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Old 29-12-2013, 08:17   #1
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First trip to the Bahamas

After a three year refit my wife and I plan a shakedown cruise to the Bahamas in February. We are both experienced ocean sailors, but never sailed the Bahamas or such shallow waters as we see on the Explorer charts we were given for Christmas.
We plan to come down the inter coastal from Cape Canaveral for a few days, to test machinery, then cross at any of the ICW outlets.
We donít really want to spend all our time on meticulous chart plotting, dodging reefs or coral heads, but we would like the"tropical island" experience.
We can spend about two months and my simple question is: Where to go in a sailboat drawing about two meters?
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Old 29-12-2013, 08:28   #2
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

You'll be alright in the Exumas. Just take a bit of care. You can find nearly ten feet wherever you go down the chain to Dotham Cut. I'd duck out into the sound at Dotham Cut which is just north of Black Point, a very nice spot. From there you can go to GT or Lee Stocking no problem.
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Old 29-12-2013, 08:29   #3
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

If you're going in February I would suggest the Exuma chain, usually warmer and often the northers blow themselves out in the Abacos and don't get further south (if you're lucky). Lots of great anchorages. Warning: I draw 3.5 feet. You may find lots of good anchorages.
Steve Pavilidis' various cruising guides are highly recommended in addition to the Explorer charts.
If you do decide to go to the Abacos also pick up Steve Dodge's guide for that area.
Explorer charts website has good info.
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Old 29-12-2013, 09:45   #4
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

+1 for the Exumas. Even in a busy year you can find secluded anchorages when the weather's good, and meet people when you're waiting out weather in the more protected places. Have a great time!
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Old 29-12-2013, 09:51   #5
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

I've done the Exumas in 6-5 draft. As mentioned, just duck out of the chain before the water gets too shallow for the jump to G-town. Try to get out to Conception if you can from G-town. You need to play close attention getting into the harbor at G-town. But use your eyes throughout the B'mas... you'll get used to reading the water depth... have fun!
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Old 29-12-2013, 11:13   #6
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

We have sailed both the Abacos and the Exhumas and both have something to offer. I would be going to Fort Pierce,
Refuel/replenish (there's a Westmarine and Publix within walking distance of Harbortown Marina) and then cross to White Sand Ridge, going to Great Sale for the night. You can clear in at a number of places like Spanish then work your way down the chain. As mentioned, the cruising guides are very good.
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Old 30-12-2013, 08:28   #7
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

Thanks guys.
Only one problem, I didn’t get the Exumas chart book for Christmas, only the near and far Bahamas. This prompts a few other questions:
Explorer say a series 7 Exumas will be out “Mid January”. Are they to be relied upon?
Looking at the near charts: It seems we might cross at West Palm, (if we get a good forecast for the stream), or Fort Lauderdale, then sail down the South side of Grand Bahamas Island, through the North East Providence Channel, then round the north side of Eleuthera into Exumas Sound.
If I do this where is the best place to check-in? West Point, Freeport or other?
Can I safely cross through the Current Island area, drawing two meters?
When you say, “go down the Exumas chain” this would be down the southern side?
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Old 30-12-2013, 09:04   #8
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

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Originally Posted by Jolly Roger View Post
Thanks guys.
Only one problem, I didnít get the Exumas chart book for Christmas, only the near and far Bahamas. This prompts a few other questions:
Explorer say a series 7 Exumas will be out ďMid JanuaryĒ. Are they to be relied upon?
Looking at the near charts: It seems we might cross at West Palm, (if we get a good forecast for the stream), or Fort Lauderdale, then sail down the South side of Grand Bahamas Island, through the North East Providence Channel, then round the north side of Eleuthera into Exumas Sound.
If I do this where is the best place to check-in? West Point, Freeport or other?
Can I safely cross through the Current Island area, drawing two meters?
When you say, ďgo down the Exumas chainĒ this would be down the southern side?

My Explorer charts are over ten years old and still reliable. The new edition will have current tide tables and better info on facilities (my guess). When doing the Exumas there are two "sides", the sound side (out in the ocean, very deep, good fishing) and the banks side (shallow but your draft will be ok, lousy fishing, we don't fish on the bank)

The route you're thinking of is the way the cruise ships go except they head into Nassau through the NE Providence Channel. If you intend to sail right into Exuma Sound, no need to go north of Eleuthera. You can get in through the Fleeming Channel, east of New Providence (Nassau).

Myself, if sailing through the NEP Channel from Lake Worth, I would head for Nassau, clear in there and then head for the Exumas going between the White and Yellow Banks because of your draft. I go straight to Normans through the Yellow Bank (5'6" draft). You might be able to do a straight shot but it's not much longer taking the safer route and you will certainly feel better taking the route between the white/yellow banks.

If leaving from Ft. Lauderdale I would go to North Rock, enter the Great Bahama Bank and go to NW Channel light and then The Tongue of the Ocean to Nassau.
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Old 30-12-2013, 09:21   #9
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

We left No Name and crossed between Gun Cay/Cat Cay, clearing in at Chub. From there went to Rose Island, Highborne etc. it looks like from your path your going on the East side of the Exhumas?
If you look at www.orpailleur.blogspot.com for December it gives you some idea.
Good luck.
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Old 30-12-2013, 09:37   #10
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

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Originally Posted by Gerrycooper56 View Post
We left No Name and crossed between Gun Cay/Cat Cay, clearing in at Chub. From there went to Rose Island, Highborne etc. it looks like from your path your going on the East side of the Exhumas?
If you look at Homeward Bound for December it gives you some idea.
Good luck.
The OP's draft is nearly 2 meters. Haven't taken this route onto the Bank (Gun/Cat) for over ten years but if my memory serves me right it's kind of skinny.
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Old 30-12-2013, 10:00   #11
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

Thanks Vasco, that Fleeming channel looks like a fairly safe shortcut into the top end of the Exumas for us.
I donít want to go into Nassau: been there twice on cruise ships and I donít care for the place. Even the British pub was a dump.
From what I can gleen from remarks, I gather you donít have to check-in at the first place you pass, but can register lower down. How long can you go before you become overdue? Which is the better place to get into and check-in early, West End, or Freeport?
One more question please: Whatís the expected wind direction in this area in late January, early February. I bet itís SEÖ..
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Old 30-12-2013, 10:04   #12
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

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The OP's draft is nearly 2 meters. Haven't taken this route onto the Bank (Gun/Cat) for over ten years but if my memory serves me right it's kind of skinny.

Our draft was a bit under 6foot but can't remember what the clearance was in the channel
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Old 30-12-2013, 10:10   #13
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

I think I better confirm that we draw at least 6.6" and when fully burdened I think it will be nearer 7'0"
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Old 30-12-2013, 10:13   #14
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

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Originally Posted by Jolly Roger View Post
Thanks Vasco, that Fleeming channel looks like a fairly safe shortcut into the top end of the Exumas for us.
I donít want to go into Nassau: been there twice on cruise ships and I donít care for the place. Even the British pub was a dump.
From what I can gleen from remarks, I gather you donít have to check-in at the first place you pass, but can register lower down. How long can you go before you become overdue? Which is the better place to get into and check-in early, West End, or Freeport?
One more question please: Whatís the expected wind direction in this area in late January, early February. I bet itís SEÖ..
You should check in before you get to the Exumas. Otherwise you will not be able to cruise the Exumas. The RBDF has increased its patrols, they seem to have more resources now. That's why I suggested Nassau. The route you're taking you might be able to check in at Great Harbour Cay (Bullocks Harbour) in the Berries or Freeport. I have not checked in there so can't tell you anything else. I usually go to Nassau. Nassau for a cruiser is different from being on a cruise ship. One day in a marina, the Customs folks come to you. Very quick and efficient. Buy rum and off you go.

The wind is usually on the nose. Actually you can ride a front and hopefully get down to the Exumas before the wind goes East or SE again. Sometimes it'll stay NE for a few days but then it usually blows.
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Old 30-12-2013, 10:16   #15
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Re: First trip to the Bahamas

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The OP's draft is nearly 2 meters. Haven't taken this route onto the Bank (Gun/Cat) for over ten years but if my memory serves me right it's kind of skinny.
With 6-5 draft we checked in at Bimini then went on to Sail Rock and crossed the banks from there to Chub. No skinny water issues at all that way... entering Bimini being the skinniest!
But if you wished I suppose you could just enter the banks at Sail Rock and cross the banks and check in at Chub or Nassau.
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