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Old 13-02-2010, 18:52   #1
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New to the Bahamas

We are planning a trip to the Exumas in March. We are great Lakes sailers, I have 9 years experience and my wife is a good navigator but novice sailer, we also have a 9 year old and 11 year old.

We have read the guides, have the gear, have electronic and paper charts and are ready to go.

Some people are cautioning us saying it is too dangerous to sail with only one experience sailer in the Bahamas. We pick up our boat in Nassau and return it there (friends are sailing to and from Florida for us as we don't have the time). We plan to go south through the Exumas and back to Nassau in two weeks.

Are we crazy, is the Bahamas that dangerous?

Thanks.
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Old 13-02-2010, 19:13   #2
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Disclaimer. Only you can know your level of knowledge and experience and are responsible to decide if you can safely manage any voyage.

That being said, to answer your question, absolutely not. If you have good, basic navigation skills and pay attention the Bahamas are no more dangerous a place to sail that most places. Not to make light of potential dangers. There are some risks as there would be sailing anywhere; lots of reefs, strong currents in spots, especially around the edge of the banks, and the region in general has few navigation lights or buoys, but thousands of boaters safely sail there every year.

The good side is that these days you have lots of very good guides, weather reports, nav books and GPS to help out. Of course don't live by GPS alone but it does make it easier.
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Old 13-02-2010, 19:14   #3
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If you have the explorer charts you should be fine. You can get in trouble anywhere on the water if you are careless, I don't see the Bahamas as any more dangerous than any where else. Learn to read the water fast, you don't say where your 9 years experience was gained. It's a great trip for two weeks as you are sailing upwind on the way out and downwind on the way back with the exception of any late cold fronts. You will not be able to see the entire Exumas in that time frame, just turn around when you need to. Enjoy.
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Old 14-02-2010, 06:14   #4
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You you have the 5' shoal or 6.5' deep draft Hunter?
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Old 14-02-2010, 07:06   #5
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Explorer charts, Steve Pavilidis' guides, polarized sunglasses and you're good to go. Check out the Explorer charts website Bahamas Chatter section. Tons of cruisers (including kids) in Georgetown for the Cruisers Regatta sometime in march if that's your cup of tea.
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Old 14-02-2010, 09:11   #6
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I have a 5 foot draft
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Old 14-02-2010, 10:44   #7
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If your experience is on the lakes some differences will be tides and currents. Sounds like you've done your homework though.
Once anchored and when swimming ashore, they have these spiney things called sea urchins that lurk in the shallows waiting to surpise you. First time I went they surprised me!
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Old 14-02-2010, 10:56   #8
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The weather

In addition to paying attention to both your paper charts and your GPS you must also pay attention to the weather. Listen to the weather every morning and plan accordingly. Make sure you know the direction and wind strength, and have planned your anchorages accordingly. For example, the west side of Farmer's Cay is delightful, but the wind direction must have an E in it for the period during which you will be anchored there.
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Old 14-02-2010, 14:22   #9
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You should have no problem with your 5' draft. The longest part of the cruise will be from Nassau to either Highbourne or Normans Cay, around 35 to 40 miles. After that it will be easy short sails to lots of anchorages. I agree that you need to watch for cold fronts and plan accordingly. With only 2 weeks I don't think you'll get to Georgetown, if you do you'll miss so much and end up having to turn around as soon as you get there. One other thing to remember, you will have to leave the banks and go to the Sound side if you want to go any further south than little Farmers Cay( It gets shallow staying on the Banks side ). Things not to miss, Highbourne/Allen, Normans, the Exumas land and sea park (I could spend a week just there), Staniel and the swimming pigs on Big Major Spot as well as Thunderball Grotto, Bitter Guana with the native wild Iguanas (your kids will love it). Not much food shopping in the Exumas, so stock up in Nassau.
If you do need something, the Pink or the Blue store on Staniel would be the best place to look.
Have a great trip, we did.
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Old 14-02-2010, 14:36   #10
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I will be going to the Bahamas for the first time on the 12th of march after trailering from Quebec Canada. I will be staying 2 weeks. I will be going either to GRand Bahamas or Bimini. I have never sailed so far from land but have endured squalls and wind storms in the Atlantic and the St Laurence. My slip in St Michel Bellchasse Qc has 18 foot tides and lots of contrary winds. If you sailed on Lake Superior or the Great Lakes your good for sure. I was also advised not to go...and I won't if the weather is bad, otherwise I will. Thats why I got the boat.
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Old 15-02-2010, 09:15   #11
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Two weeks to sail to and from the Exumas in March is a pretty tight schedule and may be impossible to meet. March is usually a pretty boisterous time of year and you are apt to spend time waiting for weather windows, unless you are one of those folks that likes getting beaten up by Mother Nature.

If you have to stick to a hard and fast 2-week vacation schedule, consider the possibility that you may have to cut your trip short in order to get back to Nassau. Keeping to a cruising schedule is nearly impossible, especially during the winter months. As other posters have indicated, watch the weather forecasts and act accordingly.

Have fun and be safe!
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Old 15-02-2010, 09:44   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Brown View Post
Two weeks to sail to and from the Exumas in March is a pretty tight schedule and may be impossible to meet. March is usually a pretty boisterous time of year and you are apt to spend time waiting for weather windows, unless you are one of those folks that likes getting beaten up by Mother Nature.

If you have to stick to a hard and fast 2-week vacation schedule, consider the possibility that you may have to cut your trip short in order to get back to Nassau. Keeping to a cruising schedule is nearly impossible, especially during the winter months. As other posters have indicated, watch the weather forecasts and act accordingly.

Have fun and be safe!

Good point on the schedule. Guess it would depend on how far down the Exumas they want to go. Making Georgetown and back to Nassau in two weeks would be all work and no play. To Staniel Cay and back should be easily doable unless they got really unlucky with the weather.
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Old 16-02-2010, 15:08   #13
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I'm in the Bahamas now. I started my cruising on the Great Lakes. My experience has been that sailing in the Bahamas is easier and safer. The weather is much more consistent and predictable. The water much warmer.

As many have said, tides and shallow water are the big difference. Much of the water is shallow. Learning the tides can open up many opportunities. I often have less than a foot under my keel at low tide at anchor, that with 4.5.

I just finished 3 weeks in the Exumas. I think they are a wonderful cruising area. You can stay in the relatively protected water of the banks most of the time. You can do the mailboat route down the banks side instead of heading out as most do. There are many places to find shelter. I just experienced that cold front with about 50 knots and it wasn't that bad. I was happy to be in the Allan's Cays rather than Lake Superior!

My first Bahamas trip was solo and I'm solo now, so I disagree that one needs more than one experienced sailor on board. I take complete novices with me here often. Of course, everyone has their own comfort levels. You need to assess you own rather than go by anyone else's.

Have a great cruise. Feel free to contact me if you'd like a recent perspective on the Exumas.

- Now in Little Harbour, Abacos.
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Old 16-02-2010, 15:26   #14
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39 n holding

Check your private messages. I just emailed you.

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Old 20-02-2010, 11:08   #15
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Beware the schedule...however, the Exumas are reachable from Nassau, we went first to Allen's Cay, then Warderick, then Staniel, back up to Warderick then across to the Eleuthera. Weather, weather weather...just get those wind reports, pay attention to the explorer charts and your depth sounder. Unlike the great lakes, navigational aids a few and far between and sometimes are not functioning. Your VHF will be your friend, you can call out and ask for advice from other cruisers if need be. Those sunglasses will be invaluable and plan your day with alternatives ahead of time. We are having a great time.
Go for it, a bad day sailing is better than a good day at work
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