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Abaco Islands Boating Tips
Last Updated: Jul-11-2014, Hits: 8,238, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Abaco Islands Boating Tips
The best way to explore the Abacos is by boat, however, there are a number of important things to know if you are new to boating or the area.

First, understand that you will most likely be boating in the shallow Sea of Abaco which has an average depth of only 18 feet. There are many places where the depth drops to levels impassible for some boats depending on tides. Most rental boats come with depth finders to aid in navigation, but it is good to have charts and all of the other boating information provided in the Cruising Guide to Abaco - Make sure you get the current version. It doesn't happen often, but people do beach/wreck their boats in the shallows. There is a reason that early settlers were able to sustain themselves salvaging wrecks.

Next, 2 cardinal rules for your rental boat:
  • Never boat at night. It is not only dangerous, it is against your boat rental contract. If you wreck your boat at night, you just bought it.
  • Never take your rental boat into the Atlantic for the same reasons as above. Stay within the boundaries set by your rental company.
When boating, make sure you check the weather conditions before heading out, especially off season. The waters in the Sea of Abaco can get very choppy with swells and breaking waves from weather known as "The Rage". Catamarans are better in choppy seas and also have a very shallow draw.

A particularly tough section is known as Whale Cay passage which separates the northern island group from the southern. This 3+ mile passage requires larger boats to leave the protected Abaco Sea out into the Atlantic around Whale Cay. This is due to the fact that the Abaco sea is too shallow between Treasure Cay and Whale Cay for safe passage.

There is a second option for boats with low draws known as "Don't Rock Passage" which involves a channel that passes by Don't Rock. This small rock can be located at 26.684912, -77.246840. You can pass this rock on the east or west, but after stay to the east as it gets shallow to the west very quickly off of Treasure Cay. The channel will take you to the east of the Sand Bank Cays. This passage gets down to 4' deep, so if your boat draws that, you'll have to take the Whale Cay Passage. In calm weather, this passage is easier than many publications will have you believe. Our catamaran rental had very little draw and we were easily able to pass. There are nautical charts of both routes in the Cruising Guide to Abaco.

The image below shows the 2 routes:

Whale Cay Passage

The next consideration is weather. Neither of the above routes should be attempted in inclement weather as it can get very rough here. Any day that you plan to boat, tune into VHF channel 68 at 8:15am for the Cruiser's Net Radio Show which has the best available weather forecast for the day as well as the conditions at the passages.

Next, realize that weather forecasts aren't always correct. When you go boating, you need to be prepared to stay the night on a different island than where you are currently staying if an unexpected storm arrives.

If you have a boating, or any other emergency, call VHF channel 16 for help.

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