To the Other Side
You can get sick to your stomach sailing across the Gulf Stream from South Florida to the Bahamas. I remember throwing up at the leeward rail one night about 25 years ago when we were headed from Miami to Nassau. We were reaching in a building northerly while being set north at four knots, and it was bumpy. Luckily, I got to steer soon thereafter, and my stomach calmed down. When morning came, the waves were more regular; we'd crossed to the Bahamas, and I was ready for breakfast.
Yes, the Gulf Stream is a force of nature deserving plenty of respect as you prepare to navigate to the Bahamas. But if your boat is in good shape, you're well rested, and you pick a decent weather window, you can cross over in less than a day and drop right into the cruising lifestyle. One day you're tied to a marina dock amid the broadband din of life in South Florida, and the next you've cut the cord and you're free to steer for one of several hundred nearby island destinations.
Imagine what that would be like: Your anchor is deep in the white Bahamian sand as you snorkel by to take in yet another spectacular coral reef. There, below the surface, a colorful plant and animal kingdom unfolds, and there isn't a sound louder than your breathing. Dinner could be at hand, too. What were you planning to do this winter?
Sail, ship, or trailer your boat to Florida this fall. Cross the Stream after Thanksgiving, then disappear into an island paradise until you turn up in Fort Lauderdale next May. Trailerable cruisers can make the trip. So can deeper-draft cruisers. The Bahamas are literally in our backyard.
This month's special section and accompanying articles on the Bahamas are loaded with good reasons to put such a plan into action. Ilana Stern, a veteran of four Bahamian cruises, paints the broad picture, whets your appetite, and provides lots of practical information as well, including a separate article on what to expect for weather. Steve Pavlidis, the author of three guides to the Bahamas, leads you through the best stops in the three main island chains, adds dozens of other tips, and, in an extra story, explains Bahamian mooring technique. Then, in this month's Passage Notes, columnist Melanie Neale, who grew up cruising in the Bahamas, collaborates with Dan Roblee to profile several Bahamas-bound cruising families like you.
Together these authors present a well-rounded picture of what your cruise to these beautiful islands could be. They don't pretend that such places as Nassau aren't fully developed and that George-Town doesn't have a big pack of other cruisers hanging out there in season, but they also remind you how the busy places, for a change of pace, can be fun spots to resupply and make friends. And then they point out over and over again how much more there is to discover in these islands.
Maybe you'll never sail to the South Pacific. But if you can take a relatively brief amount of time to cover a relatively short distance, the Bahamas are within your grasp. Even if you can't get your boat to Florida and across the Gulf Stream this year, you can start making a plan. The Bahamas are so close, yet once you get there, you've gone so far.