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Old 05-08-2016, 07:16   #1
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Florida to Exumas routing questions

Good day, all. Went a couple years without a cruising boat and nearly lost my sanity, so I bought another one. Planning on leaving Charleston for the Exumas in mid-November and returning in late January or early February. I know, too early to come back, but I still work and I can't take that long off. I'll have to settle for 8-10 weeks. It is what it is.
I have cruised the Exumas before. In 2009, we sailed our IP35 to the Exumas via the Abacos and Eleuthera. This time, I am going to avoid the Abacos and Eleuthera and just spend as much time as possible in the Exumas.
My question pertains to route possibilities. The first part of my route will be Charleston offshore to southern Florida, not further south than Ft. Lauderdale. From there, I'll cross with a weather window to Nassau. I was considering going the deep-water route, north of Great Stirrup Cay and then down to Nassau to clear in and top off the tanks before heading to the Exumas. Lately, I've been giving more thought to going onto the banks just south of Bimini and continuing on until near dark, getting well off of the beaten path and anchoring up for the night before carrying on to NW channel light, and then ultimately to Nassau.
My question is this: is 6.5' too much draft for this route? I've read repeatedly that depths are generally 10'-20' on the banks, but I'd hate to be constantly paranoid about thin water while crossing such a long stretch of banks. It seems that I may have more peace of mind going the deep-water route, but I would clearly be able to get more rest and have better sea state crossing the banks. Any input is appreciated.
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:11   #2
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to North Rock (entry onto the Bank just north of Bimini). Across the Bank to Mackay Shoal and then to NWC light. Into Tongue of the Ocean to Nassau. Lots of water for your draft. Run straight through, no anchoring. Less than 30 hours Miami to Nassau.

Lights on North Rock and Mackay Shoal are out but NWC light had a brand new tower and light this spring.

In November you will be crossing as a front approaches. Do not stop in Bimini or anchor on the Bank as the front might catch up with you and the wind will go to the east which is a bitch.

If the front is fast moving and catches you on the Bank you can hide behind Frazers Hog Cay (east side of Chubb) and wait for weather.

Use Explorer Charts and you will be fine.
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:17   #3
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

I helped deliver a 95' motorsailer from Miami - Bimini (Customs) - then across the Bank all the way to Staniel Cay. We draw almost 7 feet and had no problems.

Great trip.... Good luck
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:29   #4
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

Heading east from Bimini, or just south of Bimini like Honeymoon Island, towards the Berry Islands, the water was around constant 6 ft. for 70-80 miles for me.

I love the Mason 44, one hell of a gorgeous boat. best of luck on your journey!
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:38   #5
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

Lots of options.
Night xing from Biscane Bay to Bimini, clear in, then cross from banks entering tongue of ocean, stop in Frasiers Hog if weather or tiredness demands, or carry on to West Bay on New Providence, or go south of New Providence direct to Highborne Cay. Variations on this route, check in at Chub/Frasiers (if open)/Morgans Bluff. We have done Bimini to Highborne direct a few times, good run.

From Fort Lauderdale Night xing along Northern edge of Banks, due east to Great Harbour, check in top up, then Great Harbour in Berries, then Nassau or Eleuthra, then Exumas.

Bottom line don't anchor on the banks. We always push trough the night, so much more comfortable and in fall/winter if you have a window use it or loose it, they can close quickly and to waste 10 hours of a good weather window anchored on the banks is not wise.

Ref routing, past 7 years have followed routing on explorer charts and never experience any problems, we draw 6'.
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Old 05-08-2016, 10:18   #6
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

I've anchored on the banks in settled weather and sailed through all night when a front was coming. The banks are a pretty easy night sail, nothing to hit out there really, except the mailboats, even with a 6.5 draft.
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Old 06-08-2016, 07:01   #7
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

Thanks to everyone for the quality responses. Looks like I'll plan on going onto the banks at North Rock and then proceeding straight to Nassau. I have all of the Explorer Charts and have been studying them pretty closely. Looks like a pretty straightforward route. Now if I can just get weather to cooperate in November. Thanks again, people.
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Old 06-08-2016, 08:54   #8
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

In February went from Charleston direct with intention of landing for customs in Marsh Harbor. When we arrived at the Whale decided the weather at 2AM made it a bad choice. We continued on outside Elbow Cay to Spanish Wells where we followed the Explorer Charts through Ridley Channel and cleared customs in Spanish Wells. We draw 6'5" and had no problem. From there to Providence Island and the Exuma chain is straight forward.
The quality of your weather window should determine if you make the offshore jump to the Abacos
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Old 06-08-2016, 09:04   #9
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

I don't know about going south of Bimini, but if you go the usual route to North Rock and across the banks, I've done it with 6'-5" draft without issue.
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Old 06-08-2016, 13:50   #10
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

I would jump off from Stuart to Memory Rock, got through the Abacos to Little Harbour, then cross to Eleuthra, go through current cut, down the West side to Cape Eleuthra, then cross over to the Exumas. You see much more of the Bahamas, you avoid the mess of south Florida and Nassau. Usually the strong fronts come after Christmas.
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Old 06-08-2016, 14:19   #11
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to North Rock (entry onto the Bank just north of Bimini). Across the Bank to Mackay Shoal and then to NWC light. Into Tongue of the Ocean to Nassau. Lots of water for your draft. Run straight through, no anchoring. Less than 30 hours Miami to Nassau.

Lights on North Rock and Mackay Shoal are out but NWC light had a brand new tower and light this spring.

In November you will be crossing as a front approaches. Do not stop in Bimini or anchor on the Bank as the front might catch up with you and the wind will go to the east which is a bitch.

If the front is fast moving and catches you on the Bank you can hide behind Frazers Hog Cay (east side of Chubb) and wait for weather.

Use Explorer Charts and you will be fine.
That is the route I have taken a few times, and I agree totaly: No less than 14-15 ft of water.. It beats the inside route from Cat Cay across the banks.
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Old 07-08-2016, 06:36   #12
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

The move from Nassau to highbourne is definitely daylight because of the coral heads. I recall rose island just east of Nassau being a nice anchorage
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Old 07-08-2016, 08:29   #13
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Re: Florida to Exumas routing questions

I have done both the North of Bimini and the South of Bimini route.
Th Northern route has a bit more water, closer to 18-20' most of the way.
The Southern route is shorter by 3 NM or so.
Either we stop and sleep on the banks, or Chub Cay, Rose Island or Nassau.
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