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Old 09-03-2013, 19:20   #1
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Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

Hi. Long time lurker but first time poster. Wanted to get people's opinions on doing an overnight from marsh to the mid exumas. Specifically, navigating the Fleming channel in the dark. It looks wide and easy but are there uncharted shoals or coral heads to be aware of? We draw 5' and have all Bahamas charts in paper and electronic form. I'm not worried about the navigation but rather the flemming and hitting something that I would have seen during the day.

Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2013, 19:47   #2
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Lurk no more! I have no experience in this area but definitely on the list for one day. Others will give you the answers you need I'm sure.

The overnights I've done on tighter passages have been using GPS point to point carefully laid out & making sure of accuracy of all your inputs.

If you can time it with a moon that's helpful also.

Welcome to CF & best of luck.
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Old 09-03-2013, 20:02   #3
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

I would say no due to my experience of arriving at the Fleming one day only to find that the huge gentle swells we were experiencing in deep water were piling up on the shoals creating Hawaii Five 0 type waves at Fleming. We almost blundered into huge curling breakers because we couldn't see them from the backside. Waited around a bit to get the feel for which ones were breaking and took a chance and surfed in at maximum speed (on a cat) to get out of there quick. And then from there down to Ship Channel there are a fair number of shallow heads to avoid.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:33   #4
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

I personally don't think it is a good idea to blunder around in coral and shallow waters at night due to the necessity of eyeballing where the shallows and coral heads are. Plus, we have seen on this forum recently how charts of all sorts are lacking in accuracy in the Bahamas. Sure, do the deepwater runs or even cross the Bahama Banks at night, but do the shallow bits during the day.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:51   #5
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
I personally don't think it is a good idea to blunder around in coral and shallow waters at night due to the necessity of eyeballing where the shallows and coral heads are. Plus, we have seen on this forum recently how charts of all sorts are lacking in accuracy in the Bahamas. Sure, do the deepwater runs or even cross the Bahama Banks at night, but do the shallow bits during the day.
What he said... we went thru in perfect conditions and still were nervous, you wouldn't see 'em at night.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:03   #6
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

Kettlewell's point of possible breaking waves is well taken, especially given the strong north winds that have been blowing the last 4 days. We just a had a similar experience coming into the usually placid West Bay on New Providence. I saw breaking 6-8 foot waves near the entrance to the bay and incorrectly assumed they were only breaking on the reefs to the north and south, and that the deeper approach channel would be OK. Wrong. We were surprised when we were picked up and surfed down one of the breaking waves. The boat tracked fine, but I hammered the throttles and got out of the surf zone before any others could catch us. Didn't have the presence of mind to look at the SOG as we surfed down the wave (too busy with a death-grip on the helm), but it felt unnerveringly fast. Wouldn't want to do that again, and especially at night.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:05   #7
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

The last time I went from Fleming down to the Exumas it was a tough day because the sky was full of little puffy clouds that kept blotting out the sun, creating shadows on the water that made it hard to spot the coral. Some of the heads were close to the surface. On the other hand, we caught a nice yellow-tail snapper trolling over one of the heads, and then later something big took the whole lure.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:22   #8
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

Shanti,

We cruise full time and sail 4,000 miles per year. We see 1-3 boats every year that believed their charts and chart plotters, especially at night, and are sitting on a reef.

Once you leave Miami chart accuracy drops dramatically, night entries require local knowledge.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:23   #9
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

There are coral heads between the Fleeming Channel and Ship Channel Cay. Some are closer to the surface than charted. Also if you're using Navionics electronic charts they are unreliable in that area. I would not do this trip at night.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:27   #10
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

When I was younger, I used to do a lot more sailing at night. The older I get, the more I view a night sail as something you only do out of absolute necessity. Too much can go wrong. That is even more true in the Bahamas, where eyeball navigation is the primary way of not hitting things.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:50   #11
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

See that warning in red text on the Explorer chart clip Lease on Life posted above? There's a reason it's in red. I think you'll also find somewhere on that page a warning that (roughly translated) says, "Hey, remember, these aren't real charts. They're fancy computer sketches compiled by a cruising couple in a trawler. Don't pretend that they are the NOAA charts you might use to sail into a major U.S. port at night."

I learned this lesson the hard way. There is nothing more disheartening than the thump of coral against your keel in the middle of the night in the Bahamas. And NOBODY is waiting on the radio to come rescue you.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:05   #12
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

The area called Middle Ground on the NOAA chart is really the same shallow, coral head-strewn area, known as the Yellow Bank that many have crossed on the way from Nassau to the Exumas. The same cautions apply--need eyeball navigation to traverse safely.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:10   #13
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
The area called Middle Ground on the NOAA chart is really the same shallow, coral head-strewn area, known as the Yellow Bank that many have crossed on the way from Nassau to the Exumas. The same cautions apply--need eyeball navigation to traverse safely.
The yellow bank is a great example of why eyeball navigation is a must in many places in the Bahamas. I went through it once, on a low tide, and even with a spotter on the bow, it wasn't that fun. Because, although you could see the heads really easily, you couldn't tell how far they were under the water, so the only safe thing was to steer around any you weren't absolutely sure wouldn't get you.

The next time I passed throught there, I gave it a wide berth.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:15   #14
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

I am plotting about 90nm from Marsh Harbor, thru Man o War Channel, around outside Elbow Cay, to Fleeming Channel. Looks like a perfect night run in deep water to me, leaving Marsh Harbor late afternoon. You possibly have to slow down for a daylight arrival at Fleeming Channel.

Then you only have another ~30nm: Fleeming Channel and cross the Middle Ground / Yellow Bank with coral heads during the lunch hours, be early afternoon at Ship Channel Cay or Allan Cays.

Possible bail-outs are Royal Island, Spanish Wells or Current Island if conditions don't allow for seeing the coral heads.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:20   #15
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Re: Marsh harbor 2 exumas at night

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I am plotting about 90nm from Marsh Harbor, thru Man o War Channel, around outside Elbow Cay, to Fleeming Channel. Looks like a perfect night run in deep water to me, leaving Marsh Harbor late afternoon. You possibly have to slow down for a daylight arrival at Fleeming Channel.

Then you only have another ~30nm: Fleeming Channel and cross the Middle Ground / Yellow Bank with coral heads during the lunch hours, be early afternoon at Ship Channel Cay or Allan Cays.

Possible bail-outs are Royal Island, Spanish Wells or Current Island if conditions don't allow for seeing the coral heads.
Good advice. Or leave from North Bar Channel or Little Harbour in the afternoon when the sun is behind you, do an overnighter slow in order to arrive at Fleeming with good daylight.
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