Destination Andros

After avoiding the Bahamas' largest island for years, a cruiser discovers that rumors can be misleading.

The inner harbor at Morgan’s Bluff, on the northeast corner of Andros, Bahamas, is small but well protected.Amy Flannery

I’d heard a lot of things about Andros, the Bahamas’ largest island, that had caused me to steer clear of it. I pictured a sort of Wild West with drug dealers flying in and out in small planes, drunks flying out of saloon doors, and pickpockets lurking around every corner. Even worse, the Morgan’s Bluff anchorage was supposed to have poor holding and full exposure to the north, while the inner harbor was noted to be too crowded for cruising boats. On top of that, the buoys leading into the anchorage had been blown away by a hurricane.

Thus I was a bit apprehensive when, on a recent cruise on my friends’ sailboat, we had to seek refuge in Andros due to building southeast winds that would prevent us from making Nassau in daylight. Luckily, the missing buoys were not a problem, as the Garmin gave accurate data for entering the anchorage. The anchor held on our second attempt, and we breathed a sigh of relief. The wind being from the southeast, the protection was perfect.

According to ActiveCaptain, one could go ashore by dinghy and clear in at the restaurant located in the inner harbor. Things must have changed, however, because we were told that all newly arrived visitors had to bring their boat into the inner harbor. It turned out to be a fine little haven. We rafted up to a buddy boat that was rafted to a local fishing vessel. The dockmaster was pleasant to work with, and the fee was only $5.70 per night per boat. There was even a beautiful sandy beach a few feet away. But what about the lawlessness?

The only thing resembling the Wild West were the slightly inebriated domino players in the port’s only saloon. They communicated by yelling as they slammed down the tiles with such vehemence that it was impossible to carry on a conversation within a 20-foot radius. Outside of that, it was tranquil as could be.

You need a vehicle to see anything of the island beyond Morgan’s Bluff. We paid for a tour from a local guide, Chris Curry, and seven of us piled into his van. Curry pointed out the local tall trees and pine forests, which don’t grow on most Bahamian islands, due to a lack of topsoil. He led us to two blue holes, one not very deep, which was near a beach where we snorkeled. The other, in the middle of a pine forest, had a layer of fresh water on top.

Nicholls Town, the main settlement in north Andros, is a sleepy, sprawling village with tidy houses, a couple of stores, a bank, government buildings, a small resort and a handful of restaurants on yet another white sandy beach. As we passed the jail, Chris remarked, "Remember The Andy Griffith Show? That's what our police station is like." In the case of Andros, I'm glad I was proved wrong.

— Amy Flannery