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Old 28-12-2017, 17:16   #1
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Bahamas cruise in January

Merry Christmas everyone,

On January 7, my wife and I are leaving Stuart, FL for a couple of weeks cruise in the Bahamas to celebrate our 25th anniversary. This is my first trip to the Bahamas via sea or air.

Does anyone have suggestions for a good cruising guide or any personal recommendations from experience for nice areas to sail and anchor. We are looking for beautiful deserted beaches, reasonable proximity to provisions. And at least 5 feet of water. We will be sailing on our Morgan OI 41 that draws 4'4". Cruise will most likely be limited to the Northern islands around Abaco.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Cheers,

Paul

Also, are there any flotillas leaving SE FL that we could tag along with?
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Old 28-12-2017, 17:28   #2
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Once you get across it'll all be nice waters and good beaches. But don't set your mind on January 7. Check the weather first.
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Old 28-12-2017, 17:48   #3
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

In that area you have to get to Marsh Harbour for decent provisioning. For a couple of weeks you should have enough aboard without replenishing.
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Old 28-12-2017, 18:45   #4
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Leave before dawn (winds with a west to south component are good for the gulf stream) to arrive over the banks before sunset, sailing/motoring over the banks to Great Sale Cay at night is quite ok - good anchorages around that island with easy night access. In calm weather anchoring off Mangrove Cay half way across the banks is ok too in settled weather. We have found Garmin/ blue charts adequate for this. You can then sail north to check in to Customs in at Grand Cay (holding not great here though). In calm weather anchoring in double breasted cay is a treat. If wind is against you, continue to fly the yellow flag and sail east to Green Turtle to check in. Around Green Turtle are plenty of beautiful islands and anchorages, our favorite is Manjack , but there are plenty more - check out Active Captain for the area. Your draft is fine for most of these places. If you have not got a data sim from USA that works in Bahamas you can get a BTC sim prepaid for an unlocked phone - 15Gb $29 15 days at Grand Cay, Green Turtle, Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour if you want internet. There is a a cruisers voice net on VHF channel 68 at 8am that gives weather and other info. Once past Green Turtle you will need to get through the Whale Cut to get to the southern side, sometimes this place gets ugly so check first. Marsh Harbour is good in all but strong NW for anchoring and best place for provisioning with free dinghy docks, short walk to Maxwells supermarket, and Bristol Cellars if you run dry, not a place you would swim. But within 10 miles there are plenty more great anchorages. Fitting all that in two weeks would be a stretch, cos then you have to head home and hope the gulf stream is kind.
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Old 28-12-2017, 18:52   #5
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Oh, you will need $300 cash to clear in. We find active Captain attached to Garmin blue charts on the Ipad Ap great for this area, paper books that are also useful are
Waterways Guide to the Bahamas and Cruising Guide to the Abacos by Steve Dodge
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Old 29-12-2017, 06:30   #6
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

The best guide I've used for the Abacos is Steve Dodge's book: https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guid.../dp/0932265979
It gives you all of the info you need, as well as specific navigational advice for each part of those islands. Use it in conjunction with the Explorer Charts and you won't need anything else (other than your eyes and good sense).
As for your cruising plans, wait diligently for your weather window when crossing the stream. Winds from SSE to W is what you're looking for. You can go onto the banks in numerous locations, refer to the guides mentioned above. From Stuart I'd probably go straight onto banks somewhere near Walkers Cay and then clear in either at Spanish Cay or Green Turtle Cay. You could spend your entire trip in this 3-4 cay section of the Abacos and be perfectly content. The jewel of this area is really Manjack Cay, so study up on it and make sure you spend several days there. You can get plenty of groceries on Green Turtle Cay, as well as bar life, etc. Weather will be chilly, bring warm gear.
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Old 29-12-2017, 06:48   #7
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

The steve dodge website has all the routes and way points mentioned in the hard copy book available for download in various formats. So you don't have to hand punch all the waypoints in.
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Old 29-12-2017, 07:42   #8
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

The temperature can get into the 50's in January and it is often full 'gear' crossing the Gulf Stream.

You must also monitor the weather systems carefully as it is easy to get trapped in West End when a northern weather system dip down into Florida.

The current weather predictions for the Gulf Stream show 20 knots from the north on the 7th...Not good conditions to cross but improving on the 8th.

Check Windy.com
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Old 29-12-2017, 08:37   #9
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Maxwells Grocery in Marsh is the best provisioning in the Abacos. There is also a very good smaller grocery in Treasure Cay Marina.
If you find you need to get into a marina and are going to stay longer than a few months, Boat Harbor, in Marsh is reasonable once you join the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club and most all the members winter there and live aboard. The marina is a resort and is within walking distance of about everything.

If you 're coming across the north end of West End you will have to get thru
Whale Cay Passage to get to Guana, Hopetown, Marsh etc. And if you do that do not miss going to Little Harbor. The Whale gets rough in any northerly breezes.

If you make it in to Green Turtle, the newly reopened Leeward Yacht Club is owned by some friends and they are very accomodating.

We found the Abacos to be a bit chilly in January so provision accordingly with clothes etc. Still warmer than most anywhere else in the US for that time of the Year.

Have a safe voyage.
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Old 29-12-2017, 09:06   #10
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

As said by those above the weather window is key for crossing. I spent May-June in the Abacos and will launch again the end of January for the Exumas and points south.

If you’re board take a look at my InReach map for an idea of where you can explore.

HTTPS://share.garmin.com/GlenCoombe

Have a blast.
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Old 29-12-2017, 09:26   #11
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bean Counter View Post
Leave before dawn (winds with a west to south component are good for the gulf stream) to arrive over the banks before sunset, sailing/motoring over the banks to Great Sale Cay at night is quite ok - good anchorages around that island with easy night access. In calm weather anchoring off Mangrove Cay half way across the banks is ok too in settled weather. We have found Garmin/ blue charts adequate for this. You can then sail north to check in to Customs in at Grand Cay (holding not great here though). In calm weather anchoring in double breasted cay is a treat. If wind is against you, continue to fly the yellow flag and sail east to Green Turtle to check in. Around Green Turtle are plenty of beautiful islands and anchorages, our favorite is Manjack , but there are plenty more - check out Active Captain for the area. Your draft is fine for most of these places. If you have not got a data sim from USA that works in Bahamas you can get a BTC sim prepaid for an unlocked phone - 15Gb $29 15 days at Grand Cay, Green Turtle, Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour if you want internet. There is a a cruisers voice net on VHF channel 68 at 8am that gives weather and other info. Once past Green Turtle you will need to get through the Whale Cut to get to the southern side, sometimes this place gets ugly so check first. Marsh Harbour is good in all but strong NW for anchoring and best place for provisioning with free dinghy docks, short walk to Maxwells supermarket, and Bristol Cellars if you run dry, not a place you would swim. But within 10 miles there are plenty more great anchorages. Fitting all that in two weeks would be a stretch, cos then you have to head home and hope the gulf stream is kind.
Minor commentary on the above:

Technically you are not allowed to stop until you check in, short of emergencies. So going straight to Grand is the ticket. Stopping anywhere else, including anchoring, on the banks is not at all unusual but is technically illegal before checking into the first available site (based on direction/entry area).

Holding is fine outside Grand Cay (technically Little Grand Cay) harbour; you don't need to be in there, anyway, but can anchor near the barge wreck and dinghy into Rosie's Place, where the Customs folks now are, replacing Walkers' Cay (though the last time we checked in there it was still the Walkers' stamp).

The northern islands are stunning, and if it weren't for serious provisioning, we'd never go to MHH. When you check in, take the time to visit the locals; Grand is grand, so to speak. Don't miss the "Decision Tree" where the locals hang out, and Coop's bar just down the hill from that has $2 beer and $1 cokes... (Both are north of Rosie's, a short walk)

Fellow cruiser sez they have immigration officer there, too, so now can get longer than the 90-day courtesy max of a customs-only site; his was 5 months but potentially it could be up to the maximum of 8 months (technically 240 days).

We're 7' in a Morgan 461; if the Explorer charts have a waypoint and a line, you can sail it with total confidence as to depth. If you don't have them, get them; it's the gold standard (or your plotter/whatever apple/android device you have's nav program uses Explorer Charts). Beware Navionics in the Bahamas.

We'll be over in a bit, when the weather cooperates; we're meeting family in GTC, but hope to have some time to explore before the 20th when we have to be in that area...

You won't hear the cruisers' net north of the Whale, but it's at 8:15, 68VHF, not 8:00. Early check-ins can be heard from 8:00 to 8:15. GTC has a very short net at a similar time, also, I think, on 68. Most cruisers monitor 68 in that area, but it's 16 for emergencies, of course. Other channels have other uses; the MHH net specifies those to avoid. If you want a taxi in either MHH or Treasure, it's channel 6; they don't monitor anything else.

Have a great time and perhaps we'll see each other...
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Old 29-12-2017, 09:46   #12
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

I did that cruise in April-May. Others have said it, but let me repeat - wait for the weather window - do not cross the Gulf Stream with north winds.

That said, if you use Explorer charts (or Garmin Bluecharts which gives you Explorer data), and you stay on the recommended course lines in the Sea of Abaco, you will have no trouble - I draw 5'6" and I never saw less than 4 feet of water under the keel, and it was usually 8 to 11. If it were me, I would sail all the way to Green Turtle and check in there, because anything else is out of the way. Bluff House Inn is one place to stop - very nice people. There are places in Black Sound as well. There are multiple places to anchor along the way to Green Turtle once you get onto the Bank, including Mangrove Cay, Great Sale Cay, and south of Crab Cay - depends on conditions / wind direction.

Be advised that going from Green Turtle to Marsh Harbour, you have to go outside into the Atlantic to get around around Whale Cay, and if the weather is bad, that can be tough. Get advice from locals before going around Whale Cay, just to be safe. I did it twice with no issues, but better safe than sorry. One place I did not sail to, but wish I had, is Elbow Cay (Hopetown). I went there on the ferry from Marsh Harbour, and it is very nice.

If you need mechanical help (not electronics), Abaco Yacht Services at Green Turtle is great. If you find you need electronic support, Marsh Harbour has it. Marsh Harbour has a great hardware store, and a NAPA store with marine supplies. Plus grocery stores, etc.

Enjoy!
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Old 29-12-2017, 09:48   #13
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Following - great info!
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Old 29-12-2017, 13:29   #14
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Thank you all so much. This is fantastic information! To be honest, I had probably not given enough weight to the weather window. I took the gulf stream (20 miles off shore) north from Marathon to Stuart with an ENE wind with no issues. Based on everyone's advice here, I will hold out for more desirable wind before making the crossing. If these windows don't open very often, I may just have to stay a few more weeks in the Bahamas. Lucky me!
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Old 29-12-2017, 15:40   #15
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Re: Bahamas cruise in January

Remember the old adage: the most dangerous thing a sailor can have is a schedule.
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