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Old 22-01-2014, 07:23   #1
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6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

My self-built 48' steel cutter is presently in the Jax FL area, where I've been landlocked for six years making a living. I've taken this boat from Virginia to Guam and back to Florida, but I've been out of the game for a while.

Back in the 1980s we cruised a 4' draft Bristol 35 from FL across to the Exumas and the middle Bahamas, but this time I'd like to try the Abacos. But is crossing the Little Bahama Bank with a 6' draft just asking for trouble? Would it be smarter to stay in deep water and enter the top of the Abacos via one of the Atlantic channels? Or just skip the Abacos entirely, and aim for the Exumas again?

One of my reasons for choosing the Abacos for this spring is the easy availability of flights into Marsh Harbour for visiting guests who may not have "sea legs" and would enjoy mainly flat-water sailing. Any advice, opinions or scuttlebutt on the best "strategy" for getting a big, heavy steel boat from Florida into the Abacos is what I'm seeking, either by the Little Bahama Bank, all the way around offshore, or a combination route. Thanks!
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Old 22-01-2014, 07:42   #2
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

No problem at all. Come on to the bank at Memory Rock and stay to the North of Great Sale Cay and you will not even have to watch the tide. This is the freight boat route and some of them draw 9'. Favor the Great Abaco shore and you should stay in 15' all the way. You can clear at Spanish but they charge to tie up and there is nothing there, better to clear at Green Turtle Cay, lots going on here! Enjoy!
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Old 22-01-2014, 07:49   #3
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

6 feet will put a some anchorages off limits. Some channels will either be off limits or you'll have to wait for tide. However, you can certainly transit the banks, stop at some wonderful "deeper" water anchorages on your way to Marsh Harbour.

On my last trip, I existed just north of Sandy Cay - north of the Indian Cay passage. Much deeper water, straighter line and without the fringing shallow reef where it meets the Atlantic. Great Sale, Allan's-Pensacola, Crab Cay Anchorage, Powell, N.Manjack, Green Turtle, No Name, Great Guana, Water are all some potential anchorages I'd consider on my way with that draft.
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Old 22-01-2014, 08:12   #4
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

So it's viable and legal to just bypass West End, and clear into one of the Abacos ports? I dug up an old thread that said the RBDF was at times circa 2012 hassling cruisers and forcing them to go back to West End to clear in. I'd prefer to skip West End completely.
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Old 22-01-2014, 10:19   #5
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

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So it's viable and legal to just bypass West End, and clear into one of the Abacos ports? I dug up an old thread that said the RBDF was at times circa 2012 hassling cruisers and forcing them to go back to West End to clear in. I'd prefer to skip West End completely.
According to the Bahamas official government website, "Visiting boaters must clear Customs and Immigration at the nearest designated Port of Entry."

It's pretty much the same as anywhere. If you enter their territorial waters with the intent to remain, you must proceed to the nearest port of entry for clearance.

Having said that, it appears to be routinely violated, but not by me...

Pete
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Old 22-01-2014, 11:23   #6
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

I would prefer to stay in their best graces, so in that light West End seems indicated. It also seems like a pretty pricey marina there for an overnight at West End. OTOH, it looks like a good staging point for a run directly to anchoring at Great Sale Cay. Plus, modern communications infrastructure for a last look at the internet, easy phone calls etc.
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Old 22-01-2014, 11:26   #7
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

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I would prefer to stay in their best graces, so in that light West End seems indicated. It also seems like a pretty pricey marina there for an overnight at West End. OTOH, it looks like a good staging point for a run directly to anchoring at Great Sale Cay. Plus, modern communications infrastructure for a last look at the internet, easy phone calls etc.
The other option is Port Lucaya, they are so close together I doubt that Bahamas officials would object, Port Lucaya is dramatically cheaper than West End (which is dramatically overpriced...). But there's no need to stay at the marina to check in, I believe there is a government dock at West End (to the best of my recollection). pete
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Old 22-01-2014, 15:08   #8
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

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Originally Posted by Travis McGee View Post
I would prefer to stay in their best graces, so in that light West End seems indicated. It also seems like a pretty pricey marina there for an overnight at West End. OTOH, it looks like a good staging point for a run directly to anchoring at Great Sale Cay. Plus, modern communications infrastructure for a last look at the internet, easy phone calls etc.
A bit pricey, but just because you clear in there does not mean you need to stay at the Marina. I rarely have.

There's no place to anchor nearby that I'd like to ride out a very strong cold front, but 4-5 I've used comfortably in settled weather.

Depending on when you arrive at WE, moving directly onto either Mangrove or G.S. may also be possible.
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Old 23-01-2014, 06:31   #9
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

Travis, You can stop at West End, clear in and move on without taking a slip. I spoke directly to the Commander of the BDF about the incidents of the boats being turned back at Mangrove and Sale Cay and required to check in at West End. He stated the law requiring checking in as soon as entering Bahamian waters but also stated that chasing down boaters that wish to check in at Green Turtle, etc. was not his policy. So take that for what you will. We know that many boats are still bypassing West End for check in. Chuck
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Old 23-01-2014, 06:38   #10
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

I did want to mention that we cruised all over the Bahamas with our sailboat and 6 foot draft without any issues on the Banks. It will limit a few harbors but for the most part is not going to be a big problem. Just have the most current charts and use them. Chuck
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Old 23-01-2014, 07:09   #11
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

Interesting that we are discussing Great Harbor. At the time we were there, we had a discussion with the Harbormaster about anchoring in the inner harbor. After he contacted the developer, who owns the basin, we were told that anchoring would be OK as long as the channel was not blocked and no one complained. It seemed at the time that anchoring was being restricted to try and force any visitors into the marina as opposed to anchoring out. I wonder where I have heard that scenario before. A few moments ago, I received the following email from the Marina Manager...

First Name: Hans
Last Name: Febles
Email: hans@greatharbourcay.com

I am the manager for Great Harbour Cay Marina and would like to share some information regarding anchorages in Great Harbour Cay. There is NO anchorage allowed inside the man-made cut as your publication suggests unless you draft less than 2.5 feet and stay well clear of the man-made channel. The channel in and out of the marina is used by large vessels and various tour operators from the cruise ship islands. We get numerous complaints about boats anchoring in the channel area and must report to the police who are less than kind when asking those boaters to leave the basin. Please remove the anchorages you have posted inside the cut and encourage your readers to use the anchorages outside the cut near the settlement of Bullocks Harbour.

Do not hesitate to contact me should you have additional questions at 1-242-367-8005
.

And here is my reply to him...

Hans, we had this discussion with YOU while we were there and it was you that gave us the information after you talked with the developer that anchoring was OK as long as it was not in the channel and no one complained. We specifically told you that we were publishing a book on the area. This policy is explained in our publication. If the policy has changed we will be sure and let boaters know via our publication, website and many other boater’s resources that Great Harbor is unfriendly to anchored boats and that they are not welcome unless they use your marina. It is unfortunate that you gave us different information when we stayed at the marina and specifically discussed this with you. I’m sure this will affect the number of boats that might be planning to visit Great Harbor. We will most certainly change our book and get the word out quickly. Especially since no other harbor in the Bahamas places these kinds of restriction on visitors. Chuck Baier

This makes options to anchor in strong westerly winds few. Feel free to email Hans and let him know your feeling on this policy. Chuck
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Old 23-01-2014, 08:00   #12
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

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Travis, You can stop at West End, clear in and move on without taking a slip. I spoke directly to the Commander of the BDF about the incidents of the boats being turned back at Mangrove and Sale Cay and required to check in at West End. He stated the law requiring checking in as soon as entering Bahamian waters but also stated that chasing down boaters that wish to check in at Green Turtle, etc. was not his policy. So take that for what you will. We know that many boats are still bypassing West End for check in. Chuck
Thanks for the info. I'll probably stop at W.E. just to simplify matters and put us in the clear from that point forward regarding the RBDF.
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Old 23-01-2014, 13:50   #13
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

We have taken our 6' draft trawler back and forth to the Abacos stopping at West End where we have spent nights at the marina. The marina and customs/immigration experiences are both pleasant.
It would require getting up in the middle of the night if one was to stage in Lake Worth prior to the crossing if they wished be at West End in time to check in and then continue in daylight to Mangrove Cay or Great Sale Cay.
I would not advise the Indian Cay passage. When we were in West End a power boat ripped off two pod drives when missing the Indian Cay channel.
We crossed from just south of Memory Rock as shown on the Explorer charts.
We have not yet found 6' draft to be a hindrance.
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Old 23-01-2014, 16:00   #14
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Re: 6' draft over Little Bahama Bank to Abacos?

Thanks, GBanker, I'm leaning in that direction. Indian Cay channel sounds like much to much adventure for me. BTDT in a 4' draft boat in other Bahamas locations, when aground meant hop out and walk around looking for deep water. With a big steel boat and 6' draft, no thanks at all. I want wide and deep channels onto banks, I'll go the slightly longer way every time happily.
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