Cruising the Bahamas
Are the Bahamas in your winter sailing plans? Read on for info about where to go, what not to miss, and tips from other cruisers.
Islands in the Sun
The Bimini islands, including Cat and Gun cays, are a common first stop for cruisers. Cat Cay (all cays in the Bahamas are pronounced “key”) is an easy port of entry and neighboring Gun Cay is a nice place to relax for a few nights before heading across the Great Bahama Bank.
After crossing the banks, your possibilities are open: you can spend time in the lovely and very quiet Berry Islands, head over to the bustle of Nassau, make way for Eleuthera, turn north to Great Abaco, or south toward the Exumas and the far Out Islands beyond.
Andros: The largest islands in the Bahamas, Andros isn’t typically thought of as a hot spot among cruisers, but it makes an interesting stop. Fresh Creek is home to the US Navy’s Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) base, and is the area most frequented by cruisers. If you’re into scuba diving, Andros boast a barrier reef that extends more than 140 miles along the island’s east coast and to a depth of 6,000 feet making up part of the western edge of the trench known as the Tongue of the Ocean.
Abacos: This northern Bahamas island group is very popular among both new and experienced cruisers. Unless you’re in dire need of provisions, most sailors will choose to skip busy, cruise-ship oriented Freeport and head to the picturesque settlements of Marsh Harbour or Hope Town.
Berry Islands: These beautiful islands are the place to go if you’re looking for peace and quiet as most of the cays remain undeveloped and uninhabited. The only population centers, if you can call them that, are at Chub Cay, which is where you’ll find the Chub Cay Marina (very popular with the sportfishing set), and Great Harbour Cay on the northern end. If you stop in the Berrys, have a meal at Flo’s Conch Café on Little Harbour Cay—it’s a real Bahamian experience.
Nassau: Considered by most cruisers to be a necessary evil, Nassau is the largest city in the Bahamas, and as such has attractions, groceries, marinas and marine services, and an international airport. If you just need to make a quick stop in the big city and don’t want to stay overnight, head over to Rose Island—lovely anchorages, decent snorkeling, and a good place to stage yourself for a run to the Exumas or Eleuthera.
Eleuthera: Eleuthera is a beautiful and somewhat out of the way place for cruisers. The island is nearly 100 miles long and just a 1/2-mile wide in most places. While you’re here, be sure to take some time to relax on the famous pink sand beaches.
Exumas: For many sailors, the Exuma islands are cruising paradise—they’re beautiful and interesting, and they offer great sailing, snorkeling, and fishing. There are a variety of anchorages to choose from all along the 130-mile chain that offer everything from solitude to a national park to a popular cruisers’ destination. The Exumas are easily my favorite Bahamas destination—some not to miss stops are the iguanas at Allen's Cay; the sunken plane at Norman's Cay; Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay; mangrove creeks at Shroud Cay; and the moorings at Warderick Wells.
The Far Out Islands: If you’re looking for some adventure and are a competent and self-sufficient cruiser, consider checking out some of the islands that are way off the beaten track. Some of these islands, such as Cat Island, Long Island, Conception Island (one of my favorite places!), and Rum Cay, are a pleasant day sail away, others such as Crooked and Acklins islands, Mayaguana, Great Inagua, and the Ragged Islands are much more remote.
Delicious conch salad and the beautiful islands of the Bahamas go hand in hand—check out this Conch Salad recipe.
Need some inspiration for when the other fresh veggies run out and the cabbage is still going strong? Here are some ideas
Photo gallery: Miami to George Town, Bahamas
Only have a short time or just a charter in mind? Here are Four Easy Trips in the Abacos
Photo gallery: New Year's in the Bahamas
Chartering on a budget in the Abacos-- it can be done!
Here's the story of a quick delivery from Miami to the Exumas
Shots from the Family Islands Regatta-- there's nothing like it!
Bahamas Cruising info: http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Bahamas
Bahamas customs: http://www.bahamas.com/boating-enter-exit