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Old 20-10-2010, 18:42   #1
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Navigating the Bahamas - Recommendations, Please

We'll be cruising the Bahamas all winter (6 months). For starters, I believe there is a consensus that the EXPLORER CHARTBOOK series is a must to bring along. We'll be trying to cover all of it, from north to south and back, maybe a little further into the Turk and Caicos. A couple of questions please:

1) I don't think these are considered charts per se (i.e. for navigation purposes), if this is so, what do you Bahamas cruisers use in terms of "paper charts"?

2) I have a Garmin 3206 chartplotter aboard with the pre-loaded north america base package that came with the unit. I zoomed into the Northern Bahamas areas already on there... whew! almost nothing worth using there... Is it worth getting their Bluechart Bahamas charts, is anybody out there using Garmin charts and what do you recommend?

3) Any top rated cruising guide you recommend?

4) Any other navigational tool you recommend?

Thx muchly, Pierre J.
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Old 20-10-2010, 19:27   #2
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The explorer chart book is good, not sure about electronic charts. No matter what you use for referrence, your eyes are your best tool...eyeball navigation. You get acustomed to watching the color of the water and the bottom and checking the depth finder, and after a while you can pretty much tell whether the water is deep enough or not. Don't worry, it doesn't take too long.
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Old 20-10-2010, 19:42   #3
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The Garmin Bluecharts use the Explorer charts as their base, you just don't get all the textual info (effectively a cruising guide) that the Explorer chart books have. The Bluecharts were great for us using a Garmin 3010C in 2007 - 2008. They cost some $$$, but we thought it was worth it.

We also used the Steve Pavlidis cruising guides, but they were pretty far out of date w/r/t bars, marinas and local contact info. Don't know if they've had an update.

Fair Winds,
Mike
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Old 20-10-2010, 19:44   #4
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Explorer chartbooks are for navigation and the routes are spot on. Waypoints are good. Stephen Pavlidas has written 2 guides that cover all the islands and out-islands. Very good reading and very informative. The explorer chartbooks cover all of the islands in great detail. Enjoy your journey
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Old 20-10-2010, 19:53   #5
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We cruised the last 3 seasons in the Bahamas - Abacos for 2 months the first year, San Salvador/Conception/Exumas/Long/Jumentos/Cat/Abacos for 6 months the next year, and Nassau/Exumas/Long/Conception/Jumentos/Andros last year. Used Explorer charts for paper (as poster above said, they are for navigation and are good, with good waypoints), but really rely on C-Map+ charts on our Northstar chartplotter. Gotta read water too, but for my money I wouldn't not have good elec charts. Have heard Raymarine charts for Bahamas are not very good, but don't know firsthand. I'm not sure 6 months is enough to cover the Bahamas - try 6 years (but we like to spend weeks at anchor in near-solitude, as well as the Georgetown scene - we have kids).

Good luck - may be we will see you out there.
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Old 20-10-2010, 19:57   #6
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The Explorer charts are absolutely the best "for navigation" paper charts covering the Bahamas. I also like the Steve Plavidis guide and I'd add the Steve Dodge guide as tops for the Abacos.
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Old 20-10-2010, 20:10   #7
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Cruising the Bahamas

I strongly agree with all the others that Explorer charts are the most reliable. As you are looking at passages and anchorages, you might want to play with Google Earth using gps coordinates. It really shows how color change and water depth can be "read".Remember though, just like in S. Florida ,6 ft under your keel is Deep Water. Good luck. Many of us would rather be tagging along.
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Old 20-10-2010, 20:47   #8
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i'm a bit of a 'minimalist', but not when it comes to safety. still, we do the bahamas with nothing more than the explorer charts, a couple of hand held gps's, a pair of binoculars, ships compass, hand bearing compass, and depth sounder. the depth sounder is the least useful of them, but nice to have.

you'll find that the explorer chartbooks are also something of a cruising guide, giving good local knowledge and facility info. the 'yachtsmand guide to the bahamas' is the old standby and still one of my favorites, although not everyone will agree with me.

make sure your vhf is in good working order and keep it on 24/7 tuned to channel 16. that's how i get most of my weather reports.

take it easy, don't set a schedule, and have a great time.
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Old 23-10-2010, 07:50   #9
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The error is to believe anything but your eyes!

The Navionics charts are not reliable, personal experience, but I am not sure that anything is 100% reliable including the Explorer charts that certainly are the best available.

Recently while entering the channel into Spanish Waters in Curacao my Navionics chart had me right in the middle of the Hyatt hotel swimming pool.
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Old 23-10-2010, 08:52   #10
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Navionics sucks. They're too cheap to license Explorer Charts data claiming they have their own data. I am stuck with Navionics on my Raymarine plotter. The newer Raymaine plotters give you a choice of Navionics or C-Maps. Take the C-Map version if you're going to the Bahamas. Like Garmin Blue Charts they use Explorer data.
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Old 23-10-2010, 09:00   #11
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We used Explorer Charts with Maptech on our laptop. Explorer paper chart books too, and the accuracy is excellent. As mentioned several times though your eyes are a most usefeul tool, and I wouldn't dismiss the depthsounder either.......i2f
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Old 23-10-2010, 11:47   #12
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There are a number of sources but the Explorer Charts are more accurate and current by far; including the BA charts.

I don't know which chart company has the rights to digitize the Explorer charts but a call to Bluewater Books will get that answered quickly.

As for cruising guides, they abound but the Lewis's have cruising guide to rival the accuracy and effectiveness of their charts. You might consider looking a those. I've not been that impressed with many of the others, though.
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Old 23-10-2010, 12:32   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptForce View Post
The Explorer charts are absolutely the best "for navigation" paper charts covering the Bahamas. I also like the Steve Plavidis guide and I'd add the Steve Dodge guide as tops for the Abacos.
My thoughts as well.

I also found the Garmin GPS maps to be fairly reliable, though not 100%.
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Old 23-10-2010, 16:07   #14
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make sure your vhf is in good working order and keep it on 24/7 tuned to channel 16. that's how i get most of my weather reports.

take it easy, don't set a schedule, and have a great time.



Channel 16 is NOT for weather,,,, it is hailing and calling and distress

WX is the weather channel

there is a cruisers network in the bahamas, every day they give the weather, daily lunch specials at local restaurants, also other info that is important including who is hosting hte happy hour that day,,, also who is heading were and when,,,

bahamas search and rescue BASRA: Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association

keep them in mind if you need help

most sailboaters head to marsh harbour in abaco for a short time before heading south, lots of fun

you will enjoy the exuma marine park,,,, look for the pigs on the beach,,, if you save your garbage for them they will love it,, anchor close to shore and they will swim out to you,,,,close to thunderball grotto
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Old 23-10-2010, 16:29   #15
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You will seldom get weather on the vhf weather channels. Sometimes with exceptional propagation you can get NOAA in Florida from the Berrys or west of the Abacos. Weather is on SSB. Most listen to Chris Parker on SSB. A small receiver will do. I use a small Sony. Cruiser nets (vhf) are in Marsh Harbour, Georgetown and Thompson Bay. In Nassau Basra (Nick) in on vhf, a repeat of NOAA and Bahamas Met Office weather. Also available from Highborne Cay and Warderick Wells and June (Blue Yonder formerly on Over Yonder Cay) is back in the Staniel area giving very good weather. Nick and Carolyn in Coral Harbour also give weather and boat counts on SSB. There is no continuous weather available, you have to know the times of the various transmissions.
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