Nearly 30,000 square kilometres of breathtaking blue water tempting us to cruise around on a boat – This is The Bahamas. It is among the most brilliant sailing destinations in the world calling us to explore its seas and lands from all angles. There are seven hundred separate islands here stretched all over the ocean in an area that is larger than Florida, for instance. The most important vehicle in this region is the boat. We can only explore the true hidden beauty of the region while sailing. There are dozens of amazing anchorages and ports here for those who enjoy themselves best on the sea.Besides the breathtaking view and the pleasant climate, the region is fantastic for many other reasons. The waters of the Bahamas, the spectacular architecture, the exciting museums, and the national parks are all very tempting. Let’s see what the most important things are when it comes to planning a sailing trip to the Bahamas.
This article gives you an overview of the following topics:
- The most important things to know when sailing to the Bahamas
- The most beautiful islands and towns on the Bahamas
- Sail to the Bahamas – Bahamas sailing trips from Florida
- Seven days sailing from Miami to Bimini
- 1 week sailing from Palm Beach to the Abaco Islands
- 14 days sailing from Florida to Nassau
The Bahamas is a country consisting of 690 coral islands and 2387 coral cliffs stretching on the western part of the Atlantic Ocean 1,300 kilometres long. It can be found southeast of Florida. They have been independent since 1973; currently, the country is in a personal union with the United Kingdom. The currency is the Bahamian dollar 29 of the islands are inhabited; the capital is Nassau. There are 30 airports in the area on the larger islands, so we can get to practically anywhere on a plane.
When is the best time to sail to the Bahamas
The Bahamas has a subtropical monsoon climate, characterised by moderate warm weather during the entire year. The average annual temperature is 28° Celsius; this means 21° Celsius in the winter and 27° Celsius in the summer. The temperature rarely drops below 16° Celsius or above 32° Celsius. The dominant wind blows from the northeast in the winter and from the southeast in the summer, freshening up the air a bit. The velocity of the wind is an average of 15 km/h during the entire year. Most of the precipitation falls in the summer months. At the end of the summer – during the period between June and November – the tropical cyclones (hurricanes) may be a threat.
The strong wind (with a blast of over 90 km/h) and the seawater that rises, as a result, may cause heavy damage. The weather is usually pleasant in the Bahamas during the whole year, meaning that sailing is also enjoyable in all seasons. We should definitely avoid the hurricane season though, as storms may be very challenging.Check the sailing conditions and wind rose diagram of The Bahamas.
In order to get clearance on the Bahamas, we will need some important documents – we can find the relevant information on the official website of the country. We can also download the customs form from here – we should always have that at hand. The registration documents and the passports as well as the migration cards of all passengers will also be required. We should arrange our clearance at our first stop, at one of the entry ports – we can find some of these on almost every island. We should put out the yellow flag and inform the customs office about our arrival. Before leaving, we must hand over a copy of our migration card at the last port.
We could fill a book with all the places that are worth visiting when travelling to the Bahamas. Every archipelago and all the tiny islands have a unique, special atmosphere, not to mention the great anchorages. Now we are going to provide you with a non-exhaustive list of islands and towns that will definitely make you want to travel to the Bahamas, maybe even several times. Let’s start the presentation of the islands on the south at Exuma, going in the direction of the north, all the way to the Abaco Islands.
Exuma is a chain of islands on the Bahamas stretching towards the southeast; its northernmost island called Ship Chanel Cay is only 55 kilometres from Nassau. The archipelago is divided into three parts: Great Exuma, Little Exuma, and Exuma Cays. Each region has its own “role”. Great Exuma and Little Exuma are more “loose” places, while Exuma Cays is a kind of luxurious playground. One of the most beautiful sights here is the so-called „Mile-long Sandbar”, which is a spectacular, longshore segment covered with clean white sand. It is easy to find anchorage at Exuma. There are dozens of beaches and bays for sailors where they might only have to share their spot with a few iguanas and swimming pigs.
Exuma Islands are located on the eastern edge of Grand Bahama Bank, which means that western waters are more protected and peaceful. However, water is often shallower. Exuma shares borders with the open ocean from the eastern side, so it is more challenging to find anchorage there.
Georgetown is the capital of the Exumas and is located on Great Exuma. The town has a very exciting history. The deep-water ports of the town were used by pirates in the 17th century. Later, in the 18th century, aristocrats from Virginia, as well as North and South Carolina, settled here. This was when Elizabeth Harbor became the base of the British ships. During World War II, the United States Navy was using the port. We can find many good anchorages anywhere near the town. However, we should avoid the northern channel leading to the government docks as it is very busy. Volleyball Beach can be found near Stocking Island and offers many establishments, restaurants and bars to visitors.
We will find Kevalli House Marina & Cottages here, providing us with the opportunity to “park” either for a short or a long time. We can rent “non-service” berths at Emerald Bay Marina, which is a cheaper option. The port offers full service including fuel and access to Wi-Fi.
Staniel Cay is located north of Cay Great Exuma, app. 60 kilometres away. It is one of the most popular destinations of mega yachts. We can find a convenient anchorage at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. They accommodate boats of all types and sizes. Thunderball Grotto can be found on this island – the place got its name from a 1965 James Bond movie which was shot here. The cave is a marvellous, protected spot – a tiny sanctuary on the sea full of tropical fish and beautiful corals. The light shines through underwater holes and illuminates the sea and the walls of the cave. It is simply breathtaking.
We are allowed to swim in the cave; there is even a hole at the top through which we can jump in the water. Big Major Cay can also be found nearby – here we can meet the world-famous swimming pigs that were accidentally left here many years ago by merchant seamen. The pigs have acquired the island and have become a giant tourist attraction since.
Norman’s Cay is located to the southeast of Nassau. the app, 65 kilometres further. It was used by the notorious drug smuggler Carlos Lehder as a base for his activities between 1978 and 1982. He and his men smuggled cocaine to the United States from here. We can find an old camping site on the white sandy beach in the corner of the island; it was established by anti-drug agencies for spying. Today, the area is completely desolate, but we can still take a walk on the beach and imagine that we are part of the exciting, even crazy history of the place.
The best anchorages can be found on the southwestern coast of the island as well as at the lagoon-confluence located in the southern corner. We should avoid the southeastern part if we can, as the dock, there is mainly used by giant cargo ships. Vessels with a large draft may anchor in the channel between Battery Point and Norman’s Cut, while in the case of smaller boats, we should look for an ideal anchorage near Boot Cay.
Conception Island is an island that was declared a national park in 1964. It is a natural habitat and nesting place for several species of sea birds, turtles, and migratory birds. There is a large bay with shallow waters here where the rare Stag’s horn corals can be found. The island is an ecotourist centre providing amazing diving spots. The best anchorages in the area are on West Bay, in the northwestern quarter of the island. The sandy sea bottom is ideal for anchoring. We should still remember not to anchor directly next to the coral reef. Bobby Cay on the eastern side of the island is a popular anchorage, and it is also well-protected from the west, but the sea is dwelling quite often in these parts.
Eleuthera can be found in the app. 80 kilometres to the east from Nassau. Its eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean and the western coast is opposite the Great Bahama Bank. The chain of islands is among the most significant and iconic parts of the Bahamas with its countless pineapple fields and beaches covered with pink sand. The island is a popular destination among those interested in the history of the Bahamas and the exotic natural treasures. There are many ports here offering anchorages to every type of boats. Examples include Governor’s Harbour, Current Island, Rock Sound, and Spanish Wells. We will also find many yacht ports with a full-service here such as Cape Eleuthera or Russel Island Rocks.
It is important to note, however, that sailing on the Eleuthera is not always easy. There are parts with shallow waters and corals as well as tidal waves, making navigation more difficult. The landscape is beautiful though, and the locals are very hospitable, so it is definitely worth taking the risk!
Harbour Island lies in the northern part of the archipelago and is a perfect place for those looking for diversity. There are great hiking opportunities in the district of the old dockyard. We can find a ruinous fort here that was built under the leadership of the legendary pirate Charles Wayne. The area near the beach is full of marvellous caves, the largest of which was converted to a prison in the 18th century. Today, it is one of the most popular spots to visit. Another reason that the tiny island is popular among visitors is the unique beaches covered with pink sand. There are two yacht ports on the island: Harbour Island Club & Marina and Valentines Marina. Both of them is a well-equipped port with a fuel dock, showers, restaurants, and bars.
Spanish Wells is located on St. Georges Cay, west of the northern corner of Eleuthera. Its port is constituted by a long channel bordered by two small islands. It is protected well and is only open for the winds coming from the eastern direction. There is a great port and a hurricane hole in the west where boats are tied to mangrove trees. There are six anchoring buoys on the eastern side. We can find Spanish Wells Yacht Haven & Marina here which is a full-service yacht marina with 40 berths; besides the basic services, they also have a bicycle rental. The downtown is in walking distance. We can anchor at Royal Island Harbour in the west, which provides ideal anchorages for vessels with a larger draft. The only disadvantage is that they have no amenities or services.
Nassau – the largest town and capital of the Bahamas – can be found on a smaller island called New Providence. It is a typical Caribbean town; Paradise Island here, which is among the most popular holiday resorts in the region, attracts large crowds of tourists. This tiny island is located in the northern part of the town; the two are connected by a bridge. We can also find the Atlantis here, which is an entertainment complex offering dozens of exclusive programmes to the visitors. The most interesting of these might be the aquarium with its “sunken city” theme and the 140-hectares waterpark called Aquaventure.
If we are not looking for such experiences, we won’t be disappointed either, as there are some fantastic marinas offering several opportunities for spending some pleasant quality time here. Nassau Yacht Haven and Harbour View Marina are the two largest yacht marinas in town where we can refuel our boat, have access to electricity as well as to water and ice. Elizabeth on Bay Marina and Old Bahama Bay are smaller and thus more family-friendly; they also have all the important services here.
The Abaco Islands are located app. 300 kilometres from the southern shores of Florida. It is divided into two main parts: Great Abaco and Little Abaco, accompanied by some smaller coral reefs. The island chain is fairly close to Florida, but we might still feel like time has stopped when we arrive here. There are many fabulous bays in the region, which means that we can choose from a lot of anchorages, too. It is a harmonious area ideal for sailing.
Marsh Harbour is the commercial centre of the Abaco Islands and is also a very popular Bahamian destination. Its buzzing downtown offers everything we should expect from a town, but if we are looking for a more intimate atmosphere, we will also find it here. There are many cafés, restaurants and all kinds of shops – many of them are particularly established for sailors. We can choose from a lot of yacht marinas like the Union Jack Public Dock, the Harbour View Marina, or the Marsh Harbour Marina. These all offer full-service and have great anchorages, fuel, and shower cabins.
Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay can be found near a boomerang-shaped area with protected waters, in the western part of the island chain. The barrier island is barely 15 kilometres long and will provide us with everything we may need during our holiday, from spending time in the unspoiled nature to having a night full of adventure. One of Great Guana Cay’s most popular tourist destinations is the colourful and buzzing bar called Nipper’s, located in the heart of town. We will find a small marina on the northern side of the island, which is protected from the winds; it is not the most ideal spot for anchoring due to the grassy sea bottom, but we can tie up our boat here for the day. As for anchorages for the night, we should choose Delia’s Cay in the southeast.
Man-O-War Cay is located east of Great Abaco, between Great Guana Cay and Elbow Cay. The tiny island has been very famous since the 19th century, as they built many boats here. It is a family-friendly place where we might feel that everyone knows each other. There are grocery stores and restaurants here, and we can also replenish our water and ice supplies. The channel leading to the island is quite narrow; the deeper parts have a width of a catamaran. The don’t pay too much attention to the size of a boat anchoring in a particular berth. That is why we have the impression that boats may collide. As the area is well-protected from every direction, we shouldn’t worry though.
Elbow Cay is the third one among the coral reefs east of the island chain. There is a shallow, properly marked channel leading to the port in Hope Town; it offers dozens of great anchorages. Upon their entry, visitors are welcome by curious dolphins, rays, and turtles. It is a peaceful and well-protected area – we shouldn’t worry about leaving our boat here. There is a 130-year-old lighthouse in the town centre operating with petrol. There is only one such lighthouse in the world besides this one. We have to climb more than 200 steps to the top, but it’s definitely worth it because of the spectacular view.
The Florida-Bahamas trip is the most popular and exciting one among all the Bahamian sailing routes. Bimini is app. 80 kilometres from the eastern shores of Miami, and the distance between Palm Beach and Grand Bahama West End is around 100 kilometres. Even though the area is very popular, we must be aware that this trip may be challenging for quite a few reasons. The weather has a key role in a pleasant and enjoyable sailing trip, and this is especially true when sailing on the Bahamas. We will navigate on the open ocean with no land for long kilometres, and the devices assisting navigation are often far from each other. Another difficult factor is passing through the Gulf Stream.
The Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream can be compared to a river in the ocean. The stream moves from the south to the north. It carries warm water from the Mexican Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern shores of the USA. Given that the weather conditions are ideal, passing through can be a wonderful experience; if they are not, it can be dangerous. We should plan our trip well in advance to avoid any surprises. We are going to give you some advice.
- Let’s find a weather window and check the wind velocity as well as the ocean currents. It is not recommended to pass through if the wind is blowing from the west and has a velocity of over 30 km/h. The conditions are more ideal when the winds turn towards the south; we should still wait if the velocity is larger than 35 km/h. It is best to choose a calm day with only a mild northern wind.
- Let’s check cape activity. This measures the electric activity present in the air, and provides a forecast of the possibility of upcoming storms and rainstorms. If there is a high chance of a storm, we should wait for a quieter day.
- Let’s decide whether to pass through during the day or night. Because of the popularity of the route, it is recommended to sail during the day, as we can obviously spot the other boats more easily.
With an average speed of 10 km/h, we will spend around 10-12 hours on the sea – we should leave early at dawn, and we will have a good chance of arriving in the daylight.
The section between Miami and Bimini is among the shortest ones on the trip between Florida and the Bahamas. So if we are not experienced Bahamian sailors, we should choose this route. Bimini is the westernmost island chain in the Bahamas. It has wonderful waters, marvellous coral reefs, and rich sea life. It is a fantastic sailing destination thanks to the great anchorages and suitable location. On this route, we will have a chance to get to know every tiny island of Bimini and get a taste of the true Bahamian atmosphere.
Day 1. Miami, Biscayne Bay – Fort Lauderdale 48.70 km (30.26 mi), Day 2. Fort Lauderdale – Bimini, North Rock 87.75 km (54.53 mi), Day 3. North Rock – North Bimini, Bimini Big Game Club 8.40 km Day 4. North Bimini – South Bimini, Nixon’s Harbour 5.40 km (3.36 mi), Day 5. South Bimini – Gun Cay, Honeymoon Harbour Day 6. Gun Cay – North Cat Cay 4.55 km (2.83 mi), Day 7. North Cat Cay – Miami, Biscayne Bay 93.40 km (58.04 mi)
On this trip, we are leaving from Palm Beach and will arrive in the centre of the Abaco Islands, Marsh Harbor after passing by Grand Bahama. The trip is particularly beautiful as we can get acquainted with a new detail of the region day by day, and it is also a nice sailing challenge due to the greater distances. Every island has great anchorages, so we will never have a problem with anchoring. Marsh Harbor has an international airport, from where we can fly back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a direct flight.
Day 1. Florida, Palm Beach – Grand Bahama, West End 99.70 km (61.95 mi), Day 2. West End – Crab Cay 45.60 km (28.33 mi), Day 3. Crab Cay – Great Sale Cay 65.60 km (40.76 mi), Day 4. Great Sale Cay – Spanish Cay 67.60 km (42.01 mi), Day 5. Spanish Cay – Nunjack Cay 20.01 km (12.44 mi), Day 6. Nunjack Cay – Green Turtle Cay 8.75 km (5.44 mi), Day 7. Green Turtle Cay – Great Guana Cay – Marsh Harbor 37.10 km (23.05 mi),
Similarly to the previous trip, we are also leaving from Palm Beach, but after the Abaco Islands, we will navigate towards Berry Islands. We are going all the way through the archipelago and arrive in Nassau. Berry Islands consists of the app. 30 islands and sandbanks, stretched out 52 kilometres long on the sea in the shape of a crescent. We will find some marinas and anchorages in the region which all serve the needs of sailors properly. On our way, we can admire the beautiful beaches and the marvellous sea. At the end of the trip, we can spend a few days in Nassau, then fly back to Florida on a direct flight.
Day 1. Florida, Palm Beach – Grand Bahama, West End 99.70 km (61,95 mi), Day 2. West End – Grand Lucayan Waterway 56.45 km (35.07 mi), Day 3. Grand Lucayan Waterway – Moore’s Island, Hard Bargain 81.70 km (50.76 mi), Day 4. Moore’s Island – Castaway Cay 24.95 km (15.50 mi), Day 5. Castaway Cay – Lignumvitae Cay (BI) 49.00 km (30.45 mi), Day 6. Lignumvitae Cay – Great Harbor Cay, East Side 11.10 km (6.90 mi), Day 7. Great Harbor Cay – Little Harbor Cay 20.85 km (12.96 mi), Day 8. Little Harbor Cay – Chub Cay 25.40 km (15.78 mi), Day 9. Chub Cay – Andros Island, Morgan’s Bluff 33.40 km (20.75 mi), Day 10. Morgan’s Bluff – Kamalame Cay 38.90 km (24.17 mi), Day 11. Kamalame Cay – Nassau, Albany Marina 43.15 km (26.81 mi), Day 12. Albany Marina – Old Fort Bay 12.90 km (8.01 mi), Day 13. Old Fort Bay – Crystal Cay 17.00 km (10.57 mi), Day 14. Crystal Cay – Harbor Central 3.60 km (2.24 mi),
More Bahamas sailing tours, or Bahamas sailing
One simply can’t get tired of the experiences awaiting on the Bahamas. This is a region where we must return several times, as we will never have the feeling that we have seen everything. If we can, we should arrange a holiday that lasts longer than a week, as we will definitely not want to leave – the Bahamas is a must-see paradise for sailors! Find Bahamas sailing routes