Chartering A Boat In The Abacos

By Zuzana Prochazka

Blustery winds, speedy sailing, and aquamarine water make for a perfect Bahamas charter.

Photo of turquoise waters off the Abacos Islands in the BahamasThe lure of the turquoise water of the Abacos is irresistible. (Photo: Michael E. Harris)

The Rage is on, Terry, the Abacos Dream Yacht Charters base manager warned us. For a moment, I thought he was referring to some bizarre local dance, but the Rage is the name given to the strong trade winds that were about to make our week in the aquamarine waters of the Bahamas a high-speed adventure.

We'd chartered four catamarans, with six to each boat, in the Sea of Abaco, often referred to as the Disneyland of the Bahamas. Besides the color of the water, which defies description, the best things about this cruising ground are the short distances, the character of each island, and the sheltered water that stays flat no matter what the Atlantic is cooking up on the outside.

Our first destination was Great Guana Cay and the world-renowned Nippers Beach Bar, the place to let your hair down and enjoy a rum punch or a conch burger. Because Nippers is on the windward side of Guana, by evening the blown sand was giving us an unwelcome exfoliation, so we headed back to the boats in the sheltered anchorage.

Photo of charter fleet off of the AbacosThe Abacos offers several charter fleets for different types of vacations, and lots of nature.

The next morning, the winds piped up to 30 to 35 knots, so instead of charting a course for Green Turtle Cay, which required crossing some open water, we headed south. Just a short hop brought us to Man-O-War Cay, where such surnames as Albury and Archer repeat on local business signs, as these families have been here since the settlement was established in the 1700s. Everyone refers to everyone else by a first name, so you get responses like "Sarah used to bake out of her house, but she's retired now. Try Jane in the yellow house by the marina." Entering Man-O-War Cay involves a bit of needle threading, but once inside, it's as if you've stepped through the looking glass, as the township has barely changed in the past 100 years. Stop at Albury's Sail Shop, where handmade canvas bags have been created for three generations, and bring your bug spray, because the harbor is bordered by mangroves and buzzing with mosquitoes.

Photo of docked boat in the Abacos Islands

There was no change in the Rage the next morning, so our small fleet went for a spirited day-sail before heading down to Hope Town. Settled in 1785 by British Loyalists, Hope Town's two-street waterfront is choc-a-block with houses painted in wild colors, leaving me to consider that Benjamin Moore may send all the crazy colors of house paint here that they don't sell anywhere else. The town's centerpiece is a 130-year-old candy-striped lighthouse, one of only two manned, kerosene-fueled lighthouses still in operation in the world.

With no change in the weather, we headed farther south to Little Harbor, a small lagoon like a teardrop at the bottom of the Sea of Abaco. With plenty of moorings, curious dolphins, turtles, and rays swimming lazily about, Pete's Pub and Gallery is about the only distraction in this tiny harbor.

Our last day and another speedy regatta brought us back to Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay, a spit of pinkish sand making a perfect last anchorage before we headed back to base. We never did make it to Green Turtle Cay, but that gives us something to explore next time, and with the color of that water etched in our minds, there will most definitely be a next time. 

— Published: December 2015


Need To Know

December through March can be chilly, with temps in the 60s F and 70s F, while July to September may be sweltering, not to mention right in the middle of hurricane season. Your best bet is April to June and October to November, although if you do go in October, you might want to consider trip insurance in case of a late hurricane. Winds usually blow 5 to 20 knots, except when the Rage is on.

  • Watch For Depth! The Sea of Abaco is shallow and punctuated with coral flats, which are frequently uncharted.
  • Anchoring & Mooring: In Hope Town, Little Harbour, and Man-O-War, moorings are approximately $20 per night. Marsh Harbor has marinas with available docks. Everywhere else, anchoring is free and relatively easy in the 6 to 12 feet of water over sand.
  • Our Favorite Restaurants: Curly Tails and Snappas Grill & Chill, in Marsh Harbor; Nippers, in Great Guana Cay; Firefly, in Hope Town; Pete's Gallery & Pub, in Little Harbor, and Dock & Dine, in Man-O-War. Cost: $10-35 per person not including drinks.
  • Charter Companies:
    www.moorings.com
    www.sunsail.com
    www.dreamyachtcharter.com

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