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Old 12-15-2006, 01:05 AM   #1
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Default Houston - Bahamas sail

Ahoy! I am new to this site/forum, so hello to all!

I am planning to sail from Houston to the Bahamas (probably Abacos), and am having a tough time finding any literature on the various and/or best routes across the gulf.

Can anyone point me in the right direction to find this information?

Thanks!

-B
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Old 12-15-2006, 01:50 AM   #2
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Welcome aboard.

Someone who knows the region will be along shortly to assist you I'm sure.

Fair winds.
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Old 12-20-2006, 03:12 AM   #3
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World Cruising Routes
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Old 12-20-2006, 05:25 AM   #4
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B:

No, Cornell's World Cruising Routes won't be much help - it's much more about long passages influenced by major wind & sea current systems. You OTOH have multiple options, all of them in relatively short legs. My suggestion is to first think about what kind of cruise you'd prefer and then fill in the legs based on that. E.g. there are some nice stops in L.A. ('lower Alabama') and Pensacola; do you want to miss them? Key West is somewhat of a tourist mecca and destination in its own right...but going thru the 7 Mile Bridge on Vaca Key to reach FL's E coast will be more expeditious. Another easy way to break up the run is to stop in Tampa Bay; you have several very nice anchorages near major grocery stores and with good bus service. Or...is this a 'delivery trip' and the goal is to get to the Bahamas tuit sweet!?

For background info on the Gulf's weather & current systems, an easy/cheap reference is Nigel Calder's now dated Western Caribbean guide. It should be available for a few bucks, used, from a reseller (try Amazon) and the weather & routing info is timeless. In particular it's helpful to understand the Gulfstream spur that comes up into the Gulf from the Yucatan, as well as how the eddies work.

If I were making that run (which may not include the stops you'd like to make), I'd probably arrange the legs in short enough jumps that I could shape the weather I was going to get offshore. That means legs of <4 days, so here's what I might consider:

-- Galveston to an anchorage in the LA barrier islands (an overnight); copy the weather and if it looks good I'd jump the next day to...

-- St. Pete Beach, a 2-night/3-day run for WHOOSH (about 400 NM) and anchor in Boca Ciega Bay for a breather. I'd then leave for (or alternatively, I could go direct to...)

-- Vaca Key and the town of Marathon, where I'd go thru the bascule bridge and into the mooring field there.

-- Ride the Stream up to the Abacos or, if instead I'd like to first visit Nassau, I'd enter the Banks at Gun Cay.

Jack
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Old 01-06-2007, 11:19 PM   #5
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Sailed Houston to Dry Tortugas and Key West last month in 37ft sloop. 8 days from Houston to Dry Tortugas in steady N then ENE winds of 15 - 25 kts. First day couple of days through oil rigs then hardly saw a soul. Contrary currents for 48 hours but otherwise easy trip. email me sthesiger@mac.com if you want any more info.
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Old 01-07-2007, 12:02 AM   #6
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Thanks for the info. I'll email you for more info.

That is one of my main concerns. How do you navigate the hundreds of oil rigs throughout the night? What about the ones that aren't lit up properly???

B
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Old 01-07-2007, 06:15 AM   #7
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The oil rigs are charted, are they not? A nuisance that requires you to keep a careful watch, but you should anyway. If you pick your weather you shouldn't have that much trouble.

That said, there's no denying that the knowledge of all those hard bits out there makes for a lot of anxiety.

For example, http://www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon22.asp

and "Good seamanship is no substitute for blind luck", http://www.cruiser.co.za/hostmelon26.asp
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Old 01-08-2007, 01:02 AM   #8
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B:

I've heard a number of anecdotal reports - reinforced during the post-Katrina analysis of oil rig damage - that suggest even charts fully corrected can miss lots of hard bits. The USCG was noting post-Katrina the significant lag between drilling/oil company changes & storm damage on the one hand and the time needed for NOAA to incorporate the changes plus USCG then promolgate those changes in the NtM's. Bottom line: a current chart gets you closer to a prudent passage but isn't a guarantee. This is one reason - I could give you others - why a night-time watchstand should probably be standing both a radar and a visual watch.

My suggestion, similar to what I suggested earlier, is to consider reducing your exposure by thinking carefully about your routing. Avoiding most rig/well-head/buoy related concentrations by sailing extra miles is no different than e.g. laying down a longer route so as to minimize exposure to a contrary current like the Gulf Stream. Same tactic, just for a different reason.

Jack
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Old 01-08-2007, 06:38 AM   #9
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I'm not sure I understand the reports, Jack. Are you saying that new drill rigs are not being noted on the charts, post-Katrina?
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Old 01-08-2007, 06:51 PM   #10
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Jeanne:

No, the new rig construction projects aren't the problem; it's apparently all the unplanned changes. E.g. when a well head is no longer productive, the owner will sometimes decommission the rig and move it to another position. The well head itself remains, is an obstruction to navigation, and so is buoyed or lighted. A storm passes and these aids are damaged, moved or destroyed...really not different from what happens to leading channel marks in a commercial port, except these problems aren't as immediately detectable. There is then the inevitable lag between the aid being damaged, etc. and that information being ultmately reported on a LNM. When Katrina swept thru, the damage was massive: rigs ended up aground, one went right ashore on the LA coast, buoys were moved many miles away or sunk, etc. It was the warnings the USCG folks were issuing at that point, pointing out the time delay that's inevitable, which I'm referring to.

Jack
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:23 AM   #11
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Having recently done the direct route, my advice is not to worry about the chart as far as the rigs are concerned. The chart looks scary but in reality they are separated by several miles or more (i.e. you might pass one every couple of hours), at night they can be seen for miles and you would really have to try pretty hard to hit one during the day.

I too was regaled with stories of doom and destruction and unlit objects lurking, but then I talked to people who had actually done it, some several times. These people will tell you that the rigs are simply not a problem. In fact they provide a little relief in that endless expanse and unlike other vessels they have the decency to stand still.

Between Galveston and Dry Tortugas we adjusted our course precisely twice to avoid rigs.

Good luck

S
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Old 01-12-2007, 05:44 AM   #12
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This past June we sailed from Southwest Pass of Vermillion Bay (La) To Freeport Tex, through many of those rigs. While it's true that some are unlit, many of those are "howlers" with audio warning hearable for miles. The remaining unlit ones seemed to be closely clustered around one of the huge platforms that were lit like small cities. They are in bands, with perhaps five miles or so between bands, and there is PLENTY of space between platforms.

My wife says" it's easy- just steer for the dark places" In ANY kind of moon the rigs are clearing visible for miles against the horizon. Our biggest fear was getting nailed by a thunderstorm while we were among the rigs.
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Old 01-12-2007, 05:51 AM   #13
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Thanks folks, practical knowledge always outranks heresay. In every respect it is good to receive contributions from the people who are out there, on the spot, living the life.
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Old 01-12-2007, 05:53 AM   #14
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One additional point- I was talking with Ed Campbell ( author of the Cruising Guide to Texas) and he highly recommended Port A as a jump off point because it was the closest, most direct shot to the continental shelf, because it gave a better slant on the normal SE winds and because it got you totally clear of the rigs in a less heavily concentrated point. We left from the Matagorda Jetties heading east- NEXT time I'll go down to Port A and take departure from there.
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