Passage From U.S.A to Abacos

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WorldUnited StatesCaribbeanBahamasAbacosPassage From U.S.A to Abacos
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Passage From U.S.A to Abacos
Route 1
Route 2

You should provide a map of the of the passage with the route clearly shown. The map should be preferably well annotated and with a scale in nM (nautical miles). Place the map to the right .



OK... step one is preparing to go.

The BEST place to stage for your crossing is in North Palm Beach, though you can also cross from Fort Lauderdale in about the same amount of time with Gulf Stream help. I have done both and prefer North Palm/Lake Worth for one major reason. You can anchor for as long as you want in the Lake Worth anchorage while you wait for the right weather to allow you to cross the Gulf Stream in safety. This is the most important thing about this journey. If there is wind out of any northern quadrant you should not go. If it is less than 10 knots you can risk it if you are hardy and prepared to get bounced around. If it has been blowing over 10k out of the north for more than a day... it is advisable to wait for 24 hours of non north winds to allow the "Stream" to calm down. We have had to wait as long as 2 weeks in the winter to find a suitable day for crossing.

There are several other nice things about the anchorage in North Lake Worth:

  • Other cruisers gather there and chances are a whole fleet of buddy boats will accompany you on your crossing. You can take the dinghy north to the little bridge and walk to great stores, restaurants and even West Marine to pickup last minute needs.
  • The anchorage is protected and has good holding. We didn't budge in a squall with 65knots there one year.

I recommend stocking up on beer and anything with light weight and big volume... potato chips, cereal, paper products etc. as these are quite expensive in the Bahamas.

The only charts you will need are Explorer Charts and the only guidebook needed is the Dodge Guide to Abacos.

To enter the Bahamas (as a US national) you will need your passport and ships papers. State registration is OK... you do not need to be documented. You will need $150 cash for a boat under 35feet and $300 cash for 35 feet and over. This will give you a 6 month cruising permit and fishing license. Note the CASH requirement. There are ATM's in the Abacos but they will dispense Bahamian dollars on a 1:1 basis with US dollars. US and Bahamian currency is accepted everywhere.

I will assume you are well equipped safety wise and with good anchoring gear. Don't even think about going if you are not prepared. You do NOT need any fancy communications equipment for the Abacos. VHF radio is in use everywhere. A good AM radio and shortwave receiver provide an additional means to get weather data from the United States and from the weather nets. If you have a PC with WIFI capability, you'll be able to subscribe and get signals in most Abacos harbors as well as internet cafes.

It is not cheap...but it is also a way to communicate back home (Skype) instead of paying $1-2 bucks a minute on cell phones or the semi operational local pay phones.


OK...ready to go?

There are two recommended routes to the Abacos from Palm Beach/Lake Worth Inlet. We'll cover both routes, but the first thing you should do the day before you plan to head out the inlet, is to move your anchoage to just south of the inlet and close in behind Palm Beach. This will allow you to rest and head immediately out the inlet when ready.

Option 1

The most common route is to head directly across to West End Grand Bahama, 54 miles away, and check in with customs there at Old Bahama Bay Marina. If you get an early start you should be there well before dark but I always like to start this route at daybreak so that I arrive in daylight even if I have a problem along the way.

You'll actually need to point around 20 degrees south of your waypoint heading to offset the Gulf Stream pushing you north and minimize your actual distance travelled... but either way, the West End waypoint will put you less than a mile from the marina and check in. There is no anchoring at West End so you'll be at the marina overnight. Beautiful place but keep the screens in and bring your bug spray... lots of no-see-ums.

From West End... you have your choice of the Indian Cay Passage or the Memory Rock Passage onto the Little Bahamas Bank towards Great Sale Cay which will be your second night's stop.

The Indian Cay passage is shoal, poorly marked and on a boat with over a 5 foot draft I would time my passage to occur at 1/2 tide and rising. I would not hesitate to do it in up to 6ft. draft but you must rely entirely on waypoints to negotiate the several miles onto the banks before you can relax. The guidebooks show posts and lights... but there is always at least ONE missing!

Once on he banks it is 50 easy miles to Great Sale Cay where you can anchor in the stirrup shaped cove for the night. Great Sale is uninhabited.

From there...most head on to Green Turtle Cay and into the populated parts of the Abacos the next day. (But there's lots more to see along the way as well!)

Probably 80% of the sailboats crossing use this route... but you need to carefully navigate and be wary of being blown or swept off course.

Option 2

The second way into the Abacos is the way I have come to prefer. Instead of the daylight passage to West End, it is a nighttime passage to ARRIVE at daylight at the Memory Rock Passage.

Now that sounds scary to anyone who has not crossed the stream but it is actually safer and easier and allows you to bypass West End entirely.

You sleep during the late afternnon and evening and exit the wide, calm and well lit Lake Worth Inlet between 10PM and Midnight depending on the speed of your boat and point for the Memory Rock waypoint. Seas are generally calmer at night and you can see the lights of ships and other traffic from afar. The Memory Rock Passage is deep (at LEAST 12 feet) and easy and you will come upon it at daylight and keep right on going till you hit Great Sale Cay.

After this 18 hour passage, you rest and then continue on to either Spanish Cay or Green Turtle Cay the next day to check in with customs and you are there in the Abacos! Easy!!

Checking in at Spanish Cay simply involves pulling into the marina there. Checking in at Green Turtle Cay means anchoring off the town of New Plymouth and heading into the post office in your dinghy for an easy check in and a visit to the wonderful little town. Pick up some fresh Bahama bread, anchor over in White Sound and begin to relax in paradise!

Having done it both ways... I will never again do the West End/Indian Cay route... but both routes are available to you.

(All the information in this section kindly submitted by member Camaradarie - Mar '09.)


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Chart Number - Chart Name
Chart Number - Chart Name
Chart Number - Chart Name


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Sources for Weather forecasts:

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Possible Departure Points

Route/Suggested Stopovers

List the route and the suggested stopover points (in sequence), including their coordinates, and some description.

  1. Starting from Departure Point1/wiki/Passage_From_U.S.A_to_Abacos#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EDeparture_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Departure Point1 [[Passage From U.S.A to Abacos#Departure Point1|Departure Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
    1. xx nM SE to Anchorage Point1/wiki/Passage_From_U.S.A_to_Abacos#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EAnchorage_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EAnchorage icon Anchorage Point1 [[Passage From U.S.A to Abacos#Anchorage Point1|Anchorage Point1]] (Alt name of Anchorage Point1) DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W in the SW side of the island of [[yy]],
    2. or 21 nM S to the remote island of Island Point1/wiki/Passage_From_U.S.A_to_Abacos#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EIsland_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EIsland icon Island Point1 [[Passage From U.S.A to Abacos#Island Point1|Island Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W , form here you can go
  2. xx nM to Stopover Point1/wiki/Passage_From_U.S.A_to_Abacos#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EStopover_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Stopover Point1 [[Passage From U.S.A to Abacos#Stopover Point1|Stopover Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
  3. etc.
  4. Finally you arrive at Arrival Port1/wiki/Passage_From_U.S.A_to_Abacos#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EArrival_Port1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Arrival Port1 [[Passage From U.S.A to Abacos#Arrival Port1|Arrival Port1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W M|N/S|DD|M.M|E/W|}} - You can arrive here or, continue to:

Possible Arrival Points

Distance & Duration

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Also See


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Books, Guides, etc. Use the Reference template or not at your discretion. For example:

{{Reference|Rod HeikelGreek Waters Pilot Imray|Laurie and Wilson, Cambridgeshire (2010)|9780852889718}}, expands to
Rod Heikell, Greek Waters Pilot Imray, Laurie and Wilson, Cambridgeshire (2010), ISBN 9780852889718
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  • Author, Title, Publisher, ISBN ISBN number

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