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Old 01-01-2011, 06:13   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Witshire England
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St. Petersburg to Bahamas

HI guys,

Well as yet we still have not been able to sell our house in the very downturned English property market, but we hoping that the New Year will bring us a buyer and allow us to get out to Florida, buy our boat and start our retirement/adventure.

Like all good skippers I am doing as much research as I can regarding our trip and I would like to gather some info on the best route from St Petersburg to the best place in the Northern end of the Bahamas, where we would like to start our cruising, eventualy heading down to Antigua.

As you would imagine being from the UK we are not familar with the waters around Florida and the Islands but I know the Gulf Stream can pose some problems so any info or advice would be greatly apreciated. We are not purist sailors and are not adverse to motoring where needed but would prefer to sail.

Thanking you all in advance and wishing you all a very hapy and prosperous New Year.
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Old 01-01-2011, 06:26   #2
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Very generally, you’ll want to make your way South from Tampa/St Pete to Key West, thence across the Gulf Stream to The Bahamas (Bimini?).

See an earlier CF discussion ➥ Tampa to the Keys

Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida
The anchorage inventory provides on-line maps and information for popular southwest Florida anchorages.
Florida Sea Grant - Boating & Waterways - Anchorage Inventory
Gord May
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Old 01-01-2011, 06:50   #3
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Location: Live Iowa - Sail mostly Bahamas
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Happy New Year Richard,

First, decide if you want to visit the keys and if your mast will fit under the bridges of the Okechobee waterway. That will decide your initial route.

The northern Bahama group is the Abacos, with a common entry point of West End, Grand Bahama. Depending on the weather and which route you take to in Florida, you probably want to leave for WE from either Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach. Fort Lauderdale offers a better angle on the Gulf Stream and is a nice place to spend some time, but free anchoring is limited to one night. Palm Beach offers unlimited free anchoring and the inlet is easier to exit at night, but gives you a harder angle on the Gulf Stream, especially with SE wind. I prefer a 4 am departure, but many like to do an overnight crossing, arriving at WE early am. I personally wouldn't leave with a forecasted SE wind of more than about 25 or a north wind of more than about 8, but that's something you need to figure out yourself. I've entered the marina at WE with west winds of 35 and would not recommend that for the faint of heart. Also, I would not advice anchoring at WE when a strong cold front comes through. (Absolutely can't in Cross Bay)

Most people (if not all) pull up to the sea wall in the marina right in front of custom's at West End to clear in. You can then either anchor out, pick up a slip or move on as timing and desires indicate. With slip fees starting at about $100/night, I usually anchor out. From West End, you can either head up to the top of the Abaco chain and work your way down many of the less visited islands, many of which you may have to yourself, or go to Great Sale, Allans-Pensacola and then onto Green Turtle and more populated areas. Some cruisers wait to check in at Green Turtle, but I much prefer checking in at West End, so I can legally visit the many beautiful islands north of there. Green Turtle down to Little Harbour has more towns and more cruisers, including a few charter bases. Marsh Harbour is your best bet for grocery selection, flights and marine parts and offers reasonable all weather anchoring. Once you hit about Green Turtle, you can pick up the morning Cruiser's net on VHF 68. Good weather reports on Dodge's cruising guide to the Abacos is my favorite for the Abacos, and I like the Explorer Charts for all the Bahamas.

From the southern end of the Abacos, you can move onto the Exumas, directly or via Nassau or Eleuthera. Going via Eleuthera (Egg) requires no overnight. I find knowing the tides and being comfortable not having much water under you keel at times is key to enjoying the more out of the way places.

Much of the route is directly into the prevailing SE winds, so if you prefer to sail, it may mean taking advantage of northerly cold fronts. (mostly winter-spring).

I have some more Abacos photos and information from previous trips on my website: Sorry, it's still in progress. More of my Gulf Stream crossing thoughts there as well.

There are many on this board who have crossed and sailed the Bahamas, so I'm sure you'll have more good advice coming your way here.

Have a great trip.

- Dave
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