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Old 17-12-2012, 14:27   #1
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Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Planning a trip around the end of March/beginning of April to Bahamas. Taking a Beneteau 473 from Charleston to Abaco Islands. I would like to hear the pros and cons of heading south and crossing at Fort Lauderdale versus simply heading straight down the rhumb line (adjusted for set) to Bahamas.

A few things.
1. Crew is relatively young 17, 17, 22. The 22 year old will be "first mate" on board and must be "on watch" during my rest times.
2. I haven't sailed this crossing but have been "in the gulf" at more northern latitudes. Off coast of Newfoundland.
3. I am thinking watch rotations at 4 hours versus 6. (thoughts welcome here too.)
3. Mast with VHF and Wind indicator right at 61' so I am thinking no ICW in either case. So straight down the coast and hang a left or fight the stream.... (the more I write, the more I think I know the answer here).

I really appreciate hearing from anybody who has made the trip and any helpful hints.
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Old 17-12-2012, 14:35   #2
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

You can go through the ICW at 61' unless the tides are exceptional. Bridges are 63-65. I just did the trip at 60'
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Old 17-12-2012, 14:46   #3
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

You should have no problems in the ICW with your mast height to Port Everglades, FL( bridges are 65"). If you want or need to stay inside. We usually go outside from Beaufort SC and duck back in at Fernandina Beach. The Gulf steam is very close to the Florida Coast and almost on it the further south you get. Good Luck
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Old 18-12-2012, 07:43   #4
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

I'd recommend going south down the coast to Port Everglades/Lake Worth and planning a crossing from there. You can even use the ICW if you want to duck some weather, but I wouldn't cruise it at night. Bucking the stream makes no sense. You can cross the stream from Charlestown and then head south if you get far enough east, but you'd want to not have any winds from the north half of the dial until after crossing the stream. Have a great, and safe voyage!
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Old 18-12-2012, 09:40   #5
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

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Originally Posted by shall10016 View Post
Planning a trip around the end of March/beginning of April to Bahamas. Taking a Beneteau 473 from Charleston to Abaco Islands. I would like to hear the pros and cons of heading south and crossing at Fort Lauderdale versus simply heading straight down the rhumb line (adjusted for set) to Bahamas.

A few things.
1. Crew is relatively young 17, 17, 22. The 22 year old will be "first mate" on board and must be "on watch" during my rest times.
2. I haven't sailed this crossing but have been "in the gulf" at more northern latitudes. Off coast of Newfoundland.
3. I am thinking watch rotations at 4 hours versus 6. (thoughts welcome here too.)
3. Mast with VHF and Wind indicator right at 61' so I am thinking no ICW in either case. So straight down the coast and hang a left or fight the stream.... (the more I write, the more I think I know the answer here).

I really appreciate hearing from anybody who has made the trip and any helpful hints.



I wouldn't recommend the ICW at night so the decision would be based on need for speed to get South. IMO the easiest way is to get to the Lake Worth Inlet, anchor in front of the Palm Beach Sailfish Club, (NOT THE SAILFISH CENTER) (Southeast of Peanut Island) and leave Palm Beach at about 2:00Am. This will allow you to arrive at the banks in good daylight with ability to read the waters. If you come in a half mile South of Memory Rock it will be an easy shot to Great Sale Cay where there's good overnight anchoring inside the bight. Next day, another straight shot to Spanish Cay for clearing in at customs. From there to GTC or leave early enough to go around Whale Cay passage in daylight hours. This course eliminates any travel after dark which is not a good idea but if it can't be avoided, it is fairly unobstructed. I would definately not try Whale Cay after dark.
All the best,
Clif
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Old 18-12-2012, 09:52   #6
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

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Originally Posted by Waterway Guide View Post
I'd recommend going south down the coast to Port Everglades/Lake Worth and planning a crossing from there. You can even use the ICW if you want to duck some weather, but I wouldn't cruise it at night. Bucking the stream makes no sense. You can cross the stream from Charlestown and then head south if you get far enough east, but you'd want to not have any winds from the north half of the dial until after crossing the stream. Have a great, and safe voyage!
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Old 18-12-2012, 10:10   #7
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Last year, we did Beaufort, SC, to Treasure Cay, Abacos in 70 hours, heading out east to cross the Gulf Stream in the first evening and then S to the Bahamas. It was a pleasant trip, short enough so you can choose a good weather window - SO much better than the ICW, in our opinion, and given good weather and a reasonably reliable boat, I don't see why you'd hug the coast.
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Old 18-12-2012, 11:29   #8
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

What they said. Our mast is very close to 65' with the VHF antenna. We've hit the antenna a few times in Fl, but you should have no issues. +1 on hugging the coast down to Fl then shooting straight across. Sounds like you have an relatively inexperienced crew. You could go offshore all the way with the right weather window, of course. I would also suggest going outside skipping Georgia with the tidal issues. We love the saltmarsh in SC/GA but navigating GA isn't our idea of fun.
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Old 18-12-2012, 13:50   #9
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

I wouldn't hesitate to rhumbline it from Charleston to the Abacos if I knew I had a favorable 4-5 day weather window. I would not be interested in trying to enter through any of those cuts in the Abacos at night, however. I know it goes without saying, but I would also make sure that everyone on board knew how to keep a proper watch.
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Old 18-12-2012, 14:18   #10
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Get across the stream as soon as possible and then do a direct shot. This will get you out of most shipping traffic sooner. The ICW is a pain and will triple your travel time, however your air draft is not a problem. I would shorten the watchs to 3hrs. Easy entrance into either Walkers Cay, Strangers Channel to Spanish, Manjack or Whale Cay Channels to Green Turtle Cay. All Ports of entry. Make sure everyone has a passport!!! Should be good trolling on the way so bring tackle.
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Old 19-12-2012, 08:29   #11
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Thanks everyone, this is very helpful. Jane.Joy and Cliff, that is the debate I have been having with my better half. I tend to think the open water crossing and then heading down will in many ways be less stressful than "hugging the coast". Her POV is that while I may be right, being able to pull in to shore if all not well is also valid.

I see a shakedown cruise with this crew in my future.....

Jane.Joy, how long were your watches and how many on board?

Thanks again to everyone.
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Old 20-12-2012, 06:25   #12
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Two of us on board - not counting the cats who are poor watch-standers. This was our first offshore passage, we did four-hour watches at night (20-24, 00-04, 04-08), with more flexible hours during the day. You can read about the passage here: more JOY everywhere!: Land Ho, Ho, Ho!

Now, with a few more overnight passages under our belt, we think we like 21-24, 00-03, 03-06 better, and we get plenty of sleep during the day. If you are going to stand watches in pairs, consider six-on, six-off at night to allow everyone to get a longer stretch of uninterrupted sleep (teenagers need their sleep!). The pair on watch could split up the "active" watchstanding - one could watch a movie while the other keeps lookout - but having two alert at all times would add safety to the voyage.
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Old 20-12-2012, 06:32   #13
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Re: Crossing Gulf Charleston to Bahamas

Regarding routing - only my perspective, of course, since I don't know all the "variables" you're working with - hugging the coast means more traffic, more danger of hitting land, and more miles to travel. Crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida can be more dangerous than further north, where it's less constricted. Finally, remind your better half that just because you are near land, doesn't mean you can find a safe harbor when you think you need it. Many of the inlets along the east coast are very dangerous in iffy weather. For us, we truly believed that offshore was the SAFER way to go.
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