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Old 16-09-2008, 19:01   #1
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Leaving N.W. Fla in Jan to Caribbean

We plan on leaving Tallahassee area in early to mid Jan 2009 in our Pearson 323-destination San Juan P.R., then on the clockwise run through the islands ending in Trinidad in June. What can we look for by leaving that late and what route would be best for us?
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Old 16-09-2008, 20:34   #2
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You might take a short cut through the Okeechobee Waterway unless you want to spend some time in the keys. You might want to check water depths before taking this route to make sure the lake is not too low.

Decide if you want to get there fast or take your time and see the Bahamas Out Islands. I chose the later my last trip and really enjoyed the trip. You can clear in at Bimini, cross the banks from Gun Cay Cut to N Andros and if you want to see town stop in Nassau. From there down the Exumas to Georgetown Great Exhuma (one of my favorite spots in the Bahamas). Next Long Island. Stop there at Clarencetown which is the last settlement of any significance for any parts, repairs, and connections back to the states if you need to visit or have friends come meet you.

Next stop Crooked/Acklins, not much there but know a nice old abandoned well where you can get fresh water for shower. Next major location for food, stores, repairs, etc Turks and Caicos. Provo was the place to stop when I was last there.

Next decide if you want to make any stops on the N Coast of Hait and DR and you are in PR.

Weather.

This time of year be ready for cold fronts passing through. Depending on the strength of the front it may pass through quickly or stall over the islands. If you are lucky and time it right and catch the leading edge of the front it will knock down the easterly trades give you a nice boost on your way but be careful the back end of the front doesn't kick up which they sometimes do.

I have made the trip when the winter trades were really strong from the NE, steady 25-35 knots for the whole trip and we chose to go through the Windward Passage south of Hispaniola to benefit from the calmer winds in the lee.

If you just want to get there, take the Old Bahamas channel but you won't have a lot of places to stop if you need supplies or repairs.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Safe Trip
Skip
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Old 16-09-2008, 21:15   #3
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Thanks for the advice. As I draft 4ft 5in the Okeechobee is possible. What about running straight from Key West? Would it be better to go through Channel 5 at Lower Matacumbe Key then up to Miami then across on the NW Passage or would that put me in too rough a stuff when we get outside the Bahamas? My wife has suggested taking another year and leave in November or December which is doable for us. We have a wedding to attend (my son's) this November so its out for now. I just don't want to push it if it would be better leaving at another time and being a safer passage. The run is very flexible and can go inside or outside. Our aim is to get into the Caribbean and stay for a while cruising.
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Old 17-09-2008, 05:51   #4
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First, I think Jan run to the Caribbean is perfectly safe. As long as you watch the weather and are prepared for the cold fronts and the wind that can occasionally follow you should be fine. Plus you will be past hurricane season which at the end of the day is a good thing.

Perhaps we should back up slightly to confirm your basic preferences for the trip. Do you want to get to PR asap to start the Caribbean loop or do you want to take it easy and see the Bahamas on the way (my preference assuming there is enough time in the schedule)? Are you comfortable with longer, offshore legs or do you want to break up the trip into shorter hops with access to more places to layover and catch your breath?

Some issues, upsides and downsides to various options.

- You will be in the easterly trade winds so will be more or less close hauled the whole trip (another reason for my preference to island hop).
- If you catch a cold front or "Norther" just right you could get some days of winds from N, NW to SW which could give you a great kick in the pants on your trip. But some of these fronts can pack a pretty good punch so make sure you are ready for a blow. 15-25 knots is quite possible for a strong front.
- If you want to sail direct you might go outside the Bahamas or down the Old Bahamas Channel along the north coast of Cuba. Either of these routes will include a leg that puts you a long way from a stopover point.
- Straight from Key West the shortest distance would be down the OB Channel if you want to go direct but you will be dead against the wind and current.
- From Miami you can go through the Providence Channel and outside the Bahamas. Depending on the trades if there is a SE component you can take a long tack east and then turn south to PR. But you will have to take what the weather brings since you will be a long way offshore.
- Predicting fronts is very unpredictable. I planned a short trip from FL to Bahamas one year in early Oct and saw an early norther that canceled our trip. I only had two weeks and it was blowing 25-35 kts for the whole time with seas 12-15 in the Gulf Stream. I have seen years when Jan-Feb was totally tranquil. So earlier departures are no guarantee of calmer weather.
- Bahamas, especially as you get further south have few navigation aids and plenty of reefs plus strong currents in places. But plenty of places to stop, good anchorages and a number of charts and cruising guides that will help a lot.

I think I am getting a bit long winded and this probably covered the main issues. If you would like to talk about it in greater depth send me a PM and I will give you a call.
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Old 17-09-2008, 08:01   #5
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Thanks again for the info. I think we would be wiser to go through the Bahamas and work our way down with the protection of places to anchor and resupply if needed. We have the time so that is not an issue.
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Old 17-09-2008, 08:24   #6
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If you have SSB? Then listen for Chris Parker. I don't have his frquency in front of me. His forecast are accurrate......BEST WISHES in a great trip....i2f
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Old 17-09-2008, 08:30   #7
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Get Bruce Van Sant's book "Gentleman's Guide To Passages South". Chocked full of information on the best courses, finding good weather windows, etc. It will help you plan out your trip from south Florida. The west coast can be done inside the Gulf ICW, outside along the coast or a combination. The choice will be yours depending on what you want to accomplish and weather conditions. There are several good cruising guides for the west coast of Florida. These guides and a good set of charts are what you should be using to decide how you want to go.

http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemans-Gui.../dp/0944428797
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Old 17-09-2008, 10:21   #8
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Woodmo,

I would go through at channel 5 (it's a long way out of the way to go all the way down to key West). After channel 5, I would not go up to Miami, but would anchor behind Taviner Key, then leave from there, early in the morning, for South Riding Rock in the Bahamas. The 25th parallel cuts right through the middle of Taviner Key ... If you follow the 25th parallel east from Taviner Key you will have no problem going through the reefs because there is a 1/4 to 1/2 mile area on the 25th parellel where there are no reefs. Makes leaving the states during the night very easy and in January the days will be short and the nights will be long. From South Riding Rock, we usually just anchor on the banks (weather permitting & we choose our weather very carefully to cross the gulf stream). You can crear customs at Morgan's Bluff on Andros then head out for the Exumas (Why go to Nassau?).

Good Luck, Bill A.
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Old 17-09-2008, 11:47   #9
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Trying to bash against the trades in January especially in a 323 is just nuts IMHO. Go to the Bahamas and work your way down to the Exumas...then wait for MARCH while you enjoy the Bahamas and listen to Chris Parker. (see below)! That way you may only have to wait in port a month or so to make it to PR against the trades.
Contrary to popular belief...it is not a close hauled route south of the Turks and Caicos...it is an engine on and mainsail up for steadying. We were stuck in Luperon for a solid month before conditions abated enough for us to motor/sail to PR which took 3 days till landfall at Ponce. Obviously, you could catch a break but the January winds are stronger and the seas are higher and it is all dead on the nose.

Parker's schedule (till March)
8137 kHz 07:00 AST 06:00 EST 1100 - 1130 UTC
4045 kHz 07:30 AST 06:30 EST 1130 - 1230 UTC
8104 kHz 08:30 AST 07:30 EST 1230 - 1330 UTC
12350 kHz 09:30 AST 08:30 EST 1330 - 1400 UTC
6221 kHz 10:00 AST 09:00 EST 1400 - 1415 UTC
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