7 Things You Need to Know Before Cruising the Exumas, Bahamas

I LOVED the Exumas!  Here are 7 things you may want to know before cruising there!

 

1.  The most important thing to know!  Beer is $65+ a case in the Exumas!  Bring plenty with you!  And if you want to “invest” in Kalik (pronounced click), be prepared!  🙂

David enjoys his first Kalik (click)

David enjoys his first Kalik (click)

2.  There is no such thing as too much time!  Weather will dictate your lives, very frustrating until you finally give up and go with it rather than buck it – but that takes time.  Our biggest regret is not allocating more time to cruise in the Exumas.    We deliberately picked March/April/May to explore the area because conventional weather wisdom says that cold fronts stall out farther north later in the spring.  But after waiting three weeks, we finally managed to get a long enough weather window to cross the gulf stream and then the Bahama Bank.  We arrived at the Highbourne Cay, one of the upper Exumas, just in time for the weather to change and blow 20-30+ for the next five days.  In the meantime, we’re watching our 3 month Exumas cruise turn into mere weeks.

Anchored at Big Major on a Perfect Day!

Anchored at Big Major on a Perfect Day!

3.  For us, Bimini was a convenient place to stop after crossing the gulf stream (i.e. get a bit of sleep after departing at 2:30 AM the prior morning!) and clear in.  We crossed from Rodriguez Key … here’s a post with our waypoints all the way to the Exumas as a starting point to plan your adventure.  The Blue Water Marina in Bimini was a bit run down, but a nice location.   Literally from the time we were in the slip, didn’t even have the sail cover zipped up yet – to the time we were cleared in and legal, was all of a half hour, maybe less.  Easy easy easy.  The entrance channel was a bit shallow and because the sand bars are ever shifting, reading the water is a must.  We came in at high tide and left on a mid-rising tide, with a 5 1/2 foot draft.

David observes comings & goings out the main channel at Bimini

David observes comings & goings out the main channel at Bimini

4.  West Bay on New Providence allowed us to anchor for the night en route from the NW Channel Light to the upper Exumas in comfort.  For whatever reason, it’s rarely used, but we enjoyed it … well, until the garbage dump started burning garbage the morning we were ready to leave. There’s a state park with a dinghy dock and you’re even allowed to take in garbage.  For us it was a nice alternative to Nassau.

Placid West Bay anchorage, welcome relief after being bobbed around in confused waves all day!

Placid West Bay anchorage, welcome relief after being bobbed around in confused waves all day!

5.  Very few anchorages are protected from the weather, except prevailing easterlies, in the Upper Exumas.  I never understood why most boats seem to gravitate to Georgetown and stay there the entire season, but I think now that it must be weather.  No matter the time of year it seems, if it’s not hurricane season, there will be cold fronts with winds first from the South, then Southwest, then West, Northwest and after the front is through from the Northeast.  Obviously, you’ll be much more comfortable in an anchorage with all around protection.  But “all-around” protection often means current scoured cuts between islands such as Norman’s Island.  But the swell and surge still come in.  So where to go?  Study your cruising guides and pick all around protected anchorages carefully.  It’s wise to arrive a few days in advance to get the best spots … or to reconnoiter and have enough time to change your mind if the surroundings aren’t what you anticipated.

The North Mooring Field at Warderick Wells is well protected from almost every direction. But there are limited moorings available and they must be reserved in advance with the park office.

The North Mooring Field at Warderick Wells is well protected from almost every direction. But there are limited moorings available and they must be reserved in advance with the park office.

6.  If you enjoy snorkeling, make sure you check the current and tide ahead of time.  The snorkeling was more challenging than what we experienced in Belize and the Bay Islands.  The best Exumas snorkeling sites are current dependent.  You could easily be swept out to sea by current too strong to swim against, so be cautious.  We usually anchor the dinghy (or tie to a dinghy mooring if provided), one person gets in to test the current.  If it’s not strong, we both get in and stay somewhat together – enough so that if one of us has a problem, the other is within earshot. 

7.  BE PREPARED!  There are no ATM’s between Nassau and Georgetown if you’re headed south.  I was amazed at the number of conversations overhead on the VHF regarding innovative ways cruisers tried to get extra cash.  Bring twice as much cash than what you anticipate needing and don’t get caught short!

Any Bahamas veteran cruisers out there that can offer more Need To Know advice?  Please leave a comment and let us know!  THX!  Jan

Comments

  1. I just found your blogsite and it’s awesome! Such great content for newbie sailors, like us, who planning to start cruising after the 2013 Hurricane Season ends. Thanks for all the great info as we’ll be headed from SW Florida (Naples) to the Bahamas and hopefully beyond! 🙂

    • Hi Kim! Maybe we’ll see you since right now we’re on Charlotte Harbor just north of you. We’ll return to the boat in early October. Enjoy! Jan

  2. Enjoyed reading your site, especially we plan on going same months. March April May. Countdown is all. We are probably taking too much stuff. I will however take double the money.

  3. Before you go, consider becoming a support fleet member of the Bahamian National Trust. For tHe cost of three mooring nights at the Exuma Park you get two free mooring nights on any of the park mooring balls and priority over non members on mooring balls at the Park Headquarters at Warderick Wells for a year. We have literally been put in front of several boats that have been on the wait list for two days. This came in handy once when a front was coming in. We got the only available mooring ball.

    In addition you are supporting a very good cause.

    • Great advice, Bruce. We were support fleet members when we were there & I would do it again in a heartbeat. The cost is nominal and the benefits are huge. Thanks for adding this!
      Cheers! Jan

  4. CMPerkins says:

    You didn’t mention Cambridge Cay mooring field, part of the Land and Sea Park. There are additional mooring balls there and it’s closer to some awesome snorkeling. We throw a line with a float on the end out to grab onto and pull ourselves back to the dinghy if current gets to be too much. You should also check out Emerald Isle Marina on east side of Great Exuma north of Georgetown. We spent almost 2 months there. Keep looking, there’s lots more to see.

  5. Be sure to be able to pump black water overhead. Aside from Nassau, pumpout facilities available in the Bahamas are very scarce. Lucaya, Nassau, maybe Marsh Harbour and Emerald Cay. We towed the pumpout boat to port in George Town last year. Neither the outboard or the pumpout worked!

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