Bahamas - Profile
- The Bahama Islands are a low-lying limestone archipelago in the North Atlantic southeast of Florida and north of Cuba, covering 150,000 square miles of tropical sea with approximately 5,000 square miles of land. Of the 700 islands and many more rocks and small cays, some 25 are inhabited with communities. Many more have private homes and some whole islands are privately owned.
- Very deep off-sounding trenches and shallow banks make the area an interesting cruising ground. Much navigation is by "eyeball" as, in good light and using polaroid sunglasses, depth is easily read by colour through the crystal clear water. Several new publications are now available to assist with safe navigation. Coral reefs provide excellent snorkelling and diving.
- Most islands and cays are low lying and flat, with ridges that rise no more than 15 to 20 meters (50-60 feet) above sea level. Most are covered in dense scrubby bush amidst and surrounded by shallow reefs and sandbars, forming mangrove forests in between. The highest point of the Bahamas can be found on the eastern side on Cat Island, Mount Alvernia or Como Hill with an altitude of 63 m (210 ft).
- In the last decade, since a change of government in 1992, much development has occurred throughout The Bahamas, bringing better facilities to many islands and the advent of GPS has encouraged many more yachts to visit the area.
- Facilities are good in Nassau on New Providence, which has several marinas, chandlers and repair facilities. Fuel, marine supplies and provisions are easily available. Freeport on Grand Bahama also has good facilities and the Marsh Harbour area on Abaco and George Town on Great Exuma are growing as yachting destinations.
- The Bahamas were used in the past as a transit point for drugs destined for the USA. A concerted effort by all countries in the region has reduced this activity considerably. Occasionally cruising boats may be stopped for inspection by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force but this is normally a simple and stress-free exercise.
- The Bahamian society is a laid-back one. Enjoying life is the most important rule. On Sundays they go to church and the overwhelming majority of Bahamian people are Christians.
Based on reports to Noonsite from cruisers, petty theft from yachts is on the rise in the Caribbean in general. Cruisers should take basic safety precautions and use common sense when leaving the boat or going ashore at night. Dinghy thieves operate throughout the Caribbean and best advice is to place your dinghy on deck and chain it overnight.
Street crime is prevalent in Nassau and Freeport, and as with many places in the Caribbean it is recommended to leave your gold/expensive jewelry and articles of any value safely secured on board. March 2014 saw reports of boats being broken into and burgled while the skippers were asleep in Nassau.
The Caribbean Safety and Security Net (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behaviour and precautions wherever they decide to go. Should you have suffered a boarding, robbery or attack on your yacht or have information about a yachting-related security incident, go to the CSSN homepage and click on the "Report an Incident" icon. The associated form is quick and simple to complete and ensures that all the necessary details are reported. The CSSN is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors. Remember, it is every cruiser's responsibility to ensure that incidents are reported. Also cruisers can subscribe to e-mail alerts, follow on facebook and twitter and listen to the SSB Voice Service.
The Caribbean Security Index (CSI) is a a tool to assist cruisers in assessing the probability of crime at ports and anchorages throughout the Caribbean. The CSI provides a means of assessing risk in a given area.
Also be sure to check the noonsite Piracy & Safety Pages
Last updated October 2015.
The Bahamian climate is very pleasant, lying on the edge of the anticyclone belt. The weather is particularly pleasant in summer, between June and October, when it is cooler than the Eastern seaboard of the USA or in the Eastern Caribbean islands. Unfortunately this is also the rainy season and the hurricane season, which lasts from July to November. Although several years can go by without a hurricane affecting The Bahamas, occasionally one might hit, such as Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which caused extensive damage to some of the islands. In winter, cold fronts bring a greater variety of wind directions but it is still pleasantly warm and dry.
The prevailing winds are from NE to SE, with the most Northern islands lying on the edge of the trade wind belt. As the islands are low there is no regular land breeze.
Northers interrupt thet NE trades with regularity during the winter and typically start with the wind veering to the S and SW. When the cold front arrives, the wind suddenly shifts to the NW then N and usually blows itself out in the NE. After a while, the normal winds take over from more or less their usual direction. In mid-winter the cycle can take several days, in spring only 24 hours.
Most Northers are dry, although on occasions they can be accompanied by rain and thunder squalls. However, they very rarely bring winds over 30 knots and mainly the more Northerly Bahamas are the most affected by these Northers.
Starts around May, after the last Norther has blown itself out, and lasts until November. The trades are more SE in the summer and most winds during these months are from the E or SE. During August and September there can be periods of calms, especially at night. The balmy summer weather can be interrupted occasionally by an Easterly Wave, a trough of low pressure found in the trade wind belt. This is usually accompanied by showers and high hummidity. Sometimes Easterly Waves can degenerate into tropical depressions and even hurricanes. May to October are the wettest months and rainy squalls occur during this season.
Bahamas, Florida coastal and tropical weather information can be obtained daily as follows, all times local: On SSB freq 4003 USB at 07.00; on amateur radio, freq 7096 or 3696 LSB at 07.20; on the Waterway Radio and Cruising Club daily net, including S.W. North Atlantic offshore weather on freq 7268 at 07.45. Weather information on VHF is available in various places at different times and on different channels, ask locally for details. Available daily in Nassau area on channel 72 at 07.15.
Bahamas weather is also available on local AM radio, freq 1540 at 06.15 and 06.45 from the Nassau Met Office.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page.
Abaco Islands: Black Sound (Green Turtle Cay) , Coopers Town , Fox Town (Little Abaco Island) , Grand Cay (Little Grand Cay) * , Guana Cay , Hope Town, Elbow Cay , Man-O-War Cay , Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island * , New Plymouth (Green Turtle Cay) * , Schooner Bay , Spanish Cay * , Treasure Cay * , Walker's Cay , White Sound (Green Turtle Cay)
Conception Island: Conception Island
Great Inagua: Matthew Town *
Half Moon Cay: Little San Salvador (Half Moon Cay)
Mayaguana: Mayaguana *
* indicates port of entry