continue to the Northern Exumas, proceeding cautiously through the reefs at the southeastern end of Nassau Harbor. In the northern Exumas are nice anchorages, mooring
areas such as the Exumas Land and Sea Park
at Warderick Wells, and Highbourne Cay
Marina. Returning stateside, stage your Gulf
Stream crossing at Chub or Bimini/Cat Cay,
depending on your boat speed and weather.
Hub of The Abacos (380 nautical miles,
round trip): This takes you to a destination
that has more of the treats of civilization
than outlying areas. Depart from Lake Worth
Inlet (at Palm Beach) and run 60 miles
across the Stream to stop in the Old Bahama
Bay Marina at West End. For the next leg,
run 100 miles to Green Turtle Cay and
anchor in an enclosed area, or tie up at one
of the marinas. Next, travel 20 miles to the
Hub of The Abacos where you’ll find Marsh
Harbour, Hopetown, and Man of War. The
famous artists’ colony founded by Randolph
Johnston at Little Harbour is 15 miles farther
south. There are numerous marinas and
anchorages in this area, as well as interesting
museums, shopping, and restaurants.
With Little Time: A short hop to Bimini,
Cat Cay, Lucaya, or West End will give you
a great introductory taste of the Bahamas
and a Gulf Stream crossing under your belt.
A dinghy would be especially helpful in the
marinas here. Boats anchor behind Gun Cay
(to the north of Cat Cay) in settled weather.
In inclement weather, this is open and
“rolly”; holding is poor in places.
You need to stay on your toes regarding
weather. You’ll be traveling in open ocean,
the islands are low, some anchorages will be
exposed on one or more sides, and there will
be potentially rough passages through reefs
and cuts between islands. Winter trips will
generally involve stronger winds with cold
fronts. Summer trips, often favored by south
Florida regulars, are more likely to bring days
of relatively calm waters. However, June 1
to November 30 is hurricane season and
there’s much less protection and help in the
Bahamas than you might find at home. Listen
daily for tropical reports and get back to the
States quickly if anything is developing.
Photo: Mel Neale
You won’t believe the beauty of the Gulf
Stream. But weather for the Gulf Stream
crossing is very important. We’ve had many
calm crossing days, but this area between
Florida and the western Bahamas can be
OCTOBER | NOVEMBER 2011
more extreme, particularly if
the wind is, or has recently
been, from the north. Departing
from the coast, pick up NOAA
weather on your VHF weather
channels and this should give
Gulf Stream-related information. Usually you can pick up
these channels in the Bimini
Chain, Freeport, or West End
areas, where you’ll probably be
staging your trip back across.
Reception of the weather
broadcasts on a VHF weather
channel fades as you travel
farther from the U.S. coast.
However, in many heavily
settled areas such as Nassau,
the Hub of The Abacos, the
Exumas, and Georgetown,
local organizations or volunteers will broadcast weather
information on VHF channels
every morning. You’ll need to
find where to switch when you
reach different areas.
You can also get weather
when you’re able to go online
from NOAA and other sources.
Usually the Offshore Forecast
for the SW North Atlantic and
Caribbean is appropriate as you
travel east into the Bahamas.
A hurricane chart with lat/long
grids will help you interpret
that because the information is
given for large areas of ocean
usually bounded by latitude
and longitude. There are also
different types of subscription
weather services offering you
custom details about your trip,
including Chris Parker’s services
( www.mwxc.com), and the
equipment and services available through OCENS.
With some good planning, taking a trip
to the Bahamas on your own boat, whether for
two weeks or two months, is a voyage of a lifetime. Isn’t it time to make your dream a reality?
Top to Bottom:
Bimini’s straw market opening for the
day. Colorful bougainvillea is found
throughout the Bahamas. Anchorage
at Allen’s Cay, Northern Exumas.
Tom Neale is a BoatU.S. Magazine
contributing editor and a key member of our “Ask The
Experts” tech team. He and his wife Mel and
their two daughters lived aboard and cruised the
Bahamas for almost two decades.
BoatU.S. Magazine | 45