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Old 04-21-2017, 10:30 PM   #1
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Default The Great Bimini Adventure

We moved to Florida from Colorado just about 3 years ago to the day. About 80% of the decision to move here revolved around expanding our business but the other 20% was motivated by a desire to change our lifestyle. We got tired of the cold, wind and other fun that's associated with living at 8,300 feet in the mountains. When we vacationed it was to warmer climates often associated with beaches and palm trees.

About six months after arriving we purchased our first Florida boat -a 23 foot vessel with a single motor capable of some offshore travel but nothing too crazy.



We owned a boat in Colorado -a 16 footer but with lakes and a limited boating season we didn't spend as much time as I'd hoped on the water. The 23 footer was a perfect length for learning. We motored around the Gulf at least every other weekend and often a couple of sunset cruises during the week after work and school. We also took it down to the Keys a couple of times, once for a week and then a two-week stretch. Those were a blast!

It was the trip to the Keys that cemented in my mind that being on the water is really where I find my most peace. It's a place to go fast. Go slow. Or not go at all. Every time I go out I see something or learn something new. Whether it's a wildlife experience or a weather phenomenon or maybe the way the boat handles and feels on or over a certain wave. It's stimulating and it focuses my mind.

By the end of the second trip to the Keys I also had it firmly in my mind that I wanted to make a run to the Bahamas by boat. We'd been to the Bahamas a few times. My wife's and my first scuba dive was in the Bahamas. My eldest daughter's open water certification dive was in the Bahamas -complete with several sharks! I haven't been to all the places in the world with beautiful water but for the ones where I have been, nothing compares to the thousands of shades of blue you see in Bahamian waters.



People make the trip from Florida to Bimini, Bahamas or West End, Bahamas all the time. Depending on which part of the Florida coast you leave from, either destination is about 50 miles give or take. Part of that 50 miles includes the Gulf Stream and depths over a thousand feet or more depending on your route.

Now the quest was on to find a boat that would not just make the trip but make it safely and with redundancy as far as motors and navigational equipment. We traded in the 23 footer and purchased a 27 footer.



The biggest difference besides the extra four feet is the second motor. It also has a radar and a second chartplotter that I can use to find fish, monitor instruments or view radar returns. Mostly it's a great excuse to have technical toys to learn about and play with.

It's that point -the learning and the playing that is the spirit of this thread. We're making two trips to the Bahamas this summer to do just that -learn and play. To date, there's been a ton of research and learning that's already happened and I intend to detail all of it -or at least the parts that are more interesting because there's quite a bit that goes into planning and executing a trip of a mere 50 miles. More than you would think unless you've done it.

Stay tuned for more updates, pictures and videos. I can't wait for this to unfold!
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Old 04-23-2017, 11:29 AM   #2
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To make things easier, I'll include a map for reference.


(photo credit from www.maps.com)

Due east of Miami is Bimini. About 50 miles.

In the upper-northwest corner is Grand Bahama Island. Right under the letter 'a' in Bahama is where you'd find West End on Grand Bahama Island. Due west of West End is West Palm Beach on the Florida coast. About 50 miles.

If you depart West Palm Beach and head towards West End and then turn slightly northeast, you can thread your way between numerous cays (pronounced keys) and eventually turn southeast and end up near Marsh Harbour. You have to go this round-about route because the water depth is insufficient to just cut across the sothern part of the island. If you go far enough south it's deep enough but that's a long and lonely stretch of open water with no place to seek refuge is a problem arises.

Before you get to Marsh Harbor, there are two popular destinations called Treasure Cay and Green Turtle Cay.

This is one of the harbors in Green Turtle Cay. The rest of the island is beautiful! It's peaceful and it has a pretty cool history too, which you can read about here.



This is the beach at Treasure Cay. It was voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world several years ago.




In thinking about making the run to the Bahamas several destinations came to mind; Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, West End (Freeport) and Bimini. We've been to each of these places except Bimini. Running around these islands is amazing. The color of the water and the visibility in the water while snorkeling or diving is amazing! Being able to explore these remote locations is part of the fun.

The Alma G, shown below, is a ship that was caught in a hurricane and ended up foundering before being abandoned all together. We found her while exploring near Great Guana Cay several years ago.



I mention all these places because they're within reach by boat and they were part of the equation when deciding on where to go. Eventually, we'll get to some of the out-islands but we chose to stay closer this time to get the experience before stretching out a bit.

The limiting factor is fuel. If I had a sailboat that would be a different story.

Quote:
Side note... The truth is, I hate sailing. Several years ago I took a course and became certified in the proper use and navigation of a sailboat. I liked everything about it except when the boat keels while underway and being propelled by the wind. I could never get over the sensation that the damn thing was going to capsize at any moment so I'd dump the wind out of the sail to upright the vessel and come to a grinding halt. Pretty difficult to get anywhere that way.
Reasonable estimates show Green Turtle Cay to be 165 miles from West Palm Beach. Treasure Cay is another 15 or so. Freeport/Port Lucaya, which is on Grand Bahama Island is about 70 - 80 depending on where you port. All of this is important because you need to know how much fuel you're going to burn while you're making way. And with fuel running between $4.35 to $4.85 depending on where you buy it in the Bahamas, you don't necessarily want to waste it.

Yesterday we took a run to simulate the run to Bimini. We port our boat in Tarpon Springs and chose to go to a place called Egmont Key, which is just south of St. Petersburg, Florida. It's right about 45 miles and yesterday's wind and sea conditions are about what I consider safe and hope to encounter when making the crossing.

With winds out of the southeast around 10 knots and seas 1 to 3 feet I can make about 33 - 35 miles an hour at 3800 RPMs and burn between 19.3 and 20.2 gallons per hour. The boat will go faster but so does the burn rate of the fuel. I have a 179 gallon fuel tank so if I call it an even 20 gallons per hour I have about a 277 mile range on paper (179 gallons divided by 20 gallons per hour equals 8.95 hours times 31 miles per hour [conservative average] equals 277.45 miles). Of course running for 9 hours on a boat that size ain't-a-gonna happen. We'd be beat to death and we'd want to factor in safety margins in case of weather forcing us to slow down.

It was a successful test run and a good way to test the systems on the boat and the fatigue factor with my passengers.



Much more to come.....
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Old 04-27-2017, 05:14 PM   #3
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Something I didn't know before I started all this is that the flags you see waving from the various poles or wires on a vessel aren't just for decoration or to let the observer know from which country the boat hails. They actually communicate a message.

For example, when traveling from the US to the Bahamas, once you enter Bahamian waters you're required to fly the yellow quarantine flag.


(photo credit: MoKat Sailing)

What this signals to Bahamian customs officials is that you have not yet cleared customs at one of the many ports of entry you'll find in the Bahamas.

Once you arrive in port the only person allowed off the vessel is the captain/master. All others must remain on board until the vessel is cleared. Generally, it isn't a long process, especially if you've filled out your documents before leaving the States.

When you've cleared and you're free to roam you then fly the Bahamas Courtesy flag. You continue to fly this flag until you leave Bahamian waters.


(photo credit: Captain Chris Yacht Services)

When coming back to the US you are still obligated to clear customs just as you would if you were traveling via an airplane. One of the smart things the Department of Homeland Security has implemented is called the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS). What this system does is allows boat travelers to register with DHS and obtain a SVRS number and avoid having to go to an international airport to go through customs and immigration.

Obtaining the number is very similar to obtaining a Known Traveler Number for TSA Pre-Check with the airlines. You submit your name and passport information through an online portal, the application is processed, you make an appointment to meet with a Customs agent who will review your document, look at your picture and stamp their approval and grant you your number.

Upon returning to US waters you simply make a phone call and provide the agent on the other end everyone's SVRS number. That number will be cross-checked against the SVRS database and when the match is found, you're cleared. That's it -you're back in the US. Beats the hell out of having to go to the airport in your boating attire after a two and half hour crossing.

The other benefit of the SVRS is your vessel is registered as well. This way you can file a float plan and close it out after the trip is complete. If you go missing at least someone will have record of your intended route and estimated return.

Lot's more safety stuff coming up.
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Old 05-01-2017, 06:49 PM   #4
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Default Buys Ballot's law

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In meteorology, Buys Ballot's law (Dutch pronunciation: [ˌbœy̯s bɑˈlɔt]) may be expressed as follows: In the Northern Hemisphere, if a person stands with his back to the wind, the atmospheric pressure is low to the left, high to the right.[1] This is because wind travels counterclockwise around low pressure zones in the Northern Hemisphere. It is approximately true in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, but the angle between the pressure gradient force and wind is not a right angle in low latitudes.



With the wind to one's back (the stick figure is facing out of the picture), a low-pressure center (L) will be to one's left, high pressure (H) to one's right (in the Northern Hemisphere)
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Old 06-02-2017, 10:05 PM   #5
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Today marks three weeks from departure and it's getting difficult to keep the butterflies at bay. We kind of have a crazy travel schedule coming up so I'm having to coordinate planning in between these other trips.

I'm kind of a safety freak and have been pretty careful to take this step-by-step and incorporate as many redundancies as I can where I can. I took the boat in earlier this week to have them perform my 100 hour service on the engines and while it was there I had them install an upgraded VHF radio as well as a SPOT Trace satellite tracking system.

The SPOT Trace device will relay GPS coordinates to a website every five minutes while power is available so friends and family can monitor progress in virtual real-time once I tell the system to share the data. The other thing it does is aid in recovery of the boat in case it's stolen. I'll post the website of our adventure once we get underway.

On board the vessel I have two chartplotters -both capable of providing navigation data (route navigation as well as sounding data and surface obstructions), instrument data, radar, fish finder, satellite weather, XM Satellite Radio, tide information and a host of other boat 'stuff'. My old VHF radio was also capable of providing GPS information independent of the chartplotter, which was nice in case the chartplotter failed or if I had a catastrophic emergency and had to hit the distress button and abandon ship.

Each vessel, if their radio is compatible, can be assigned a unique MMSI number. A Maritime Mobile Service Identity is a nine digit number, much like a social security number, and it stays with that vessel for the life of the vessel once it's been registered. When you're completing the information to get your number you can also associate the name of the vessel with the number.

The reason I upgraded radios is the new one will now poll all the other radios within my range and post their associated MMSI number or vessel name (depending on how their system is setup) on my chartplotter via a cable and software interface. I can then simply look at my screen and see a vessel and if I need to hail them I don't have to go through a process of elimination to find them if I'm surrounded by multiple boats.

And if those systems fail I have a hand-held GPS with similar tracking and reporting capabilities as the SPOT Trace. It too has it's own website. And in the event of an EMP blast and I loose all electronics I've been studying celestial navigation techniques.

Last week I received my customs declarations forms from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. If I complete these ahead of time it speeds up the custom clearance process pretty significantly from what I understand.

Earlier this week I received my authorization to fly my drone in Bahamian Airspace. I'm pretty excited about flying in the Bahamas. I'm hoping to bring back some pretty cool videos!

The next hurdle to cross is packing. How do I get the essential equipment like fishing and snorkeling gear along with three women and their stuff without chartering a separate barge?
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:44 PM   #6
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The forecast for today was for showers and thunderstorms and it did a marvelous job of keeping everyone off the water. There was no rain and an absolutely flat sea. When I say flat, it was flaaaaaaaaaat. I've probably only seen it this calm once or twice before and not for very long. This lasted the entire time I was out.



I was able to get all my electronics restored, the new radio configured, waypoints entered for the trip and tested out the SPOT Trace system. Now I'm off the boat for two weeks and at that point it will be a final run-through and systems check before leaving. I can't wait!!

Click the link below to see where I went today.

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...7qErMqF35W ZW
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:46 PM   #7
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Did the dolphins come out to play?
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:49 PM   #8
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Ha! I usually see them -especially on calm days but today I didn't see one. I did recover a Mylar balloon that someone lost and it finally settled on the surface.

Dolphins are the equivalent of deer for me. No matter how many times I see them I have to stop and watch. They're magnificent creatures.
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:56 PM   #9
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Indeed they are. I love how they swim along with the boats. I envy your day on the water.
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Old 06-04-2017, 11:21 AM   #10
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Thank you for sharing this. I feel like I've gotten a tiny ocean fix LOL. I'm so excited for you!!!
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Old 06-15-2017, 10:03 PM   #11
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It's a week out and I'm beginning to watch the weather like a hawk. Nine months ago I told myself I wouldn't do this. I have no self-control.





The two images are screenshots from an app called Windfinder. Some argue it's the best thing going and some say not so much. I look at a number of different sources.

The date I'm particularly focused on right now is the 23rd of June and specifically at the 05:00 mark. The directional arrow is great -it tells me right now they're forecasting winds out of the south and that's what you want when crossing the Gulfstream.

The stream itself runs from south to north in that part of the world and if you have a northerly wind it will blow against the current of the Gulfstream and effectively 'stack' the waves closer together. This can cause what normally might be two to three foot seas to become six to eight foot seas in a hurry. So anything without a northerly component is a safe wind direction.

Ideally I'd be looking at winds out of the south at 5 mph and seas around a foot with 4 second spacing. That doesn't happen that often but when it does I understand it's quite a delight. I'm still a week out and as anyone who watches weather knows, that's a long time but right now I'm on the edge of a go/no-go decision. If it deteriorates any further the trip will be off because the seas get too rough when you're in the middle of the stream for my size vessel and my set of captaining skills. I'll make the final call on Wednesday because we depart the west coast to head to the east coast on Thursday for a final launch on Friday.

Until then..... fingers crossed!
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Old 06-17-2017, 12:28 AM   #12
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Have you ever thought of joining one of the many boat caravans that make the gulf stream crossing together? Safety in numbers kind of thing.

A 20 sec search brings up one leaving the 22nd to Bimini. I'm sure there are others.

http://www.bahamas.com/faq/boating-flings
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Old 06-17-2017, 07:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Key View Post
Have you ever thought of joining one of the many boat caravans that make the gulf stream crossing together? Safety in numbers kind of thing.

A 20 sec search brings up one leaving the 22nd to Bimini. I'm sure there are others.

http://www.bahamas.com/faq/boating-flings
I have looked at that and if the one on the 22nd would have left a day later I would have been all over it -especially since it's leaving from virtually the same place I am. I do have a buddy-boat that I was able to connect with yesterday and if their schedule works out we'll be meeting in Ft. Lauderdale to make the crossing together. Safety in numbers is right.
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Old 06-18-2017, 12:42 PM   #14
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I am much relieved to hear you have a buddy-boat to share the crossing.

I have snorkeled in the gulf stream a couple times on glass-calm days...but even that can change very quickly out there.

Have a safe journey and a great time on Bimini! Sadly, my most favorite place there (Compleat Angler) burned down quite a few years ago.
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Old 06-21-2017, 11:11 AM   #15
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Just cancelled the trip due to unfavorable wind and seas. Totally disappointed.

On the bright side... the next attempt will be August 5th for a week's stay. Hopefully, the hurricanes will stay away!!
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Old 06-21-2017, 11:50 AM   #16
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I won't say I wasn't worried about your trip.... but I'm sorry it was cancelled.
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Old 06-21-2017, 11:56 AM   #17
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I won't say I wasn't worried about your trip.... but I'm sorry it was cancelled.
My gut was telling me this was a no-go for the last week. Cindy, out in the gulf, didn't help with the pressure gradient either. It's a good exercise in patience, planning and execution. And not scaring the wits out of my crew!
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Old Yesterday, 02:55 PM   #18
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The weather watch begins.... Planned departure is 5 August. Fingers crossed!
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