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Old 20-05-2015, 16:14   #1
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Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

I've recently moved to Gainesville, and am trying to decide between keeping a boat in St. Augustine, or somewhere on the West coast of Florida (e.g., Clearwater). My target cruise destination is the Bahamas and Caribbean. Does anyone have an opinion about this? St. Augustine is closer, but you take the Gulf Stream head on, and there's not much to see along the way. The West Coast of Florida offers cruising in its own right, but it's pretty far from the Bahamas.

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Old 20-05-2015, 16:37   #2
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

If you are going on one Caribe trip I don't think it matters. If you going multiple times then.. hmmm... maybe west coast. But others will have to chime in on the feasibility of that.

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Old 20-05-2015, 17:01   #3
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Try Titusville. St Augustine is very pricey.
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Old 20-05-2015, 17:02   #4
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

We spent a season cruising the Gulf Coast and Keys. The following year we cruised the Bahamas. My wife and I enjoyed the Gulf and Keys much more. Also, with Cuba opening to Americans, I would make home port on the Gulf.
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Old 21-05-2015, 04:46   #5
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Also have a look at Cocoa Village Marina in Cocoa (not Cocoa Beach ) FL.
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Old 21-05-2015, 05:04   #6
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Hi Rwalker and welcome from another Gainesville sailor.

It's a little further to the Bahamas but closer to home so I'm keeping my boat in Alachua for now. Maybe in the next couple of months I'll get it in the water.

East coast, west coast. I would make the decision based on how often you will be making the trip to the islands vs how often you will be commuting to your boat from Gainesville.

If you will be living in Gainesville while prepping the boat for the trip and make one long cruise to the islands then absolutely the best thing is to park the boat as close as possible to home. For Gainesville this means Green Cove Springs or Palatka if your mast can clear the Shands Bridge.
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Old 21-05-2015, 05:15   #7
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, rwalker.
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Old 21-05-2015, 07:22   #8
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

From Norther Florida, the Abacos are the northern most Bahamian Islands and a joy to visit. Keep in mind that I would depart from Ft.Lauderdale and let the Gulf Stream carry me north while I steered 089 degrees.
Depending on your draft you will enter the Banks at Memory Rock, ( 6ft draft or so) or come in at West End.
Obviously the further south you come along the Florida Coast and then head east the easier it is.
Two important things: #1, watch the weather and do not cross when the wind is northerly, we call the waves, "Elephants"
#2, have the GPS chip for the Bahamas
Lastly, look up, "Abaco Race Week" aka Regatta Time in the Abacos, late June/early July. NOT TO BE MISSED.............!!
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Old 21-05-2015, 07:32   #9
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

I have sailed from FL. to the Bahama's some 25 times and I can tell you the best place to depart for West End is Lake Worth. The best for entering toward the North or East, such as Green Turtle is Jupiter inlet to cross onto the banks North of Memory Rock. We cross onto White Sand Shoal. Then you have a straight shot to Great Sale and around to Green Turtle. Be aware of the new entry regs. however, as these entries may not be acceptable any more.
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Old 21-05-2015, 11:24   #10
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

A lot depends on how often you plan to go to the Bahamas and return to Florida. If you plan to go a few times you will want to be on the east coast. I personally love St. Augustine which I'd a beautiful city with so much history

St.A offers fairly easy access to the ocean and it's on the ICW if you prefer to go that way.

We have been to the Bahamas a number of times and have always left from Lake Worth, clearing in at Green Turtle Cay. We have then worked our way through the chain to the Exumas and Long Island.

If you are going to go a number of times you will want to investigate the Local Boatwt option. It makes clearing back in to the USA a snap.
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Old 21-05-2015, 13:30   #11
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

You can DO anything but usually one starts wayy South like Miami or at least Lake Worth. Remember the Gulf Stream.

Melbourne is nice, cheap and only a few hours on ICW from Ft Pierce (cheap, not so nice) which is farthest North most people do. Russ
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Old 22-05-2015, 03:53   #12
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Lots of good advice already posted.

I don't know what you will use for a vessel. If you could use the canal at Stuart it would not be too hard to cross between the Gulf and Atlantic side when you wanted to go to the Bahamas. It depends how often this might happen.

Lake Worth to West End has worked well for us using a sailboat. West End is expensive, especially if you get stuck there for a week with a front going through. We have left FL at night, cleared at West End in the morning, then continued on to a Great Sale. Many don't stop at West End but clear at Spanish or Green Turtle, we have a dog and need to get off the boat when we anchor so we clear ASAP.

Jupiter inlet can be very dangerous, especially in a slower cruising type boat, and should be avoided. Jupiter Inlet the most dangerous inlet in Palm Beach County area |

The St Lucie inlet at Stuart is much better since it has been dredged, we enter through there coming back from West End.

I don't know about any "new" regulations except that the cost of a cruising permit went up a couple of years ago. Also they only accept cash !

Bahamas just got a 7.5% sales tax in January, supposed to go up in July I heard.

Good luck, Bob
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Old 22-05-2015, 05:32   #13
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Just a couple corroborating/contradictory opinions to those stated above.

Lake Worth to West End is easy, especially if headed to the Abacos. We generally anchor just south of the Lake Worth inlet the night before and leave prior to sunset. Relatively easy inlet to navigate in the dark as long as there is no dredging underway. You certainly don't want to linger at West End (now Old Bahama Bay Marina) any more than necessary due to the high fees.

Jupiter Inlet has always scared me. Maybe it's a local knowledge thing, but I would certainly be very cautious about using it, especially at night or bad weather.

Ft. Pierce is great, though not particularly affordable. If you can get a good deal at the municipal marina, recently renovated and expanded, that might be an option, with ocean access close by. Huge farmers market (you have to see it to believe it), and there is enough money in town to have some pretty good talent appear at the local theater. Easy walking to all basic needs.

Melbourne has the drawback of shoaling at the entrance to Melbourne Harbor Marina, and the marina could certainly use some updating. Shame really, since it is so convenient walking to all the shops and services in the small downtown.

Cocoa Village is lots of fun with a huge number of restaurants and cafes, plenty of bars, along with the huge hardware store, library, bakeries, etc. Only downside is there are no close by (walking distance) groceries. You are also further from ocean access.

Titusville has always seemed a little down on their luck to me. Your impression may be different. We have stayed at the Kennedy Point Yacht Club on occasion, just south of Titusville, though not much in walking distance there.

The difficulty in your situation is that easy ocean/Bahamas access does not always go hand in hand with desirable berthing locations. In addition, many areas have relatively poor cruising choices for weekend trips. You primarily will motor down the ICW to the next port. If you want to get the sails up and not fret over running aground it is challenging in these areas. Maybe your decision should be based on available marine services such as Harbortown if you plan on doing a lot of work on the boat.

I am not familiar with the west coast. Hopefully someone else will chime in.
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Old 23-05-2015, 10:26   #14
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

Just a side note about Shands bridge just south of Green Cove Springs. On a recent boat/marina hunting trip, we were told that Shands bridge will be replaced and would be open to all sailboats. Maybe open up some additional summering holes for us sailors.
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Old 24-05-2015, 07:48   #15
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Re: Best departure to Bahamas from North Florida

I would stay west coast. Depart from marathon or roderiegas key (largo) in the keys to go to Bahamas. Clear in at Bimini or if you have a good weather window stop at gun cay overnight and cross the banks. Clear in at Great Harbour in the Berrys. You can go north to Abacos or south to Exumas from there.

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