While the majority of yachtsmen enter The Bahamas through Bimini, Cat Cay or simply clear in at West End and cruise on to the Abacos, Grand Bahama Island is a great place to spend a few days or a whole season—or even to own a second home.
Cruising to Grand Bahama and then on to Moore’s Island and Sandy Point is a wonderful way to enter The Bahamas if you plan to visit north Eleuthera or Nassau-—or cruise from Sandy Point around Hole in the Wall to Schooner Bay, Cherokee and Little Harbour. Coming from Florida, clear Customs at Old Bahama Bay (West End) and stay a while to explore the area. On Sandy Cay, Keith and Linda Cooper now have eco tours for diving, fishing and birding. weefca.com
If you need work done on your boat, Bradford Marine in Freeport is an excellent, full-service yard and a safe place to leave your boat if you fly home for a while.
The Port Lucaya Marketplace has shopping, entertainment and several restaurants. Go to Zorba’s for Bahamian breakfast or lunch, Cappuccino’s for excellent Italian dinners, and Flying Fish for haute cuisine. UNEXSO runs a famous dive operation near the marina and the Dolphin Experience further down the waterway. unexso.com
Grand Bahama’s three national parks—The Rand Nature Center, the Lucayan National Park, and Peterson Cay—are well worth a visit. Go to the Bahamas National Trust website for more information. bnt.bs
Moore’s Island (Mores Island for the locals) does not cater to tourists but is a useful anchorage on your way along the southern edge of the bank or a good stop going north or south across the Bight of Abaco. There is decent holding in grass off Hard Bargain; go into the northern creek if there is a cold front but be sure to check the entrance and the creek by dinghy before venturing in. Two important things you must do when on Moore’s Island: visit Mrs. Jones for some fresh baked bread, and take your boat or your dinghy out to Lily Cay, where the shelling and snorkeling are outstanding—there is always a good chance of spearing a hogfish.
Sandy Point is one of my favorite anchorages. It’s also a fun place to visit by road from further north in Abaco. Whether you come by land or sea, enjoy a couple of sundowners and a delicious supper at Nancy’s Sea Side Inn (242-366-4120) or the Sunset Bar and Grill (242-699-0249) while watching the sunset light up the sky.
The anchorage is only protected from the east, but if a cold front approaches go up the creek north of the settlement if you draw 5′ or less. Anchor bow or stern, or tie up to the government dock among the fishing boats. The local people will help you find your way into the unmarked creek and help you moor your boat.
Diesel, gas, and free water are available at Lightbourne Marina, where there is a good grocery store. It’s also a great spot to fish and snorkel for conch. While in southern Abaco visit the Abaco National Park, home of the Bahama parrot. Call Marcus Davis, Park Warden for information and a tour; (242) 367-6310.
Back in business
Staniel Cay Airport re-opened to air traffic in mid-November after months of closure for refurbishment that led to a newly paved runway 3,000-foot long and 75-foot wide. Safety concerns prompted the Department of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Works to close the airport in April 2015.
The Grand Lucayan Waterway is still in very good condition. The Sir Charles Hayward Yacht Club (242-727-7245), just inside the southern entrance, has been refurbished and now has a growing youth program and a few slips for visiting yachts. Going all the way through the waterway is lovely, and you can look for property to purchase as you go. The lowest bridge has a 27.3-foot clearance. If you have a draft of 5′ or less, go out through the well-marked Dover Sound channel on the tide—the high tide is about 2 hours later than on the south shore. Proceed up to Mangrove Cay, Great Sale Cay and on to the Abacos. If you are towing a speedboat it is possible to explore Hawksbill Creek and Water Cay. The bonefishing on the north side is as good as anywhere in The Bahamas. The east end of Grand Bahama is seldom visited, and there are no detailed charts of the area. But a shallow draft vessel can get into Deep Water Cay (deepwatercay.com) and go gunkholing in the cays to the southeast with a little help from the local fishermen. The snorkeling and fishing are spectacular.
Words and photos by Stephen Connett, Southern Boating Magazine January 2016