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Old 21-09-2012, 14:14   #1
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West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

Wanting to hear back from the Liveaboard Sailing Expert Community:

What do you believe to be the best Winter/Spring Itenerary (West Coast of Florida or Bahamas) and why?? Advantages vs. disadvantages??

Any suggestions of where to go, what to do, how to provision, helpful hints would be so VERY much appreciated and thank you in advance for your feedback!! PS 35.5 ft Hunter is our vessel at sea, thanks again!!
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Old 21-09-2012, 14:25   #2
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

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Originally Posted by WindsAloft2010 View Post
Wanting to hear back from the Liveaboard Sailing Expert Community:

What do you believe to be the best Winter/Spring Itenerary (West Coast of Florida or Bahamas) and why?? Advantages vs. disadvantages??

Any suggestions of where to go, what to do, how to provision, helpful hints would be so VERY much appreciated and thank you in advance for your feedback!! PS 35.5 ft Hunter is our vessel at sea, thanks again!!
FL

- Food cheaper.
- much better access to parts, supplies, boat repairs and all similar
- beer much cheaper if you drink it
- easier/faster access to populated areas, doctors, air travel home in case of emergency
- short, coastal hops from one place to the other.

Bahamas

- New culture, small interesting islands and towns to visit
- rum cheaper if you drink it
- more isolated, deserted beaches and islands
- closest islands +/- 50 miles across the Gulf Stream which may be a little scary for new sailors. However you have only Bimini or Freeport/West End to see. To get to the real cruising grounds it is still 150 miles or so to the next island chains, all dead against the wind.
- water sometimes scarce, expensive or a little off in taste.

My vote would be the Bahamas but I live in FL and feel kind of been there, done that.
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Old 21-09-2012, 14:27   #3
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

PS

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 21-09-2012, 14:40   #4
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

Skipmac pretty much laid most of it out. Also cruising in FL is really becoming a pain with the no anchoring laws and the tax man coming after you every turn for so many different reasons. The 150+ miles to see other islands isn't true. Once you hit west end its a daysail to Great Sale Cay. From there another easy day sail over to Green Turtle to check in (if you didn't check in at West End) from there you can be in a different island every hour or so. The abacos island chain is one of the best cruising grounds in the world. You can makes mistakes all day long and still be just fine. Sand bottom and really shallow 8-15 ft. most places. I would give a thumb up for the Bahamas. It really isn't bad at all for the crossing. Really simple just wait for the weather. I have done the crossing in every kind of condition. None of them were really that bad. Don't let people scare you out of going. Have fun!

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Old 21-09-2012, 14:51   #5
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

We haven't been to the Bahamas yet, but to me this is an 'apples' to 'oranges' comparison.

We have our Endeavour in a yard off of Charlotte Harbor now (we live in Utah) and have sailed that area (Port Charlotte) south on down the west coast and then across Florida Bay to the Keys (Marathon) and then north with our 26 foot Mac.

We really like the west Coast, at least the areas that we have seen, but it doesn't look like the pictures of the Bahamas I've seen at all. There are not a lot of beaches that you can anchor by with ....



...lots of mangrove shorelines. How much do you draw? The water is skinny like the Bahamas, with the difference being, that the water is not clear so you can't see the bottom even when it is just a foot or two deep. I didn't swim off the boat on the west coast like I did in the Keys where the water is clear.

We really liked the 10,000 Islands and the solitude there and you can find some beaches...





...there that you can dinghy to. From Marco Island down there are no marinas or supplies except for Everglades City....



...where we went into with the shallow draft Mac, but I probably wouldn't take the Endeavour with 4'6" into. Anchoring is a choice about 8 miles away and you can dinghy in.

From Everglades City south to the Keys is about 70 miles without a lot of protection with a boat that draws much except for Little Shark River north of Cape Sable.

Charlotte Harbor is big and we really like that area and really look forward to going back to the 10,000 Islands with the Endeavour, but as I said this is all way different than the Bahamas.

I have a lot more info, including our route and anchorages here...

Macgregor Trips-1 Index

Either place will be great, just different,

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Old 21-09-2012, 15:01   #6
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

Bahamas consistently gets good surf(if you know where to look) so my choice is easy.
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Old 21-09-2012, 15:01   #7
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

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It really isn't bad at all for the crossing. Really simple just wait for the weather. I have done the crossing in every kind of condition. None of them were really that bad. Don't let people scare you out of going. Have fun!

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Completely agree. I never thought crossing the Gulf Stream a big deal but a lot of sailors are intimidated by their first crossing. Only thing is wait out the weather in the winter if fronts are blasting through. Other than that, it's just a 50 mile day sail.
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Old 21-09-2012, 15:01   #8
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

we had no problem cruising west coast florida--anchoring out is good--many places with docks at reasonable pricing, and fishing is awesome.
places we anchored
destin, pensacola, ueseppa island and other islands on floridas coast, marco island, manatee river, anclote key some others..
docked at very low cost---hahaha---thought i would blab that, eh!!???? places are available on west coast florida--the forgotten coast..
apalachiacola, port st joe--there is an anchorage in st joseph bay.
ft myers beach--moss marina, matanzas inn moorings...call on telephone--cell--prior to arrival--we were lucky to find a mooring when we got there. loved it.
pizza in second story next to bridge is to die for....
where we provisioned
port st joe--they have bicycles. friendly and quaint place--loved it here. ice cream store to die for at lulus.....walking distance from psj marina.
water street inn, apalachiacola--bring your own bicycle...very quaint fishing village
ft myers beach--bus is dirt cheap and convenient to provision by bus
dry tortugas--nothing here--dont even think of trying to buy anything except camera batteries here...beautiful place, decent anchoring, sandy bottom...peaceful and gorgeous. tour ft jefferson.
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Old 21-09-2012, 15:31   #9
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

West Coast of Florida is OK, be careful of the intercoastal - you'll find shallow spots even within the markers. There's nothing like the Bahamas though - my choice would DEFINITLY be the Bahamas - you'll never find water and reefs like that in the States (although part of the Keys might come close, maybe). I've been across the gulfstream many times - don't even think of doing it in north or north east (even a teeny bit northeast) wind. If you can take off from Key Largo, you will get a boost from the Gulfstream - but wait for southeast, or at least east wind.

Good luck whatever you do.
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Old 22-09-2012, 12:55   #10
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

We enjoy the west coast of Florida as well as the Bahamas. We've cruised the Bahamas more frequently just because it's closer to our home port in NE Florida. There are plently of isolated undeveloped wilderness locations on the West Florida Coast.
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Old 22-09-2012, 18:54   #11
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

The areas you ask about of course are quite large, so you might ask some more specific questions for more detailed responses

But in general...

West coast of FL is a great cruising ground all the way from Tarpon Springs down to the Keys.

Some of my favorite West Coast stops: Tarpon Springs -- interesting history and great Greek food!, Downtown St. Pete (if you can still anchor anywhere near there!), Egmont Key, Manatee River, Venice, Naples, Pine Island Sound -- a mini-cruising ground in itself, Ten Thousand Islands, Ft. Myers Beach, Dry Tortugas...

Winter of course is going to come with cold fronts in both locations. Spring will give you more systemically settled weather, but localized squalls can still be common.

Many good cruising guides, and on-line info, on both SW Florida and the Bahamas.
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Old 22-09-2012, 19:30   #12
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

In my opinion, Florida is a not-very-attractive cruising ground swarming with rude law enforcement officers looking for whatever spurious reason they can find to take money from you.

It should be passed as expeditiously as possible on the way to the Bahamas and points south- preferably by sailing offshore.

If you want to visit Florida, fly or drive!
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Old 22-09-2012, 20:30   #13
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

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Originally Posted by Gone Global View Post
Skipmac pretty much laid most of it out. Also cruising in FL is really becoming a pain with the no anchoring laws and the tax man coming after you every turn for so many different reasons. The 150+ miles to see other islands isn't true. Once you hit west end its a daysail to Great Sale Cay. From there another easy day sail over to Green Turtle to check in (if you didn't check in at West End) from there you can be in a different island every hour or so. The abacos island chain is one of the best cruising grounds in the world. You can makes mistakes all day long and still be just fine. Sand bottom and really shallow 8-15 ft. most places. I would give a thumb up for the Bahamas. It really isn't bad at all for the crossing. Really simple just wait for the weather. I have done the crossing in every kind of condition. None of them were really that bad. Don't let people scare you out of going. Have fun!

Peace
Hmm, the OP can pay Florida ~$90 if staying more than 90 days or pay Bahamas $300 immediately. In fact, if you stay 90 days, the price difference in beer alone will more than pay the Florida registration fee. Oh yeah, less than 1/10 of 1% of tidal shore in Florida has anchoring rules.

I like the Bahamas, but money and rules are not a reason to go over there.
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Old 22-09-2012, 20:31   #14
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

Having been to both, it's apples and oranges. No comparison. We like both, for very different reasons. The Exumas, where we were last winter were spectacular -- our favorite was the Exumas Land & Sea Park, but then we're national park fans.

The Florida west coast has been our base on & off, not including the 6 years we spent in the Western Caribbean. We like it there. But it's NOT the Bahamas.

To see lots of photos, our routes, waypoints, thoughts on weather and all sorts of other info, click here to visit our Destination Experiences pages -- click on the appropriate area to see the posts from last winter on these specific areas:

Bahamas/Exumas
Florida Keys
Southwest Florida - Everglades/10,000 Islands to Punta Gorda/Charlotte Harbor

Where you're currently located and your experience level should play into the decision -- or just do as we did and do both! Although, I think both in one winter is too much -- moving too fast.

This winter we'll pick one or the other, probably the Florida Keys just because we've always been moving through on our way to either the Yucatan or the Exumas, we've never spent any time gunkholing and exploring the Keys... with two new grandkids on the way, it may be the choice this winter cruising season!
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Old 22-09-2012, 21:24   #15
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Re: West Coast of Florida vs. Bahamas

We often hear of restrictions and hassles with law enforcement in Florida, but I've seen very little of this with my forty years of liveaboard cruising in Florida. High population areas do have more regulation, but the wilderness areas of Florida have as much if not more pristine nature to offer than what might be found in the Bahamas. We enjoy the Bahamas and pay the entry fees, but you'll find nothing in the Bahamas with more beautiful isolation than the twelve miles of beach south of Little Shark River on Cape Sable that can only be accessed by boat.
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