Wow, 10 inch draft
- that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you. First, I would recommend to everybody entering the Great Bahamas
Banks in the vicinity of Bimini and Cat Cay/Gun Cay to take the time to rest up behind the little cays either south at Gun Cay near the Explorer Charts
waypoint "Honeymoon Harbor" or north behind Triangle Rocks. Then the next morning visit the "Wreck Sapona" shown on the Explorer Chart BIM02_1 - Gun and Cat Cays. This will you first opportunity to snorkel in some the world's best and clearest waters.
- - The first time I entered Bimini to Alice Town, I almost browned my pants as the channel is tight and you are riding the swells/waves from the main Gulfstream over a sand bar. After 3 or 4 times doing it, it is a "piece of cake." But still it is not something I would recommend doing on your first time outside USA waters. One option is to anchor
down at Nixons Harbor (shown on the Explorer Charts BIM01_1 - Bimini Islands) just off the southeast tip of South Bimini and then dinghy
into Alice Town - just don't tell them you are anchored off the south side. If they do ask tell them it is your first time and you are scared of crossing the sand bar.
- - Or, head
south and check-in at the Cat Cay Club. You can anchor just outside their marina breakwater or go inside and side tie to the club seawall. Unfortunately the Cat Cay Club charges some serious money
for the privilege
of tying up to their seawall (at least they did many years ago- not sure what they do now). Just be warned that the bureaucracy in the Bahamas is "British Heritage" which translates to anything between half an hour to half a day to get your forms properly stamped.
- - I never check in at either place anymore for those reasons. However, if you only have a week or two then these places are your best option. Instead, in the morning I continue on across the Grand Bahamas Banks using the Explorer Chart route
to an "offset" waypoint one half nm south of the Explorer Charts Cat Cay wpt. My offset waypoint is N25* 33.25' W079* 13.00' The reason is shown on Explorer Chart NB005_2. There are drifting sand bars all over the Bahamas and the bar has drifted south over the Cat Cay wpt such that the depth
is only 5 ft or less. I found this out when I encountered a Brit sailboat hard aground right on top of the waypoint.
- - Once you clear the Cat Cay offset waypoint it is clear water
all the way to NW Channel Light. I never get tired of watching the sandy bottom which looks - because of the "gin-clear" water
- to be barely beneath your keel
but is actually 10+ feet deep.
- - It will take a whole day to cross to NW Channel Light, so I divert before reaching the NW Channel Light to about 1.5nm south and drop anchor for the night. You are behind the reefs
north of Andros Island and by now it is dark anyway. Never anchor north of the NW Channel Light as there is a major sand bar there and also the "tramp" steamers from Nassau
hang a right to head
north on the Mackie Shoal route
. They have been sailboat collisions there and serious injuries.
- - Next morning at first light I normally head out for Nassau or Morgan's Bluff, Andros. I skip Chub Cay as it is a Sport Fisherman's center and they have historically never been very friendly to sailboat cruisers. There is a new operation there now, so maybe they have changed - maybe not.
- - At Morgans Bluff you can anchor and dinghy into the little commercial
harbor and ask the guys at the little bar/restaurant to call for the Customs official. Unless he is in the harbor area it might take him 2 hours or more to get dressed and drive to the harbor. Historically he has been very friendly and helpful, but staffing changes might mean you get a not-so-friendly guy.
- - I like going into Nassau (yes, it is an dangerous place to wander around but if you stay close to the marina and don't wander off the main street it is fine). I use the Nassau Harbor Club at the east end of the harbor on the south side. They are friendly and have concrete docks. There is an anchorage to the east and/or you can anchor near the Cruise Ship
piers and go to the Custom/Immigration main headquarter yourself.
- - The main reason I use the Nassau Harbor Club - for one day only - is to have electricity, water, and the officials come to you on your boat. While you are waiting for the officials you can fill your water tanks
, rinse the salt
and grime off yourself and your boat and tidy up things. After the official finishes you can go across the street to the shopping
center and top off your supplies, food
, etc. at the best prices in the Bahamas. Then back at the marina top off your fuel tanks
with the cheapest fuel
in the Bahamas (this is all comparative - anything in the Bahamas is expensive). Next day you are are fresh and relaxed and ready to head south or further east.
- - Most of the power yachts come non-stop from Miami to Nassau so the officials are not concerned that you showed up in Nassau to check-in. The ease and convenience of officials, cleaning
the boat and yourself and topping up tanks after 3 or 4 days of crossing from Florida
is refreshing and worth the US$100 marina fee (that's for my 50ft boat).