Seasonal closings begin in September and last until mid-November, causing a noticeable dearth of festivals and events at many venues throughout The Bahamas. This is a traditional time for maintenance, refurbishing, stocking supplies for the winter season’s influx of mariners and visitors, and planning for attendance at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October. If you’re gearing up to cruise and island-hop this fall and winter and plan for family and friends to visit, keep a check on updates from Travel Bahamas, the official site of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA)—especially for the deals and packages on hand. Announcements are frequent with several new air options usually available. bahamas.com/deals-packages
Brigitte Bowyer Carey—one of this quaint settlement’s esteemed, award-winning artists—is giving a watercolor workshop November 10-12 (Monday-Wednesday) from 10AM to 4PM at the Hummingbird Cottage Art Centre in Hope Town. Reserve your space now as Carey’s classes are extremely popular and sell out quickly. Her unusual seascapes, landscapes and travel sketches are collected by the likes of novelist Pat Conroy, Mr. & Mrs. Sean Connery and Mr. Michael Gore, former High Commissioner to The Bahamas. email@example.com.
The Bahamas government plans to create two new national parks in east Grand Bahama that will include the approximate 280,000 acres of the North Shore (The GAP) Marine Protection Area, and the 12,500-plus acres of the East End Marine Protection Area (currently East Grand Bahama National Park south of Sweetings’ Cay). Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett recently said the proposed areas would receive special protection to allow fishing, diving, boating, and other recreational and commercial activities. Dorsett also said the Lucayan National Park and the Peterson Cay National Park are under consideration for expansion.
The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB)—the premiere arts institution—is currently showcasing the extraordinary art of Eddie Minnis and family. Over 100 paintings from the 1960s to the present in the collection titled “A Retrospective” will be on display in the main gallery. Cruisers to North Eleuthera (Current) and Abaco (Marsh Harbour) will recognize this talented family because of their well-known galleries located on both islands. The exhibit will close Sunday, November 30th. Gallery hours are by appointment only. NAGB contact: (242) 328-5800/1; nagb.org.bs. Minnis family contact: (242) 322-2605; eddieminnis.com
Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) has announced major dining renovations that will result in limited facility use. In order to improve service and take advantage of the beautiful view of the water over Jameson Bay, the kitchen is relocating to the back dining room’s current location. Breakfast, dinner and bungalows at the resort will be closed from September 16th through November 1st to complete this project. The marina, fuel dock, lunch (daily grill-out at the marina), ice, garbage, bar (drinks only), gift shop, liquor store, and Wi-Fi internet will remain open. Call (954) 467-6658 or (242) 355-2024. stanielcay.com
Jacob Adams Rum, an outstanding 10-year-old West Indies barrel-aged, blended rum has arrived in Abaco. This liquor is hand-bottled by the very first Abaco rum company—the Hope Town Rum Company out of Elbow Cay and is now available throughout The Bahamas in fine rum shops and restaurants. Mark your cruising calendar for May 2015 and the Grand Opening of the boutique merchandise store Gillam Street Goods that will offer Jacob Adams rum cakes and custom-labeled bottles. The boutique shop will be housed in a restored, former-Loyalist home circa 1880s, which is surrounded by a white picket fence within the heart of this beautiful settlement village. Contact the proprietor, Robbie Bethel, at (242) 577-8533. jacobadamsrum.com
For cruisers who expect guests or supply shipments to arrive via air, pay attention to these updates:
• Silver Airways (formerly Continental Connection) is currently promoting outstanding value packages to the Abacos. Call (888) 229-9990. silverairways.com
• Watermakers Air now flies to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Executive airport. They also fly to Chub Cay; Congo Town, Fresh Creek, and San Andros in the Andros; and Staniel Cay in the Exumas. Call (954) 771-0330. watermakersair.com
• SkyBahamas has increased flight services between Bimini and Fort Lauderdale (FLL) three days a week—Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. They currently offer flights between Bimini and Nassau, and between Bimini and Freeport every day except Tuesdays and Saturdays, with continued service on to Fort Lauderdale and return flights back on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. skybahamas.net
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reports the following changes to Marsh Harbour Marina Day Beacons:
• Day Beach 1 is destroyed
• Day Beacon 2 marker has improper characteristics
• Day Beacon 4 marker is missing
Visit this link to view improved NOAA Obstructions and Wrecks charts, including Straits of Florida and Approaches: nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/hsd/wrecks_andobstructions.html.
Sandra Davis, Southern Boating September 2014
Crawfish (aka lobster or bug) season begins this month (August 1-March 31) along with Emancipation Day weekend festivities on August 1-4, so the number of visiting cruisers will rise. Respect the environment, carry a valid fishing permit, practice safety while diving, and mind The Bahamas’ regulations to enjoy successful dives and outstanding meals. Some say that Bahamian spiny lobster is sweeter than crustaceans from the U.S. northeastern waters of Maine and Massachusetts.
Celebrated international marine wildlife artist-scientist-ocean conservationist Guy Harvey has joined his Guy Harvey Outpost Expedition Collection with the well-established, award-winning, eco-sustainable Bimini Sands Resort & Marina on south Bimini Island. The superior conservation duo shares forward-thinking plans to promote and protect the island’s heritage.
A familiar beacon to cruisers, this fully protected Blue Flag-awarded marina is the first marina before the notorious shifting sands of the main navigational channel to the north island, with an eight-foot depth at the entrance. Cruisers will find one of the finest family-owned, family-friendly, deep-water marinas in all of The Bahamas. Amenities include 100 slips up to 100 feet, floating Bellingham docks, 30/50-amp power, fuel (the only diesel on both islands), ship’s store with every commodity imaginable, and Bahamas Customs on site during peak weekends. Take your pick of three swimming pools, including an infinity design overlooking the straits with a new, well-covered snack shack, three first-rate restaurants and three watering holes.
This recent alliance will suit the majority of cruisers and water sports folks. Expect to hear about innovative, co-hosted IGFA fishing tournaments with noted organizers and famous anglers, and remarkable animal adventures with the famed Neal Watson Dive Center—the ultimate diving outpost in the Biminis, headquartered at the Bimini Sands Beach Club. The well-respected Eco Activities Department based at the marina offers numerous environmentally friendly guided tours—kayaking within the Bimini Mangroves, nature hikes on the Bimini Nature Trail, snorkeling with friendly stingrays in Honeymoon Harbour, tours of the world-famous Bimini Biological Field Station (Shark Lab), and more. biminisands.com; guyharveyoutpost.com
The West End Airport on Grand Bahama Island reopened for use on June 1st and makes it easier for cruisers to leave their boats for longer periods at The Old Bahama Bay Resort and Yacht Harbour. Located just 55 miles from Palm Beach, Florida, the 6,000-foot runway is open for use from 8AM to 5PM. Aircraft must be pre-approved by West End Airport Management and Bahamas ATC. Contact Airport Manager Ashley Smith at (242) 272-1335 for approval, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Private pilots that book a four-night stay or longer by August 31st at Old Bahama Bay Resort receive a $300 credit. Call 1-888-983-6188 or email email@example.com. oldbahamabay.com
While you’re docked at Old Bahama Bay, take a taxi ride to Paradise Cove’s Dead Man’s Reef for a terrific new eco-adventure snorkeling out in shallow water to newly installed reef balls. Reef balls are the world’s leading artificial reef modules and currently the safest and most effective way to create a sustainable marine reef habitat. Studies show these reef balls can create up to 500 pounds of biomass per year—fish, lobsters, coral, and algae nourishing the marine environment. Spillover effects mean more fish available from West End to Eight Mile Rock. For an unusual gift or souvenir you can adopt a reef ball with an official certificate. Call (242) 349-2677. deadmansreef.com/reefball
Tax: Cruisers may be interested to know that implementation of the 15-percent Bahamas Value Added Tax slated to begin July 2014 has been delayed to January 1, 2015. The rate was dropped to 7.5 percent.
Fall cruising: Marinas, restaurants, attractions, and hotels begin their annual closings for refurbishment starting in September up to mid-November. Check all your venue sources carefully.
Abaco: The long awaited and much delayed new Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour (MHH) is now open for use.
By Sandra Davis, Southern Boating August 2014
The temperature is rising, and days have gotten longer. With the U.S. 4th of July and the 41st Anniversary of The Bahamas Independence July 10th on the calendar this month, you’ll find over 30 events throughout the islands: boating flings, Junkanoo Jump Ups, flag raising ceremonies, Bahamas Royal Police Force Band concerts, small regattas, fish fries, and homecoming parties with local vocalists and bands. Your best bet is to pick a favorite island and just go. Here are a few festivals close to the U.S. mainland.
Not sure what to plan for the 4th of July? The Abaco Beach Resort hosts a spectacular weekend celebration that includes a BBQ, beach bonfire, music, crab races, and over-the-top fireworks display. Call (242) 367-2158 to reserve a slip in the marina and to receive special event ticket pricing. abacobeachresort.com
Put the 3rd Annual Goombay Summer Festival at the Seaspray Resort in White Sound, Elbow Cay, Abaco, on your festival cruising list July 3-17 and the 31st. Featured attractions include music, food, a Junkanoo rush-out, and local crafts. Sea Spray Marina is one of the more protected marinas in Abaco providing easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Abaco. The marina can accommodate a variety of vessels up to 120 feet long drawing up to 7 feet. Call (242) 366-0065 or (717) 718-8267 while in the U.S. email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to seasprayresort.com/marina.html. If you’re docked in Marsh Harbour, Albury’s Ferry provides a water taxi service from mainland Abaco to Elbow Cay. Call (242) 367-0290. alburysferry.com
While you’re in Elbow Cay there’s a must-see in the tiny village of Hope Town located in the center of town behind the post office—the noted Hummingbird Cottage Art Centre. It opened last year after exhaustive work was done to its historically significant building and is now one of the most charming Loyalist cottages in the Hope Town settlement. The Hummingbird is home to works by celebrated artists and award-winning international spotlight artists such as Amos Ferguson—“Paint by Amos”—The Bahamas’ most famous native painter. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30AM to 5PM, and they close the end of August for a month or so. Private appointments are available. Call (242) 366-0272. hopetownart.com
Hope Town is also great for specialty galley provisioning at foodie spots such as Vernon’s Grocery & Upper Crust Bakery located on the corner of Lover’s Lane and Back Street. Cruisers in the know call in advance to reserve Vernon’s special delights. Otherwise, expect a long line at the front door. Vernon’s is famous for fresh-daily baked breads and delicious homemade pies—Key lime pie is still the best seller. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 8AM to 6PM. Call (242) 366-0037 or channel 16 on the VHF.
Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, this Goombay Summer Festival is held at the Great Harbour Cay Marina on the 4th, 11th, and 18th showcasing the Bahamian cultural heritage with Rake n’ Scrape bands, dance groups, limbo, food, drink, local souvenir vending, a Junkanoo parade, and Goombay dancers each evening. Contact the Administrators Office at (242) 367-8291.
Great Harbour Cay Marina is under new management, nestled inside a serene harbor with 65 slips that can accommodate vessels up to 130-feet LOA drawing 8 feet. This “Hurricane Hole” is one of the most protected marinas in The Bahamas. Each slip has 30/50/100-amp shore power and water. Marina amenities include ice, showers, laundry, Wi-Fi internet access, pool bar and restaurant, 24-hour security cameras, liquor store, golf cart, and car rentals. Customs and Immigration is available at the marina. Call (242) 367-8005. greatharbourcay.com/webpages/marina.asp
You’ll find the Great Harbour Marina’s famous “burgers in paradise” beach bar—overlooking a gorgeous four-mile stretch of beach—handsomely remodeled and offering beach umbrellas, lounge chairs, dune buggies, and kayaks for rent. Hours are weekdays from 7:30AM to 6PM for breakfast and lunch, and weekends from 7:30AM to 9:30PM for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cruisers visiting Great Harbour Cay have several dining options. The Rocky Hill Bar and Restaurant adjacent to the marina serves lunch and dinner every day of the week— international cuisine with a Bahamian twist, excellent cracked conch and pan-fried fish. Call (242) 367-8051. For a more local experience, head to Coolie Maes at Bullock’s Harbour offering authentic Bahamian dinners; sit outside to catch beautiful sunset views. Call Coolie Mae to place your order ahead of your arrival at (242) 367-8730. Carriearl Hotel located on the old golf course away from the beach also has a small restaurant with international fare—reservations are recommended. Open Thursday through Saturday and for Sunday brunch. Call (242) 367-8785.
Just 50 nm from the U.S. mainland, the Biminis host several events in July beginning with the U.S. Independence Visitors Reception on July 4th. In appreciation of visitors to the island, a cultural exchange features Bahamian food, art, crafts, music on North Bimini, and a beautiful fireworks display on both North and South Islands. Contact the Bimini Tourist office at (242) 347-3529.
By Sandra Davis, Southern Boating July 2014
The Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) is a dedicated non-profit volunteer group committed to the search and rescue of distressed seamen and airmen in The Bahamas—the very first formal rescue organization in the Bahamian islands—and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Headquartered in Nassau, its office is open from 9AM to 5PM every day, with highly trained volunteer captains and crew teams on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week for mariners in dire need. BASRA’s two other divisions in Abaco and Grand Bahamas have the same level of trained local volunteers ready to assist rescue efforts across The Bahamas’ 150,000 square miles, making BASRA the largest voluntary rescue organization in this part of the world.
When discussing BASRA’s rescue fleet, Operations Manager Chris Lloyd explains, “The BASRA Nassau Division has an offshore 38-foot vessel, a 27-foot fast response vessel and a PWC for shallow water/heavy surf assistance. The BASRA Grand Bahama Division has a 37-foot Protector RIB, and BASRA Abaco has a RIB it shares with Hope Town Fire and Rescue. These are the dedicated BASRA vessels in the higher-traffic areas.” To supplement the BASRA fleet, many volunteers use their private boats to carry out search-and-rescue efforts, which have multiplied the number of lives saved.
One thing that sets BASRA apart is its focus on being a life-saving organization rather than a towing service. While it can arrange a tow if contacted, BASRA exists to rescue mariners in life-threatening situations. “We are strictly a lifesaving organization and we want to continue our focus on safe boating education and awareness, particularly for children,” says Lloyd. “One of the ways BASRA has grown most in the 20 years I’ve been operations manager is better vetting of false/hoax distress calls, which we take very seriously.” BASRA calls on the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance when available to increase safety efforts for people in need.
BASRA’s primary sources of income include supporting membership subscriptions and donations, annual fundraisers, gifts from the Search and Rescue Charitable Foundation, and a small stipend from the Bahamian government. Registered memberships cost $40 a year and go toward fuel, radios, boats, airplanes, safety equipment, maintenance, telephones, and general upkeep of BASRA headquarters. BASRA also sells merchandise such as flags, caps and shirts to promote awareness and garner support. On an annual basis, BASRA typically handles more than 500 cases and operates on a budget of around $125,000.
In the past 50 years, BASRA has grown exponentially to make its mark as a leading life-saving group for thousands of explorers who cruise to The Bahamas’ beautiful blue waters. “The hugs and tears of relief from worried family members makes it all worthwhile,” Lloyd says.
Beyond donations or becoming a member, volunteer support is extremely vital to BASRA’s success—and not just in high-speed search and rescues. Posting letters, planning fundraising activities and office work is essential for any volunteer organization. In addition, BASRA is more than willing to take a helicopter off the hands of someone who does not need theirs.
Southern Boating’s beloved founder Skip Allen Sr. was an avid cruiser of The Bahamas and a steadfast supporter of BASRA. The Allen family has requested that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in honor of Skip Sr. to give back to this around-the-clock rescue initiative throughout his adored cruising grounds. For membership, see the BASRA application on page 96. basra.org/support
By Christine Carpenter, Southern Boating May 2014