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Old 24-01-2021, 07:32   #1
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Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Hi all,

I made the crossing from West Palm Beach to West End, Bahamas a couple of days ago. I had a nice, uneventful crossing, and cleared customs without issue.

Now I'm still sitting here in West End, 2 days later, feeling at a total loss for how to proceed. One problem is the current requirement to get a second Covid test on Tuesday. I had hoped to make it to Treasure Cay for that, but at this point I've waited too long to make it with the current weather forecast. So I'm pretty much stuck here, or running down to Port Lucayan until I get the test sorted.

Another problem is my chartplotter does not have the good Explorer charts loaded on it. Somehow that bit of preparation completely escaped me, and the "chart" that is loaded on my plotter is essentially worthless (currently shows me on land, and has no detail whatsoever on any of the banks). I do have navionics on my phone, but navigating that way feels a lot sketchier. I've since bought the chart download I need, but I haven't been able to keep my plotter connected to the internet long enough to download it...

So I guess my question is: how the heck do people continue from West End? I've seen a couple boats here heading south for the Berries, but that's another overnight sail, which I'd much rather avoid. I thought initially that I would go around to the north, through Indian Rocks passage, but I'm quite nervous about the shallow water with my 5.5 ft draft, especially without the help of my chartplotter.

This has unexpectedly been the most anxiety/stress-inducing part of my cruise so far. For some reason it seems worse than the gales of new england, the fog in Maine, the sprint down the Jersey coast, steep head seas in the chesapeake, or all the shallow water I've cleared in the ICW. Am I just being stupid and it's not as hard as it seems?
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Old 24-01-2021, 07:50   #2
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Does Old Bahama Bay Marina have free WiFi? Might be worth staying there one day just to get the charts downloaded.
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Old 24-01-2021, 07:54   #3
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

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Originally Posted by Orion Jim View Post
Does Old Bahama Bay Marina have free WiFi? Might be worth staying there one day just to get the charts downloaded.
There is wifi here (which I'm using to post to the forum), but my SIMRAD box won't stay connected to it long enough to complete the download
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:01   #4
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JebLostInSpace View Post
Now I'm still sitting here in West End, 2 days later, feeling at a total loss for how to proceed. One problem is the current requirement to get a second Covid test on Tuesday. I had hoped to make it to Treasure Cay for that, but at this point I've waited too long to make it with the current weather forecast. So I'm pretty much stuck here, or running down to Port Lucayan until I get the test sorted.
Most (at least us) leave West End and go north to Memory Rock and into the Abacos. There are lots of places to get your testing along the way and they are on the Bahamas web page. You don't have to do an overnight, but it you stop along the way it is kind of "out there".

If you are going to go you better do NOW before the Thursday blow arrives.

far as being 5.5' draft that isn't a big problem really as I have 6'4" and never have been aground in the Bahamas

Far as charts, your fastest thing now is to download an app etc like AquaMaps and buy the Bahamas charts (I have Aquamap with Explorer charts). You could do that easy!
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:15   #5
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Do you have the capability to hotspot your phone. Then wifi the chartplotter to the phone?

I wouldnt do Bahamas without Explorer-based electronic charts. And we draft 3.75 ft.
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:17   #6
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

IIRC, From West End, to the Abacos, you have your choice of the Indian Cay Passage, or the easier/deeper Memory Rock Passage, onto the Little Bahamas Bank, usually towards Great Sale Cay (± 55nm), thence, on to Spanish Cay (± 34nm), Green Turtle, Marsh etc.
See “Bahamas Memory Rock or Indian Cay”
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ay-192668.html

If 'Vasco' chimes in, you can take his advice to the bank (pun intended).

The Bahamas really aren’t that difficult.
We cruised the Bahamas with paper charts & guidebook, compass, speed/distance, wristwatch & pocket calculator, and EYEBALLS. Our depth sounder failed, on our first crossing to Cat Cay.
We replaced the sounder, and acquired a very basic hand-held GPS*, a couple of years later.
* No maps, Lat/Lon, waypoints & routes, CMG, bearing and distance.
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Old 24-01-2021, 08:33   #7
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

That's why I always have paper charts on board wherever I go.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:11   #8
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Consider the fact that you don't navigate the banks by charts, coral heads are not charted. You use water color. So in theory you don't need charts for going over the banks, you need daylight and sun to not be in your face.

Also I am not sure to what extent Dorian might have shifted stuff anyway. Its been a while i went through there but is the new post dorian hydrology represented by charts you are downloading?Otherwise why are you downloading them anyway?
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:34   #9
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

If you've got good GPS data, buy a chart and proceed much like has been done for the last 100 years.
I personally would hop back over to the US and get this sorted out and then head back to the Bahamas.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:35   #10
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Go now up to Great Sale and anchor overnight. Leave early and head north to make the turn at Memory. Then sail SE to Green Turtle where you can do the test at their clinic.
I remember being in Hope Town in 2017 when I needed to update my Navionics charts in my B&G Zeus2. I took my laptop to the bar and used their wifi to download directly to the chip from the plotter which I had removed to go with me.
Enjoy your trip.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:44   #11
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

This is a perfect example of relying on electronics and not on paper charts.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:46   #12
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

I draft 5.5 feet, and if you stay on the "preferred route" lines on Explorer Charts, you'll be fine. If you have an iPad download Explorer onto it. I believe AquaMaps has Explorer Charts. You definitely want Explorer Charts.

By the way, go to Memory Rock and then east - don't use the closer entrance. Memory Rock entrance to the Bank is plenty deep. You can get to Great Sale at least in a day. It's about 11 NM to Memory Rock and then 44 NM to Great Sale Cay.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:47   #13
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewie12 View Post
This is a perfect example of relying on electronics and not on paper charts.

Paper charts wouldn't save you here. The issue isn't the electronics, it's having forgotten to put the correct charts on board.
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Old 24-01-2021, 09:57   #14
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

I have been cruising the Bahamas for over 40 years and pass on this advice: On a clear day sun overhead, find a nice sloping sand beach where the waters go from blue to white. Go slowly towards the white beach and when the boat gently touches the bottom, MEMORIZE that color. That's how you navigate in the Bahamas, by COLOR. If you see black, that's a coral head, but learn the color gradations of seagrass bottom sprinkled with coral heads. Stay away from brown, that's shallow coral or rock that will stop you.
Indian cay channel is okay for your draft, stay in the blueish water, the channel is at least 100 feet wide, the sides are delineated with white/brownish colors, go slow if uncertain, But if really concerned go towards Memory Rock, it's hard to spot in any seaway, but time and speed will get you roughly in the right area to swing east, again watch the water color. Your next concern will be to get to Sale Cay before dark, but far up into it, excellent holding with good scope.
After Sale Cay try Grand Cay, it has customs and health clinic, dockage with some anchorage, and Walkers Cay may be opened for dockage, call before going. Have a great adventure, Abacos is a great place to safely explore without too much stress and coral heads are few and far between.
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Old 24-01-2021, 10:10   #15
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Re: Help! The Bahamas are hard!

Memory Rock and onto the bank. I have never seen less than 7ft at the shallowest, but I still follow the Explorer course. If you do not have GPS positions, ask for them here. Someone should respond. Weather permitting, nonstop 26 nm E to Mangrove, then 22+/- nm to Great Sale (both easy runs--easy to doze for short periods if you need to. That makes one long day for most sailboats. East wind is a problem.

If you are up to it, keep going. Be warned, it is a long run to Crab Cay, but easy to get into--except for a low section near the headland. Done it at night any number of times. Then, to Green Turtle. It can be done in two days, weather permitting.


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