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Old 30-10-2009, 19:54   #16
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My wife and I are planning on doing the crossing in November/December 2010. We found all the information given by everyone very useful especially Osirissail's comments. They have reduced our anxieties a great deal. It also has gotten us excited about our future adventures. We really had a safe crossing to the Bahamas from our kitchen table north of Toronto, Canada, via Goggle Earth. Can't wait for the real thing!!!
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Old 31-10-2009, 19:41   #17
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We'll be crossing from Miami late December. See you out there.
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Old 01-11-2009, 06:49   #18
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Since the Gulf Stream will push a sailboat about 20-25 nm north during a crossing and you have to counter this with 20-25 nm of southing the easiest way to do it is to leave Miami early and have a lovely sail down to Penecamp and Key Largo, and have a couple of days snorkling. Then about 22:00 after having an early dinner and a nap leave and point east +-, depending on the wind, for 8-10 hours. The resultant vectors will then put you very close to or south of Bimini about the time that customs and immigrations open to take your $300...incidently they usually insist on you being on a dock and not anchored so that can inspect the boat...something they have never done in the 20 years I have been making the trip.

I now occasionally enter in the dark as there is a new channel (10-12 ft depth) that runs due east towards the condos with the breakwater just south of the main entrance. However, everytime I go more of the channel lights have floated off and there is no guarantee that they will be there which is why getting there after dawn is safer and less anxiety provoking.

Good luck and enjoy.
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Old 01-11-2009, 14:47   #19
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Newbie question for the Bimini vets . . . Is there a dock at the customs house that you can tie up to? I see it on the Explorer charts: "Govt. Dock" -- but in all my reading around, I can't recall anyone saying they docked there.

We're on track for our Feb.-April 2010 trip to Bimini > Chub > Nassau > Exumas.
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Old 01-11-2009, 16:23   #20
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Don't worry about the Gov't dock. It's an old concrete seawall. Just go ahead on in to whichever marina you're staying at and work it out from there. Call ahead and let them know you need to clear in.

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Old 02-11-2009, 05:28   #21
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Hmm. We'll I'm a terrible cheapskate, and I try to avoid paying for a marina slip or even a mooring when any other option is available. We usually anchor out, or -- because our boat is ultra-shallow draft (10") -- we just nose up onto the beach and step out onto land.

I see there's a dinghy landing adjacent to the Gov't Dock. Think they'd mind a 31' boat pulled up in the shallows? Is it a sandy shore there?
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Old 02-11-2009, 06:29   #22
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Wow, 10 inch draft - that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you. First, I would recommend to everybody entering the Great Bahamas Banks in the vicinity of Bimini and Cat Cay/Gun Cay to take the time to rest up behind the little cays either south at Gun Cay near the Explorer Charts waypoint "Honeymoon Harbor" or north behind Triangle Rocks. Then the next morning visit the "Wreck Sapona" shown on the Explorer Chart BIM02_1 - Gun and Cat Cays. This will you first opportunity to snorkel in some the world's best and clearest waters.
- - The first time I entered Bimini to Alice Town, I almost browned my pants as the channel is tight and you are riding the swells/waves from the main Gulfstream over a sand bar. After 3 or 4 times doing it, it is a "piece of cake." But still it is not something I would recommend doing on your first time outside USA waters. One option is to anchor down at Nixons Harbor (shown on the Explorer Charts BIM01_1 - Bimini Islands) just off the southeast tip of South Bimini and then dinghy into Alice Town - just don't tell them you are anchored off the south side. If they do ask tell them it is your first time and you are scared of crossing the sand bar.
- - Or, head south and check-in at the Cat Cay Club. You can anchor just outside their marina breakwater or go inside and side tie to the club seawall. Unfortunately the Cat Cay Club charges some serious money for the privilege of tying up to their seawall (at least they did many years ago- not sure what they do now). Just be warned that the bureaucracy in the Bahamas is "British Heritage" which translates to anything between half an hour to half a day to get your forms properly stamped.
- - I never check in at either place anymore for those reasons. However, if you only have a week or two then these places are your best option. Instead, in the morning I continue on across the Grand Bahamas Banks using the Explorer Chart route to an "offset" waypoint one half nm south of the Explorer Charts Cat Cay wpt. My offset waypoint is N25* 33.25' W079* 13.00' The reason is shown on Explorer Chart NB005_2. There are drifting sand bars all over the Bahamas and the bar has drifted south over the Cat Cay wpt such that the depth is only 5 ft or less. I found this out when I encountered a Brit sailboat hard aground right on top of the waypoint.
- - Once you clear the Cat Cay offset waypoint it is clear water all the way to NW Channel Light. I never get tired of watching the sandy bottom which looks - because of the "gin-clear" water - to be barely beneath your keel but is actually 10+ feet deep.
- - It will take a whole day to cross to NW Channel Light, so I divert before reaching the NW Channel Light to about 1.5nm south and drop anchor for the night. You are behind the reefs north of Andros Island and by now it is dark anyway. Never anchor north of the NW Channel Light as there is a major sand bar there and also the "tramp" steamers from Nassau hang a right to head north on the Mackie Shoal route. They have been sailboat collisions there and serious injuries.
- - Next morning at first light I normally head out for Nassau or Morgan's Bluff, Andros. I skip Chub Cay as it is a Sport Fisherman's center and they have historically never been very friendly to sailboat cruisers. There is a new operation there now, so maybe they have changed - maybe not.
- - At Morgans Bluff you can anchor and dinghy into the little commercial harbor and ask the guys at the little bar/restaurant to call for the Customs official. Unless he is in the harbor area it might take him 2 hours or more to get dressed and drive to the harbor. Historically he has been very friendly and helpful, but staffing changes might mean you get a not-so-friendly guy.
- - I like going into Nassau (yes, it is an dangerous place to wander around but if you stay close to the marina and don't wander off the main street it is fine). I use the Nassau Harbor Club at the east end of the harbor on the south side. They are friendly and have concrete docks. There is an anchorage to the east and/or you can anchor near the Cruise Ship piers and go to the Custom/Immigration main headquarter yourself.
- - The main reason I use the Nassau Harbor Club - for one day only - is to have electricity, water, and the officials come to you on your boat. While you are waiting for the officials you can fill your water tanks, rinse the salt and grime off yourself and your boat and tidy up things. After the official finishes you can go across the street to the shopping center and top off your supplies, food, etc. at the best prices in the Bahamas. Then back at the marina top off your fuel tanks with the cheapest fuel in the Bahamas (this is all comparative - anything in the Bahamas is expensive). Next day you are are fresh and relaxed and ready to head south or further east.
- - Most of the power yachts come non-stop from Miami to Nassau so the officials are not concerned that you showed up in Nassau to check-in. The ease and convenience of officials, cleaning the boat and yourself and topping up tanks after 3 or 4 days of crossing from Florida is refreshing and worth the US$100 marina fee (that's for my 50ft boat).
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:13   #23
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Ossirisail -- thanks for all that good info.

My plan to stop in Chub was only to refuel, as I imagine we will be motorsailing or motoring most of the outbound legs. We should have 150 miles worth of gas on board, but I don't want to cut it too close, esp. if contrary wind and waves decrease my assumed gas mileage significantly.

So your suggestion of heading into Morgans Bluff piques my curiosity. It's actually a more direct route to the Exumas anyway. So long as we can gas up there, I think I'll give it a try.

Still wondering about the dinghy landing area on Bimini. I guess if you can bring a dinghy ashore, it can't be too rough. We'll poke around when we get there. I just like to scope out as much as possible in advance, and the collective wisdom and experience here is a gold mine.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:49   #24
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Do not count on fuel being available at Chubb. The status of the marina is always iffy.

The holding east of Gun Cay is not the best. Many boats that anchor here drag when the front come through. We always try to get to Nassau from Miami. It's under 30 hours. We used to stop on the Bank but usually, if you do, the front catches up with you, as the time to cross is usually when the wind starts clocking because of an impending front. If the Tongue of the Ocean is acting up and you can't make Nassau go hide behind Frazers Hog Cay (east of Chubb). There is good holding here if you look for a patch of sand. I think it's only about 14 miles from NW Channel Lt.

Clearing in at Nassau is easy, especially if you go to Harbour Club (Peter, the manager, is very accommodating).

To get on the Bank, the best route is from the tip of Key Biscayne to North Rock which is north of Bimini. Very easy to get on the Bank, not like at Gun/Cat where you have to make a few dekes. Straight on at North Rock, day or night, no problem. The light at North Rock is usually lit.
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Old 02-11-2009, 19:39   #25
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- - North Rock is a good alternate entry onto the banks. It all depends upon what your boat can do as speed over the ground. I usually hold 7 kts plus or minus a knot, so the Triangle Rocks entry works well. If you are slower then you are going to end up further north due to Gulf Stream current. Then North Rock is excellent. The anchoring anywhere in the Bahamas can be good or bad with a 100 yard of each other. Generally the east side of Gun Cay is tricky as there are a lot of hard patches that the anchor cannot set well. I have anchored up to six times before finding a "good" patch of bottom there.
- - I would not suggest going through the Gun Cay/Cat Cay channel as it is a bit tricky with several critical turns to avoid reefs. That is why I switched to the Explorer Charts Triangle Rocks wpt. However, from there you have to head southeast before you can head east. From North Rock you can head down the Explorer Charts route to Mackie Shoal wpt and then to NW Channel Light. The mileage difference between the two is probably next to nothing - so either route is very good.
- - Clearing at Morgan's Bluff versus Nassau is strictly a matter of preference * and weather *. Morgan's Bluff is deadly in any north component winds and since the main harbor is a dredged harbor the holding is horrible in soft sand. You need to use a "blade" style anchor like the Dansforth or Fortress. There are no marinas or stores there but there is diesel fuel and gasoline in the little dredged out inner harbor.If you are a small vessel they will normally let you go into the little inner harbor if a big blow about to hit.
- - I stop and anchor south of NW Channel Light because it is usually dark by the time I get there and secondly if you are going to Nassau you do not want to get there before noon as the marinas are full and folks ahead of you have not left yet. The two most popular marinas are Nassau Harbor Club (my favorite) and the Nassau Yacht Haven, an older marina. If you go to Nassau you have to be very careful as there is an east/west shoal area between the main channel and the marinas.
- - I used to go directly from Andros to the Exumas but that is a really long day as it is 74 nm from Morgans Bluff to Highborne Cay or about 12 hours at 6 kts. You really do not want to be sailing on any of the Bahamas Banks in the dark. Shifting sand bars and coral heads can spoil your day if you cannot see them.
- - With your 10" draft you could go more directly from Morgan's Bluff to Highborne rather than doing a dogleg that I have to do. I have to track down the Tongue of the Ocean southeast to just below Conch Spit to a wpt N24* 48.00' W077* 26.90' before I can turn eastward directly to Highborne Cay. I use that route as I can run it in the dark without having to worry about depth all the way to Highborne.
- - With your draft you could go from Morgan's Bluff to Coral Harbor (about 33nm) on the southwest end of New Providence Island (Nassau) and stop there for the night. Then resume on the Explorer Chart route from Coral Hbr to any of the northern Exumas such as Roberts, Allens, or Highbourne Cays.
- - Never count on any navigational lights being operational in the Bahamas - sometimes they work other times they are dark - which is why, unless you are very experienced in the Bahamas you don't sail at night.
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Old 02-11-2009, 21:08   #26
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i crossed to gun key/cat key and found lot's of holding problems east of gun key. i moved down to just east of cat key and was able to dig in.

to clear at cat key you must enter the harbor and tie up. they charge about $100, so if you do that you may as well stay for the night. entry fee for boats over 35 is $300, (or is it $350?), under 35 is $100. cat key has fuel and water, restaraunt, and an outdoor bar. it also has a small market, but you should still be loaded down with stores from florida, so just a cold ice cream would be nice.

i prefer bimini. with the new (old) dredged and marked channel the entrance is easy. unfortunately the fairway has been bouyed and anchoring spots are now in short supply. but don't be afraid to tie up at a marina for the night. they are incredibly cheap (i paid $25 for the night with a 37 foot boat). there are some good cheap restaraunts where you can get your first taste of cracked conch and other bahamanian delicacies - full meal for two with drinks was about $14. in fact, bimini has got to be the cheapest island in the bahamas. you can top your fuel tanks here for the crossing to nassau.

i would avoid chub cay. go straight to nassau from northwest channel light, after having spent the night on the banks. it can be pretty eerie the first time you anchor on the bank, with no lights or signs of civilization, just flat water all around you.

in nassau we stayed at nassau yacht haven, which is about the cheapest marina they have, although it cost us about $70 a night. still, we stocked up at the supermarket (city market) and got lot's of laundry done as well as a little sightseeing. don't forget to have lunch on potter cay dock, at the foot of the original potter cay bridge. good fresh local food and cheap. all the locals eat there.
don't forget to call nassau harbor control on 16 as you enter the harbor and report yourself. they like to feel important too. for a local view of new providence, take the bus from potter cay dock to downtown - it actually makes a long drive around the north central part of the island and for a buck a head you get a view of life in nassau you won't normally see. you can also take the bus back to potter cay and then walk east to the marina's from there.

oh, and if you use nassau yacht haven be careful of the sand bar in the channel. although it's plainly marked with a warning sign boats go on it all the time....
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Old 03-11-2009, 19:16   #27
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Thank you all, very informative.
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Old 04-11-2009, 19:54   #28
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oh, and by the way, countrybimm, in case you haven't been told this often enough, buy the explorer series of charts by monty and sara lewis. there are three editions, basically north, central, and southern bahama islands. there is absolutely positively nothing better. as they say in the amex ads, 'don't leave home without it'. check them out at www.explorercharts.com
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Old 05-11-2009, 06:28   #29
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We did the crossing earlier this year and I was pretty nervous about it but it worked out OK. The weather was pretty good and seas were small. But our mistake was to try to head across from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini. The Gulf Stream really pushed us farther north than I'd anticipated. I really like the idea of heading down to the Keys for a day or two of kicking back and then leaving from there. In the end it'll probably save fuel. If I had to do it again with our timing, schedule, and weather I'd leave Ft. Lauderdale at about 16:00 and sail down the coast to Miami and as it got dark I'd head east and make the crossing from there. For a variety of reasons we just kept moving and made it all the way to Fresh Creek, Andros before clearing in. The roughest part of the trip was at the Northwest Channel light where a lot of seas were coming together that day and it was pretty bumpy and disorganized.

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Old 05-11-2009, 06:56   #30
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Originally Posted by wlearl View Post
The roughest part of the trip was at the Northwest Channel light where a lot of seas were coming together that day and it was pretty bumpy and disorganized.

Bill

Yeah, it can get awful lumpy there especially when the tide is going off the Bank into an opposing sea.
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