While Europe was sinking into the heart of winter, I was in the Bahamas, serving a customer who had delivered by cargo his trimaran, a Corsair 970 Cruze.
Reception of the boat, preparation and development, it could be the occasion to see that there is nothing really simple for the crew of a sailboat: for the residents of the Bahamas the motor boat is king, while sailboats are rather marginal. The shipchandlers have pretty much everything you need in the radius to fish big or spin a mechanics of 350 hp, but when you enter in store with a winch handle to ask if they do not have the little sister, the results will just be laughs. Nassau is really not the place to prepare a boat, it is far better to operate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where we ended up ordering the necessary hardware and safety equipment online).
The second feature of the region is that the Bahamas does not enjoy a pure Caribbean climate. The archipelago remains under the influence of the low pressures circulating on the north of the Atlantic, and the winter cold fronds regularly disturb the tradewinds. In practice, the arrival of a cold front is heralded by a rotation of the wind in a clockwise direction, until a strong Northern which justifies to remain temporarily at anchor (in a well sheltered place !) or at the marina. In short, while Paris or London were under the snow, it was blowing hard in Nassau.
But after that, the Bahamas turned out to be the promised little paradise, including the Exumas, a string of islands spanning more than one hundred and twenty nautical miles long, probably one of the wildest corners of the archipelago (*), although some islands are inhabited, and even though many moorings are-reasonably-frequented (we visited others that were totally deserted).
When you sail on the bankss, in an incredibly limpid water, you get used to flying at more than twelve knots watching the white sand scroll under the daggerboard. It is the realm of eyeball navigation, the charts are rather inaccurate and in any case it is much better to trust its reading of the field – and the color of the funds – than to the GPS. Deep blue means five meters of water or barely more. Green, we are in four meters of water, pale green it’s close to the two meters, and better to lift a bit of daggerboard. Turquoise area white lined announces a shoal of sand, brown should be turtle grass on sand (or seaweeds on rocks, interpretating can be sometimes tricky), and a black spot is a coral reef. The final approach of an anchorage is often done by slaloming, possibly using a safety bearing, more exceptionally by means of an transit (* *).
The islands are more pretties than the others, they each have their character, and the area is large enough that the navigator has the choice between chip jumps, more sustained sailing days, or to laze about, snorkel on the reefs or walk in a preserved nature. To tell you the truth, a few weeks are not enough to know everything about Exumas. Many boaters met there (most Canadians) come back every winter for fifteen or twenty years, and to do do like everyone else, you will have to go back.
(*) For the near-total isolation, it is necessary to go down even further south, to the mares.
(**) To navigate without unpleasant surprises in the Bahamas, there will be limited confidence in vector maps, eventually rely on a game of maps Explorer charts (or the raster maps Waveyline, available in France at GeoGarage ), and there will be a thorough reading of the excellent guides (in English) by Stephen J. Pavlidis, Éditions Seaworthy, to buy on the spot but also in France at the maritime bookstores of Marseille or Paris.