Looking For Great Cruising Grounds Close to Home?
The Eastern seaboard of the United States encompasses a picturesque and historical collection of cruising destinations, from the Florida Keys, offshore to the Bahamas, or up the east coast to New England and Maine.
The South Florida’s Eastern Coastline
Everything from bone fishing to swank nightlife can be found on Florida’s coast. One of the world’s greatest yachting centers is located along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale Florida, which lies about halfway between Palm Beach and Miami. This city is home base to many of the world’s most luxurious mega yachts.
There are hundreds of canals and rivers in the Fort Lauderdale that provide shelter for more than 20,000 yachts that base there year round in addition to the thousands that stop there during the winter season. Some reasons for the area’s popularity are because of the vast array of marine services and equipment manufacturers located in the Fort Lauderdale area, along with all the waterfront access to both shopping and dining.
A little further down the Intracoastal Waterway is Miami Beach, which is truly a unique area, made up of mostly man-made islands. Here you find hundreds of flamboyant world famous hotels, nine miles of beach, thousands of coconut palms, unlimited entertainment, and spectacular water views.
Cruising from Miami down to the Dry Tortugas you’ll discover numerous sub-tropical and tropical islands lined with excellent marinas. Underwater explorers can examine abundant shipwrecks that span five centuries of history, or investigate numerous caves, cliffs, and colorful coral reefs that are home to a variety of tropical fish.
Although you might be tempted to believe you have escaped to a far-off tropical island paradise, the easy comfort of the American facilities and customs serves as a pleasant reminder that the Florida Keys are indeed a U.S. vacation destination.
Historic old Key West is one of the high points on any cruise in the Florida Keys. It’s a charming city with a colorful, if not rowdy, past. It’s popular with artists, writers and sport fisherman. Yachting facilities are excellent and the restaurants of Key West are famous, especially for seafood, Conch and Spanish cooking.
The Bimini Island Chain
Across the Gulf Steam from Florida’s east coast lies the Bimini Island Chain. These sub tropical low-lying islands are a fantastic destination for a week-long sail. Bimini offers some of the finest SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing and beach combing anywhere. These “islands in the stream” offer water clarity that is nothing less than spectacular. Be sure to bring along your snorkel or diving gear.
For certified divers we highly recommend bringing or renting your SCUBA gear before you head across the Gulf Stream.
The Bimini Chain is lightly populated with the center of village life located on North Bimini, in Alice Town. There are many small restaurants, shops, and bars, as well as the Hemingway Museum at the Complete Angler Hotel. Marinas are abundant if you decide not to anchor out.
The beaches on North Bimini offer miles of uncrowded fine white sand and snorkeling from the water’s edge. Golf Carts and Mopeds are available for rent so you can explore the island. One of the most interesting dive and snorkel sites off of North Bimini is “Bimini Road”, which some say is the ruin of the lost city of Atlantis.
South Bimini is primarily residential with only two marinas. The new Bimini Sands Marina is located at the entrance to the harbor and has a Customs and Immigration office so you can clear in there without having to take a taxi and ferry over to North Bimini. The other marina is located at the south end of the island. Not far from the south end of South Bimini lies the wreck of the “Sappona”. This is a great snorkel and dive site.
The only other island in the Bimini’s with a marina is on North Cat Cay. This is a private island with some “high profile” homeowners. It is a truly beautiful setting at the marina and we recommend this for your last night in the Bahamas.
Just off the coast of South Cat Cay is a fantastic dive site. “Tuna Alley” has mooring balls and is 50’ to 80’ with deep caverns and crevasses in the coral.
The Bahamas’ Sea of Abaco
A little further offshore lays the Sea of Abaco comprising more than 1,000 square miles of protected cruising waters. The islands of Abacos have been described by visiting yachtsmen as a cruising paradise.
The Sea of Abaco provides some of the finest sailing/cruising conditions in the hemisphere. The small low lying islands break the swell of the Atlantic Ocean yet allow for the balmy southeasterly tradewinds. The offshore barrier reef which lays just to the east of these smaller islands and cays provides some of the finest snorkeling and diving experiences one can enjoy any place in the world.
The main land mass of the Abacos is an island named Great Abaco. It has one main settlement called Marsh Harbour and many smaller communities sprinkled across the island, as well as many small cays. Some of these settlements are very small and you are likely to be treated as family nearly anywhere you go in the Abacos.
The cays each offer their own personality. While there are a large number of cays in the Abacos, only a few of the cays are heavily inhabited. Ferries or private boats carry passengers to the Cays. All the cays offer beaches, nature and pristine waters. One can easily find a simple position on a cay and live a quiet life.
Cruising in the Abacos is a unique experience because you’re never out of sight of land and it’s also where the crystal clear water with its white sand bottom is always visible.
Eleuthera and the Exumas
Other popular cruising ground in the Bahamas is the Exumas, which can be reached easily by yachts based in Nassau.
Eleuthera offers excellent cruising. It is not necessary to cruise south towards the Exumas to enjoy the best of the Bahamas. Eleuthera offers a great mix of quaint villages, great restaurants, fabulous resorts, and quiet anchorages. The beaches are excellent and some even offer great surfing. Below the high points are outlined, but you could spend more than a few weeks of vacation and not discover all that Eleuthera has to offer.
Looking to enjoy some nice shoreside activities, Eleuthera is a great destination for you. The resort areas around Harbor Island and Govenor’s Harbor offer great social spots, restaurants, and even some shopping.
The Exuma Islands have everything that makes the Bahamas one of the premier yacht charter locations in the world: delightful small islands, pristine white beaches, interesting and historic places, exotic creatures, friendly locals. Within the Exumas, are 365 islands and cays that lie strung out across over 120 miles of ocean making this a yachting paradise! From the air, the cays look like jeweled stepping stones surrounded by a shimmering emerald sea giving this chain the distinction of being one of the prettiest in The Bahamas. The bright white sand of the deserted beaches is a striking contrast to the deep aquamarine and jade hues of the water.
Most of Exuma’s 3,600 residents live on Great Exuma or Little Exuma, the two largest islands in the south that are connected by a short bridge. Today almost half of the residents still go by the surname Rolle, and one of the largest settlements is appropriately named Rolleville.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a 176-square mile natural preserve offers brilliant coral reefs, exotic marine life and the rare Bahamian iguana—some of which grow to over two feet long. In Fowl Cay you can explore a salt water river taking you all the way through the heart of the island. It is a truly breathtaking experience.
The Prime Time to Cruise These Areas
The prime time for cruising in the waters of Florida and the Bahamas are the months of March through November. On the other hand the months of December through February, can be very uncomfortable should a cold front appear. You also need to keep in mind when planning a cruise in these areas that they can be affected by the annual hurricane season, which is typically mid-July through mid-October.
Hurricanes don’t just spring up. They move fairly slowly and are well documented. So with the pleasant summer weather, it’s relatively safe to plan a charter cruise during that time of the year. But you’ll need to keep an eye on the weather at all times, and it would be wise to purchase trip insurance should a storm affect the immediate area you’ve selected for your cruise.
The New England Coast
If you cruise along the New England coast during the summer, you’ll be able to discover the historic waterfronts of colonial Newport, Rhode Island; Block Island; Martha’s Vineyard; and Nantucket. All are great locations for a bit of history and high style shopping. The rugged coast of Maine also offers an ideal cruising ground with its stunning rocky cliffs and cooler summer weather and wonderful seafood.
Up the east coast in New England and Maine the summer cruising season starts around mid June and can extend far into September or October. Again, it would be wise to consider purchasing trip insurance because of the threat of hurricane season.
Although you’ll see numerous yachts cruising the areas mentioned here, only a small percentage are available for charter. This is all the more reason to call Charter the Caribbean to assist you in finding just the right yacht for your vacation of a lifetime.