Happy New Year Richard,
First, decide if you want to visit the keys and if your mast
will fit under the bridges of the Okechobee waterway. That will decide your initial route
The northern Bahama group is the Abacos, with a common entry point of West End, Grand Bahama. Depending on the weather
and which route you take to in Florida, you probably want to leave for WE from either Fort Lauderdale
or Palm Beach. Fort Lauderdale
offers a better angle on the Gulf Stream and is a nice place to spend some time, but free anchoring
is limited to one night. Palm Beach offers unlimited free anchoring
and the inlet is easier to exit at night, but gives you a harder angle on the Gulf Stream, especially with SE wind
. I prefer a 4 am departure, but many like to do an overnight crossing, arriving at WE early am. I personally wouldn't leave with a forecasted SE wind
of more than about 25 or a north wind of more than about 8, but that's something you need to figure out yourself. I've entered the marina at WE with west winds of 35 and would not recommend that for the faint of heart. Also, I would not advice anchoring at WE when a strong cold front comes through. (Absolutely can't in Cross Bay)
Most people (if not all) pull up to the sea wall in the marina right in front of custom's at West End to clear in. You can then either anchor
out, pick up a slip or move on as timing and desires indicate. With slip fees
starting at about $100/night, I usually anchor
out. From West End, you can either head
up to the top of the Abaco
chain and work your way down many of the less visited islands, many of which you may have to yourself, or go to Great Sale
, Allans-Pensacola and then onto Green Turtle and more populated areas. Some cruisers wait to check in at Green Turtle, but I much prefer checking in at West End, so I can legally visit the many beautiful islands north of there. Green Turtle down to Little Harbour has more towns and more cruisers, including a few charter
bases. Marsh Harbour is your best bet for grocery selection, flights and marine parts
and offers reasonable all weather
anchoring. Once you hit about Green Turtle, you can pick up the morning Cruiser's net on VHF
68. Good weather reports on barometerbob.com Dodge's cruising guide to the Abacos is my favorite for the Abacos, and I like the Explorer Charts
for all the Bahamas.
From the southern end of the Abacos, you can move onto the Exumas
, directly or via Nassau
or Eleuthera. Going via Eleuthera (Egg) requires no overnight. I find knowing the tides and being comfortable not having much water
under you keel
at times is key to enjoying the more out of the way places.
Much of the route is directly into the prevailing SE winds, so if you prefer to sail, it may mean taking advantage of northerly cold fronts. (mostly winter-spring).
I have some more Abacos photos and information from previous trips on my website: bahamasmariner.com/abaocs
. Sorry, it's still in progress. More of my Gulf Stream crossing thoughts there as well.
There are many on this board who have crossed and sailed the Bahamas, so I'm sure you'll have more good advice coming your way here.
Have a great trip.