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Old 10-08-2008, 20:51   #1
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Bahamas Tutorial Sought

Starting to plan next years cruises. I'd like to head over to the Bahamas. It would be our most ambitious trip to date. We've sailed the Sea of Cortez and some coastal cruising in the PNW and southern California. Our boat is a Com-Pac 27 that we trailer. My initial plan is to head out from the Stuart area around the middle of April and stay out for 3-4 weeks. So far all I know is we want to go. We feel confidant with boat handling and navigation skills. What we really need are sage words of wisdom from seasoned cruisers! Any and all advice is appreciated. Can you recommend a few good guides or other books regarding sailing the Bahamas?

Thanks in advance, Bill
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Old 10-08-2008, 21:43   #2
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Bill,

I have a friend who has been cruising the Bahamas on a Compac 27 for quite some time. I ran into her on my recient trip. If you are interested you can read it here. That is a link to page 5 of a 10 page thread....

Get Skipper Bob's Bahamas bound., and Sarah & Monty's Explorer chart pack for whereever you plan to go. Good stuff... well worth the trip.

Good luck and enjoy!
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Old 10-08-2008, 22:08   #3
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you can do it

for a one month trip in a compac 27 i recommend you do the northern bahamas - generally known as 'the abacos'.

leave from west palm and head to west end - this will be your longest leg and it will be across the gulf stream. don't cross from stuart - it's too far north to take advantage of the gulf stream. WAIT FOR GOOD WEATHER. there is an anchorage just inside west palm inlet on the south side where boats wait for weather to cross the stream. you can check in at west end when you arrive.

i second the recommendation for the 'explorer' series of charts. they are superior to any other chart set, including electronic charts.

for navigation i recommend the explorer chart for the northern bahamas and one or two (for backup) handheld battery powered gps's. take extra batteries. check your compass before crossing.

fill your water tanks before leaving and carry extra water, although in the abaco's you're never TOO far away from a water supply.

have a good heavy anchor with some chain - the delta anchor is gradually replacing the cqr as the anchor of choice. i used a bruce once and do not recommend it. works great on the u.s. east coast - not at all in the bahamas.

keep your vhf on 24/7. you'll pick up weather chatter between boats early in the morning.

there's lot's more but you'll find information widely available on the subject....
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Old 11-08-2008, 04:56   #4
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One Step is right. For only 4 weeks, don't try to range too far. Lots to do in the Abacos.

If you search earlier threads, you will find much advice but here are a couple.

Both Pavlidis and Dodge have good cruising guides for the Abacos.

Use the Explorer charts. Everyone I know who has done the Bahamas prefers them.

While your 27' boat will be on the smaller end of the range, there are plenty of smaller boats doing it every year. We have even seen McGregors far south in the Exumas. Your boat is at least as sea worthy.

We have 4 Bahamas cruises including two trips through the Abacos. Reports and pics are available on our web site 1994 Prout 38 Sunspot Baby

Enjoy the cruise.

George
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:39   #5
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Getting to the Abacos is fairly straight forward. With the weather reports nowadays and gps crossing should not be a problem. Wherever you stage from there will be other boat waiting for a window and when one appears you'll all set sail together. In April it will be mostly Florida folks crossing for a vacation. The snowbirds leave in December and January and in April you'll probably meet quite a few returning already. For the Abaco I'd clear in at Green Turtle Cay. I think it'll cost you $100 or $150, for boats over 35 feet it's $300. Explorer charts is a must and Dodge's and Pavlidis' guides are good.

Don't load up with engine spares as you can get most anything in a day or two with a phone call. They've just introduced duty on spares which they say you can reclaim. I'd take the reclaiming bit with a pinch of salt. Used to be no duty if you included your cruising permit in the order. If you like beer take lots as it's $40 a case there. Liquor though, is cheaper than in Florida. Take lots of paper products and canned goods, they're expensive. Food generally is a bit more than in the States and readily available in Marsh Harbour. Many other cays have small stores but they're very pricey. Fuel and water is available in lots of places in the Abacos. I would take a few jerry jugs as it's a lot easier jugging it than picking up the hook and going alongside.

Take your snorkeling gear and if you like to spearfish a pole spear or Hawaiian sling. Lobster season will be over but there's still fish and conch. It's cold so a wet suit will be needed. Generally trolling in the Abacos is useless but you might get something in the stream when you cross. A heavy line and a couple of cedar plugs will do you.

If you don't have a ssb a good portable sw receiver capable of getting ssb will do. I recommend a Sony ICF-SW7600GR. Chris Parker give good weather Carib WX - Caribbean Weather Information
The late barometer Bob is still in business Barometer Bob Weather Abaco Bahamas
Wifi is generally available in the Abacos. Some pay some you can mooch. If you're interested, a good external wifi antenna really helps. There is a cruisers net every morning out of Marsh Harbour on the vhf. It can be heard in Green Turtle if your antenna's good.

Hope this helps a bit. If you have anything specific, just ask.
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Old 11-08-2008, 09:08   #6
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We did the Abacos last Spring. All the advice here is good. I think Dodge's cruising guide is the best -- they do photo updates of all the critical places and verify waypoints, every year. The others only do so every 3 to 5 years.

Rick's advice on provisioning is excellent. Bring lots of beer! Water is generally available, but you will need to be conservative unless you have a watermaker. Fuel will be $1.00 a gallon more than the US price.

Our passage was a bit different than what you've heard so far. We left from Ft Lauderdale, leaving at 4 pm (waiting for decent weather, of course). Overnighted across the Gulf Stream and then to Chubb Cay. We did not check in there, but anchored out for a rest. Then, across the top of the Tongue of the Ocean, around the southern end of Abaco and up to Man O'War channel to check in at Marsh Harbor. Total passage time (not including the layover) was 40 hours. Boat was a 44' cat, so you would probably take longer.

Abacos is very nice, quite cruiser friendly. Do check out the Green Turtle Club for dinner! Excellent. If you like to dive, Brendal at Green Turtle will show you a very good time. Definitely pay attention to the Cruiser's Net (8:15 am on 68) and never, ever take on the passes during a "rage"!

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Old 11-08-2008, 10:44   #7
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Great advice so far, just what I was hoping for. Thanks all.

What is a "rage"?
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:03   #8
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Most of the sailing in the Abacos is in the sheltered waters that lie between Great Abaco and the cays to the east. There are entrances to these waters from the ocean such as Whale Cay Cut or Man of War passage. When a "rage" is running it's inadvisable to run these cuts. A rage is what the Bahamians call really rough water in these cuts. Sometimes it's from large swells sometimes it's from moderate seas against an outgoing tide. The local net will broadcast the state of the entrances.
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:14   #9
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A "rage" can happen when long ocean swells from a storm well to the north enter the shallow waters of the passes between cays. It can happen even when local conditions are totally benign, i.e. glassy flat, no wind. The big swells rise up and break thunderously in the passes, and can throw your boat out of control, or even roll it.

Whale Cay Cutis a prime example. Going north from Great Guana Cay, you have to leave Whale Cay to port. Your starboard side is exposed to the open Atlantic. I was there in 2005. There was a rage running, and a sailboat tried to make it through. The breaking swells caught them, and the boat broached, throwing the husband into the water. A nearby boat picked him up, luckily. We went through the next day. It looked glassy calm, with no wind at all. As we neared the north end of Whale Cay, a ten foot breaker suddenly rose up out of the flat surface, and took us for a surfing lesson. It gave me a scare, I'll tell you!

A number of years ago, a friend of mine rescued a teenager from the water. Her family's boat had been rolled in the Whale Cay rage. Her father was rescued by another boat, but tragically, her mother was drowned.

As Vasco suggests, listen on the Abacos morning net. Someone always knows the conditions of the pass.
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Old 11-08-2008, 12:18   #10
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bmiller --

Now that we've scared you -- Yes, those passes should definitely be respected, but the conditions that bring on a rage are well known and broadcast on the Cruisers Net. Furthermore, the dive shop on Great Guana looks right on to the Whale and there are lots of folks around Man O'War. Whenever we were thinking about going through, regardless of the morning's pass report, we would put out a call on 16 asking for current conditions. We never had to wait long for someone who had either just gone through or was looking right at them to come back with a report.

Also, there's a lot of sailing you can do, once inside the Sea of Abaco, where you don't have to deal with any of the passes. However, if you want to go to Green Turtle and other points to the NW of it, from Marsh Harbor, Great Guana or Treasure Cays, you will most likely have to deal with the Whale. There is a (theoretical) inside pass to the NE of Treasure Cay, but it is quite shallow and the shoals shift a lot. One of those "local knowledge required" places.

Have fun -- Abaco is worth the trip.

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Old 11-08-2008, 15:37   #11
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Be prepared to spend a few more weeks. The weather or the joy of getting there and the nice folks you meet might dictate this. The Gulf Stream is not something to mess with. You will need to wait for a good weather window.
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Old 12-08-2008, 06:45   #12
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For the easiest entry into the Bahamas I'd depart from Ft. Lauderdale/Government Cut or Hillsboro Inlet and head to West End/Old Bahama Bay. The locals where I live do it all the time. Heading due east from either inlet the current will deliver you 20 miles north and into West End generally within 9.5-10.5 hours. We normally depart at 4am to reduce the night hours. Customs is in the Old Bahama Bay marina. Stay a night, unless you arrive earlier. Next few days will be in 6-14' of water. I recommend Steve Dodge's yearly updated Abaco's book. It will have most pertinant waypoints to help you plan. There's plenty to do/see/snorkle there.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:14   #13
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Cool

if it were me I would extend the cruise by a couple of weeks and pass thru the berry islands and nassau and then head south to allan's cay in the exumas .. but that might not work for your schedule and boat.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:21   #14
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I haven't spent much time in the Abacos, but the farther south you go the prettier it gets. The eastern, and southern Bahamas, south of Georgetwon that is you will find yourself alone a lot. The Exumas are a great plys too!
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Old 24-08-2008, 13:28   #15
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Bill, I've done several trips in 26-footers leaving from the Stuart area. For the time frame you have, I recommend the Abacos.

From Stuart, I either take the ICW or outside down to the Fort Worth Inlet as wind indicates. There is free anchoring all over with a grocery store, gas station, marine stores and beach all within an easy walk. (I recommend you do not leave your dinghy at the park after dark) If the winds are light, I'll leave from Palm Beach and motor over to West End. If it's a south or west (not common) I'll sail or motorsail. If the winds are strong out of the SE, I'll continue on south to Fort Lauderdale and leave from there. It's possible to anchor in Lake Boca if you can't make it to Fort Lauderdale in a day. If I need to wait for weather, I may wait it out at anchor in Palm Beach instead of paying for a marina in Fort Lauderdale. It's fairly easy to get out of the Fort Worth inlet at night if need be. As others have said, wait for weather when crossing the stream. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Fortunately at the time you are planning, cold fronts and strong north winds should be rare. (If I stay at a marina in Fort Lauderdale, it's been the Las Olas which has a convenience store across the street and is an easy walk to the beach.)

As for guides, I agree Dodge's book is the best. I like Wilson's for the yellow pages that include prices. The explorer chart books are good for detailed maps.

If you are on a budget or just don't like marinas, it's possible to anchor out every night. As I said above it's easy at Palm Beach and I've anchored out many times at West End instead of picking up a slip. From West End, you should be able to make it to Great Sale, but can stop at Mangrove if you left late, maybe to clear customs. I've also arrived at Great Sale at night and anchored along the west side in prevailing SE winds.

Many cruisers head straight to Allan's Pensacola, and down to Green Turtle from there, but if you like more deserted islands, I highly recommend taking in some of the northern Abacos. Realize, you may not be able to pick up any VHF weather reports in the northern Abacos.

In the Abacos, Marsh Harbour is best for reprovisioning, but you can also pick up supplies at places like: Grand Cays, Green Turtle, Treasure Cay, Man-O-War, and Hope Town. Fresh fruit can be hard to find and many food items such as bread may only be in stock after the local ferry arrives. You can anchor in Marsh Harbour and use their town dinghy dock for provisioning, laundry, crew changes, etc.

When returning to the U.S. and Stuart, I've always headed straight back to the St. Lucie Inlet. Including one time under sail with no engine. The channel changes from time to time, but my experience has been they at good at changing the markers.

I've always launched at Indiantown. Sometimes I've had the marina launch my boat with their travel lift, but I've also used the town ramp downstream of the train bridge. I've found this to be an excellent, long ramp, good for trailers needing a bit of water. I've never seen it crowded. Being above the locks there are no tides or wave action. Docks on both sides of the wide ramp. I've always kept my vehicle and trailer at the Indiantown Marina, but check out the self storage place as well. There is a West Marine and Home Depot easily available in Stuart if you need last minute items. I've also made good use of the auto store and hardware store in Indiantown. The campground at the St. Lucie Locks is a good, affordable place to stay in the boat for night while it's still on the trailer.

The cheapest way to call home I've found is to buy a pre-paid Batelco phone card once over there which will work at most public phones. I was also able to get weather on my iphone a couple times when out of VHF range. The Abacos, like most of the Bahamas are shallow water. Taking the time to study the tide tables and be comfortable with only a couple feet of water under your keel at low tide really opens up many wonderful opportunities.
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