The Bahamas is nestled on banks that rise from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. They are sprawling and shallow, dotted with large and small islands and cays fringed in coral reefs teeming with sea life. Low and relatively flat, the Bahamas nestle to the east of Florida and to the north of Cuba. The delights of a Bahamas sailing vacation unfold on Little Bahama Bank’s Great Abaco Island and its myriad cays and splendid family friendly cruising grounds. Barrier reefs, islands, and cays create the Sea of Abaco, where the trade winds blow across calm turquoise waters sheltered from the ocean beyond. Marinas, scenic anchorages, quiet hamlets, historic sites, fun beachside bars, luxury resorts, superior snorkeling and scuba diving, and relaxed sailing are just some of the rewards of a charter in the Bahamas. An added bonus is the close proximity of a Bahamas yacht charter to the United States, with easy airline connections from major U.S. airports and less time spent getting to the yacht.
A Bahamas sailing vacation promises
an easygoing time aboard with fair winds year round averaging between 5 and 20 knots. They are seldom stronger unless a northerly front blows through during the winter months, bringing with it fresh breezes from the northwest. Wind directions are east to southeasterly in summer and more northeasterly in winter.
Places to go on your Charter
is usually calm, passages are short, and the navigation is mostly line-of-sight. However, the waters are also quite shallow, making it prudent to heed the charts and to account for the tidal range, which can be as much as three feet during a full or new moon. A look at the tide tables reveals negative ranges, meaning the recorded depth at mean low water on a chart could actually be less in reality. While this portion of the Bahamas is ideal for the novice sailor and families with young children, the beauty and unique character of the Abacos also lures veteran sailors to return time after time for more adventures. Daily high temperatures range from 75°F (24°C) in January to 95°F (35°C) in August. Daytime temperatures December through February may dip as low as 60°F (15°C).
Gentle trade winds
stress-free sailing, premier snorkeling, miles of secluded beaches, plentiful marinas, quaint villages and towns, wonderful dining, and friendly people are the ingredients that make up a Bahamas charter.The cruising ground is large, but most sailors find that central Abaco north and south of Marsh Harbour, site of the Moorings base in the Bahamas, offers the best sailing in the area.
fine anchorage at White Sound
in addition to its fine anchorage at White Sound (yes another one with the same name as the one on at Green Turtle Cay), Elbow Cay is home to Hope Town, noteworthy for its amenities for sailors but also for the distinctive red-and-white striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse that has been a landmark in the Abacos for generations. Local residents have worked hard to preserve the lighthouse, which first went into operation in 1863. It’s one of only a handful left in the world that burns pressurized kerosene, requiring constant attention from the keeper. It stands 89 feet above sea level and has 101 steps to the top. Climb the lighthouse and admire an unforgettable view of the Sea of Abaco. A must climb to the top!
There are moorings in Hope Town and can be reserved in advance of your arrival. No anchorage is available in Hope Town Harbour. Anchorage is available north of the harbor off Eagle Rock. Dockage is available at White Sound, and there’s an anchorage off Tahiti Beach.
Dinghy dockage: Dinghy dockage is available in Hope Town.
Things to do
The Wyannie Malone Museum is named for Hope Town’s founder, Wyannie Malone, who fled her home in South Carolina because of the American Revolution. She began the settlement of Hope Town with fellow refugees in 1785. The museum is a fascinating homage to this turbulent time in British and American history, which helped give the Bahamas part of its unique character. Naturally, a climb to the top of Elbow Reef Lighthouse is a must; the views are extraordinarily beautiful. There are a number of eclectic shops. Restaurants include Cap’n Jacks, Club Soleil, Harbour’s Edge, Hope Town Harbour Lodge, Munchies Take Away, and Rudy’s Place. At White Sound, you’ll find the casual elegance of the Abaco Inn and the Boat House Restaurant.
Dockage is available in Hope Town and White Sound. Fuel, water, ice, provisions, Internet access, and golf cart rentals are available.
most popular cruising grounds
Situated in one of the most popular cruising grounds in the Bahamas, just north of Marsh Harbour, scenic Green Turtle Cay is a must-see during a Bahamas sailing vacation. The cay has numerous secluded anchorages, snug harbors in Black and White sounds, eclectic shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as intriguing historic sites. Check out the Albert Lowe Museum featuring art and photography about the history of the town of New Plymouth. By the time the American Revolution ended in 1783, many loyalists from the former British colony had relocated to the Bahamas. Some chose to live on Green Turtle Cay. A bronze sculpture at the fascinating Memorial Sculpture Garden pays homage to Green Turtle Cay’s British settlers. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the exhibits at the Captain Roland Roberts House Environmental Center, where the ecology of the reefs is explored.
No moorings are available, but Green Turtle Cay has a number of excellent full-service marinas, some with resort privileges. There are anchorages in Bluff Harbour and Cocoa Bay. Holding is poor in Black Sound. White Sound has space for anchoring and good holding.
Dinghy dockage: Dinghy dockage is available.
Things to do
Check out the photographs, paintings, and artifacts detailing the history of New Plymouth at the Albert Lowe Museum. The bronze sculptures at the Memorial Sculpture Gardens feature busts of important figures in Bahamian history, and the Captain Roland Roberts House Environmental Center is a great place to take the kids to learn more about the ecology of reef systems. Popular restaurants include the McIntosh Restaurant and Bakery, Laura’s Kitchen, the Wreckin’ Tree Bakery and Restaurant, the Plymouth Rock, and the Pineapples Bar and Grill. The Bluff House and the Green Turtle Club in White Sound are both excellent.
Dockage, fuel, water, ice, showers, laundry facilities, provisions, and taxi service are available.
well-protected anchorage at Little Harbour on Great Abaco Island is an attractive spot to drop the hook or pick up a mooring, and relax in the cockpit to admire the sunset. A pleasant walk east across the narrow spit to the abandoned lighthouse provides spectacular views of the broad Atlantic, as waves roll in and break on the beach. A reef nearby offers good snorkeling, and on the west side of the harbor are caves. To the northwest is the crescent-shaped and wide Bight of Old Robinson; its intriguing creeks snake inland. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of a visit to Little Harbour is the story behind it. Founded as an art colony about 60 years ago, the arts still flourish amid the impressive beauty in a place completely off the electrical grid. Visit Pete’s Pub and Gallery to savor island cuisine and appreciate the artwork on display.
If there ever was a place that time seems to have forgotten, it’s the picturesque and secluded anchorage at Little Harbour on Great Abaco. A narrow spit separates the harbor from the Atlantic – the surf booms and the balmy trade winds gently sweep across the white-sand beach. The abandoned lighthouse perched on the spit stands as a lonely sentinel, a vestige of the past. Best known for the internationally acclaimed artist, the late Randolph Johnston, who established an art colony at Little Harbour with his wife, Margot, in the 1950s, the arts still flourish in this idyllic place. Yachting in Little Harbour waters transports you back to a time when the Bahamas remained an undiscovered paradise
Things to do
Apart from the natural beauty of the beach and the caves on the west shore of the harbor, Pete’s Pub is the major attraction. The owner, Pete Johnston, a son of Randolph and Margot, includes an art gallery in his waterfront restaurant and bar. In the nearby foundry, open to the public, he makes life-sized bronze statues of marine creatures and other objects, as well as intricate jewelry. Pete’s Pub serves casual fare, quite appropriate for the setting, including hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, chicken, and fish. There’s good snorkeling on the nearby reef.
a rich and varied
diversity of bird, fish, and plant species inhabit the 2,100-acre preserve at the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park, about 20 nautical miles south of Marsh Harbour. The centerpiece of the preserve is Sandy Cay and the Pelicans, north of Lanyard Cay. Coral reefs and undersea caves make these waters among the best in the Bahamas for snorkeling and scuba diving, especially about halfway up the east shore of Sandy Cay, where the underwater scenery is about as good as it gets. Pristine beaches are inviting for beach combing, swimming, and sunbathing.
cruising in Pelican Cays
waters presents an exciting opportunity to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive on the coral reefs of the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. A sister to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, in the Exuma chain, Pelican Cays lies about 20 nautical miles south of the Moorings base at Marsh Harbour and covers roughly 2,100 acres. The entire area inside and outside the park boundaries is remote and beautiful, a largely undisturbed swath of the Abacos where you can enjoy yourself in a setting that remains mostly unchanged from the days when pirates based out of Nassau prowled these waters centuries ago.
is well worth visiting. At high tide, the sea covers the low beach between its north and south ends and transforms it into two cays capped with sand dunes and dune grass. To the east is an extensive reef system that breaks the swells of the Atlantic, and on its inner edge the snorkeling is superb, revealing an array of tropical fish and hard and soft corals as beautiful as any in the Bahamas. All along the park’s ocean side are undersea caves, drop-offs, and intriguing coral and rock formations that make for interesting scuba diving. The anchorage site on the west side of the island has a rocky bottom. Make sure the anchor is well set. The moorings on the east side of the cay are for small boats only.
The Pelican Cays
are another great stop, though the anchorages can be a bit uncomfortable due to the surge from ocean swells breaking on the nearby reefs. Once the anchor is safely set, you’re off to explore the deserted beaches, most likely in seclusion. The swimming and beach combing is excellent in the Pelican Cays.