Abaco, Bahamas: Cruising Log (I)


Preliminary Notes

We found the Bahamians extremely friendly, helpful and joyful. That really added a boon to our cruise.

Where is the water?
One thing you have to know right away about the Sea of Abaco, Bahamas is: It is VEEERY shallow. Everywhere! Most of the time, you will sail in 10 to 15ft. of water, and often much less than that. You will get white knuckles at first, but you will get used to it.

The good news about it is: One day, while sailing, you'll tell your crew: "OK guys, where should we have lunch today? Huh... How about... right here?" And you'll drop the anchor right there. OK, I am exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.

The bad news about it is: The local saying is not IF you will go aground, but WHEN. There are also many reefs and coral heads in several places. Fortunately, most are marked and/or you will find channels to go between them.

What does this mean for you, innocent charterer?

  • You want to charter a shallow draft boat (you won't find anything else over there anyway... ) and possibly a catamaran.
  • The tide info is very relevant, as you can imagine, with a 3ft. tidal range. In fact, if your boat draws more than 5ft., it is imperative you pay attention to the tide tables - they are in the Dodge Guide (see below).
  • You have to be careful to follow the instructions of the cruising guide you will use.

Cruising Information

  • Go to our very detailed Sea of Abaco Cruising Notes
  • I personally used the "Cruising Guide to Abaco, Bahamas" 2002 Edition, by Steve Dodge. It is simply remarkably done and I highly recommend it. In fact, I barely had to use my real charts, other than to confirm or double check some tricky areas, so much this guide is well presented and logically laid out. The waypoints are very reliable, and I used them all the time to get into the channels and get precise bearings on harbor approaches and on various hazards. The cruising and ashore information also have everything you need.
  • Use the Cruisers Net. That is an excellent source of information. You can get on it every day at 0815 on your VHF channel 68. They announce the start of the broadcast on channel 16 a few minutes before and they confirm the channel they will be using.

Weather Info
The Cruisers Net (see above)
Abaco Radio FM 93.5 0800 Mon-Fri.
We were there in July, and it was not windy at all, except for 2 days. We had frequent showers though, and a couple of thunderstorms. Nothing unusual. In the winter, it can be quite cool at night.
The lack of wind forced us to motor up quite a bit, unfortunately. Anyway, the prevailing winds (when there is any) are E to SE, 5 to 15 knots.


On our last 7-day charter (on a 45ft. catamaran with Moorings) we followed the itinerary below.

Day 1-Marsh Harbour to Dellia Cay-Fishers Bay, Guana Cay.

A very relaxed arrival procedure at Marsh International Airport, then only 10 minutes from the airport to the Moorings base. Relaxation at the swimming pool, and night aboard the boat --that's what Moorings calls a night start, and it is definitely cheaper than staying at the hotel.

We leave the next day at about 1000 after tying up some provisioning loose ends at the base's mini supermarket. Leaving Marsh Harbour is not too difficult, but you have to "slalom" somewhat between the large number of boats anchored in the harbor. Stay close to the shore on your right (north) side. There is a big shoal on the left (south) side and a rock called Big Cay. Once you see the first marker on the shore on your starboard side (Inner Point) make a sharp turn to starboard and take a heading of 020¾M. You will soon pass the 2nd marker ashore (Outer Point).

From there, take a heading of 152¾M for about 7nm toward Guana. After leaving a series of bare rocks/islands (Foots Cay) to starboard, take a heading of 50¾M for about 2.5NM. Leave Dellia Cay to starboard and grab one of the mooring balls there. Anchoring was difficult for us, because apparently, there is only a thin layer of sand over the hard sediment. We could never get a grip with the ground tackle.

There is a nice restaurant close to Dellia, "Dolphin Beach Resort", with a nice beach as well.
Alternatively to that anchorage, you can get into Settlement Harbour, right next east to Dellia. Anchoring grounds in there are not great, so you should take a mooring ball. Call the marina on channel 16.

Day 2 - Guana Cay to Bakers Bay and Treasure Cay

About 3nm NW of Dellia Cay is a large, protected anchorage called Bakers Bay. Across the island on the Atlantic side, there is a nice beach with good snorkeling. This anchorage is also a night anchorage and can be an alternative to Dellia Cay for your first night out.

We then sailed on a broad reach to Treasure Cay. To do that, out of Bakers Bay, follow the channel delimited by markers in the water (heading 297¾M, for about 1.5nm). At the end of the markers, steer to port on heading 248¾M for 5nm to Waypoint N26¾39.570' W77¾16.800'. Approaching Treasure Cay, you will see a high radio tower ashore. You will leave on your port side a big post (sign) in the water. At the waypoint, take a heading 297¾M and get into the channel, delimited by markers. You will be more or less aligned with a large white house ashore. Call the marina on the VHF ch. 16 to announce you are entering the channel.

Now, stay in the middle of the channel as much as possible and do NOT stray close to the shore, as it is very shallow on the channel sides. If you draw more than 5 ft, try to get in there at high tide. Once inside, you can either grab a mooring ball or anchor in good holding grounds. Sometimes, you can even get a slip in the nice marina there. You can top off your water and ice. Whether you anchor or moor, you have to register with the marina's office.

Treasure Cay is said to have one of the top 10 beaches in the world. True or not, I can attest it is magnificent. The 3-mile long beach has a sand like powder and the water is beautiful. Nice snorkeling and shelling as well. The marina is in fact a vacation condo community, with a nice restaurant, a swimming pool, a great bar and a few nice shops.

Day 3 - Treasure Cay to Hope Town

This a long stretch, and you will probably go against the prevailing winds, so leave early. By the way, note that Hope Town can be crowded and they allow boaters to reserve a mooring ball in advance for the night, which is pretty convenient if one does not want to anchor outside the harbor. Call them in the morning by VHF. We liked calling Abaco Charter: they have great mooring balls with 2 lines, they are very organized, answer radio etc.... Otherwise, call Hope Town Marina.

If you draw more than 5.5 ft., wait for the high tide, as the entire area around the entrance is extremely shallow (5 to 6ft). From the waypoint of Treasure Cay, take a heading 117¾M for 15.5nm. to waypoint N26¾34.370' W77¾00.550'. When you get to that point, you will see Point Set Rock, with a white shack on it. Then head on 135¾M for about 3nm to the Hope Town waypoint N26¾32.608' W76¾58.063'. Before the waypoint, you will leave a series of small islands, Parrot Cays, on your port side. At the waypoint, you will be facing the "sugar candy" lighthouse. From that point on, it is best that you report to the cruising guide for the careful approach procedure. No need to repeat it here, but follow it scrupulously. Just know that there is a channel with markers, but the channel is deeper than in Treasure Cay.

The Hopetown settlement, founded in the 18th century, is a very pretty little town, with adorable, colorful houses and nice little shops. Walk the trail along the water around the harbor, it's really nice. You can also rent a golf cart (the vehicle of choice on the islands here) to go around. There are a couple of restaurants and bars. The 2 main attractions in Hopetown are:

  • A beautiful beach with a reef where you can snorkel. Put the dinghy at the public dock on the east side of the harbor and walk through the hotel to the beach.
  • THE "sugar candy" lighthouse, built in 1863, and one of the last working one in the world using fuel to light the candle! The light is visible from about 17 miles. By all means, go up the lighthouse to the top. The machinery is incredible, and the view from uptop unforgettable.

Day 4 - Hope Town to Tahiti Beach

We set sail by late morning as it is a short leg to Tahiti, at the southern tip of Elbow Cay.

Back to the Hope Town waypoint, you will leave Parrot Cays on your port side and go around them. Take a Hdg 213¾M for about 1.5nm to waypoint N26¾31.130' W76¾58.870' (White Sound). Then Hdg 202¾M for 1nm. Stay in those headings precisely as there is a big shallow area on the west side, around Lubbers Quarters. You will see Tahiti Beach on your left side - you can't miss it. Anchor there, the holding is excellent.

Go to the beach with the dinghy. Walk across the small pond and walk the trail that goes out to the ocean. The spot is phenomenal. Tahiti Beach and the surroundings are one of those places that makes the postcards stuff. It was so nice and peaceful that we spent 2 nights there, just enjoying the beach, the shelling and quietness.

Day 6 - Tahiti to Man-O-War

We chose not to go further south and start our track back towards the Moorings' base since we were leaving the day after.

We sailed on a broad reach to the west side of Parrot Cays, off Hope Town, and back to waypoint N26¾34.370' W77¾00.550' (Point Set Rock). You cannot sail straight to Man-O-War from Hope Town, because of a wide shallow extending west of Johnny's Cay. At the way point, take a Hdg 061¾M for .70nm then Hdg 340¾M for 1/2 nm. You will then see the cut to enter the harbor entrance marked by a light on a white wood painted contraption. Stay in the middle of the channel: it is very narrow and 2 large boats cannot be in it at the same time at low tide. Then head to starboard to get into the southeast harbor where you can anchor or head to port for the main harbor. You cannot anchor in the main harbor, so you should call Man-O-War marina in advance on ch.16 to reserve a mooring ball or a berth in the marina.

Man-O-War is a historical town as well, with several restaurants (the Pavilion and Ena's) and shops. I recommend you pay a visit to Joe's Studio which sells unique Abaco hardwood hand-crafted items and models of Abaco dinghies. The Sail Shop sells unique and very sturdy canvas bags, all hand made as well.

Day 7 - Back to the Marsh Harbour

Man-O-War is a pretty convenient point for a last night before the end of a charter because it's only an hour or so to cross back to Marsh.

We liked the Sea of Abaco a lot. It is much less congested than, for example, the Virgin Islands, sailling is easy, and anchorages are large and well protected. The beaches will leave you speechless and the people extremely nice. When we come back, we will explore north of Treasure Cay. The islands there (around Turtle Cay) are even more secluded. That's enough to tempt us for an "encore"!