Chartering in the Abacos

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
An uncrowded shoulder-season view of the Hope Town lighthouse on Elbow Cay. Photo by Adam Cort

An uncrowded shoulder-season view of the Hope Town lighthouse on Elbow Cay. Photo by Adam Cort

When people ask me to name my favorite charter destination, my answer is always the Sea of Abaco, in the Bahamas, in the off-season—in fact, smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season.

This, of course, is completely contrary to conventional wisdom, owing to the area’s seasonal weather trends. In fact, so inadvisable is it to go sailing there in late August (when my family and I did) that you just miss the month of September, when the place shuts down completely until the onset of winter.

That said, it’s important to remember that every charter carries with it an element of risk, especially when it comes to the weather. Plenty of sailors have had a Bahamas or Caribbean charter go bad in the middle of high season because of sail-shredding Christmas winds or just plain cold air temperatures. My family and I may have been lucky, but we wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

First the down side: the summertime Bahamas have a reputation for being hot, windless and squally. Then there are those pesky hurricanes. In fact, we found ourselves monitoring a distant hurricane by the name of Isaac during the last couple of days of our trip. In neither case, though, did these seasonal conditions impact us negatively.

While the winds were indeed light, they never fell entirely calm, and for much of the trip we experienced a very pleasant 10 to 15 knots. As for the squalls, again, we might have just been lucky, but they were fairly mild, with light rain, a touch of thunder and winds gusting briefly into the mid-20s.

In fact, the billowing cumulus that kept us on the lookout for actual anvil clouds gave us a break from the admittedly intense sun. Strange as it may sound, I actually came to find the little squalls we experienced to be quite charming.

As for hurricanes, while it certainly felt a little strange knowing there was a big storm spinning around out there it never impacted us personally. I’d take the threat of a distant hurricane over the “rages” that regularly turn the passages leading to and from the open Atlantic into wintertime wave-tossed death traps any day.

Which brings us to the benefits of off-season chartering in the Sea of Abaco: in a word, solitude. This is a world-renowned cruising ground, replete with cute-as-a-button anchorages and gin-clear waters, all only a short run away for the tens of thousands of powerboaters inhabiting South Florida, and yet we had the place to ourselves.

Whether it was brightly painted Nipper’s restaurant on Great Guana Cay, Man of Way Cay, Hope Town with its famed candy-stripe lighthouse or Marsh Harbour itself—where the area’s charter companies, including Dream Yacht Charter (dreamyachtcharter.com) Sunsail (sunsail.com) and The Moorings (moorings.com) are based—we were the only ones there. Dozens of empty moorings and powerboat dry-storage racks served as mute testament to the crowds that flock to this area in the high season (not to mention the power cruisers endlessly churning their way back and forth out on sea of Abaco itself). But in late August, the place exhibits the same sleepy, sun-drenched feeling that attracted those first pioneering cruisers who paved the way for the rest of us.

Obviously, if you’re the kind of sailor who likes having hordes of revelers to party with ashore, then it definitely ain’t the time of year for you. But if you’re the type who yearns for the good-old days before today’s most popular spots became overrun with tourists, this just may be the sailing experience for you. No matter what kind of sailor you are, if you like having endless beaches and crystal-clear water all to yourself, the Sea of Abaco in any season is hard to beat.

CHARTER CHAT

In the wake of Antigua Sailing Week and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, the month of May is a fine time to sail around the coast of this beautiful island and its close neighbor, Barbuda. Horizon Yacht Charters is making the prospect even more alluring by offering 10 nights on a bareboat for the price of seven. horizonyachtcharters.com

The final round of the National Offshore One Design (NOOD) championship will be held on identical Sunsail Jeanneau 46 bareboats in the British Virgin Islands from October 22-29; the winners of each preceding round get to take part, but the regatta is open to other crews too. There’s a 20 percent discount on charter rates. sunsail.com

Southwest Florida Yacht Charters is offering discounts for early summer bookings out of its Tarpon Point Marina, Cape Coral base—for charters of three days or longer you get 5 percent off in June, 10 percent in July, 12 percent in August and 15 percent in September. With a deal like that, who doesn’t want to go sailing? swfyachts.com

May 2016

Related

101218BTSC-9887

Just Launched: Little Big Boat

Peter Nielsen looks at Beneteau’s latest entry-level boat and a new cruiser from Tartan Group Beneteau’s commitment to entry-level boats has been reaffirmed over the last year with the assimilation of the sporty Seascape line of pocket cruisers and the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more