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Old 10-09-2007, 17:43   #1
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FL Keys to Cay Sal Bank and Beyond

We will be departing the Tampa Bay area for the Caribbean in late December.

One cruising article mentioned a FL Keys to Cay Sal Bank as a possible transit. Does anyone here have any thoughts on this? It looks like an interesting place, off the beaten path a little.

I would like to avoid checking into the Bahamas if possible (since we will be coughing up the $300 cruising fee 6 months later on our way back to FL), so once at Cay Sal, is it possible to go direct to the Turks and Caicos or even the BVI? Doesn't look promising, and I have not heard positive comments about this route in the winter, but thought I would ask.

We will be on a 35-38FT cruising cat. Our goal is to get to the Virgins as quickly as possible. What's the best route to do this? Don't mind multi-day passages and would rather not pick our way down on the Thornless Path.

Thanks again everyone!
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Old 10-09-2007, 18:18   #2
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[quote=dworkman;100142]
coughing up the $300 cruising
[quote]

Shows how little I know about cruising.

How long is it good for?
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Old 10-09-2007, 18:44   #3
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If memory serves from previous posts here, the permit is good for two entries for 90 days...but please correct me if errant?
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Old 10-09-2007, 18:56   #4
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Cay Sal

Hiya,

Cay sal is noted by some to be a bit of a no-mans land. Think Hatian refugees, cuban refugees, and the occasional drug boat. Only the US patrols it using flyovers, the bahamians dont bother at all. When last I was in the keys there were no facilities at all, though I recall hearing that in case of trouble there is one island with a disused litehouse that has a cache of food and water in case you get stuck. Beacon Key? I really can't rememeber. There are a slew of tiny little islands as well. Reportedly some whompin sharks there too. All heresay, though, Ive never been.

B
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Old 10-09-2007, 19:46   #5
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There are dive boats that make regular runs to Cay Sal Banks from the Bahamas and Florida. Diving is reported to be very good, blue holes etc. Though it is remote I doubt it is as dangerous as hearsay says it is. Get some facts first and what you hear from the boozehounds around the yachtclub bar take with a grain of salt. Because it is off the beaten track it would be high on my list of places to go.
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Old 10-09-2007, 20:32   #6
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I would have to agree with that in general. Most stores are overblown. But as with anywhere that is unpatrolled (though it might be now), and has the potential for many refugees in the right time of year who wouldnt mind trading their innertube for your boat, it pays to keep an open eye. I would think that it is a case of just being aware, same as you would in any of the other remote places.

Those dive boats have plenty of grunt to get off a sandbar or to decide when its time to get up and go cause they dont like the neighbors, while a little sailboat in waters that have not been charted for many years, and that gets rolled over by hurricanes regularly, could make for a tough time if you get into a trouble.
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:19   #7
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DW..if you want to go to the Virgins as quickly as possible without doing the "thorny path" you need to start further north. Once you are that far south there is no way you can sail into the trades and motoring can only be done when you have UNUSUALLY settled conditions..dictating lots of waiting for weather.
If you have good tankage...you could motor out from Nassau to 60W degrees then turn south and sail. Following a front out of the Bahamas may reduce the amount of motoring you'll have to do.
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:59   #8
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Thanks all for the input. Cam, that is what I figured. We'll just hit some of the Bahamas on the way out and pay up twice on the cruising fee. Better way to spend our first month rather than bashing into the trades.
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Old 11-09-2007, 16:28   #9
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The Cay Sal bank route if for sailboats returning from the Bahamas only - the prevailing winds require 100% motoring into heading seas - a terribly uncomfortable voyage.

If you go through the Bahamas and do not stop, you don't legally have to pay the customs fee. The trip is quite long - over to Georgetown, through the Turks and Cacos, into Dominican Republic, Cross Mona Passage, transit the South Side of PR, and the Spanish Virgins and !! you are there.

A much better choice is to reach East from Marathon where you exit Florida Bay - you should hit 65 degrees east about 250 miles South of the Bahamas (maybe less if the winds are less favorable - more NE), tack South at 65 degrees - it takes you between Jost and Tortola to make port t St. Thomas - transit from Marathon in your boat is 18 to 20 days.

A still better option is to look at the Caribbean 1500, or the North Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (NARC). They go in a group, provide weather routing (of doubtful quality), and lots of nice people to travel with.

Drop me a note and I can help with the Voyage Prediction Program - gives you expected winds and transit times - or be a sport and buy a copy - more nice people and a great product (I have no attachment, paiid for my copy). Happy sailing /Stu
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Old 11-09-2007, 17:02   #10
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You don't have to clear into the Bahamas but you can sail through. With the right weather window you can leave Key Biscayne sail straight through the Bahamas and stop in the Turks and Caicos for R&R or just keep on going, damn the torpedos.
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Old 12-09-2007, 09:34   #11
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So what would a "stop" be considered? Can you anchor but not leave the boat, or once you put the hook down, are you considered stopped?

I have read a few accounts of people "ducking" into cays when crossing to the Abacos or Nassau before checking in...what are the (realistic) repercussions of this if boarded?
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Old 12-09-2007, 09:59   #12
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The realistic thing is that you will seldom be boarded. I believe you have 24 hours to check in when in Bahamian waters. Cruisers quite often will wait for weather behind a sheltered cay before reaching a port where they can check in. Fly a "Q" flag.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:38   #13
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I'm no sea lawyer, but I think as long as you don't go ashore or fish, you can probably stop at a sheltered anchorage and catch some rest. You might even be able to stop and buy fuel or take on water and still be legal.

Realistically, unless you tie up in a marina that requires a copy of your cruising permit, the chances of being apprehended by Bahamas is slim. Now if you are carrying 15 Haitians of a small sloop, the odds go way up.

In short, I think you can transit without buying a cruising permit. If you stop and go ashore or linger too long, then you're probably illegal.

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Old 20-09-2007, 10:38   #14
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brian and clare,When last I was in the keys there were no facilities at all,
I dontm know what fla keys you went to, but theres probably over 100 marinas in the keys and just about every key is occupied. Must have been the fla keys in a dream
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Old 20-09-2007, 12:11   #15
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santana, you need to read a bit closer, they said the Cay Sal Banks and there are keys or cays in that area.
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