 months; that one shows us not having southing initially, and checking in at Green Turtle (in the Post Office building just to the left on the main road in New Plymouth)...

Have a great time; we'll be over there after January or so.
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Old 22-11-2015, 10:39   #12
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Any route will require knowing how to recognize a good weather window. If inexperienced I'd recommend subscribing to Chris Parkers weather service. For 195 you get daily e mails with very detailed forcasts and recommended crossing windows from an experienced sailor.
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Old 22-11-2015, 11:01   #13
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Caliber40 View Post
Any route will require knowing how to recognize a good weather window. If inexperienced I'd recommend subscribing to Chris Parkers weather service. For 195 you get daily e mails with very detailed forcasts and recommended crossing windows from an experienced sailor.
For the same price you can talk to him directly on cell or web or SSB, and he'll custom-route-and-forecast for your trip(s); that price is an annual subscription...
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Old 22-11-2015, 11:26   #14
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swiss sailor View Post
Thank you all so far! To skip the wait for a window, I'd like to plan several routes.

I still would like to hear about crossing the Northwest Channel from Bimini to Freeport /West End. Any experiences? I'm curioud, why there is no waypoint route for this journey in the Explorer Charts?! Is this leg to simple?
Marco
Hi Marco,

To cross the Gulfstream to any island in the Bahamas will require a weather window. If it's too rough to cross Lake Worth to West End it will be too rough to cross Ft Lauderdale to Bimini.

I have made the passage between Bimini and West End and also through NE to SW Providence Channels. I assume there are no waypoints in the Charts because it is wide open, deep water and no hazards. You only need charts for leaving and entering they harbors on either end.

Since you don't have the strong northerly current in the NW Providence Channel that is in the Gulfstream the waves in a Norther will usually be smaller and not as steep in the NWP Channel.

Once you cross the stream getting across the banks (either place, Bimini to Andros or West End to Sale Cay) can be choppy and uncomfortable if a front hits after you arrive. If you make it to West End and get stuck with a strong Norther you would have the option of sailing east along the south coast of Grand Bahama in waters protected from the north winds. Not a lot of settlements to visit but beautiful water, some nice diving, and not so many tourists. Plus you will be in a good location to sail south to the Berrys if you want.
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Old 22-11-2015, 11:44   #15
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Re: Bahamas bound routing options

We went from Miami to Bimini last year, easy trip but we had to motor when it glassed off. Did West Palm to Westend last week, same again. It seems some people overthink the crossing, just don't do it in a Northerly wind and pick a light day so you don't have to deal with a rough entrance into an unfamiliar Harbour. If you like sea life Bimini is awesome, actually prefer it to most the Abacos but everyone has their own opinion.
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