AN ABACO BAREBOAT CHARTER
Is it really "Better in The Bahamas"? That depends on what you are looking for in a boating vacation. I find The Abacos to be somewhere in between Belize (there's more to do) and The Virgin Islands (less crowded and beautiful beaches but shallow water and no hills). Access from The US is easy with frequent flights from Florida.
As in Belize, the waters are protected from heavy seas by a barrier reef outside a curve of cays. The water is shallow, so catamarans and power boats have an advantage, but monohulls with daggerboard keels are also available. A 5' draft starts to limit where you can go. Like The Virgins, the distance between islands is short (the whole cruising ground is about 35 miles long), but in The Abacos, you might only see a few other charter yachts in the anchorage, as most boats are either locals or live aboards. Unlike Belize, you will be able to go ashore to dine and provision at most cays.
In Marsh Harbor there are two principal charter companies, The Moorings and Florida Yacht Charters.
The Bahamas are not in The Caribbean and the climate is very similar to southern Florida, so boating in January and early February can sometimes be a little cool, particularly when a northerly is blowing. Late March through April and May is prime time. Winds average 5-20 knots out of the NE in winter, E in the spring and fall and SE in the summer.
Here is a sample of a 6 night charter in The Abacos, starting in Marsh Harbour.
Day 1: Man O'War Cay - 4 miles. This is a very protected spot to spend the night and an interesting place to meet friendly local familes. There are bakeries and a few restaurants but what I found interesting was visiting the Albury family boat building facilities. They have been there for generations and are famous for their beautiful open boats. There are no cars on most cays so be careful of speeding golf carts!
Day 2: Little Harbor - 15 miles . On your way, stop for snorkeling and lunch at Sandy Cay and don't be surprised if you find you are the only ones there! On to Little Harbor which is a small and rather shallow anchorage with a scattering of homes. On the harbor beach is a small Tiki bar called Pete's Pub, where Pete is ready to grill you a burger and serve you one of his potent drinks. Across the harbor are small caves to explore. A fun place to visit.
Day 3: Hope Town - 12 miles. Take the dingy to the famous red and white striped lighthouse and climb to get a spectacular view of all The Abacos. Then across to the head of the harbor where you can go ashore and explore the tiny streets and shops. A very short walk will bring you to a beautiful lengthy beach on the east side where you can really stretch your legs.
Day 4: Green Turtle Cay - 10 miles. Head through the passage to White Sound - extremely well protected. Ashore there is a path leading to another long white sandy beach. Back in the Sound you can visit a few shops and have happy hour and/or dinner at the Green Turtle Club. What I recall most about this spot were the beautiful parrots in the palms surrounding the anchorage. A bit on the loud side but nonetheless very lovely.
Day 5: Treasure Cay - 5 miles. A chance to either anchor in the harbor or tie up at a 1st class marina. The resort is large and you can enjoy the beach, snorkeling, or even a round of golf.
Day 6: Elbow Cay - 12 miles. White Sound (there are two in the Abacos) is a colorful village that has a few restaurants and marina facilities. Walk 1 1/2 miles to beautiful Tahiti Beach. There is no reef off the beach so the large waves attract many surfers.
With a strong sailing resume and more time, some companies might allow you to go further south to Eleuthera or north to Little Abaco Island. Why not see for yourself if it really is "Better in the Bahamas"!
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