Sailing Charters in Abaco Islands
More than 7000 people live in Marsh Harbor
… the capital of Abaco and a good launch pad for the ferries that reach the outer cays. Marsh Harbor is also the center for bareboat chartering but this is an option for people who have bonafide sailing certifications and decent sailing experience.
Cruisers are mostly supposed to confine inside the boomerang shaped waters that makeup the Sea of Abaco. Abaco is rightfully known as the sailing capital of the world and also as "mini Bahamas"... such is the diversity of experience that it offers.
Photo: Killian77, flickr, cc by 2.0
Sea of Abaco is best explored in collaboration with the boat charters listed below. These charters can be basically classified into three types, crewed charters, bare-boat charters and captained by day, bareboat by night charters. As the name suggests crewed charters offer all kinds of amenities, a competent captain, prefixed sailing schedules or customizable schedules and a usually luxurious experience.
A bareboat charter however offers the boat and certain amenities and a lot of freedom to customize your experience… however this is only offered if you have the requisite sailing certifications. Captained by day, bareboat by night means that the boat will be left for the night at a nice secluded cove.
There are some operators who offer exclusively one of the options while some offer two of them or all of them. Either ways, choose an operator based on your requirements, preferred sailing zones, budget and the kind of experience you want.
Cruise Abaco operates out of Marsh Harbor as well as Treasure Cay. They have a range of sail boats including catamarans which can be chartered.
You can choose for a day charter trip or for several days (cruises are captained during the day time while you are left on your own on the boat at night to enjoy the starry sky). Your trip can include sailing to Guana Cay followed by snorkeling and swimming at a beach, or sail south stopping at Foul Cay Underwater Park, then out to a reef and followed by sail to Man o War Cay in the afternoon, or sail to Tahiti Beach and do snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding etc.
Defiance sail Charters is based in Marsh Harbor (that’s their winter port… the summer port is 211 E Main St, Gloucester, MA). They are pretty flexible about their pick up schedule. You will have the option of deciding your sailing schedule… it can range from a few hours to a few days. The hosts are Captain Raffi and Lisa with more than15 years of experience who are aware of the nature of the local sailing waters, snorkeling zones, beaches and reefs. On offer are day sails ranging from 4 hour to 6 hour and longer trips ranging from 4 nights to 7 nights.
They will even give you sailing lessons if you so wish. The vessel is a 49 feet Hinckley called Windfall. Defiance Charters is especially known for hosting celebratory events of all kinds be it… engagement, anniversaries, memorial services etc. they even have a lodging option… kind of a fun alternative of a traditional Bed and Breakfast Inn. The Hinckley can accommodate only 5 people at once and she is in heavy demand so booking early is advisable.
Phone: 1 978-948-5434; 1-242-559-8414
Note: Windfall only sails in the Bahamas from February to May.
Dream Catcher II offers a nice luxury charter experience and a catamaran of exceptional size and great amenities. This has a whole range of equipment and kayaks, boats, snorkel gear, fishing gear, water mattresses etc. the Captain here is named Bill and he has more than 18 years of experience on the island sea.
Turning Left Crewed Yacht Charters offers crewed Mon hulls with decent amenities including air conditioning, Jacuzzi, deck shower, BBQ, satellite TV and CD Libraries
In case you have people on your team who are experienced sailors and possess the relevant sailing certifications then Bareboat charters may be what you are looking for.
Cruise Abaco has offices in both Marsh Harbor and Treasure Cay and they offer crewed and bareboat charters. They also offer basic sailing courses along with catamaran and bareboat sailing certifications. You can choose to avail their concept of Captained by Day and Bareboat by Night where the captain guides you through different spots in the daytime while the vessel is safely moored in a cove at night.
Sunsail charters is based in Bay Street on Marsh Harbor and they offer a good range of Dufor, Bavarias, and Beneteaus monohulls (32 feet long or larger) as well as 40 feet ocean cats. They offer a good selection of bareboat itineraries depending upon what your vacation schedule is.
Phone: 1 242-367-4000
Moorings charters has an office located in Marsh Street on Marsh Harbor… they too have a good fleet of cats and mono-hulls that range between 31 feet to 50 feet. This is a pretty big charter firm which operates all across the Bahamas and they can even help you plan your vacation if you call their toll free number (800-669-8316)
Island Sun Charters based in Treasure Cay offers nice Bareboat experiences. The Captain Alan Hauch has more than 2 decades of experience on the seas and he can also provide a captained by day, bareboat by night experience if requested.
There are several sailing companies that offer both bareboat charters and crewed charters and Trade Wind Yacht Charters (a global charter with an office based in Treasure Cay) is one of them. The Captain here is Alan Hauch and he offers a 7 day cruise or shorter crewed trips besides the option of bareboat monohull and cat trips. They have 3 categories of Catamarans: Cruising, Flagship and Luxury.
Phone (toll free): 855 600 5821
Treasure Cat Charters is based in Marsh Harbor and has a couple of new Catamarans that can be used to offer either crewed or Bareboat experiences.
Dream Yacht Charters have their base at Harbor View Marina at Marsh Harbor and this is where most of their crewed journeys originate. Their crewed packages are completely customizable… you will get to choose the boat, destination as well as the cuisine and other amenities. They also have a range of preplanned voyages where the guests are taken (they call these as By the Cabin Charters). The voyages range from 6 days to 10 days of exploration of all the islands and cays of the Abaco Islands. The vessels include 35 catamarans and 1 monohull.
There are 23 bareboat (21 catamarans and 2 monohulls) in their bareboat fleet so basically you will be spoilt for choice if you opt to go the Bareboat route.
Phone (toll free): 855 650 8902
There are lots of marinas in the Abaco Islands but these are the best ones you should target in case you are cruising around or are on a bareboat experience. In case you are with your captain or on a package cruise then the mooring spots will be mostly prefixed though you can spell out your preferences.
Treasure Cay Resort Marina is sort of exclusive and has its own cult following. There are more than 3 miles of lovely white beaches and canals here in Treasure Cay that are apt for sailing. More than twenty yachts can be anchored here and some of the slots can accommodate vessels that are more than 100 feet in length. However you need to make a reservation for the larger slots.
Address: Treasure Cay Road, Treasure Cay, AB-22134, Great Abaco Island
Phone: +1 800-327-1584
Abaco Beach Resort and Boat harbor has numerous docks and piers that can accommodate large vessels. Its proximity to ferry service stations and Sugar Loaf Cay (a popular recreational spot) is helpful. If you dock here the resort will offer laundry and housekeeping services for a fixed fee.
Bay Street, Marsh Harbour, the Bahamas
Phone: +1 242-367-2158
The Abaco Outboard Engines Marina at Marsh Harbor can support an extensive array of boats though smaller vessels (less than 100 feet). Servicing and repair service for boats here is pretty good. Many cruisers and sailors stop here before moving on to the Great Guana Cay.
Abaco Yacht Services at Green Turtle Cay is great for offering maintenance and repair services for yachts. However only small yachts that are about 20 feet in length can be accommodated here.
Address: Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Green Turtle Club and Marina can take in super-sized yacht that can exceed 130 feet in length. This is a glamorous place that has lots of private parties and a nice pool club. The proximity of many diving spots also adds to its popularity. Boats, golf carts etc can be rented here…. there is also a good fine dining restaurant and bar.
Address: North end of White Sound, Green Turtle Cay
Phone: 1 242-365-4271
Bluff House Yacht Club and Marina has good accommodation facilities (more than 12 docks for mid-sized and smaller yachts. The marina offers laundry, internet and showering facilities for cruisers besides a restaurant and bar. Many cottage suites and other lodging options are available in case you want to stay overnight.
Green Turtle Cay, Phone: 242-365-4247
Conch Inn Marina and Hotel near the Mermaid Reef is on the famous Restaurant Row on Marsh Harbor. The marina offers showering, laundry and internet facilities besides restaurants and bars (local food here is famous). Large yachts that are longer than 100 feet can easily fit in here.
Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island
Phone: 1 242-367-4000
Hideaways at Hope Town are some of the prettiest docking options around. Many boat slips are available here along with boat on rent options. This place is near to pubs, restaurants, charters and many other entertainment spaces.
Hope Town Harbor, Elbow Cay. Phone: +1 242-366-0224
Great Guana Cay is a barrier island that’s at the heart of Abaco Sea…. this is one of the best sailing destinations. The Great Guana Cay has a medium sized marina and yacht club called the Orchid Bay on its leeward side and there are plenty of docks and access points of dinghies. The bottom is grassy around here so it’s advisable to anchor overnight
Phone: 1 242-365-5175
While sailing don’t forget to tune into the radio broadcast on Marine VHF CH 68 that take place from 8.15 a.m. each day… this is known as the Cruisers net. This is actually a mixture of local entertainment, CNN, Weather and discovery channel along with an emergency broadcast system. Interestingly the content and service of this channel is voluntary.
This started in 1992 courtesy Patti and Bob Taler who wanted to help the sailing fraternity plus the tourists who visited the islands. Though the broadcast origin is Marsh Harbor… the signals are received in Man O War, Elbow Cay, Hope Town, Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay and its surrounding waters.
Chanel 16 on VHF is meant for calling and hailing vessels…. there are other separate channels for emergency broadcasts, search and rescue etc. which might be relevant for your sailing trips.
One term that you should be aware of in your Abaco sailing trips is “Abaco Rage”. Under certain conditions… there are mid sea storms that makes the sea swell up ferociously and the waves in the Abaco Sea reach up to 3 times their height. Understandably the sailing conditions become dangerous then and you should strictly beware from entering the waters.
The most vulnerable zones are the passages between the cays like the Wale Cay Passage… the shallows behind the cay make vessel passage difficult than under normal weather conditions. There is also an area called Bakers Bay that’s towards the south end of whale cay which is vulnerable to sea storms including the rage. The solution is to keep a sharp ear on the local weather forecast on the cruisers net.
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