Tips for Anchoring in the Bahamas

An experienced couple shares their favored routes and their tips for anchoring in the Bahamas.

No matter how many times we cruise The Bahamas we cannot wait to return to its pristine beauty. Like many cruisers, we have our favorite routes and islands. Anchoring in the islands offers some unique challenges since bottom conditions vary widely—there is excellent sand but also scoured-out rocky channels, heavy grass, and thin sand over rock. Here our some of our best tips for anchoring in The Bahamas. 

Heavy grass fouls the anchor, and thin sand over rock doesn’t give the anchor a chance to dig in, but we generally find good holding. Entering some anchorages requires complete vigilance and attention to depths, but the payoff is well worth the effort of time and attention. Here our some of our best tips for anchoring in The Bahamas. 

1.  Our preferred route from Florida to The Bahamas is via Bimini to clear Customs.

The most preferred spot to anchor is off the docks of the Big Game Club in Alice Town, where the marina offers dinghy access to town. The second is at the northern end of the harbor near the new resort and casino, Resorts World. As with any anchorage in The Bahamas, check to be sure the anchor is well set and be aware of strong currents in Bimini Harbor.

2. Upon departing the Bimini area, you’ll either head north to North Rock or south to North Cat Cay to cross onto the Great Bahama Bank.

Deeper-draft vessels will find better depths on the northerly route across. From Bimini, we head north to North Rock and then almost due east to Great Harbour on the northern end of the Berry Islands. Leaving at daybreak and heading across the banks puts you close enough to anchor and finish the trip the next morning (for slower vessels) or a long day to anchor at dusk for trawlers. The anchorage at Bullocks Harbor gives easy access to the settlement and the town dock for landing the dinghy. There is thick grass on the bottom, so look for a sandy patch to drop the anchor. Inside Hawksnest on the east side of Great Harbor Cay is a spectacular anchorage with miles of white sandy beaches. Soldier Cay, Hoffman’s Cay, White and Fowl Cay offer more solitude and exploration possibilities. Cruisers can easily spend a month or more just exploring the many anchorages throughout the Berry Islands.

3. Nassau on New Providence is the next port of call.

Anchoring in the harbor can be difficult since the current has scoured it clean, but there are a couple of sandy patches with fair holding just west of the bridge to Paradise Island or off the eastern channel near the Nassau Harbour Club. Be aware, however, that currents are strong and boat wakes are a problem. If you don’t need provisions or have already cleared in, we recommend anchoring at Rose Island located northeast of New Providence. It’s far away from everything but a good place to stage to head south into the Exumas.

4. Your next destination will be the Exumas.

Anchorages are plentiful and each should be considered based on the how much wind protection you need and from what direction. The trip from Nassau or Rose Island to Allen’s Cay is about 28nm and takes you across the “dreaded” Yellow Banks. The banks, however, are not as formidable as some would suggest. Ensure you have the sun high overhead and someone positioned on the bow, flybridge or the mast for a good view of your path ahead. The coral heads are easily negotiated.

5. As you travel south in the Exumas your daily runs will be short.

Don’t miss any of the wonderful anchorages in the 100 or so miles to George Town. Some of the highlights are Allen’s Cay with its greedy iguanas, Norman’s Cay with its cozy inner anchorages, Warderick Wells—possibly the most beautiful place on earth—, Staniel Cay with its Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame, and the swimming pigs of Big Majors Cay. Farther to the south is the settlement of Black Point, another friendly outpost, and Farmer’s Cay with its yacht club festivities. Between there and George Town are any number of remote locales to drop the hook. Deep-draft boats will likely exit at Galliot Cut to make for George Town, while shoal-draft vessels can travel along the inside to Rat Cay, Square Rock or Glass Cay Cuts before heading out into Exuma Sound for George Town at Conch Cay.

Many boats just make for George Town and plant themselves there for the duration. Once you get there, it’s easy to see why. There are activities every day on the beaches on Stocking Island, places to provision ashore and new friends to make. Anchor off Stocking Island in the various locations—Church Bay, Volleyball or Sand Dollar Beaches—or just off the town in Kidd Cove for provisioning or laundry. Or, try Red Shanks behind Crab Cay on the south side of the harbor. Settling in Georgetown is one of our favorite tips for anchoring in the Bahamas

6. Departing George Town, head back north in the Exuma chain to Warderick Wells again as it deserves two stops.

From there exit Warderick Cut and make the run northeast to Powell Point on Eleuthera. Head around and into Rock Sound and anchor just off of the settlement.