Bahamas Sailing Tips, Tying to a Dock
How To Tie A Sailboat To A Dock In The Bahamas
Chartering a sailboat in the Bahamas, or sailing your own boat there from the U.S. can be a very rewarding experience. As with any new cruising grounds, you'll find a few customs and boating procedures that differ from those where you're used to sailing. Here are some Bahamas sailing tips that you might find useful.
For example, you will find that things are done slightly differently in the islands when it comes to tying up at a dock. In the Bahamas, including in the Abacos, Exumas or many other "out islands", dock space at marinas and piers is often very limited due to the large number of sailboats and powerboats visiting this popular cruising ground. You may be used to tying a sailboat alongside a dock back home, but in the Bahamas such a practice may be frowned upon at some docks, since you will be hogging valuable space needed by other boats. Every place that you dock may present a different situation, so this is just one way that you may be expected to tie up.
To tie a sailboat to the dock in the Bahamas, one way is to drop a stern anchor three or four boat lengths before the pier as you are approaching it, and pay out a line as you approach the dock. Have your sailing partner go to the bow and tie off to a piling or cleat, leaving a few feet of distance from the dock so your bow won't get trapped under it during a rising tide. Tides are not that serious in the Bahamas, but a two to three foot rise could cause big problems if the bow of your boat gets under the dock as it is rising. Next, take in the slack from the stern anchor line so that you snug up against it. In sandy harbors a Danforth anchor works well. You'll find Danforth anchors on many cruising yachts in the Bahamas.
By tying up bow-first such as this you'll give other boats who need to dock more room than if you had tied up broadside to the dock.
I've also seen sailboats tie up to docks in the Bahamas using the Mediterranean moor, with the stern instead of the bow toward the dock and a bow anchor holding the boat away from the dock. This is just another way of doing the same thing, and depending on your boat's style, may work just as well.
More Bahamas Sailing Tips and Chartering Good Manners
When anchoring out in the harbor, make sure to allow enough room between your boat and others, so that if the wind changes while you're ashore, you won't come back to find your sailboat scraping up against another one. Many sailors use the "Bahamian mooring", where two anchors are placed at opposing angles from the bow, in the direction of the most likely winds. Be aware of this and note how the boats next to you are anchored so you don't inadvertently foul their lines.
On a subject of a different sort, while anchored in harbor try and respect local codes of conduct. Nudity is generally frowned upon in crowded anchorages and near shore in the Bahamas, so use discretion when bathing and sunbathing. When anchored or docked next to other boats, keep your music to a modest level. Also know the rules about which fish, lobster and conch species are legal before doing any kind of fishing in the Bahamas. Don't go chartering in the Bahamas without a good guidebook to help you understand local laws and customs such as these.
One very good guidebook that my wife and I used while sailing in the Bahamas is the Cruising Guide To The Abacos and Northern Bahamas.
Chartering in the Bahamas is one of the best ways to explore remote cays and islands far off the beaten path. If you have the skills, there are many bare boat charter operations. For those without sailing skills, crewed charters are also available. A 35' monohull can comfortably sleep four to six people, and prices vary widely. You can cut down the cost of chartering a sailboat in the Bahamas by splitting the cost with another couple. Some operations offer "crewed by day" arrangements, where they will sail you to an anchorage and then the captain will leave you for the night, then return in the morning and sail the boat on to somewhere else.
© 2011 Nolen Hart