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Crossing FL to Bahamas in 23' Checkmate

Old 09-16-2020, 07:35 PM
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Default Crossing FL to Bahamas in 23' Checkmate

Hi everyone.. I'm sure the topic has been beaten to death but i know most people are running CC boats down in FL

I have a 23' checkmate persuader with a single 350 mag engine. Put almost 400 hours on the engine in the past 3 years.. reliable as the day is long. been a mechanic for 15 years so not too worried about the boat having an issue making a crossing like this. It has a vhf and small cabin. the tank is 51 gallons. I live in NC and have done over 80 miles in a day on a tank with fuel still in the tank and the lake i am on can get very rough (lake norman), but obviously weather and sea conditions can't compare to what can happen out on the ocean. ive read the crossing is about 40-50 miles depending where you leave from. i have done some research and obviously no rushing and waiting for the right weather is crucial in planning a trip like this. im also aware of insurance policies leaving coastal waters not being covered and that many people recommend crossing with a buddy boat. Also seen that during busy times there are many boats smaller than what i have making the crossing. The boat is big enough to sleep 2 adults, i am not sure i would want to anchor and would pony up the money to get a slip at a marina. just want to see what everyone's thoughts are on crossing in a boat like this. And yes, i know, i know... all the proper safety gear, tools extra prop, belts etc will be brought, gps, etc will be fitted before hand. I have been trailering and boating since I was old enough to drive, got boating license at age 15, and taken it to intracoastal in nc. did about 40 mile trip first time i put it in saltwater. thought it would be an amazing experience to make this crossing but wanted to get input from anyone who has done it in a similar size/type boat before, dont have a whole lot of experience saltwater boating solo. What time of year is best for calm water? certainly wouldn't want to go in the fall during hurricane season. I would likely allow a week and a half for the trip

Last edited by Stang88; 09-16-2020 at 07:40 PM.

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09-17-2020, 07:39 AM
ldavid516
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I did it on an 8' blow up unicorn.
Also sleeps 2 but not comfortably.
Good trip but upon arrival found Bahamians now speak French and have a maple leaf on the flag.



Old 09-16-2020, 08:16 PM
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Go for it! I crossed in a 13’ Whaler on a glass day when I was 14 with no loran, pre gps, broken compass, no vhf and outdated safety equipment, but we lived. 100 crossings in single engine boats < 22’, no issues. Issues with covid now but hopefully those are done by spring. July - Sept are typically calmest, Sept starts the bulk of Hurricane season. If I was planning for next summer, I would plan for July and leave the option open of leaving your boat there and flying back on a better weekend to retrieve if the return weather window sucks. Low planing speed is helpful, nice to have a boat that stays on plane < 20 knots. < 18 even better. Earlier the better, I typically leave the dock 30 minutes before sunrise.

That said, I would take your boat out 20 miles in NC on a calm day to test it out. Lakes and intracoastal does not = open ocean. Now that I’m older wiser and wimpier, I bring an Epirb. Actually two Epirbs.

Good luck.
Old 09-16-2020, 08:38 PM
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thanks for your input. the boat can definitely get on a plane at 20 kts. it will cruise comfortably running 2200-3000 rpm, anywhere from 20-30kts depending on how the drive is trimmed... 4000 rpm it does 45kts. the boat has an older cobra vhf... how far does the signal reach on these things? i have read that people organize "flotilla groups" of 20-30 boats to make the crossing each summer. would you recommend this for a first timer?
Old 09-16-2020, 08:48 PM
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Tons of people do it in jet skis and smaller boats than yours.

As you already know its all about the weather and safety equipment

VHF range is line of sight, typically 9ish miles for an antenna at sea level. The coast guard can usually hear you 30ish miles off the coast of NC, they have alot taller towers and transmit on higher than 25 watts.

I would recommend getting a garmin inreach or spot type satelittle communication device.

And sign up for tow boat us!
Old 09-16-2020, 09:48 PM
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Just so we’re clear, you say you use your boat on a rough lake and you’ve used it in the intracoastal in NC once...so that means you’ve never operated a vessel outside of an inlet in the ocean?

Old 09-16-2020, 10:09 PM
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Pick your day, you will be fine. More calmer days in summer but they can happen anytime of year.
Old 09-17-2020, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Stang88 View Post
the boat has an older cobra vhf... how far does the signal reach on these things?
Based on this comment you need to do a lot of research on what you planning. It's open ocean. A lot can go wrong.



Originally Posted by biminibrad View Post
Pick your day, you will be fine. More calmer days in summer but they can happen anytime of year.
OP is in NC. Can't really pick your days if you are 500 miles away.
Old 09-17-2020, 05:11 AM
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Get an EPIRB cheap insurance
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Old 09-17-2020, 05:26 AM
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Did it in a 23' yamaha jet boat with no issues. Have also done it in boats up to 45' and had issues. Leave early in the morning and head out as fast as you can to get across. Summertime is better and never with a wind component out of the north (NE, NW, N)
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Old 09-17-2020, 05:37 AM
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Many of us used to do it in boats less than yours regularly with paper charts and a compass.

But now that we have GPS maps, cell phones, doppler forecasts, Epirbs and so much more boat traffic running back and forth, the journey has gotten a lot more dangerous and unpredictable.

The only flaw in your plan that I can see is trying up at a marina and sleeping in the cabin (without ac?) in the summer. If I didn't want to get a room I'd at least get a couple miles up wind of the island and hope to get a little breeze on the deck somewhere.
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Old 09-17-2020, 05:38 AM
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Remember you are crossing the gulf stream and seas get big fast out there. Even an east wind at 15 knots will knock your teeth around. Try to cross with winds from the south or southeast. You can do it but I would also get a life raft and upgrade your vhf, get an epirb as others have said. Usually when crossing you are loaded down so your fuel economy will be much lower too. Just keep that in mind. Crossing with a buddy boat is good too. Lots of people cross in the summer which is the best time to do it. Just keep an eye out for storms and hurricanes.

You are not going to be running 40 knots in your boat unless it’s a lake out there, which it can be but that’s not the norm. There is usually a 1’-2’ chop of some kind.
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Old 09-17-2020, 05:43 AM
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Does your VHF have DSC, and is it connected to a GPS?

If you just said to yourself "Huh?" You have some research to do.

You know how to clear customs? In and out? Planning on taking a gun? Is your boat insurance valid in the Bahamas? How about your Health Insurance? Does it cover MEDEVAC? Does your cell phone work there?

The Bahamas are are a third world country. You're not taking a trip to the keys where all the benefits of citizenship and a first world country exist.

It's more complicated than using a GPS to make a 50 mile run.
Old 09-17-2020, 06:10 AM
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You don't need a GPS and a compass is optional. Just leave early as the sun is rising in the East and head approximately 10 degrees south of the sunrise to allow for the gulf stream drift and you'll see Bimini Harbor entrance in a couple hours. Electronics are for sissies. As long as you don't break down or dilly dally along the way, it's no problem.

Old 09-17-2020, 06:22 AM
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50 gallon fuel tank? Stay on lake norman with the other nascar drivers.
Old 09-17-2020, 07:39 AM
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I did it on an 8' blow up unicorn.
Also sleeps 2 but not comfortably.
Good trip but upon arrival found Bahamians now speak French and have a maple leaf on the flag.



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Old 09-17-2020, 09:38 AM
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Not sure of your age but many of us here have done plenty of stuff in our teens, 20' and 30's that we would not even contemplate doing today! That being said, I have been going to the Bahamas by boat for over 30 years and one thing has held true all of these years....it can go from a nice, calm day on the boat to a shit storm in a matter of minutes. I am not just talking about weather or sea conditions. Mechanical and personal health issues as well. That fact alone would keep me from attempting this in your style of boat. But if you are intent on doing this....

I would plan your trip for late June thru August. Go to Bimini, leave out of Harbour Towne in Dania Beach. Give yourself a couple of weather days on either side of your trip and pack the proper safety and communication gear.

Just know this, 2' seas on the crossing is a pretty decent day, of course flat is nicer, anything more than 2' in your particular boat and you will be in the middle of the Gulf Stream re-thinking your plan real quick. Taking water over the bow in a boat that can't bail it quickly is a recipe for disaster. I would rather be in the 17' Mako CC I did it in once back in 2005. Got our ass kicked in 2' seas the whole way over.

20 miles out and we were questioning on whether we should continue. We did and had a great time. Now being older, my comfort level is miles above a 17' CC, never again!

One other fact I have learned in my years of Bahama crossings...you only get one good crossing per round trip! Hence the need for the weather window days.
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Old 09-17-2020, 09:44 AM
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My 17 whaler has crossed to Bimini, but it was with a group of boats. You never know what can happen out there man, ideally it's a 2-3 hour crossing with nothing but a suntan and a few cold ones. Good luck and enjoy! Keep your head on a swivel, those Summer storms can wreak havoc. Great tips in this thread, we try to get an early start too. If you can afford it, get a chartplotter with Sirius XM weather.
Old 09-17-2020, 10:01 AM
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I would recommend spending a little more time offshore at least 10-15 miles out. I know you're thinking, "things are different", but you don't really know until the water gets a really deep, deep blue color what they're talking about. Swells are a much bigger issue. Not to mention, the 80 miles you've done before wasn't all at once, more than likely.
Things change quick out there. And if you don't currently own an EPIRB, you're not ready to start planning this trip.
Old 09-17-2020, 10:21 AM
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Boat is an IO with bellows, correct? Boat’s deck is not self bailing, correct? Does the boat have level floatation if swamped? How many bilge pumps at what capacity?

People have crossed in 13’ Whalers and jet skis, but those float. I would rather be in a 17’ Whaler or Mako than an IO Checkmate regardless of length. Boats flip and/or sink offshore every year.

If you do this, EPIRB and/or PLB, check/service all through hulls & bellows, at least 2 high capacity bilge pumps with 2 batteries, manual bilge pump a good idea. A sea anchor to keep bow to waves if you break down. Handheld VHF with GPS as a backup. For starters.
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Old 09-17-2020, 10:22 AM
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One thing that could be an issue, how much gear are you going to put in that boat for a week and a half??

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