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Old 08-12-2022, 08:12 PM   #1
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Which route if going to Bahamas?

Admittedly being a bit lazy here. Wife and I are probably starting the Great Loop on our GB 42 in a couple of months. I’d say better than 50% chance we go over to the Bahamas for a month or so. Question is we will be doing the crossing from Carabelle FL to the FL gulf coast. We don’t really have a desire to do the Keys, but realize that puts us at a better angle for the Gulf Stream if we do. Is that better than going through Okachobee, and then south some from Stuart? If it makes sense to cross the lake how far south do you go to make the crossing?
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Old 08-12-2022, 11:50 PM   #2
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The choice depends on where you want to go in the Bahamas. Stuart is on roughly the same latitude line as Walker's Cay, which is a small but fishy place (or used to be). Grand Bahama Island isn't too much further south than that. To get anywhere else, you'll have to make quite a bit more southing, and eventually turn around and head back to the north to resume your Loop route. I enjoy crossing the Okeechobee Waterway as much as it can be enjoyed, but when Bahamas bound, from anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, crossing Florida Bay is the way to go IMO, leaving the U.S. from the Keys or Miami, if you prefer. As you note, the current is more favorable and you have lots of destinations spread before you after you cross the Stream.
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Old 08-13-2022, 07:38 AM   #3
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no question I would choose the Keys route. Shorter/easier run to the Bahamas and some really cool stops south of Ft. Meyers to enjoy - Naples/Marco Island, Everglades City/Ten Thousand Islands, Florida Bay including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Key West and even Fort Jefferson for the adventurous. I would only choose the Okeechobee route if there were impeding storms on their way.
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Old 08-13-2022, 08:14 AM   #4
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Depending on the Bahamas destination(s), not sure I would say the Keys route is shorter.

Unless one wants to see places in the Keys, they do fall pretty short of what the Bahamas has to offer in terms of water related activities.
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Old 08-13-2022, 09:25 AM   #5
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Keys route 100% and then cut across. The current alone will make you happy!!
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Old 08-13-2022, 10:22 AM   #6
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We’ve made the trip from Florida to Bimini 5 times. The further south you are the more comfortable and easier it is. The best trip was from Rodrigues Key but because of the added distance we didn’t gain much. Biscayne Bay is good since it has a mooring field and a Fresh Market for provisioning. Exiting at Government Cut is also good while anchoring behind Fisher Island in settled weather.

Regardless of your departure point I wouldn’t recommend crossing if there is any northerly wind. With the wind out of the north,the gulf stream piles up and it can be downright dangerous.
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Old 08-13-2022, 10:25 AM   #7
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All depends on the day and departure/arrival point, plus speed of your vessel to how much help the stream really provides.

Through the years many speak of it in ways that are way overblown.

Just add it to one thing in your route to consider, it's not magic except in it's romance of the tropics.
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Old 08-13-2022, 10:44 AM   #8
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Regardless of your departure point I wouldn’t recommend crossing if there is any northerly wind. With the wind out of the north,the gulf stream piles up and it can be downright dangerous.
Second the motion. In a northerly, Gulf Stream conditions between South Florida and the Bahama Bank get worse as you approach the axis of the current, where its velocity is the greatest. So what might seem like just another rough day as you're leaving Government Cut, for example, or Port Everglades, can indeed get seriously dangerous when you're far enough out there to start thinking about turning back. That also happens to be the traffic lane for northbound big ships, which can bear down on you with surprising speed. Not wishing to make it sound scary - just always wait out a northerly.
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Old 08-13-2022, 12:24 PM   #9
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Like that you’re also a passage WeatherTrack fan PS. I contribute but at least they aren’t charging you for free information like Windy and the rest. Also like arrows not colors in GRIB files.
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Old 08-13-2022, 02:15 PM   #10
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Below are two helpful links for crossing Lake O. One for lake level, as sometimes we were unable to cross due to low levels, one for navigation notices advising of lock or lift bridge outages.

https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/NTN/
https://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/plots/okehp.pdf

Although Bimini is a convenient clearance port we have sometimes bypassed it to clear in the Berry’s or Nassau. Have always left from Key Biscayne anchorage via Stiltsville pass. Slow boat, so we need some southing to hit Bimini or the the North Rock pass. Not sure of current requirements but Key Biscayne is a convenient place for Covid testing if needed.

Safe Travels.
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Old 08-13-2022, 04:53 PM   #11
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You probably need to first decide where you want to go in the Bahamas.If only interested in an Abacos trip then the Okeechobee crossing and a gulf stream crossing from Ft Pierce would be quick and easy.
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Old 08-13-2022, 05:11 PM   #12
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Greetings,
The last time we crossed from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini it took about 8 hours. Our return was about 6 hours. So, yes the GS does have a big? influence on crossing times but we were in no hurry. Good weather both ways. Seas 3' or less.
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Old 08-13-2022, 05:27 PM   #13
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Departure point, destination, boat speed, current weather and stream variances all play into what is going to happen.

Sure average recommendations help but a little here and a little there and suggestions can be quite different from the average or not matter at all...in either direction.

Much like a long trip on google maps...before you go to bed it tells you one route...in the morning because of traffic and accidents it reroutes you. Boating in weather, currents will definitely do that....but some routes are a bit more locked in than others.
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Old 08-14-2022, 09:56 AM   #14
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After over a hundred powerboat crossings, we moved to a sailboat and have done 4 recent crossings. . Even at just 7 kts, I was generally underwhelmed with the GS effect; to the point of even thinking the GS has slowed.
Beyond that thought, why not consider heading S from a northern bahamas point, such as grand bahama, or even gt isaac light? U R fully out of the stream, and arguably safer than running the ditch or dodging the FL offshore fishing/diving/transport scene.
I start trips from st aug, so we do have a lot of ground to cover before the left turn.
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Old 08-14-2022, 03:56 PM   #15
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Less than 50 miles, pick your weather, leave at zero dark thirty, be eating conch salad with a Klick for lunch

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Old 08-17-2022, 11:30 PM   #16
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in my opinion, Lake O is slow and boring. The locks are a pain to deal with and you can wind up waiting for a while at each one. Also, they close at 4:30 so you will have to determine if you can make the entire trip in 1 or 2, maybe even 3 days.

I prefer heading south from Boca Grande to the Channel 5 bridge, then riding the GS to Gun Cay when heading to the Exumas (could do other points, depending on where you are headed). Just be sure there are not any Northerly winds forecasted as they will make the GS real snotty.
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Old 08-18-2022, 12:47 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt. Rodbone View Post
Admittedly being a bit lazy here. Wife and I are probably starting the Great Loop on our GB 42 in a couple of months. I’d say better than 50% chance we go over to the Bahamas for a month or so. Question is we will be doing the crossing from Carabelle FL to the FL gulf coast. We don’t really have a desire to do the Keys, but realize that puts us at a better angle for the Gulf Stream if we do. Is that better than going through Okachobee, and then south some from Stuart? If it makes sense to cross the lake how far south do you go to make the crossing?
Several points to consider:
1. As others have said depends on where you want to go in Bahamas. For your first visit, would suggest the Abacos - are easier both in approach and in finding safe haven from cold fronts.
2. You’ll be going in winter when cold fronts pulse through every 3 to 5 days with winds clocking from NE to S, SW blowing hard to NW as the front passes and then to NE again. Your window to cross the Gulf Stream is when the wind is S during this cycle. It will take several days for the seas to lay down after a strong northerly wind. Wait for forecast 2’ or less seas. Expect to wait for favorable crossing conditions. (Referred to as waiting for weather).
3. All that said, would recommend going south from Stuart on ICW to Lake Worth inlet and wait for weather. Can either go to West End or to Great Sale. Suspect your crossing speed about 8 knots. Will need to aim about 16 to 20 nautical miles south as you cross the stream and let the current take you north (assume about 2k average current velocity). Return back to Florida can be from West End to Lake Worth or ride current north to Fort Pierce. Plan your passage through inlets in Florida for a flood (incoming) tide. Outgoing tides with wind opposing current make the inlets hazardous.
4. Get the Near Bahamas Explorer chart book. Can also get electronic version of Explorer charts for Aqua Maps. Acts as both a cruising guide and the most accurate charts.
5. We hope to get over to the Abacos in your time frame and then go south via Eleuthera to the Exumas. Maybe we’ll see over there!
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Old 08-18-2022, 03:41 PM   #18
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Jc180 sounds like a winner. After investigating this believe your plan makes the most sense for us. Thanks
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Old 08-18-2022, 03:58 PM   #19
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Jc180 sounds like a winner. After investigating this believe your plan makes the most sense for us. Thanks
You are welcome. Maybe we’ll see you over there! We’ll be aboard Salty Dog, our motor sailor (really a trawler with sails).
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