The Bahamas Passages and Islands
 
Provo, Turks and Caicos to Mayaguana, Bahamas
Best Charts: Wavey Line Charts and Explorer Charts
Plan to leave at 4 AM from the west or north side of Provo and head directly to Mayaguana, Bahamas.  If you leave from Sapodilla Bay plan to sail the sand bore channel in bad light in the early evening.  The risks that exist are significant coral heads on this route, even if you use the excellent Wavey Line Charts.  A better choice is to anchor off the west coast of Provo and take one of the free dive moorings in the early evening, after the dive boats have departed.  Alternatively you can take a dive mooring or anchor off West Caicos and stage for an early morning departure to Mayaguana.  
 
This passage can be fairly rough depending on your weather.  Try to pick a weather window with less than 15 knots of wind from the E or SE and less than 6 foot seas.  A NE wind will make the passage longer and rougher than you should accept.
 
Mayaguana, Bahamas
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
There are two entrances into Mayaguana’s harbor.  The eastern most entrance is very dangerous if there is any kind of sea running or any wind blowing.  It is best to avoid this entrance unless you have the sun high overhead and calm conditions.  Too many boats have been wrecked using this unmarked entrance.  The entrance has a dog-leg in it because of a shallow rock that sits right in the middle of the channel, half way through the entrance.
 
The best and safest entrance is the western entrance into Mayaguana’s harbor.  This entrance is wide and can be entered in nearly all conditions, given adequate light of course.  Once inside the entrance simply make a gentle turn to starboard and you can anchor in deep water anywhere behind the sheltering reef.  The water shallows gently as you approach the reef.  Supposedly the closer to the reef you anchor the calmer it will be.  In reality this is rarely the case.  You will bounce and roll in Mayaguana’s harbor if the wind is blowing at all.
 
Once inside the harbor you can pick your way to the east for 5 NM through the numerous shallow coral heads and anchor off the town of Abraham’s Bay.  This anchorage is more protected but not really worth the effort.  There is not much in Mayaguana except customs and immigration.  Some basic supplies can be purchased but plan to be self-sufficient here.
 
As stated above, there is a Customs and Immigration office on Mayaguana at Abraham’s Bay.  The government officials sometimes come over from Great Iguana but don’t count on them being there.  If you are lucky to find them at the office you surely are living right that day.  The officials will physically come out to your vessel and make an inspection so be prepared to dinghy them to and from your vessel.  If you are trying to clear customs and are anchored on the west end of the harbor you will not be able to convince the authorities to clear you in because of the long dinghy rides involved.  
 
Usually it is best to hoist your yellow Q flag and clear in at Georgetown, Bahamas rather than attempt the Customs and Immigration dance in Mayaguana.
 
Bahamian Welcome
So now you are in the Bahamas.  Congratulations!!!  Enjoy the clean and clear turquoise waters of these shallow banks.  The colors are spectacular and hopefully you will remember how to read them for sailing and anchoring.  The fishing is among the best in the world and hand spears are permitted for cruisers as well.  Remember to get a fishing endorsement on your cruising permit at no cost when you officially check in.  
 
Ah, but the difficult passages are far from over.  You have a long way to go in order to reach Florida so do not become complacent!  Sailing in the Bahamas is challenging because of the shallow water, erratic winds, strong cold fronts that sweep through at all times during the year and the ever present tides and currents.  Of course there are also huge freighters and container ships that use the shelter of the Bahamas during their voyages as well.  Any lights are unreliable as are all the so-called markers or buoys.  Charts come in all sizes and shapes in the Bahamas.  The best charts today are the Explorer Charts but even they are not accurate in many instances.  The guidebooks for the Bahamas may help with very general information but apart from that are fairly useless because of the constant and speedy changes that occur in this remote archipelago due to yearly storms and the comings and goings of business people in these isolated places.
 
As a case in point, the owners of the Chub Cay Marina on Chub Cay, Berry Island, Bahamas decided to dredge a channel into their marina from the deep Northwest Providence Channel that runs close to the southwest side of Chub Cay.  A dredge was brought in and sure enough a channel was dredged.  At the outer point of the channel two large steel pilings were placed to guide vessels to the channel.  We observed all this happening as we lay at anchor about 200 yards off the entrance to the new Chub Cay Marina in May.  The dredge then moved away after placing the new pilings and actually put a light on ONE of the pilings.  There was no Notice to Mariners filed nor was a light put on the 2nd piling!  As the sun went down that evening we thought how easy it would be for a vessel to collide and sink if they were unlucky enough to approach our anchorage without seeing the changes that had occurred to this once easy harbor entrance.  Beware sailors, this happens all the time in the Bahamas!
 
Mayaguana – Rum Cay Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
Depart Mayaguana in the morning to arrive at the anchorage on Rum off Cay by noon.  This is a relatively short sail, usually off the wind.  The anchorage at Rum Cay can be considered a roadstead.  You will gain some shelter from the island but there will still be a slight sea present at the anchorage.  
 
Rum Cay, Bahamas
Rum Cay is a favorite out island stop for sport fishing powerboats.  The anchorage is littered with coral heads so beware and there is also an underground cable that runs through the harbor.  Shallow water occurs in many places, even further out from shore so watch your depth sounder.
 
Good diesel fuel is available at the marina.  The channel into the marina will barely carry 6 feet at low water if you are careful.  The channel markers are somewhat unreliable so you should enter with good light and your ability to read the water.  Call the marina on the VHF and they will talk you through the channel.  Do not rely on someone coming out from the marina to guide you in, although they will do this sometimes.  The fuel dock is long and sturdy.  However, it is made for sport fishing boats so it is not friendly to sailboats.  The dock is very high and not fendered at all.  Any east wind will pin you to the dock since it will be leeward of you.  Once in the marina area the channel is narrow so turning around is possible but tricky at low tide.  You can also obtain ice here and there is a bar/restaurant called the Green Flash that features some of the most expensive basic hamburgers in the entire Bahamas ($45.00 for 2 burgers and 2 beers).
 
Access to the settlement is at the head of the main pier, to the north of the marina entrance.  It is best to beach your dinghy on the beach next to the pier and tie it to a tree.  The concrete dock can shred your dinghy.  
 
Rum Cay is a very sleepy settlement with few places open, any time of the year.  You will see a tiny grocery store and a couple of restaurants.  There are roads on the island that offer views of the sea and the inland airport.  Walking is the only way to explore Rum Cay since there are not any rental car agencies!  A new marina is under construction and the officials from Nassau held a party commemorating the ground breaking in May 2006.  Sleepy Rum Cay is expected to be on the main route for Florida sport fishing boats in the near future.
 
Rum Cay – Plana Cays Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
Depart Rum Cay in the morning (so you can see the coral heads in the anchorage) and arrive off West Plana Cay mid-afternoon.  The anchorage on the west side of West Plana Cay is exposed and subject to rolling in moderate to strong conditions.  Anchor in the lee of the beach with excellent sand holding.  
 
 
West Plana Cay
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
The anchorage on the west side of West Plana Cay is exposed and subject to rolling in moderate to strong conditions.  Anchor anywhere in the lee of the beach with excellent sand holding.  The water depth shallows gradually as you approach the beach.
 
The Plana Cays, West and East, are uninhabited and excellent for beach walks and exploring.  A run around the outside shore of West Plana Cay will take approximately 2 hours.  There is a tremendous amount of interesting flotsam on West Plana Cay.   There is also a significant goat population here.  You will not notice any stench of hutia urine from East Plana Cay as described in the guide books so just enjoy this pleasant anchorage if the winds are light.  If winds are any stronger than 10 knots it would be best to avoid stopping at the Plana Cays.
 
Plana Cays to Clarence Town, Long Island Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
Depart West Plana Cay in the dark of morning in order to arrive at Clarence Town, Long Island by noon.  The harbor entrance at Clarence Town is wide and easy but you must watch for shallow water and reefs to port and starboard.  Anchor inside the harbor anywhere but not in the mailboat channel leading to the town dock.  
 
Clarence Town, Long Island
This is one sleepy backwater place!  There might be a restaurant or two open for lunch if you are lucky.  There is a very basic store here that carries only very essential food items.  In addition there are two interesting churches that have the best view of the harbor and where you can take photos of your anchored boat.  Other than that there is not much here, except for the road that traverses the length of Long Island.
 
Clarence Town, Long Island to Conception Island Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
It is only about 20 NM to the anchorage on the west side of Conception Island.  You can exit Clarence Town, Long Island in the early morning light and still be safe.  Just keep to the center of the harbor entrance and continue into deep water.  Do not hug the shoreline!  There will be open water for this crossing to Conception so you do not want blustery conditions if you want to stop at Conception.  If the wind is blowing over 15 knots you should not consider stopping at Conception.  The Conception Island anchorage is open and not protected except in settled and light conditions.  Sail up the west side of Conception Island to the northern end and anchor anywhere off the long beach.  There are coral heads that you must avoid if you get closer to the beach so beware.  The water depth shallows gradually as you approach the beach.
 
Conception Island, Bahamas
Best Chart; Explorer Chart
Conception Island is literally paradise!  Luckily it is a protected land and sea park so it cannot be developed by the rich or anyone else for that matter.  The island is uninhabited and there are beaches on both sides of the island and creeks for exploring in your dinghy.  The snorkeling and diving are superb but remember you cannot fish or take anything from either the land or sea.  You must be self-sufficient here since there are no facilities what-so-ever.  Conception is not an isolated anchorage since many other cruisers also know if her beauty.  Yet there is ample room to anchor away from others and simply enjoy what Conception Island has to offer.  The tidal creek about a mile south of the west side anchorage is very shallow so watch the tides so you can cross the sand bar guarding the entrance in your dinghy.  Once inside simply follow the deeper water while watching for the many sharks and turtles that enjoy the warm shallow water.  Low mangroves line portions of the wide creek and the silence is awesome here.  Break out your oars to minimize noise so you can easily approach the marine residents here.
 
Conception Island to Georgetown, Bahamas Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
Depart Conception Island right around dawn and plan to arrive off Georgetown by noon.  You should use the southern, or as the guidebooks call it, the eastern entrance to gain the protection of Elizabeth Harbor.  This eastern entrance is not difficult if you follow the Explorer Chart waypoints for Elizabeth Harbor.  The water depth will be fairly deep initially but will continue to shallow as you head further and further north inside the harbor toward Georgetown, your anchorage.  Pay attention to the stakes shown on the chart because they mark hazards that will sink an unwary vessel.  These stakes are privately maintained and even without their presence the outline of the reefs can easily be seen in good light.  Because the winter season Georgetown sailors like to keep busy these stakes are usually well maintained by them.
 
Once you arrive near Sand Dollar beach you can decide where in the harbor you want to anchor.  The wind will dictate where you will anchor.  A strong east wind dictates an anchorage off Stocking Island and NOT near Georgetown.  A light wind lets you choose any anchorage.  Remember that cold fronts sweep through this harbor and can create hazardous if not untenable anchorages on both sides of the harbor.  Watch the weather!
 
Georgetown, Bahamas
Best Chart: Explorer Chart
Congratulations, you have now arrived in the legendary Exuma Islands of the Bahamas!!  The natives of Georgetown are extremely friendly and want you to enjoy your stay.  You may notice some people with attitude problems but those people are usually from somewhere else, like the near-wealthy enclaves of Florida!  Bahamians are proud of their land and sea and want you to enjoy their country.  Private islands are not Bahamian any longer, unfortunately.
 
You can clear customs at the Customs and Immigration office that is next to the pink Peace and Plenty Hotel on the north side of Kid Cove.  There is a dock at the Peace and Plenty Hotel that you can use for this purpose.
 
The town has an extremely well stocked grocery store: Exuma Markets.  You can find anything you desire here or it will arrive on the next mailboat or supply ship from Nassau.  Also here you will find shopping, something you may not have seen in a long time.  The small straw market is worth visiting and buying some great Out Island Regatta t-shirts.
 
The best lunch in the Bahamas can be found at Eddie’s Edgewater.  At noontime the place is jammed with locals so you know the food is good.  Conch is still a staple in the Bahamas so now is the time to eat your fill.
 
There is a cruiser net on channel 68 at 0810 in Georgetown but it is only active during high season.
 
Georgetown Anchorages
You can anchor close to the marina in Kid Cove but beware that 5 foot draft is a lot for this area.  In front of the Peace and Plenty Hotel is a good anchorage given the right wind conditions and provides slightly deeper water.  The best and deepest anchorages are found off Stocking Island, on the east side of Elizabeth Harbor.  Sand Dollar Beach, the First Hole, the Monument and just off the Peace and Plenty Beach are great places to set the hook.  These anchorages also permit exploring Stocking Island and its’ beaches at your leisure.  The beach adjacent to the First Hole is called volleyball beach and can be very active, depending on the season.  There is a pleasant beach bar on volleyball beach that also serves food.  Unfortunately the best sheltered anchorages in Elizabeth Harbor can no longer be used by sailors: The Second Hole and the Third Hole on Stocking Island.  These two anchorages offer excellent protection from any wind direction.  However, it seems that someone has taken the liberty of placing moorings in every square inch of these anchorages and declared the area off limits to anchoring by anyone.  Illegal you say?  Money talks in the Bahamas.  You will see more of that reasoning as you travel northward from Georgetown, unfortunately.
 
Red Shanks
If the wind really picks up and you are rolling your guts out at an anchorage you might consider making the run south of Stocking Island to the Red Shanks area.  The approach to Red Shanks is very shallow and coral heads are a formidable problem on this route.  But once inside and near Crab Cay there is a small area that can accommodate about a dozen boats in relative comfort.  There is even a back dinghy-only passage to Georgetown that can be used if you want some time in town.  Beware though that a very unfriendly and stateside person has bough Crab Cay and is extremely antagonistic toward sailors.  The story goes that this person wants to connect the isolated Crab Cay to the mainland via a low bridge (you can see where he wants to construct it if you use the inside passage in your dinghy).  He is negotiating (!) with the government for permission to construct the bridge and place it low enough so that no vessel, not even a dinghy, can pass beneath it.  Remember, money talks in the Bahamas.
 
The Red Shanks anchorage is also home to the seasonal Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club that prides themselves in enjoying life in a very laid-back and enjoyable way and sometimes in a naturalist manner.
 
Exuma Cays Passages
Best Charts: Explorer Charts
Follow the Explorer Charts GPS coordinates for exiting Elizabeth Harbor, Georgetown, Exumas via the west (north) entrance.  You can safely navigate out of the harbor in the early morning light if you stick to the route.  Do not short cut any part of this route!  We have seen a sailboat hit the reef off of Conch Cay and sink in 90 seconds.  There will be a sea running against you as you exit the harbor and the winds will also be against you.  Once into Exuma Sound you can safely turn northward and hopefully have a close reach up the Exuma chain.  Exuma Sound is a very deep water passage and not one to be taken lightly.  It can be a very nasty place in moderate to strong conditions.  Watch your weather before departing Georgetown!
 
Your objective once departing Georgetown is to gain the Bahama Banks.  This will get you into sheltered shallow water and out of harms way.  There are many places to gain the Bahama Banks so choose wisely.  The southern-most entrance onto the Banks for normal draft sailboats is at Cave Cay Cut.  
 
The many entrances onto the Bahama Banks should always be treated with caution.  Swift tides occur at these cuts and if there are opposing wind and sea conditions you will encounter what is called a Rage.  A Rage means that the outgoing current opposes the wind and short steep seas build up at the entrance channel.  In extreme conditions you will not be able to enter a cut if a Rage is running.  Not only will the current carry you back into Exuma Sound, but the Rage may cause you to lose control of your vessel and send you flying into the side of the narrow cut.  That is not a pleasant thought.  Treat all cuts with caution.
 
Once you are in the shelter of the Bahama Banks you can expect water depths to range from approximately 6 feet to 25 feet.  There are also scattered coral heads to watch out for and scattered fish traps.  The water is crystal clear and warm and is a delight to sail in.  You can anchor behind any piece of land you desire to gain shelter for the night.  Don’t be looking for any mooring balls here – you are in the Bahamas mon!
 
You will seldom need more than a single anchor, except when anchoring near a cut that flows into Exuma Sound.  One example is between the Majors at Staniel Cay where you should use a Bahamian Moor.  Your anchor will always be in sand so the holding is excellent.
 
Exuma Cays to Visit
Best Charts: Explorer Charts
If you wish to stop and explore these small remote Cays, by all means do so!  You will not find a lot of provisions but you can find the essentials.  Many of the Exuma Cays are being developed by big money from Florida so visit them before it is too late.  A prime example is Sampson Cay, about half way up or down the Exuma Cays.  If you visited here in the 80’s or 90’s you will not recognize this once tropical paradise.  The cable wizard, John Malone, bought the island from Marcus and Rosie and decided to build a marina and a very expensive resort here.  He definitely succeeded.  The facilities are spectacular and the construction is first class.  However, Sampson Cay is no longer a part of the Bahamas; it now belongs to the Florida sport fishing weekend getaway enthusiasts.  Progress marches on so enjoy the Exumas before it is all paved, sterilized and molded in plastic.
 
Our favorite places to visit in the Exumas to visit are:
Great Guana Cay
We anchor at White Point and enjoy the beach.  You can hike over to the next bay with a 1 minute walk if you desire.
 
Staniel Cay
This is the most populated Cay in the central Exumas.  Thunderball Cave is worth one visit.  There are two grocery stores, or maybe three, on the small island (Pink, Blue and you never know who else is selling groceries).  The Staniel Cay Yacht Club has good food and drinks.  You can hike the roads to sightsee.  Trash can be placed in a dumpster behind the Staniel Cay Yacht Club but there is a charge of $2.50 per bag.
 
Pipe Creek Area
This is a very scenic area to motor through.  You can see what some big money has done to the Cays too.
 
The Exuma Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Land and Sea Park is a protected area shown on the charts.  Nothing can be taken from the water or from the land.  Obey the regulations!  This is a spectacular area for all to enjoy.
 
Little Bell
This small anchorage is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park but seldom visited.  The entrance is very shallow and eyeball navigation must be used.  The small rays that sleep near the beach are fun to see.
 
Wardwick Wells, home of the Exumas Land and Sea Park (and moorings!)
Call “Exuma Park” at 0900 when you have departed Staniel Cay to reserve a mooring for the night.  There are about 20 moorings at the north end of the Cay and these are available on a first-come-first-served VHF reservation basis.  If you are a Exuma Park Land and Sea member you are given preference however.  During the peak months of January – March a mooring is difficult to obtain.  Any other time of year they are usually available.  Moorings cost $15.00 per day.  But don’t worry if you cannot get a mooring.  You can also anchor at the designated anchorage areas and enjoy this great place.  
 
The hiking trails on Wardwick Wells are spectacular.  The park office will give you a map so you can explore at your leisure.  All trails are well marked and offer everything from a short hike up Boo Boo Hill (carry your home made sign with you) to a very long hike to the far end of the island, complete with sink hole ladders, Puritan ruins and remote beaches.  The Park office even sells ice, along with books, t-shirts and various other interesting items.  Every Sunday is a get-together on the beach.  The park supplies the ice so bring your beverage of choice.
 
Shroud Cay
This is also inside the Exuma Land and Sea Park and a joy to visit.  Enjoy the warm shallow waters.
 
Norman Island
Once the private island of the drug smuggler Carlos, Norman Island has gone back to it’s roots.  There is very little here except for a rough paved runway, left over from the drug smuggling days of the 80’s as well as a lot of crumbling ruins near the runway.  You can almost hear the peals of laughter during late night parties emanating from these now deserted places.  It must have been spectacular to see a heavily laden plane barely make the runway on those moonless nights.  Explore at your leisure for Carlos is now long gone.
 
 Don’t look for any beach bars here because they have all gone away.  The paved road that runs the length of the island is nice to walk on.  There is a partially submerged DC2 that is near the southern anchorage to snorkel on.  Several private homes are adjacent to the paved road around the island and they keep them private.
 
You will find absolutely no facilities on Norman Island; Nada, as of June 2006.
 
Highborn Cay
There is now a very fancy marina with fuel at this northern Exuma outpost.  Anchor on the east side of the Cay, opposite the easily seen radio antenna and dinghy into the harbor.  You can pull your dinghy up onto the beach and walk up the road and across it at the sign pointing to the Exuma Sound beach.  The beach is spectacular, long, and worth a visit.  Unfortunately the University of Miami, School of Marine Studies has decided to pound stakes into the coral with tennis balls adorning the tops of the stakes and spray paint the coral with red paint in order to “study” the coral.  What a disaster by such a well know and now little respected university.
  
Allens Cay
The iguanas are worth seeing from your boat.  If you dinghy onto the sand you will literally be attacked by these primitive creatures.  Too many cruisers have fed them over the years and now the iguanas expect to be fed by everyone who visits.  
 
The anchorage is small and requires a Bahamian Moor.  A better way to visit is to anchor off Highborn Cay and take your dinghy over.
 
Exuma Cays to Nassau Passage
Depart from Highborn or Allens Cay in order to arrive at the Yellow Bank with high sunlight.  This is the direct route from the Exuma Cays to Nassau.  There are coral heads that litter this route but you will seldom see any if you are lucky.  Most are deep and do not present a problem.  Most that is.  But there are some shallow ones (4 feet of water over them) so beware.  
 
The other route to Nassau is to detour to the west of the Yellow Bank and skirt the west side of it.  Then resume course for the southern entrance into Nassau Harbor.  This will be a long day’s sail so plan accordingly.  
 
Contact Nassau Harbour Control as you enter the harbor on VHF channel 68 and announce your arrival and request permission to enter.
 
Once in Nassau it is wise to have reservations at a marina or call a marina from a few miles out to reserve a slip.  Nassau Harbor is a dangerous place to anchor out.  There are strong currents, poor holding and few acceptable places to anchor anyway.  Crime is also a problem so spend a few dollars and be safe in a marina.
 
The Marina’s of choice in Nassau for the cruising sailor are;
Nassau Yacht Haven
Nassau Harbour Club
 
The Atlantis Marina does not want you so don’t even try.  Besides being unfriendly they only want Mega Yachts and charge accordingly.  They are the most expensive marina you can find south of Florida.  Hurricane Hole Marina is now owned by The Atlantis so you can expect their facilities to be unacceptable too.
 
Nassau
Provisioning is excellent here as is the shopping.  You will think you have found a little piece of south Florida transplanted in Nassau and you are correct.  You are not in the out islands any longer so you will have to adjust to the hustle and bustle of the big city once again.
 
There are many historic sights to visit and explore that can keep one busy for a week here.  Be sure to visit the Straw Market and see the wares of the venders.  Walk over to the Atlantic Casino and marvel at the enormous architecture and their indoor aquarium.  All this is free too, unless you wish to make a donation at the casino there.  In fact, the Atlantis even has a Jamba Juice establishment if you are thirsty!
 
Nassau to the Berry Islands Passage
Best Charts: Explorer Charts
Contact Nassau Harbour Control as you drop your dock lines at your marina to request permission to exit the harbor.  The north exit from Nassau Harbor can be quite nasty so watch your weather here.  Also watch out for the gigantic cruise ships that will be coming into the harbor or exiting too.  They have the right of way since they are bigger than you!
 
This is the northwest Providence Channel and it is a deep water passage.  Your destination will be to the north/northwest and hopefully a close reach or better.
 
This passage will take approximately 7 hours to reach Chub Cay.  Other possible stops near Chub Cay include Whale Cay, Bird Cay or Frasier Hog Cay.  Chub Cay is the most popular destination for sailors.
 
Another choice is to proceed to the northern Berry Islands and sail directly west toward Florida, making a direct passage and not stopping in the Berry Islands.  This route will take you about two days to cross the Gulf Stream and make landfall on Florida’s Gold Coast, somewhere near Ft. Pierce Inlet.  This is a deep water passage the entire way to Florida so you will have a lot of big ship traffic and quite a few cruise ships along the way.  There is a private island on the north end of the Berry Islands that is used by Disney Cruises but you can anchor nearby if you wish.
 
Most sailors opt for a Bahama Banks crossing with a route taking them to either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale so Chub Cay is the landfall of choice sailing out of Nassau.  
 
The anchorage outside of the Chub Cay Marina is still adequate for an overnight stay.  There will be some roll due to the proximity of the deep Northwest Providence Channel to the west but in settled conditions it is pleasant enough.  The exit from the anchorage can be taken in the dark if you want to make the long run to Bimini or Cat Cay in one day.
 
Chub Cay
A new marina is under construction on the west side of Chub Cay where the old marina was located.  It was supposed to open in June 2006 but may be open in the winter 2006?  The entrance channel has been dredged as far out as the Northwest Providence Channel so watch out for the two new outer markers that may or may not be lighted.  The marina will cater to large powerboats but still have room for sailors they claim.
 
Chub Cay is private but still allows sailors to visit.  The beach adjacent to the marina is worth visiting if you stop here.  
 
Frasier Hog Cay
There is a shallow route that goes from the Northwest Providence Channel on the east side of Chub Cay to an area called Frasier Hog Cay.  There may or may not be an operating marina there with a few moorings (necessary because of the strong current and scoured bottom).  This place closes and reopens almost weekly so you never know the present status.  The channel to Frasier Hog Cay is very shallow and tricky to navigate.  We have run aground here and never made it as far as the marina before turning around and beating a quick retreat.
 
Chub Cay to Cat Cay Or Bimini Passage
Best Chart: Explorer Charts
 
Get a very early start from Chub Cay so that you arrive at the Northwest Providence Channel Light at first light.  This will ensure that you arrive at either Cat Cay or Bimini before nightfall.  
 
Make sure to keep the Northwest Providence Channel light and ruins to your port as you enter the Great Bahama Banks.  The light never functions correctly here so don’t count on that.  There may be other vessels anchored near the light so use extreme caution in this area.  The water is dangerously shoal to the south!  Also, do not go too far north as there is another shoal area here but definitely go to the north of the light.  
 
Once you gain the Great Bahama Banks you will have a spectacular sail for 50 plus miles to the west edge of the banks.  You are most likely to encounter squalls, waterspouts, and many other vessels traversing this shallow stretch of water.  If you have chosen a good weather window the seas will be calm and you can watch the starfish slide by under your keel.  The water depth ranges from 15 feet to about 7 feet just east of Cat Cay.  There are no coral heads to dodge on this route.  Again, the area of concern for deeper draft vessels will be about 30 minutes out of Cat Cay.  You may have to play the tides to get over the shallow sand area here as shown on the Explorer Chart.  Once you are closer to Gun Cay the water deepens and you can easily anchor near Gun Cay on the east side.
 
The anchorages at Gun Cay include the entire bank area on the east side in settled weather, the west side of Gun Cay and Honeymoon Harbor on the north end of Gun Cay.  The anchorage of choice is on the east side of Gun Cay adjacent to the old BASRA dock or further north.  The anchorage on the west coast of Gun Cay will be extremely rolly and unpleasant.  Honeymoon Harbor will be crowded and not worth the effort if your intentions are to sail to Florida the following day.  If you wish to anchor in Honeymoon Harbor, the entrance is easily gained from the bank side.
 
There is a private marina at Cat Cay that you are welcome to use.  Cat Cay is a private island that was made famous in the 1960’s because President Richard Nixon’s friend, Bee Bee Rebozo lived on the island.  Today the island is still private and you are not allowed to explore the island but may only stay in the marina area.  The cost for the marina is fairly expensive but it does offer shelter, electricity and a formal restaurant if you desire.  Customs and Immigration are also located on Cat Cay.
 
If you wish to visit Bimini you will motor between Gun Cay and Cat Cay, keeping close to the south shore of Gun Cay.  Keep turning northward as you proceed out the channel to avoid hitting the dangerous reef that blocks the entrance between Cat Cay and Gun Cay.  Once out the channel the water deepens dramatically as you proceed in a northwest direction and deeper water.  The Gulf Stream lies just offshore of Gun Cay.  Sail northward to Bimini and enter Bimini from the west side.  The channel entrance to Bimini is constantly changing so you will have to read the water here and follow the latest directions on the Explorer Chart.  Many vessels run aground on sand as they attempt to enter Bimini harbor.  At least it is only sand.
 
Once inside Bimini Harbor you will be entertained by the flotillas of sport fishing boats newly arrived from Florida.  This is not a sailor’s island but instead is claimed by the Florida sport-fishing crowd.  There are restaurants on shore and some basic services.  It would be wise to arrange for a slip instead of anchoring in the limited harbor here if you wish to visit.
 
Cat Cay, Gun Cay and/or Bimini to Florida Passage
Best Chart: Any you can find are fine
 
Depart the Bahamas at first light in order to make the 45 mile run to Miami or the slightly longer run to Ft. Lauderdale.  You must have a good weather window for this crossing.  Any wind with a north component is a NO-GO.  You cannot imagine what an opposing wind will do to the Gulf Stream.  It is a scary proposition and outright dangerous.  
 
The Gulf Stream flows mercilessly northward as a tropical river within the sea.  The Gulf Stream will carry its warmth all the way to England and beyond.  When you enter the Gulf Stream the water becomes a deep azure blue.  The current itself will exceed 4.5 knots at its crest.  This Mother of all ocean streams inspires awe from those who sail upon her and who survive the crossing.  Do not underestimate this final crossing to Florida.  Four thousand feet beneath your keel are the wrecks of countless ships that have sailed before you and tested her strength.  Do not join them.
 
Vessel traffic in the Straights of Florida is constant.  You will cross paths with Cruise Ships, container ships, cargo ships, sailboats, sport fishing boats, Coast Guard ships and anything else you can imagine.  Keep a sharp lookout and take evasive action early to avoid collision.
 
Both Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are easy landfalls given the northward push you will receive from the Gulf Stream.  Miami will be spotted at the crest of the Gulf Stream and the red and white smoke stacks of Ft. Lauderdale a short time after that.  Florida is a spectacular landfall and the entrances into Miami’s Harbor and Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades Harbor are very well marked.  Welcome to the U.S.A.!
 
Miami
Arrange for a slip before you arrive in Miami.  The easiest place to stay is Miami Beach Marina, just inside the entrance channel on the starboard.  This is a relatively expensive marina (about $3.00 per foot with electricity included) but very friendly to sailors.  The marina offers every amenity you can imagine and then some.  Restaurants, a chandlery, a short walk to South Beach, Wifi, clean fuel, etc., etc.  Customs is on the premises.
 
The other marina that can be used is adjacent to the city of Miami, Dinner Key Marina.  It is difficult to obtain a slip here even by calling well in advance.  This is a city owned marina and is always full.  Adjacent to the marina is a small anchoring area that is not pleasant and not recommended.  
 
Ft. Lauderdale
Arrange for a slip before you arrive in Ft. Lauderdale.  This is the center of the universe for sailors.  Here you will see everything imaginable that floats.  The derelict vessels that line the inland canals will bring you to tears because of their neglect.  They once proudly sailed the seas and now they are left to rot away.
 
In Ft. Lauderdale you will find all services known to man for your vessel’s upkeep and repair.  It simply does not get any better than this anywhere in the world.  
 
The best marina to use is the small Harbour Towne Marina, just south of Ft. Lauderdale in Dania and located on the Dania Cutoff.  The entrance is simple and the marina is away from the hustle and hucksters that call Ft. Liquordale home.  You must call ahead for reservations here.
 
US Customs and Immigration
You must have your Customs decal to check in by telephone.  Otherwise you must obtain the decal by visiting the Customs office within 24 hours of calling into Customs.  In Miami, Immigration will require you to visit the Immigration office at the Cruise Ship Terminal in person within 24 hours.  This will cost you $42 in taxi and/or bus fare.  It is ludicrous to say the least.  All persons on the vessel must report to Immigration if instructed.  Once you arrive the procedure is to stand in line for 10 minutes.  Then an Immigration officer appears and takes all of the passports into the back room.  10 minutes later the same officer emerges from the back room and returns your passports while rudely telling you that you can leave.  What a joke.  Any illegal immigrants that you smuggled into the country are now lying on South Beach having Mojito’s with their stone crab dinners!
 
In Ft. Lauderdale a similar ridiculous drill occurs.  You are required to appear at Port Everglades and check in with Immigration within 24 hours once you have cleared Customs.  Once again, all of the contraband you smuggled into Florida has been dispersed and is long gone.  What a waste of time and money this Customs and Immigration process is.  Welcome to the new Homeland Security Empire!
 
Welcome to the USA!
After your clearance frustrations have subsided the next day, it is time to savor your safe landfall and return to the real world.  And what a fast-paced welcome you are about to receive!  So hang on tight and remember, there are people who dream what is reality for you.  Savor the moment and reflect on the past, but never ever lose sight of your future.  Fair winds!
 
ECaribbeanPlace.com
Handbook for Caribbean Cruising
Volume 1: Eastern Caribbean
The Bahamas