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May 18, 2013

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Page 3

The Grand Lucayan Waterway cuts across the island east of Bell Channel, a shortcut to Little Bahama Bank and the Abacos for boats that can handle 5.5 or 6 feet of depth (MHW) and a 27-foot fixed bridge. After the bridge the man-made channel remains deep and at its extreme north end one comes to Dover Sound. 
On the east end of the island there's a private fishing club with limited facilities in season. Besides the fishing it’s the jumping-off spot for cruising the Abacos.

WALKER’S CAY, at the northwest end of the of the Abacos chain, remains closed, but Customs Office for boats and  airplanes is open. Phone service is not available there at press time but Grand Bahama Customs office can help. Call there at 242-352-7361, -2, -3 or -4.

THE ABACOS are a 130-mile archipelago curving eastward and southward from Walker’s and ending at the big island, Great Abaco. The chain offers unmatched cruising grounds: islands, bays, coves, flats, beaches and wetlands. Anchorages abound, fishing is wonderful.

There are no facilities, and indeed, few signs of civilization, near the start of the way down from Walker's; the islands in the immediate vicinity are mostly uninhabited. But our new editors, Captain Bob and Ginny Tower, "discovered" Rosie's Place and next door Maxwells on Grand Cay, east of Walker's, in 2010. There's fuel, restaurant, bar, groceries, and cottages to rent and they had a fun visit with the proprietors and other cruisers.The first facilities are found at Fox Town on the west end of Little Abaco, where gas and groceries are available.

From there on, the southbound boat can island-hop in convenient day cruises down a chain of excellent resorts and marinas. The chain starts with Spanish Cay, a resort with restaurants and other amenities. Plus, if you haven't cleared yet, Spanish Cay is also a Port of Entry with Customs and Immigration on site.

Proceeding down the string of islands, you'll find other notable stops including Green Turtle Club and Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay, Orchid Bay on Great Guana Cay, Man-O-War Marina on Man-O-War Cay, Treasure Cay Marina and Boat Harbour at Abaco Beach Resort, Conch Inn, Harbour View, and Marsh Harbour Marina on Great Abaco, Lighthouse, Hope Town and Sea Spray marinas on Elbow Cay, and others spaced comfortably along Abaco Sound. Ashore, Marsh Harbour offers some of the most urban amenities in the Bahamas with less congestion and more of a small town feel than Nassau or Freeport. Across the Sound on Man-O-War you'll find examples of historic Bahamian boat-building.

In the Bight of Abaco, west of Great Abaco, is the area known as The Marls. These waters are much shallower — and hence less traveled — but offer more adventurous skippers (especially those whose boats don't need much depth) some great cruising and fishing in relative solitude all the way south to the settlement at Sandy Point, where there is a gas dock with minimal facilities ashore.

THE BERRY ISLANDS lie south of Grand Bahama and west of the tip of Great Abaco on Great Bahama Bank, across the Northwest and Northeast Providence Channels and at the head of the Tongue of the Ocean. The islands and little cays form a 40-mile arc with shallow flats on the west side but drop off to great depths on the east, creating great fishing and dozens of islands, coves and anchorages.

Facilities anchoring the chain are at Great Harbour CayMarina on the north and at Chub Cay Club on the south.

Close to Northwest Providence Channel, a deep waterpassage (watch for ships!) from either Florida or Grand Bahama, the final approaches are over the Great Bahama Bank, relatively well-marked and easy to follow. The NW Channel shoal buoy is still missing but most of the published charts show the correct waypoint

NASSAU, on New Providence Island, is the capital and commercial hub of the Bahamas, a world port with every marine and shore facility, and an international city that truly gives the look and feel of another country. The attractions of Nassau, Paradise Island and environs are too numerous to mention, but make it a port well deserving of its reputation as a superior cruise destination.

Facilities in Nassau Harbour are clustered around the bridges to sheltering Paradise Island, and include Hurricane Hole Marina, East Bay Yacht Basin (maximum mast height here is 57' with the new bridge), Nassau Yacht Haven, Brown’s Boat Basin and the Nassau Harbour Club. Atlantis, Paradise Island's premier resort, has a sophisticated marina complex with its entrance just west of the west Paradise Island Bridge. Though the marina and its setting are attractive to high-rollers and megayacht types, other vessels are welcome (though with a 40-foot minimum). Many who've been there say a visit to Atlantis is a must. The aquarium and the fictional but intriguing “archeological ruins” of Atlantis get high marks. And, of course, there's the casino. The new Albany Marina has opened there at the southwest end of New Providence with 71 slips, hotel accommodations, golf course, spa,  fuel and more.

As you cruise the area, keep in mind Nassau Harbor is a major port for cruise ships and commercial traffic, and must be negotiated with due care and awareness — especially of larger vessel activity. ALWAYS report your vessel activity to Harbour Control via VHF 16 upon approaching or departing Nassau.

To join in on Nassau's Cruisers Net, standby on VHF channel 72 from 7:15 to 7:20 AM. (Continue...)

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