Fall Rally to The Bahamas

The Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean offers two destinations—Antigua and The Bahamas. If you’d like to stay closer to the U.S. and you enjoy short island hops, the dramatic beaches and turquoise water of The Bahamas has a lot to offer. 

The Bahamas can be reached in less than a week, often on a pleasant beam reach from Hampton, VA.  The country is largely rural with secluded anchorages and the marine life is hard to beat. Locals are friendly, crime is low, and the proximity to the U.S. places this breathtaking cruising ground only a couple days’ sail to Florida. 

Did you know The Bahamas has over 700 islands? You could experience a different anchorage every night of your cruising season! The archipelago spans nearly 500 miles from the northern Abaco Islands just east of southern Florida to the Turks and Caicos islands. Large and small groups of coral islands situated on shallow banks with relatively calm waters make short day sails the norm. The Abacos and The Exumas are regarded as the most popular groups of islands in The Bahamas. 

The Exumas top the list, stretching 100 miles from Highbourne Cay to the town of Georgetown. Highlights include swimming with pigs; snorkeling the grotto featured in the James Bond thriller; Thunderball; or quietly exploring the island chain’s national park. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park offers 176-mile square miles of beautifully-preserved natural resources, including an impressive stand of rare pillar coral. Want to be all alone? Try the southern Ragged Islands, where a 60-mile chain of small islands has no habitation and you will be the only boat in the anchorage. 

Navigation on the shallow banks of The Bahamas can be challenging as there are few government marks, but this skill can be quickly mastered. Because the water is gin clear, the ability to read the water is key. After some practice, water depths and bottom composition can be determined simply by water color. Transitioning from deep blue thousand-foot waters to the shallow banks between islands typically is done in cuts. In these small channels, the waters can be rough and the current swift with opposing wind direction. However, most cuts are easily navigable at slack water and even when the current is running in light wind conditions.  

Be sure to have copies of the Explorer charts on board—they are the “go to” guides for The Bahamas.  Other formats, like Garmin and Raymarine, are not nearly as accurate. Explorer charts are available in both printed and electronic format on laptops or tablets (good idea to have both) and they make navigation much simpler, especially around shallow banks and through the cuts. Salty Dawg members can purchase electronic versions of these charts at a special discount.  

Some say the winter weather in The Bahamas can be undesirable. White it’s true that cold fronts from the U.S. East Coast frequently sweep down to the northern islands, they generally lose much of their punch by the time they arrive in the southern Bahamas. This explains why many cruisers establish seasonal residence in Georgetown, located in the southern Exumas with easy access to an international airport and a well-stocked supermarket. If you enjoy a large community of cruisers and many social activities, you’ll find yourself right at home here.

Want to learn more? Contact Salty Dawg Bahamas port officer, Allen Roberts, at [email protected].