Cruising Advice

  • Bahamians are warm, open, friendly people.
  • You will find interacting with them becomes one of the joys of cruising in the Bahamas.
  • Never miss a chance to say hello - you will always get a friendly response.
  • And, remember this is their country - they do it their way not like you do at home. Go with the flow - or cruise elsewhere.

Note: See Cruising Communication and linked pages for more detailed information.

> Cell Phone
  • Buy a Bahamian pre-paid cell phone!!! It is well worth the low cost.
  • Cell towers are now pervasive in the Bahamas. There are few places where you will be out of reach while near shore.
  • They provide additional safety and security and are great for emergencies.
  • A GSM pre-paid (no contract; just purchase air time for your phone) can be bought for ~$70 and up at a local Batelco office or any cellular phone store (see information posted on the relevant area's webpage).
  • OR bring along a GSM phone you already own and buy a Batelco SIM card for ~$15 and you are in business.
  • Cards to add time / $ to your phone can be purchased widely from stores and restaurants.
  • Use the EZ-Top Up website to add $ to your phone by internet and credit card.
  • See Cellular Voice & Data Service for more information.

> SSB Communication
  • SSB is a very important communications tool for vessels cruising the Bahamas and every cruising vessel should carry at least an SSB receiver.
  • It is not necessary to have a ham radio license to operate an SSB transceiver on marine SSB frequencies.
  • For more information see SSB Communication.

> VHF Communication
  • A VHF radio is one of the most critical safety systems on a cruising vessel so do not depart on a cruise without a well-operating VHF radio setup.
  • All members of a vessel's crew must know how to operate the VHF radio as well as good communication protocol / etiquette.
  • Marine VHF is no place to play cute or Rambo-at-the-mike; make your transmissions business-like, brief and to the point on hailing / emergency frequencies (VHF Ch-16, Ch-9, and Ch-68 in the Abacos and George Town areas.)
  • For more information see VHF Communication.

  • A reliable dinghy and motor are essential for cruising in the Bahamas.
  • Get the largest dinghy and motor that you and your vessel can physically handle; you will use the space and power.
  • Reliability in an outboard motor is paramount. Outboard mechanics are available but never convenient when you need them.
  • Consider a 2-stroke outboard. While a bit more noisy, it more than makes up for this in lighter weight and simplicity. A 2-stroke is much more serviceable by the owners than is a 4-stroke. The odds are you will develop the skill of cleaning your carburetor due to the high probability of fuel contamination - particularly with ethanol containing gasoline.
  • RIBs are heavier but handle the chop and rough beach conditions better.
  • If at all possible, install davits as you will do a lot of dinghy stowing and launching.
  • Tie the dinghy down well to prevent damaging motion in heavy / confused seas; cross strapping is a must.
  • Equip your dinghy with a good anchor and long line. Do not skimp here - this is a safety issue if your engine quits!
  • Equip your dinghy with an emergency pack: water, snack, signaling equipment, outboard sparkplug(s) and tools, patch kit.
  • NEVER travel in your dinghy without a handheld VHF radio!
  • NEVER travel in your dinghy without clipping on the kill switch lanyard in case you get dumped in rough seas!
  • NEVER trust a single dinghy painter. ALWAYS use a backup line to avoid your dinghy going walkabout and leaving you stranded. [Comment from a very experienced cruiser: "I know of at least 10 dinghies lost during nights.  I have helped find some of them but some people never found them and in one case the Coast Gaurd found one months later off Cuba."]
  • Note: Yamaha 2-stroke outboards are available at good prices in the Bahamas (March 2012)

  • Refueling in the Bahamas is a challenge: while there are many facilities offering fuel for cruisers, getting to the location and finding the fuel you need there requires planning.
  • The Abacos offer many fuel sources that are only 5 to 25 nm apart. In the rest of the Bahamas refueling sites are fewer and more widely separated. A refueling site may not have fuel available due to mechanical or delivery problems or because a large vessel has just drained their supply.
  • Availability of piers and controlling depths varies greatly for fueling sites .
  • Consult the Guide for potential refueling sites along your planned course. Plan refueling stops as a priority. Account for tide effects.
  • Maintain sufficient spare reserves.
  • Carry jerry jugs for emergency fuel and to transport fuel should you not be able to come alongside a fuel pier.

  • Medical care, while available in the Bahamas is very limited. Prepare for your cruise before you leave home! See Medical section.

Medical Emergencies
  • The possibility of a medical emergency necessitates that a cruising vessel be prepared with medicines, medical materials / kits aboard as well as information on how to get professional medical advice and aid.
  • Medical care, while available in the Bahamas is very limited. Prepare for your cruise before you leave home! See Medical section.

  • Cruising in the Bahamas is not like on the coast of the US - help is not just a few minutes away.
  • You must take responsibility for the safety of you, your crew, and your vessel at all times.
  • If you don't feel confident and self-reliant in dealing with all aspects of your vessel's operation and maintenance, find another avocation.
  • Other cruisers provide the principal source of assistance when you encounter difficulties so strive to make friends and avoid doing anything that would make you a social outcast. Kick back, go with the flow. This is the Bahamas, Mon!

Shopping in the Bahamas

  • If you find an item you think you might need but are not sure - buy it now because it will likely be unavailable when you need it.
  • Never pass up an opportunity to buy fresh fruits and vegetables - they will likely be gone the next time you look.

Weather - General
  • Weather runs your life in the Bahamas. No land-based experience is like it. It is not unusual to spend an hour or more a day listening to weather reports and reviewing weather data wether in an anchorage with some exposure, preparing to move, or in transit.
  • While there are many sources of weather data available, weather data alone is insufficient - advice of an experience forecaster / router is a necessity as the “bad stuff” often evolves from subtleties beyond the analytical powers of most cruisers.
  • The best source of weather advice in the Bahamas, as attested to my most cruisers, is from Chris Parker / Marine Weather Center. Daily SSB forecasts are provided. Listening is free. Asking questions about your specific needs requires a subscription to the service. Email forecast summaries are also available for a subscription fee. Webcasts are a new service. Advice: pay a subscription fee and become a sponsor!
  • See Weather for more information.

Weather - Cold Fronts
  • Stay alert for approaching cold fronts as they cause the wind to clock around from the E / SE to SW, W, NW, N.
  • While on the W (banks) side of islands / cays, they provide great protection from the N - NE - E - SE - S. But protection from the SW - W - NW winds brought by a cold front is much harder to find.
  • Always plan several options that will provide protection from these winds.

Updated: 14 Jan 13