I did a bit of research
on that route a couple of years ago. I was planning a delivery
run from St Thomas, through the Keys and up to Tampa Bay. It's pretty straightforward, as long as the weather
is cooperative. The kicker
for me was being able to get across the Gulf Stream
in the vicinity of Cay Sal Banks. If the weather
was bad (northerly or east winds), making the Stream crossing a bad idea, the Cay Sal Banks didn't seem to be a very hospitable place to anchor
and wait it out. Geoff Schultz wrote about the difficult anchoring
conditions in his Blog
. Here's another link with some info about CSB, including a chart: http://www.bootkeyharbor.com/CaySalInfo.htm
I did the trip in early November, 2008, and used Chris Parker's weather routing services. We ended up changing our plan to take the OBC off the Dominican Republic
when Chris told me we had a tropical wave approaching us from the east and a strong cold front coming from the west, and it looked like it was all going to slam into us just as we reached the narrowest portion of the Old Bahama Channel.
We decided to turn north and head
out into the Atlantic between the Mouchoir and Silver Banks. I preferred being in open water
vs. hemmed in by reefs
and banks in nasty weather. We went around Eleuthera, through the Providence Channels and had a smooth crossing of the Stream, between cold fronts, from Great Isaac Light to Hollywood, then down to the Keys. I don't think it added a lot of extra time and there are more options if the weather gets bad. BTW, one of our fellow CF members ended up abandoning their sailboat near Bermuda
in that storm (the cold front). It was a doozy!
Friends of ours did the St Thomas to Florida via the OBC with no weather problems. They did get intercepted at night by a Royal Bahamian Defense Force boat. The boarding crew was polite and professional, did a modest search, and thanked them and left.