A Yachting Guide to The Bahamas
By Ella Jameson
Dec 27, 2013 - 11:51:42 AM
Bahamas image used courtesy of Ocean Independence
The Bahamas are some of the most beautiful islands in the world, and with over 2000 cays and 700 islands to discover, it’s plain to see why over 100,000 boaters are drawn to this paradise every year. With an abundance of spectacular scenery, sweeping white sand beaches and sparkling clear blue waters, the islands are rich in culture and offer visitors plenty of relaxing and exciting activities to partake in.
This enchanting group of islands is the perfect destination for a yachting holiday, and sailors can explore the thousands of miles of stunning shoreline with the greatest of ease. Chartering a yacht around the Bahamas guarantees boaters breath-taking backdrops and a wonderful sense of tranquility.
Sailing into the Bahamas
Yachters arriving into the Bahamas in their own private vessel will need to arrive at the islands via one of the many official ports of entry. You must fly your yellow ‘quarantine’ flag to notify Customs of your arrival.
With the exception of the captain, all passengers must remain on the yacht until Customs and Immigration has been cleared, and the boat may be subjected to a customs inspection. Everyone on board must fill out an immigration card and present a valid passport, and you will be asked to declare your stores and general itinerary.
There is an entry fee of $150 (USD) for boats under 35 feet, while boats over 35 feet pay $300, and an additional tax is charged for more than four passengers. If you are planning on staying longer than 12 months special arrangements must be made with Bahamas Customs and Immigration. Once this is all completed you will be permitted to lower the ‘quarantine’ flag.
The main ports in the Bahamas are Nassau Harbor in New Providence, Freeport Harbour in Grand Bahama, and Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands, but there are many more ports throughout the islands, with facilities ranging from large and modern ports on the principal islands to safe anchorages on the smaller, more remote islands.
Throughout the island archipelagos there are at least 63 marinas with 3,140 slips, and where you choose to dock depends entirely on the type of location and holiday you are after.
Located on the most visited and most populous island, Nassau in New Providence is a great charter destination and offers world class resorts, restaurants, and shopping, and its narrow streets are steeped in history. As the largest city in the Bahamas, Nassau offers a wide range of fun visitor attractions and is a superb place to try your hand at swimming, snorkelling, windsurfing, diving, fishing, walking and cycling.
Nassau Harbor image used courtesy of arnet117
From Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands boaters can enjoy superb access to the wonderful belt of small and sandy cays just to the east of this cluster of small islands. Dropping anchor here means that visitors are ideally situated to take advantage of the islands’ fascinating coral life and spectacular landscape.
Grand Bahama is the second most visited island in the Bahamas and Freeport Harbor boasts fantastic amenities – however, the island also offers plenty of isolated beaches and unspoiled scenery. Famous for the Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama is an exciting mix of quiet beaches and cosmopolitan glamour; as the second largest city in the Bahamas, Freeport has many superb restaurants and shopping venues too.
Once you’ve decided upon an island on which to drop anchor, all that is left is to enjoy yourself and your perfect surroundings! The rich history and heritage of the Bahamas has meant that the islands now enjoy a unique, lively and absorbing culture that is strongly focused around music, celebration and community.
Image courtesy of Jef Nickerson
Bahamian music often features brass bands, cow bells and drums, and incorporates many other forms of Caribbean music, such as Calypso, Rake ‘n’ Scrape and, of course, reggae.
The most important event within music in the Bahamas is the Junkanoo carnival which takes place over Christmas and New Year, and locals spend months preparing for this celebration. Elaborate costumes and floats are created for the street parades and dancing, and bands play popular music as locals and tourists alike come out to enjoy this brilliant taste of Bahamian culture.
Surrounded by thousands of miles of sparkling clean ocean, it’s no surprise to learn that cuisine in the Bahamas is strongly centred on seafood. Conches are popular delicacies throughout the islands, and are usually eaten raw in salads, stews, or in fritters which are very popular with both the tourists and locals. Popular sweet treats are the doughy Johnny cakes and fruits such as pineapple, coconut, mango and passion fruit.
Conch fritters image courtesy of goodiesfirst
The Bahamas is home to plenty of interesting wildlife, especially in the ocean, so you can expect to see all manner of enthralling creatures from the vantage point of a yacht. Dolphins, sharks, manatees and turtles are all frequently spotted in the deep blue Bahamian ocean, and can often be spotted from boats. The coral reefs off the islands are superb for snorkelling and are teeming with exotic fish, as well as several shipwrecks, which are always fun to explore.
Image courtesy of Thespis377
On land there are many frog species, wild pigs, racoons and lizards, and there are numerous nature excursions, off-road biking trips or horseback rides that you can take advantage of while spotting a wide variety of wildlife. The island range is also a bird watcher’s paradise as there are over 300 different species of birds to be found here, including flamingos, parrots, cuckoos, hummingbirds, kingfishers and birds of prey.
Tahiti Beach Image courtesy of Gabrielle Cyr
As you would expect from a Caribbean island, there is no shortage of outstanding beaches in the Bahamas. From vast stretches of sand to isolated little cays, you are bound to find your dream beach here, and a yacht will allow you to explore the coastline with ease.
Tahiti Beach in the Abacos Islands is great if you are looking for a quiet day on the beach away from the throng of tourists. Because it’s located at the far corner of the island and driving is prohibited, you’re guaranteed to find this sun-drenched beach nearly deserted.
Cable Beach on New Providence Island offers visitors excellent facilities as well as a four mile stretch of beach. The shoreline is packed with restaurants, bars, casinos and shops.
Treasure Cay Beach has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic, and this large, crescent beach really must be seen to be believed
Treasure Cay Beach image courtesy of Tomathon
Weather and Climate
The Bahamas enjoy a year-round tropical climate, with the average temperature being a balmy 30 degrees Celsius. The winters are warm and dry and the summers hot and sometimes wet (hurricane season is between June and November). The temperature dips a few degrees at night.
When sailing, you should be very mindful of the weather. Though the seas are generally calm, travelling in the open ocean – especially the neighbouring Gulf Stream – can frequently involve strong winds and rough seas, particularly during hurricane season.
Ella Jameson is a freelance writer, blogger and contributor to many different websites, blogs and magazines.
After graduating from university with a first class degree in English Literature, Ella worked as an editor and copywriter for several years before becoming a freelance journalist. Her specialist subjects include travel, interior design, health and fitness, diet, and the environment.
Ella lives in London when she isn’t visiting as many countries as she possibly can, and she enjoys cooking (and eating!) foreign cuisine.
(References: bahamatopia.com; motygido.co.uk; bahamas-history.net; getawaytips.azcentral.com; frommers.com; worldweatheronline.com; myoutislands.com; boatus.com; bahamas.co.uk; oceanindependence.com; bahamas.com; wikipedia.org)
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