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Old 18-03-2013, 14:44   #1
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Advice for first bahamas cruise

Looking for advice on a first Bahamas cruise with a couple of first time boaters. Myself and one other experienced sailor with two lady friends with virtually no experience. Not looking for graduate level anchorages. St. Augustine to Ft. Pierce first. No rush at that point. Early June departure and then over. We have three weeks available, but will probably plan on 10-14 days before heading back, but we're wide open. I have cruising guides galore but there's nothing like hearing it first hand from someone who's already got the T-shirt!
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Old 18-03-2013, 15:12   #2
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Search the archives and you'll probably find more info than you would want. Here's a few thoughts to get you started. With the limited window, stick to the Abacos. Sure you could make Nassau and the northern Exumas, but with 2 non sailors that might be too much sea time. Plus if you get bad weather then you're stuck with a long way to get home. Clear in West End, or cross the banks and clear in at Green Turtle.

Places to hit I would suggest Hope Town, Man O War and GTC. Marsh Harbor if yhou are looking for more restaurants and mainland type provisioning. Weather should be settled (wind out of the east) except in squalls, so lots of places to anchor depending on how isolated you want to be.

Bring most of your own food since its cheaper in the states. Beer is very pricey, liquor can be cheaper and wine too depending on what you like. Definitely bring your snorkel gear. Get Explorer charts if you don't have em.

Hope this helps. What kind of info are you looking for specifically?

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Old 18-03-2013, 15:23   #3
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

For a first trip and having just three weeks, I'd probably spend it in the Abacos.

For a June trip, I'd probably cross from Lake Worth to West End. I've usually left pre dawn to arrive at West End early afternoon. You can of course do an overnight sail as well.

From West End you can either head up to top of the Cays and work your way down, or if you want to skip the upper cays, you can go from WE to Great Sale and then from Great sale to Allan's Pensacola or even further south than that.

If you want to stop at some uninhabited Cays north of Green Turtle, I think Strangers, Umbrella and Powell offer very simple approaches with open anchorages. New Plymouth on Green Turtle is a very picturesque town with a few basic grocery stores, restaurants and some marine supplies. You'll also be able to get internet there.

Once you are south of Whale Cay, you are in the more populated part of the Abacos with more marinas, little towns and little resorts to visit. Fowel Cay is a good place to snorkel. Marsh Harbour of course offers the biggest grocery store and most services. Hope Town with it's candy striped lighthouse is another quaint town to see, also offering a couple basic grocery stores, restaurants, etc.

With so much shallow water, anchoring is usually fairly straight forward, but grassy areas are sometimes fairly hard. I usually try to find a sandy patch.

I prefer the explorer charts and GPS charting systems based on those (Garmin).

P.S. - I believe they no longer like people to sail through the cays and check in at G.T., but want people to check in at West End. One thread here even speaks to them turning people back who did not check in at West End.
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Old 26-03-2013, 08:08   #4
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Thanks for the replys! I draw 4'10". Does the bank provide adequate clearance? For planning I have an older BBA Chart kit with a lot of canned courses drawn out between West end all the way over to Marsh Harbour and then south. Some of the soundings look rather ominous along these routes at 1.5 fathoms! Any advice for getting accross Little Bahama Bank? After West End, and heading eastbound, where are the next facilities available, fresh water, etc.? If your goal was to reach Hopetown asap and work your way back, what would be a good itenarary to do just that (day 1 West End, day two?)?. Obviously plans have to be flexible, but I'm hoping to make the run to Elbow Cay as quickly as possible, in order to max our time near Great Abaco. With the prevailing wind being out of the east, how quickly can I sail to said destination? Motoring involved? Thanks again for the two replys and the patience with a relatively 'green' cruiser!
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Old 26-03-2013, 13:21   #5
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

From WE, probably go to Great Sale. From there, it depends on conditions and how long a day you want to put in. Allans- Pensacola is a common next stop, but you could probably go farther such as Powell or maybe even Green Turtle.

G.T. is a good place to get fuel and provisions, but you can stop at either Spanish or Cooperstown as well. With your draft you will need some tide to get into either of the sounds on G.T. Weather permitting, you can pull up to the fuel dock at Cooperstown easily enough if all you need is fuel. Weather permitting you can probably get to Hope Town in a day from G.T, or go from G.T. to Marsh Harbour if you need more amenities.
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Old 26-03-2013, 13:58   #6
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Quote:
From WE, probably go to Great Sale. From there, it depends on conditions and how long a day you want to put in. Allans- Pensacola is a common next stop, but you could probably go farther such as Powell or maybe even Green Turtle.

G.T. is a good place to get fuel and provisions, but you can stop at either Spanish or Cooperstown as well. With your draft you will need some tide to get into either of the sounds on G.T. Weather permitting, you can pull up to the fuel dock at Cooperstown easily enough if all you need is fuel. Weather permitting you can probably get to Hope Town in a day from G.T, or go from G.T. to Marsh Harbour if you need more amenities.
Good advice there. I would add that there are numerous places to stop prior to Green Turtle, if you so choose. Of course take Whale Cay Passage seriously and check before going. Not sure why you want to maximize your time down near Hope Town and Marsh Harbour. They're nice, but they're also the center of civilization and there are lots of other nice places to go. Man O'War is also civilization, but interesting and worth seeing. Little Harbour down at the south end of things has the famous Johnston studio--worth seeing. Just pointing out that there are a lot more stops you might want to explore.
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Old 29-03-2013, 00:05   #7
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As much as I'd like to cross from Jupiter or West Palm, i think we're commited to leaving from Ft. Pierce. If I calculat correctly, if we leave in the evening, we should be able to come onto little Bahama bank at white sand ridge sometime in the morning after light. From there Great Sale would seem the logical choice to overnight. Thats. About 114 nm in 24 hours +or-. After talking with a friend who has done this 3 times, he claims its been more of a motorboat ride than a sail. Any advice on taking the Gulfstream perpendicular to the current and then correcting course once out of the 3kt current, vs. straight line with the slower ground speed and longer time in the Gulfstream? Is towing a 16ft Carolina skiff all the way to the Abacos just unthinkable?
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Old 29-03-2013, 06:42   #8
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stirfryd View Post
... I draw 4'10". Does the bank provide adequate clearance?
... Some of the soundings look rather ominous along these routes at 1.5 fathoms! ...
Why would nine feet (1.5 fathoms) of depth seem ominous?
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Old 29-03-2013, 11:16   #9
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Why would nine feet (1.5 fathoms) of depth seem ominous?
Well if its 1.5 for the entire 70-80nm then I guess its not ominous...,unless its not and you run hard aground in the middle of the bank.
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Old 30-03-2013, 07:52   #10
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Personally, I'd leave from Lake Worth/Palm Beach instead of Fort Pierce.

Your last post indicated you might be thinking of going straight to Great Sale without first checking in at West End. I understand Bahamian authorities no longer like this and have even been turning some people back - There's a thread on that in this forum.
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Old 30-03-2013, 07:59   #11
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

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Originally Posted by s/vPainkiller View Post
Search the archives and you'll probably find more info than you would want. Here's a few thoughts to get you started. With the limited window, stick to the Abacos. Sure you could make Nassau and the northern Exumas, but with 2 non sailors that might be too much sea time. Plus if you get bad weather then you're stuck with a long way to get home. Clear in West End, or cross the banks and clear in at Green Turtle.

Places to hit I would suggest Hope Town, Man O War and GTC. Marsh Harbor if yhou are looking for more restaurants and mainland type provisioning. Weather should be settled (wind out of the east) except in squalls, so lots of places to anchor depending on how isolated you want to be.

Bring most of your own food since its cheaper in the states. Beer is very pricey, liquor can be cheaper and wine too depending on what you like. Definitely bring your snorkel gear. Get Explorer charts if you don't have em.

Hope this helps. What kind of info are you looking for specifically?

Scott
That was pretty much exactly what I was going to write.

In addition. Don't forget little things like a Q flag and a Bahamian flag to fly while you are there. Pricey if you have to buy one there. If you don't think you are going to carry enough fuel in your main tank to last the trip, consider bringing extra in a jerry can. I carry a filter and don't put any diesel or gas from the Bahamas in my tank without running it through it, and it's amazing the crap that gets filtered out (you don't want to be changing fuel filters on vacation).

Check out Whale Cay passage in the Abacos and have a plan to deal with it. It's the only real serious navigation issue in the Abacos coming from the US. You don't want to try and go in and out of it in the wrong weather.
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Old 30-03-2013, 07:59   #12
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

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Originally Posted by Stirfryd View Post
Looking for advice on a first Bahamas cruise with a couple of first time boaters. Myself and one other experienced sailor with two lady friends with virtually no experience. Not looking for graduate level anchorages. St. Augustine to Ft. Pierce first. No rush at that point. Early June departure and then over. We have three weeks available, but will probably plan on 10-14 days before heading back, but we're wide open. I have cruising guides galore but there's nothing like hearing it first hand from someone who's already got the T-shirt!
Glad you asked the question. Our boat is in St Augustine at the moment and we'll be heading out for our first Bahamas cruise around the same time as you so this is good info.

See you out there!
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Old 31-03-2013, 08:00   #13
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

just a short added comment. Don't forget your "Q" and courtesy Flag.
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Old 31-03-2013, 08:37   #14
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

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Any advice on taking the Gulfstream perpendicular to the current and then correcting course once out of the 3kt current, vs. straight line with the slower ground speed and longer time in the Gulfstream? Is towing a 16ft Carolina skiff all the way to the Abacos just unthinkable?
There has been a lot of discussion of how to deal with currents here on CF. Here's a link to one thread. You're better off leaving from Lake Worth Inlet and heading to West End where you can clear in. You are supposed to clear in at the first available port on your route. In the past many have continued on to Green Turtle to clear in, and I think that would be an option except we have heard they are cracking down on people doing that.

Don't tow the skiff--even if the weather forecast is for flat calm things can change quickly during a thundersquall in the middle of the Gulf Stream.
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Old 01-04-2013, 17:59   #15
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Re: Advice for first bahamas cruise

Beware of afternoon summer storms and squalls that pop up quickly. If you want isolation, head to the Exumas. If you are looking for more populated areas head to the Abacos.
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