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Old 30-09-2021, 20:09   #1
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Fundamental question

Hi,

I have, what I hope is a simple question to answer.

First, let me admit that I have no sailing experience other than reading some books.

My question is: If I were to sail from Florida to the Bahamas, how would I get back to Florida? My guess at the answer is: 1. You motor back. 2. You wait (possibly for a very long time) for the right wind conditions; or 3. You go WAY out of you way and take a very long time to plot a sailable course that will get you back.

Am I on the right track here? And if I can assume that most people just motor back, then wouldn't a motor boat be a better vessel to start with? I hope not, because I very much like the idea of sailing there, and sailing back, but if that is a fantasy I would rather know now. I don't own either type of boat, I'm just beginning the process.

Of course I apologize in advance if my question is idiotic or offensive, just thought I would start somewhere.

Thanks for any light that can be shed.
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Old 30-09-2021, 20:12   #2
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Re: Fundamental question

I am very confused why you think sailing back is somehow not an option? We do it every year...
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Old 30-09-2021, 20:15   #3
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Re: Fundamental question

Winds in that area are predominently from the East, so the outbound part requires you to either wait for a calm period, at night, etc., or tack upwind. On the return you are almost guaranteed favorable winds. Maybe look at a Pilot Chart or look at an online source of info like Windy.com, every day, over a period of a few months and you will start to get a sense for the rhythm of the winds in the area you plan to sail in.
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Old 30-09-2021, 21:49   #4
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Re: Fundamental question

Modern sailboats are pretty good at sailing against the wind, so even if the winds were from the west, one could still sail against them by tacking (zig-zagging) into the wind. I haven't sailed there but personally I think I'd be more concerned about how the Gulf Stream current would be trying to re-direct me than the wind directions. Hope you get out in a sailboat and give it a try, you're going to love it! Welcome aboard here!
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Old 01-10-2021, 05:11   #5
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Re: Fundamental question

Welcome! I’m new too so no worries. I too have my own set of noob questions.
The good news about sailing from FL to the Bahamas is it seems like A LOT of people do it. And a lot of people do it as their first taste of offshore sailing. So, there’s a lot of information out there about it. Books, YouTube videos, posts of forums like these, etc. soak it all in.
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Old 01-10-2021, 05:45   #6
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Re: Fundamental question

Some would say there are no 'right' wind conditions; it could always be a little stronger or a little weaker, or more from this direction or from that.

The reality is that most sailboats can sail in any direction up to about 45 degrees either side of the 'eye of the wind'; that is, the direction directly from which the wind is blowing, so with any given wind direction one has about 270 degrees of heading they can choose from, which enables you to travel, eventually, in any direction you want. Though one can't sail directly in a straight line to anywhere within that 90 degree arc.

Depending on the configuration of the boat, some do this 'beating up wind', as it is called, better than others, with differences in velocity-made-good and sea comfort whilst beating, AKA 'tacking', varying all over the place...
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Old 01-10-2021, 19:17   #7
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Re: Fundamental question

Thank you all for the valuable information. That does help to fill in some of gaps in my understanding. I do get it about sailing into the wind, and needing the right conditions and all that. My question was meant to be a little more practical. Like, "what do the (you) sailors do?" and/or "is it realistic to plan to sail to the Bahamas for a week long vacation, and then sail back?" and/or "if (hypothetically) you had a sailboat with no motor, and you sailed from Florida to the Bahamas, how long would it take to get back?" I'm sure the season makes a big difference.

Thanks again for the info. (and really, the reason I'm asking is because I was talking to a sailor who said that basically any time you go somewhere you can expect to sail one direction and motor the other. I know, he was just one guy with one opinion, but it prompted me to ask the question).
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Old 01-10-2021, 19:31   #8
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Re: Fundamental question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeps View Post
Thanks again for the info. (and really, the reason I'm asking is because I was talking to a sailor who said that basically any time you go somewhere you can expect to sail one direction and motor the other. I know, he was just one guy with one opinion, but it prompted me to ask the question).
Yeah, in reality, that IS what a lot of "sailors" do.
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Old 01-10-2021, 19:46   #9
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Re: Fundamental question

"What do I do" depends on the weather and my schedule/commitments.
  • If the wind is unfavorable but I don't have to get there today I go tomorrow, etc.
  • If the wind is unfavorable and I need to get there today I motor (not enough wind) or motorsail (need more speed to windward).
  • If the wind is favorable I sail.

Of course what you really try to avoid is days where the sea state is unpleasant and you have to get somewhere upwind. There is nothing fun about slamming your way upwind in big, steep waves.

Generally, we try to avoid needing to be anywhere on a particular day. When we do really need to be somewhere on a particular day that is any distance away from where we are now then we will start out days earlier so if we have day(s) of bad weather we can get off the ocean for a bit and still get to our destination on time.

I sure wouldn't plan on scheduling a week vacation from FL to the Bahamas. It is not unusual to have a period of bad weather (meaning significant northerly winds opposing the gulf stream) that produce conditions that range from very uncomfortable to dangerous. You could have a whole week of that and never get there, or face that just when you are trying to return. Even with good weather a week doesn't leave much time for going places within the Bahamas unless you just want to sit around Bimini or West End.
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Old 01-10-2021, 19:56   #10
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Re: Fundamental question

Bahamas and back in one weekend isn’t likely. First rule of sailing is is the wind is rarely perfect; if you have to be somewhere at a given time, you’re going to be motoring.

Also, ft lauderdale to Freeport is likely the shortest run, at 75 miles direct. That’s at least 12 hours it you managed 7 knots in a straight line on a fast boat with no real seas. More likely a full day each way.

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Old 01-10-2021, 20:24   #11
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Re: Fundamental question

As long as you're not in a mad panic to sail there and back in a week, you're fine. Allow that sometimes the wind might be light.
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