If you've been keeping up with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you no doubt saw one of our flagship 435cc's took a fieldtrip to the Bahamas earlier this month with the editors of Power & Motoryacht, Soundings, Anglers Journal and Yachts International.
To see videos and a gallery of more photos from their trip, visit Power & Motoryacht's page here.
Looks like fun, doesn't it? Several decades ago, such a trip from the Florida coast to the Bahamas was a pipe dream for anyone who didn't own a yacht or sailboat. Now, center console boats - like those in the Everglades fleet - are built rugged enough to withstand the rigors of the open ocean with ease. With thorough preparation, it is not just possible, but encouraged. The Bahamas are so much closer than you think.
Prepping Your Boat
Proper boat maintenance is essential, not just for the life of your boat, but for that of you and your passengers. You'll be traversing the powerful Gulf Stream and open ocean, and some of the more remote parts of the Bahamas are treacherous with reefs and shoals that can wreak serious havoc on your hull. Weather on the open ocean can change dramatically in a short amount of time as well. With all these factors demanding your attention, the last thing you need to worry about is whether your engines will start, or if the trim tabs are functioning properly.
If it's your first time crossing, pair up with another boat who has made the trip before. While today's outboards are extremely reliable, the redundancy of having two engines for a long trip can give you peace of mind. Don't think you need a boat the size of our 435cc with quad Yamahas to make the trip safely! Smaller models like our 273cc can get you to Bimini in under three hours, and since outboard engines can be raised and lowered, outboard boats can get into spots others wouldn't dare, allowing you to hop off and walk along the beach without a second thought.
What To Pack
Once you've charted your course (The Boat Galley has a great article on how the current of the Gulf Stream affects your heading and, ultimately, your final destination) and picked your dates, it's time to think of inventory. Here is a good starting checklist:
- An EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.) When activated, it sends a coded distress signal to alert the nearest responders if you have to abandon ship. You hope you'll never use it, but an EPIRB is an absolute onboard must, and the device is credited with saving the lives of a father and his sons in this article from Power & Motoryacht.
- Pack a "ditch" bag. This bag should contain non-perishable food like granola bars, along with bottles of water and other emergency necessities, like rope, a first aid kit, whistles, flares and the like. The ditch bag should not be touched for the entirety of the trip, unless an emergency arises. This way, you can be assured you have supplies when you need them. Read Sport Fishing's article about other items you should consider packing in your ditch bag.
- Two different anchors. Most of the area surrounding the Bahamas is comprised of either hard or soft sand. No one anchor is suitable for all bottoms, so having two along increases your chances of anchoring well.
- Plenty of sunscreen!
For a list of documents and other items that you absolutely cannot cross without, take a look at this checklist.
Keeping in Touch
Before you even leave the dock, have a float plan that details where you're headed, when you believe you'll reach your destination, and when you will be returning. Register this plan with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and share it with a friend who can contact emergency services should you not return or check in as planned. A basic float plan template can be downloaded here.
It's unwise to rely on your cell phone alone when off continent. Apart from purchasing one that is compatible with the Bahamian system, your safest bet is to ensure your boat's VHF radio is functioning properly. For stretches of the trip that might prove too remote for even a VHF, having an SSB (single-sideband radio) aboard is a good idea. Also, satellite phones - while admittedly pricey - can prove invaluable during an emergency.
Bahamas "Best Of"s
Now, the fun part! Here are just a few of the many activities you can enjoy once you're in paradise.
- Want to know the best places in the islands to fish? Check out the Association of Bahamas Marina's guide.
- Need a place to anchor up? Try some of these harbors, bays and cays.
- Want to know the best places to work on your tan? Visit any of these have-to-be-seen-to-be-believed beaches!
- Looking for something a little more unique? Off the beaten path? Atlas Obscura has compiled a list of 10 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in the Bahamas.
- And last, but not least, you gotta eat. From fresh sushi and seafood, to Italian, French and traditional Bahamian cuisine, one of these ten Bahamian restaurants is sure to satisfy your hunger.
Have a crossing experience you'd like to share, or want to suggest an item that came in handy? Click to email us, or leave us a comment below!