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Old 24-10-2009, 22:04   #1
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Florida to Bahamas Watchdog

Hey guys, im new to this site and mentioned that I will be coming from canada in the new year to florida to sail for four months. I was wondering how hard it will be to find another boat to watchdog us from florida to bahamas.We are competent sailers with a solid boat but new to the area. I am hoping to cruise with another boat for the first leg just for a confidence booster. Unfortunately i cant give a solid date for leaving as the drivedown, mast install, launch, etc could take more time then expected. My question is, is it normal for boats to team up for runs, or will i need to do some digging to find boats on our schedule?
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Old 24-10-2009, 23:45   #2
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If your boat sails six knots, it should only take you eight hours to get over to the Bahamas to Bimini. Not a big deal as long as a north wind isn't blowing against the Gulf Stream.

Just start far enough south from Florida so that you can easily hit Bimini after you cross the Gulf Stream.

If you do the crossing in good weather, it should be an easy daysail. If you do it in bad weather, it doesn't matter if you have twelve buddy boats, you will have a miserable trip.

Getting to the Bahamas isn't rocket science. Turn on the engine for eight hours when the weather is favorable, and it's not a big deal.
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Old 25-10-2009, 03:37   #3
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The Explorer charts for the Near Bahamas has a nice write up in the front about crossing the Stream. You'll want to have a copy of them in any event--they're the best available.
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Old 25-10-2009, 04:46   #4
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There will be several boats with us in late Nov/early Dec crossing.
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Old 25-10-2009, 05:35   #5
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Regardless of where you jump off from, be it Lake Worth, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami or the FL Keys, there will be others planning to make the same trip. Hop in your dinghy or shout out on VHF 16, you will surely find some buddy boats. Same goes for heading down the ICW.

HUD3 is right about the Explorer Charts. They are the gold standard charts for cruising the Bahamas. Skipper Bob has in inexpensive book called, "Bahamas Bound" that is great for a first timer.

Fair Winds,
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Old 25-10-2009, 08:14   #6
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We'll be crossing from Miami in late December/early January. Just get on 16 if you're in Miami and ask who's crossing. There'll be lots of boats waiting for a weather window. Florida is a long state, where exactly will you be launching? Most folks cross from either Lake Worth or Miami.
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Old 25-10-2009, 08:35   #7
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Hi Countrybimm,

As already said, get to S Florida and you should find plenty of boaters waiting to cross to the Bahamas. However, I would be more concerned about cruising in the Bahamas than cruising to the Bahamas. Unless you completely ignore the weather, crossing the Gulf Stream is no big deal; deep water, no obstacles (unless you run into a freighter), easy landfalls that are mostly well marked.

Once you get to the Bahamas you have much trickier navigation like shallow banks to cross, strong and reversing tidal currents along the edge of the banks, unlit and unmarked channels, etc.

Not trying to scare you or talk you out of the trip, just wanted to point out that you shouldn't think all the hard part is over once you reach the islands.
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Old 25-10-2009, 08:50   #8
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Great sounds like the its not to hard to find another boat to travel with. I will be getting full charts once in Florida.Skipmac i understand the bahamas has lots of challenges to overcome, just was wondering about other boats.
Thanks everyone for replying.
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Old 25-10-2009, 08:59   #9
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The "dangers" of the Florida - Bahamas trip are (IMHO) vastly overrated and subject to far too much analysis/paralysis. Avoid crossing in a north wind and you will be fine. And really, how much do you know about the person you get to hold your hand on the crossing? Better to make your own decisions. Go of it and build your confidence.
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Old 25-10-2009, 09:05   #10
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Originally Posted by gbanker View Post
The "dangers" of the Florida - Bahamas trip are (IMHO) vastly overrated and subject to far too much analysis/paralysis. Avoid crossing in a north wind and you will be fine. And really, how much do you know about the person you get to hold your hand on the crossing? Better to make your own decisions. Go of it and build your confidence.
Yea, that's what I was trying to say, in a somewhat roundabout way.
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Old 25-10-2009, 09:14   #11
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How easy it is will depend on the weather. If you launch just after a nice weather window, most boats will gone. (but more will come) If you launch near the end of a cold front, the popular jumping off points will be filled with cruisers waiting for their weather window.

My experience is most boats do their own thing, but certainly some do team up. I personally prefer to go solo. During a weather window, there will be plenty of boats within VHF range and I find accommodating or compromising with another boat is often what will make be do things I otherwise wouldn't. I find it safer and easier to leave when it's right for me, travel at a pace that is appropriate for my boat and be flexible to make any changes, including turning around if I want without being pressured by someone else to do differently. That's me, but we each need to decide our own trade-offs.

Everyone is different. One poster mentioned they are more comfortable in the gulf stream than on the banks. I'm the opposite. I prefer that on the banks the seas are less, that I can always toss out an anchor and north winds don't have the same issues they do in the gulf stream.

I have some notes on how and where I have staged for a crossing on my webpage: bahamasmariner They may be helpful, but as always get as much information as you can and do what is right for you.
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Old 25-10-2009, 10:08   #12
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Travelling with other boats gives an illusory sense of comfort. Almost everyone does it their first time out, some continue to cling to others, but most realize pretty quickly that you are still on your own even if travelling in a group. If your engine starts sputtering and dies out on you, those boats aren't going to turn around and help. If you're slower than them, they're not going to slow down so that you can enter the harbor together. Always be your own captain. Some people like to play "group leader" but most will just find you to be an annoying tag along if you're very clingy, (unless you have lots of money and buy everyone dinner everywhere you go.)

Sitting in North Lake Worth last spring we watched one 'remora' that came in with a few others and they had trouble anchoring in a spot with great holding. They had been down to Georgetown and back, but apparently learned nothing in the process. After 4 or 5 failed attempts at anchoring and getting too close to other boats or not setting the hook, they finally called their 'group leader' friend and asked over the radio " Can we anchor next to you? It's 10 feet deep, how much chain should we put out?"

Always be your own captain. It's great to see friends in new anchorages and share cocktails or time ashore with them, but travelling in flocks is, well, for the birds.
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Old 25-10-2009, 10:39   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by countrybimm View Post
Great sounds like the its not to hard to find another boat to travel with. I will be getting full charts once in Florida.Skipmac i understand the bahamas has lots of challenges to overcome, just was wondering about other boats.
Thanks everyone for replying.
Sounds like you have the right idea, enjoy!

For the rest of you, crossing the Gulf Stream can be heaven or it can be hell. We have crossed with others and also solo; each has its plusses and minuses. Like everything else in life, YOU get to decide...when to go, how to go and who to go with. Sailing just makes the fact that it is YOUR decision more obvious.

Fair Winds,
Mike
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Old 25-10-2009, 13:47   #14
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For many of the reasons, Fishspearit mentioned, traveling with a group from Florida to the Bahamas is - IMHO - more dangerous than crossing by yourself. For a "first timer" I would strongly suggest heading all the way down to Biscayne Bay/Miami where the crossing is only 45nm. Biscayne Bay has plenty of anchorages and tons of things to do both on shore and around the Bay to keep you happy until the proper weather window appears.
- - It is a place where you can do a "day crossing" which promotes better confidence as you can see where you are going and what is coming at you. Figure 5 knots as you loose about 1 knot, on average due to Gulf Stream Current. That means about 9 hours across, give or take an hour. I always leave my anchorage at daybreak and can be outside Biscayne Bay in an hour to 1.5 hours. That puts you on the other side about 15:00 (3pm) plus or minus a couple of hours.
- - From the exit of Biscayne Channel head about 120 degrees M until you pick up the strong part of the Gulf Stream with takes about 10 nm. Then turn to about 110 degrees M for the rest of the crossing. When you get to the other side head for the Explorer Charts waypoint "Triangle Rocks". When you are there turn to 120 deg M to enter the banks. The reason for entering at "Triangle Rocks" wpt is that that entry is wide open, deep and 2/3 nm wide. You can enter the banks safely day or night. You are in an average of 4 meters of water so you can turn south and anchor behind any of the cays all the way south to Honeymoon Harbor and Gun Cay and then relax, swim get ready for whatever you want to do next.
- - Next day you can motor up to Bimini if you want, although I do not reccomend it for for "first timers" as the channel is trickly. Or you can head southeast and then east across the Grand Bahamas Banks to the Berry Islands, Nassau or Andros Island and beyond. It is about two and one half days from Miami to Nassau if you only sail during the daylight hours. Whatever you want.
- - Below is a map with the route from Miami to Triangle Rocks and the Banks. The red line is the actual path of the boat which first heads a bit south of the Blue route line and then drifts north as the Gulf Stream current takes effect. Then as the Gulf Stream current weakens on the other side the track line rejoins the route. The whole way across you are heading about 110-120 deg M constantly. This is a "minimum time" crossing technique. If you try to hold/stay on the route line you will end up pointing south almost into the Gulf Stream and not going anywhere slow.
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Old 30-10-2009, 17:40   #15
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Osiris - some excellent advice. I certainly appreciate having it brought to my attention places one can safely enter and anchor at night if the the crossing takes longer than expected. I also prefer day crossings. I'll keep this in mind next time I cross to the Bimini group.
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