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Triton Survey: Warmer water, less wind makes summer in Bahamas a hit with captains, crew

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Survey by Lucy Chabot Reed
Photos by Capt. Herb Magney

When summer rolls around, yacht owners and guests often choose places they would rather not visit in winter — places like New England, the Med, Alaska.

That migration away from traditional winter cruising grounds can be a bonus for those who run against the tide. Take the Bahamas, for example. While the regular yachting crowd visits in winter, with its strong easterlies and cold fronts, summer weather makes the island chain ideal for water sports, exploring remote out islands and simply relaxing.

Sixty-five yacht captains and crew took our revived Triton Survey this month and most say they prefer being in the Bahamas in summer.

Do you like the Bahamas better in summer?

Do the owner/guests like it better in summer?

What do you think of the Bahamas in summer?

Love it. The breeze is lovely out in the islands, and the ocean is warmer for great diving. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Great. Warm clear water, calm winds from the east (ideally), not too many boats, and easy back and forth to Florida without Gulf Stream issues due to cold fronts.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

One of the best places for a yachting holiday in the world, and for water-based activities.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Love it. No crowded anchorages and winds are generally lighter, but it can be a bit hot.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Best place ever. I wish I could spend every summer based in the Bahamas, for the rest of my boating years.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Way too hot. Heat adds a difficulty to the guests’ experience and I found they tired a lot faster than during the more temperate winter seasons.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 140-160 feet

Beautiful in June, up till about July 15. August can be too warm to eat out on deck.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Best time to be there. Warm, calm and not so crowded.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

I was based in Albany and cruised the Exumas three times; it was very good. Provisions were readily available, cruising ground was excellent, guests were very happy. Only negative was the cost of taxis in Nassau.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Calm seas, hot breeze.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Owners and guests seem to be impressed. Lots of fishing, and a variety of things to do near the marinas. The food isn’t so great, but there are a few hidden gems.
— Chef on a yacht 120-140 feet

Can’t get enough of it — warm calm waters, not too crowded, fishing is great, just the best.
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Hot and less social than winter. You do have a lot more interaction with and make lasting bonds with the locals. It is expensive to go anywhere due to high taxi/person pricing coupled with it being too hot to go too far on foot or bicycle.
— Chef on a yacht 140-160 feet based there

Love it, and so does the family we work for. Just finished three years in the Caribbean and will spend the the next three years in the Bahamas while Caribbean rebuilds. A win-win for us. We don’t come back and forth like most yachts; we spend the years there unless we need an emergency repair.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Keep it a secret! Best place and time to cruise. Steady light SE trades keep the temperatures and humidity down, calm seas, no crowds, paradise.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

It is great as long as you want to be in the water. Sometimes it rains more than you would like. I found it more comfortable at night if there is a bit of a breeze than over in South Florida. June and July seem to have better weather than August and September. Maybe depart for New England late in July is the best way?
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Fantastic, beautiful area. It has everything the Caribbean has to offer but … much care needed.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Well, it certainly is hot and the horse flies are big as seagulls. That said, the fishing is quite good along with skin-diving. Pleasantly warm waters and it’s a great time to explore sand spits that can be walked on at low tide. The shelling can be quite exceptional, especially around Exuma Sound. I can’t speak to the night life as we were always in more remote areas.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

It’s terrible; tell everybody else to stay away. Honestly, it’s great. Winds are light, seas are calm, water is warm and clear. In late summer, the afternoon storms move through, but I love the Bahamas in summer.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Warmer water for water sports, no cold fronts, steady easterly winds. Light winds north of middle Exuma Cays, 15 knots average around Great Exuma latitude, 15 to 20 average south of Long Island. No real storm risk until August, but August and September are the calmest months; just keep a weather eye open. Have a protected marina space reserved for the fall months if a storm should develop. You get at least a week notice and can even head back to Florida for shelter. Love the summer, long daylight days. Tuna are around in early June and the billfish out by San Sal are good in summer. Offshore passages can be quite calm in the summer.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

The sailboats are gone, but it’s crowded nonetheless. Watch out for vibrio vulnificus, a flesh eating bacteria. I caught a case in July on Shroud Cay, Exumas. No visible cuts or wounds but my left foot suffered badly. Had the emergency doctors back in the States worried until they looked it up.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Loved it. Calm waters, uncrowded anchorages. Can anchor off the Exuma Sound side for a change.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Absolutely beautiful. Calm glassy waters, no outrageous cold fronts and the tropical rains are actually welcome at times. Heed hurricane warnings.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

May, June, first half of July (usually) are the best months. Light winds, warm clear water. Too many bugs ashore, but offshore is fantastic.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Awesome. Flat calm 90 percent of the time. The water is incredibly clear. Best time to be there.
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Definitely the best time of year to be out there, but don’t tell anybody.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Third-world ghetto surrounded by beautiful islands and water. The country is riddled with corruption and crime. There are a handful of good people there to make a trip easier. If it wasn’t for those relationships, the Bahamas wouldn’t be with visiting. I hope their government makes serious changes soon.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

 

What’s the best part of Bahamas in summer?

Guests are usually pretty impressed with having entire pristine beaches to themselves and their families.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 140-160 feet

What’s the best part of the Bahamas in summer?

Easy access from remote islands for better cruising and still the Bahamian people, which we consider great friends.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Ocean is warm, dive with no wetsuit, water calmer, anchoring calmer.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Calmer seas make the trips more comfortable so they stay longer and/or travel more often.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Freedom to cruise through the Cays.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

We liked that we didn’t have to wash the boat as much from the clean air.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 80-100 feet

In my experience, the winds have gradually increased over the years so that it is very comfortable in the islands in summer, with steady breezes.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

The Bahamas are about the water so it’s just really nice to be in it.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Light winds makes it easier to go diving and fishing.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Lobster season!!!!!!!!
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Shame we can only choose one!
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

 

What’s the worst part of Bahamas in summer?

It is hot, so spend more time in the water and in the shade. It’s real easy to do both.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

What’s the worst part?

Worst I’ve experienced was a charter in mid-August. A little too hot on deck, even for evening meals. But May, June and October are great.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Cost of taxis in New Providence.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Cost of everything.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 80-100 feet

It gets crowded.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Mosquitoes and sand fleas at sunset. Shore visits are best early morning and after 3 p.m. (the sun is too intense midday). Midday is best for diving.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Most owners don’t like the 90 degree heat and the 100 percent humidity.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Prices, corruption, and dockage, at times.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Lobster season closes Aug. 1. It is warm/hot everywhere in the summer, even in the Carolinas, Chesapeake and New York. At least there is a breeze in the islands.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

 

What can you do in the Bahamas in summer you can’t do in winter?

Spend hours in the water without a wetsuit and find a quiet place, even in a popular area.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Better in summer

Count on calmer weather for small boat activities. Enjoy the popular activities with no crowds.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Access the windward sides of many islands. More access to reefs and secluded beaches. More access to great dive sites. Calmer transits for guests between places.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Not jostle with other boats for the best anchorages.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 140-160 feet

Get away from people.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Scuba naked and cruise in calm seas.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Spend much more time in the water since it is nice and warm and the days are much longer.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

The weather conditions for diving, snorkeling, fishing inshore and offshore are much better. You can also enjoy the islands without a ton of vessels of all sizes.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

More activities as there is less wind.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Enjoy it. In the winter, the water’s cold and it’s rough due to the winter winds.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Depart on just about any day as the weather and seas cooperate.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Make last minute reservations.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Swim every day. Get a slip at Atlantis.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Anchor on the Exuma Sound side.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

What can’t you do?

Get stuck in a harbor while a cold front moves through.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Beach setups (you can, but it cooks everybody). Lyford Cay grocery store (ex. Captain’s Corner) is closed.
— Chief Stew on a yacht 140-160 feet

Relax about hurricanes.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Find a lot of single people with free time to hang out with.
— Chef on a yacht 140-160 feet

You cannot get away from the sea lice. They are there for a short period of time, dreadful little things.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Watch all the mom-and-pop sailboaters act like idiots.
— Captain on a yacht 80-100 feet

Eat at closed restaurants.
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Keep everyone from complaining about the heat.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

There is nothing you can’t do in summer.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

 

What do you do when a hurricane is predicted?

What do you do when a hurricane comes?

I always keep those options open and am aware of where I am going and where I can get into if a storm arrives. There are several good spots in the Abacos, where I usually am.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

The best place to be in a hurricane is someplace else. That said, I watch the path and make a decision based on available forecasts while I still have time to depart if needed.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

I have been there for Category 1 hurricanes and left town for larger ones. I’ve been through many near-hurricanes at the docks and out anchored on the banks.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Our insurance requires tying up in Atlantis, or back in Fort Lauderdale at a concrete dock.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Use your weather forecasting service and always have enough fuel to run to a safe place. I did Hurricane Andrew in Spanish Wells with over 200 mph wind gusts. Happy I was on a Burger.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet who leaves

Had a charter, sent the guests home and rode out Hurricane Andrew in Spanish Wells. That was enough for me. The Bahamas has been a bullseye for the last few years
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet who now leaves

Normally, I go back to Florida, but I take each one for what it is and make a decision to stay or go when I still have time to get to Fort Lauderdale and get up the New River.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Plan your hide strategy. Have at least 30 heaven lines for docking and more for an in-water dingy.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

It really depends on the marina. Floating docks are helpful when dealing with storm surge. I’ll normally stay with the vessel, depending on hurricane category
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Typically dictated by the insurance company.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

Head south.
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

 

Final thoughts about the Bahamas in summer:

I prefer the Bahamas in the summer for most of the common reasons listed in this survey. But my owner typically heads for the milder climate of his Wyoming ranch for the summer so he rarely, if ever, sees the benefits of the summer weather and smaller crowds.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

If I could choose, I would be all year around in the Bahamas. I especially like the summer and early fall for the weeks on end of flat calm days. It is the best ever. I wish I was there right now instead of Italy.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

Get out to the isolated islands that are usually getting pounded by the trades in the winter.
— Captain on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Summer is for diving and watersports. Winter is for socializing.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Summertime is hard for the locals. Crime is up; watch your guns.
— Chef on a yacht 120-140 feet

It’s too hot, especially when on a small boat that doesn’t have much power. The A/C zaps it all.
— Chef on a yacht larger than 160 feet

Late August is probably the best kept secret. Everyone goes home, back to work and school.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

Summer is the best time in the Bahamas. The water is beautifully warm, the seas are calm and the days are long.
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

If the crew has use of the tender/tow-behind, it is significantly better.
— Chef on a yacht 140-160 feet

Many guests go to the Bahamas to get away from the winter season up north or from other cold parts of the world, and they have never seen the Bahamas in the summer. I am on my way right now for a three-month cruise on my own boat. Anytime after August (which I consider late summer), you should work your way out of the Bahamas.
— Captain on a yacht 140-160 feet

I personally like the majority of calm days. And anchoring at night, not having to worry about dragging anchor.
— Captain on a yacht 100-120 feet

In my opinion, the great thing about the Bahamas is the waters. The land is pretty sad, limestone and brush. In summer, you can take advantage of the waters.
— Captain on a yacht less than 80 feet

Keep it a secret!
— Captain on a yacht 120-140 feet

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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