Cruisers’ ‘Net and VHF radio
The best source of daily local Abaco information for visitors is the Cruisers’ ‘Net radio program that is broadcast on VHF channel 68 every morning at 8:15 AM. The ‘Net starts off with a cheerful welcome, which is immediately followed by a weather report. Next is some international headline news and a quick look at the stock market. Then several Abaco businesses, particularly restaurants, bars, and tour operators, announce their hours and availability, menus, specials, etc. There is more local news, an opportunity to welcome new arrivals as well as acknowledge departures, an “open mic” session, and a repeat of the weather at 9 AM for later risers. I like to wake up every morning at about 7:30, clear out the cobwebs, walk to a beach or a high elevation so I can assess the weather, and then sit down with breakfast and listen to the ‘Net.
The ‘Net usually originates from Marsh Harbour, and it can be heard (depending on some things we’ll talk about in a minute) from Little Harbour to Green Turtle Cay. Now, for those who don’t know what a VHF radio is, it’s sort of like a long-range walkie-talkie that boaters (as well as folks on land) use for communication. VHFs that are based in most boats and houses broadcast with 25 watts of power; smaller handheld models broadcast at three watts, so their signal won’t travel as far. Houses and boats also typically have longer, higher antennas, which allow them to hear signals more clearly from farther away. So a person sitting in a house on a hill whose radio has a long (usually about 6 feet) antenna will be able to hear things that a person standing on a dock with handheld VHF cannot.
If you are staying at a resort or a house, ask if there is a VHF and if you can listen to Cruiser’s ‘Net in the morning; almost everyone in Abaco does. On your boat, turn on channel 68; you may want to turn down the squelch until you figure out how strong your reception will be. If you have a small boat and can’t hear, walk the docks and find someone in a larger boat with a higher antenna, you’ll usually be able to hear theirs.
I always bring a handheld VHF when I travel to Abaco by air. Depending on where I am, I can use it to listen to the ‘Net. In addition, I can communicate with other folks, or I can just listen to Ch 16 and just kind of see what’s happening. There are many different brands and styles; you should be able to buy one for about $150 or so, maybe less. I use a Standard Horizon HX255, it works just fine.
Is there a “travel guide” to Abaco?
Yes there is, it just doesn’t look quite like one. Steve Dodge’s Cruising Guide to Abaco 201X is aimed at boaters, but it has a wealth of information that any visitor to Abaco would find useful. I can’t think of another print or Internet source that would give you more.
First, there are wonderful photos of the islands and the surrounding ocean. There are maps and charts of not just waterways, but highways as well. There’s a description of each community and its businesses: hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops, boat and car rentals, tour services, you name it. Colorful advertisements will steer you toward whatever you need or want. A yellow pages section has business addresses and telephone numbers. There are great articles about dolphins, snorkeling spots, ferry service, airlines, fishing, Abaco’s history, “The Year in Review,” weather, and more.
If you are even considering renting a boat, the Guide is an absolute must (as is my Advice to Novice and Rental Boaters). Plus, unless you plan to spend your entire vacation in Marsh Harbour, you’ll find yourself on a ferry, and it’s great fun to be able to reference a chart as you pass each island. Dodge’s Cruising Guide to Abaco 201X is available at his web site, as well as West Marine (both online and brick and mortar outlets), Bluewater Books, and locally at most marinas. I promise you it’s the best twenty-five bucks you’ll spend on your vacation.
Here's a little video of North Beach on Guana Cay to wet your appetite: Speakers on!
I want to take my family on an adventure, but I don’t have a boat…
You have come to the right place, there are lots of ways to “adventure” in Abaco.
Lincoln Jones has been running fish & picnic tours out of Green Turtle Cay for many years. In ’99 Bunny and I spent a wonderful day with him. He picked us up at Black Sound Marina in his 26-foot center console; there were five other people in the party. We left Black Sound and headed NW around the south side of Manjack, then on out Manjack Pass into the ocean. We anchored in about 60 feet of water and spent a couple of hours bringing up yellowtails, grouper, triggerfish, you name it (Lincoln provides all the tackle). Then he took us to “Lincoln Park,” a gorgeous little beach in a cove on the sheltered NW corner of Manjack. After making us a giant batch of “Lincoln Punch,” he entertained us by cleaning our catch and feeding the scraps to his two pet stingrays that just happened to show up as if “on call.” Bunny walked over to the boat (we were in thigh-deep water), picked up a small piece of fish, held it in her hand on the bottom, and a stingray gently sucked it into his mouth. Very cool! Lincoln then set up a campfire and fried up our catch. We ate our island feast on a little picnic table overlooking the cove. What a great day!
What about cell phone service and Internet access in Abaco?
These issues change frequently. Below we have listed some comments, but for the most current information go to the Abaco Forum, and click SEARCH on the menu bar. Make sure you use the Tag Search feature, just enter "cell phone" or "Internet access" to get the most current info.
As of December 2011,
"The only phones that will work in the Bahamas are GSM phones. This is the new international standard but unfortunately some US carriers are sticking with the old technology. AT&T and T-Mobile have GSM systems and, if you have an unlocked GSM phone then you can also easily substitute a prepaid BTC Sim card and save yourself the roaming charges. Check with Island Care Wireless or Caribbean Mobile Distributors in Marsh Harbour"
As of early 2012 the two principal Internet service providers in Abaco are Out Island Internet (OII) and Bahamas Wimax. Both offer wi-fi and DSL and are constantly upgrading and expanding services; check the Abaco Forum for the most recent information. Many cottages and resorts now offer Internet access, check with them during your reservation process.
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If you must have a cell phone as soon as you arrive in Abaco, and your US phone won't work, you can "quickly" buy and activate one locally for about $200 (plus usage, etc.) at Island Care Wireless, Let's Talk Wireless, Marsh Harbour Electronics, or Batelco (all in Marsh Harbour). Don't be surprised if it takes a day or two. Rates are "monthly," fess range from 15 to 30 cents/min., calls to the US 50-60 cents/min. For details go to the BTC web site.
The easiest and cheapest way to call the US (or other countries) is using an ordinary pay phone with a Batelco phone card. These are available at a wide variety of shops, stores, marinas and resorts. The come in $5, $10, and $20 demoninations. You simply dial an access number, then enter the code that is printed under a seal on the card. Calls average about 50 cents/min to the US, and the connections are usually good. Do not use the yellow or blue "Call the US" phones that you 'll see around the various commities; we have heard numerous stories of people being charged $40-$45 for a three-minute call (it goes directly agaqinst your credit card).
Well, if my cell phone won't work, how can my family or job reach me in an emergency?
Leave the phone number of the resort, marina, or cottage where you'll be staying with key people who may have need to reach you. Advise them that they will probably have to leave a message, and that you will return the call. You might also want to warn them that there are times when the Bahamian telephone system is a little, well, buggy, and they may have to try a few times.
Can a satellite telephone phone provide me with reliable communication capability?
I am aware of two types of satphone that are used in Abaco: Globalstar and Iridium. They both get very mixed reviews; here are some user comments:
- After Jeanne and Francis, I rented a Globalstar to use on one trip since cell phones and land lines were down. It was spotty service, multiple dials to get a number, a lot of dropped calls that had to be redialled, voice breakups and static, etc. Having said that it was a whole lot better than nothin' and I eventually accomplished all I needed to. johnmck, 5/3/05
- Iridium has better all around service with far fewer incidents of dropped calls but it is quite a bit more expensive than Globalstar. Globalstar also has a 9600 baud data capability without huge additional equipment cost. If you are willing to pay the additional bucks then go with Iridium. If cost is a factor then despite the odd problem with Globalstar, it is generally fine. Island Notes, 5/3/05
- David and I have the Globalstar sat phone and it works, if we are standing very still outside the cottage on Guana Cay with lots of patience. SueBowe, 5/5/05.
- I use Globalstar but would recommend it only to those who understand its limitations. There is a basic difference in system design between it and Iridium. Both use a constellation of low-orbiting satellites. However, Iridium uses as many satellites as it needs to connect between endpoints of a call. Globalstar uses only one. What this means using Globalstar is that you can only make a call when a satellite is about 20 degrees above the horizon. In theory, the call will get passed to another satellite when the one you are using sinks to about 20 degrees above the opposite horizon. In the Bahamas, this seldom happens. Instead, your call gets cut off. Average call length is 4 to 5 minutes. I have never had one longer than 10 minutes. So long as you and the people you are calling are OK with this, it works fine. Xaxero has a satellite tracker that will display the current satellite locations and the angle of the nearest one. At one time, the demo version was freeware. I do not know if this is still the case. Pellucid, 5/4/05
- Have used a Globalstar sat phone for the past two years, the last couple months in the Abacos. It works........most of the time. The most frustrating thing about it is the dropped calls. One minute you've got a strong signal. The next minute the signal's gone. The longest I was able to hold a signal was 15 min. Price on a new phone was around $450. Monthly service plans, with free minutes, start around $40. Would I recommend buying one? Depends. I would rather use a cell phone if possible; cheaper and more reliable. If no cell phone coverage is available, then Globalstar is the most economical choice. You just have to deal with the dropped calls. Alan Brown, 11/18/04
- Having used both, the Globalstar works pretty well in the northern Bahamas (Abacos), but service runs to zilch anywhere south and east of New Providence (Nassau). Iridium, on the other hand, works like a dream. Kimberly, 5/4/05
- Globalstar is cheaper (both for the phone & the service) but not as reliable. I use mine in Walkers but get disconnects quite often cuz the satellite is not close enough. I think the coverage is better in Marsh Harbor. Irridum has greater world wide coverage and is more reliable in the Bahamas, but you will pay for it. Our sat phone has come in very handy in the Bahamas. Our plan costs $50 a month for 120 minutes, $0.75 for additional minutes thru GMPCS in Pompano Beach. Gotta check their monthly billing closely for errors. CarolP, 9/28/04
- Have an Iridium phone and it has never failed and it sounds if you are sitting next to the person. Spent the hurricanes with Captain Marty who had Globalstar and she had a hard time staying connected and said even without bad weather she had problems with dropped calls after 15 minutes. I was able to call home to Kansas during the height of the storm and the only reason they had trouble hearing me was because of the wind (here not in Kansas). Iridium is more expensive. Set-up was about $1600 which included phone, 200 minutes, waterproof case, and a car antennae, which works very well, you don't need the marine/boat, more expensive one. You don't have a monthly plan as you do with Globalstar, you buy a certain amount of minutes and they are there until you use them. Our first few sets of minutes we bought were $.99 per minute (same as Batelco) but the last ones have cost us $1.25 per minute. Unfortunately once you buy you're phone you're stuck with the service that is provided by the company you bought the phone from and you can't shop around for cheaper minutes... I think. Agur's Wish, 2/28/05
What are the regulations for bringing dogs and cats into the Bahamas?
For the U.S. and Canada, the following are the main provisions of the import permit as it applies to dogs and cats:
(a) The animal must be 6 months of age or older.
(b) The animal must be accompanied by a valid certificate which substantiates that it has been vaccinated against rabies within NOT less than one (1) month and NOT more than ten (10) months prior to importation for the one (1) year vaccine; for the three (3) year vaccine it must be within NOT less than one (1) month and NOT more than thirty-four (34) months prior to importation into The Bahamas.
(c) The animal must be accompanied by a Veterinary Health Certificate presented within 48 hours of arrival in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to a licensed veterinarian for an examination.
OK, lets clear this up so everyone's not having their pets vaccinated just before they bring them to the Bahamas. I capitalized the NOT in the regulations above. This means they do not want your pet vaccinated within one month of your visit or longer than 10 months for a one year vaccine and 1 and 34 for the 3 year. The Bahamas does not have rabies in any of its animals and are trying to keep it that way so they are requiring that the vaccine has a month to take effect and is only good for 10 months instead of 12. This is how the Dept of Ag explained it to me so hope this helps to clear the confusion. (Thanks to flyingdogs)
Do they take credit cards, are there ATMS?
Most resorts, marinas, restaurants, and many shops and bars will accept Visa, MC, and AMEX. Discover cards are usually not accepted. Some tour operators and guides will want to be paid in cash, make sure you understand those arrangements before you leave.
Cash can be hard to come by, especially on the offshore cays; you just don't walk up to an ATM and draw another $300 for the day. When the banks are open, it's usually for a couple of hours, and then only on certain days. Bring plenty of cash, you can always take it back home. I allow about $800-$1000 per week. (Some of the banks in Marsh Harbour do have ATMs, in a pinch you can ride the ferry over and access needed cash.)
We never take travelers' checks, theft is very unusual.
What if someone in my party becomes seriously ill, or sustains a severe injury?
One of the down sides to vacationing in an island paradise is the relative absence of sophisticated medical care. The health care providers of Abaco, such as the great people at Hopetown Volunteer Fire and Rescue, do a heroic job of attending to these catastrophes. That having been said, they simply do not have the capability of doing an emergency coronary angioplasty or setting a severe femur fracture.
Both of these events (heart attack, bad broken leg) have occurred in Abaco the last few years. In each case, an air ambulance was summoned from the US, flew into Marsh Harbour, and transported the patients to hospitals in Florida. The cost of just the transport is about $10,000; neither party was reimbursed by insurance.
It is possible to buy an emergency air transport insurance plan or pre-paid service. One company that offers such such a plan is MedjetAssist. I personally have never obtained this type of coverage, but at age 55 I'm feeling a little more vulnerable, and I'm toying with the idea of signing up prior to visiting Abaco again. If you have a significant chronic illness, you are elderly, you plan to participate in significantly hazardous activity, or you just want to be careful, you might want to look into MedjetAssist. Troy Albury at Dive Guana takes a slightly different approach to "island adventure:" one day each week (more frequently on demand), Troy takes a boatload from Guana to the Fowl Cay area for some snorkeling. They then run to Elbow Cay, where it's lunch (pay as you go) at the Hopetown Harbour Lodge, with an extra hour to explore Hopetown. He then takes the group across the harbour to the famous candy-striped lighthouse for a climb to the top. Next is a stop at Man-O-War, with visits to the Sail Shop and the boat-building facilities. On the way back to Guana, Troy stops to dive up a few conch, and then serves fresh conch salad. The trip departs at 10 AM, and returns at around 4; current price is $50. For more info contact Dive Guana.
Our group at Lincoln Cove on Manjack, and one of his pet stingrays. This one had a wingspan of four feet; he ate right out of my hand.
Do I need a passport to enter the Bahamas?
As of January 23, 2007, the US government is requiring that all passengers returning from the Bahamas (and essentially everywhere else) show a valid passport. Bahamian Immigration has become more stringent about this requirement as well. Click here for details.
Immigration agents in both countries have become "less forgiving" since 9/11. In the past, you could enter the Bahamas with a birth certificate that has a raised seal, i.e. an original, plus a photo ID such as a valid driver's license. Since Jan 23, we are hearing reports that air travelers, children included, are being required to produce passports.
This issue usually arises when a group or family plan a trip to Abaco, and a few days before departure someone realizes that they need and don't have a passport. We have watched agents at airline check-in counters refuse to allow passengers to board who did not have the required documents, and they are usually devastated. However, it is important to understand that if the airline transports a passenger to the Bahamas and their ID is refused, the airlines have to eat the cost of carrying them back to the US, and they really don't like to do that. We are aware of at least two airlines that service Marsh Harbour that have an absolute requirement that passengers have a passport, and they are told that at the time they make reservations.
So, YES, you do need a passport, at least to travel by air from the US to the Bahamas and back.
Should we bring groceries and beverages to Abaco?
Ask that question to ten veteran Abaco visitors, and you’ll get ten different answers. It depends on a number of factors; let’s take a look at them.
- You obviously can’t cook if you’re staying in a motel-style room that has no facilities. Some rooms will have small refrigerators or a microwave; some cottages and homes will have a full kitchen. Make sure you get this information from wherever you are staying before you go any further with this type of planning.
- Some proprietors will stock the room for you; discuss this in advance, and be prepared to pay them back in cash when you arrive.
- Food can be heavy, and beverages are really heavy. A twelve-pack of beer or soda weighs ten pounds; do you want to pay for and lug that extra weight? Those items are readily available at about twice the US price in Abaco.
- Popular items, such as Coca Cola, are readily available; Fresca may not be. You can usually find what you need; it may not be the brand you are used to.
- Hard liquor is about the same price as in the US; the variety and selection may be limited in the smaller stores. Your favorite wine may be hard to come by; you may want to consider bringing it in.
- Bahamian customs regs allow each adult to bring “one quart of spirits” into the country. I have never ascertained how that would convert to wine or beer, but I doubt you would want to carry in enough for it to be a problem.
- Don’t even think of bringing in flats of bottled water; they weigh a ton, and it’s readily available.
- Does someone in your party have special dietary needs? (And I don’t mean “Junior has to have his raspberry Pop-Tart every morning.) You may need to bring in those items.
- How long are you staying; will it be convenient for you and can you sustain the expense of eating every meal out?
- Is breakfast just a cup of coffee, or do you need real food in the morning?
- Most days you’re going to play hard, and in the summer, it doesn’t get dark until almost 9 PM. Hey Mom, are you going to be up for cooking at this point?
There are grocery and liquor stores in every community in Abaco; the number of stores, the size of each store, and the quantity and variety of goods is roughly proportional to the size of the community you’re considering. So Marsh Harbour has several grocery and liquor stores; there is one of each on Guana Cay. The grocery stores in Marsh are more likely to be open on Sundays and holidays; don’t plan on the stores on the cays being open on Sunday. Some visitors go straight from the airport to a grocery store and/or liquor store in Marsh, and then to the ferry dock. Just consider you’ll have to carry this stuff on and off the ferry, and to your destination. You might be able to get what you need at the local store.
Milk, water, bread, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and those sort of basic things, are always available anywhere. Conversely, you may have trouble finding good beef; although in June '05 we found excellent beef at the larger grocery stores in Marsh Harbour. A bag of chips or cookies can easily cost $5; get used to high prices, it all has to be imported, and then it’s taxed. (After a while the restaurants won’t seem so expensive.) Ice is pricey; we’ve paid $7 for ten pounds.
If you’re traveling with kids, it helps to discuss the reality of vacationing in the “rural Bahamas” ahead of time. There are no fast food places like McDonalds , no pizza joints. There are great places you can visit for lunch; maybe that will hold them until dinner. When they need snacks, consider PBJs or something you can easily prepare and/or carry. I would definitely bring a cooler (we’ll talk more about this a little later) so you can haul drinks and snacks to the beach or on the boat.
I’m going to share with you how my wife Bunny and I have dealt with the food issue over the years. We don’t have young children any more, it’s just the two of us, so temper our experience with your situation. When we go over for a quick trip, say three or four nights, we don’t plan on cooking. We’ll stay somewhere that has a restaurant that serves breakfast (I gotta have real food in the morning!), and hopefully the room will have a little fridge (many resorts and cottages do). We always take a small roller cooler, we’ll keep drinks in the room if we don’t have a fridge, we’ll take it on the boat during the day, and we’ll use it to bring home conch or lobster.
If we’re staying a week, we’ll rent a house or a cottage that has cooking facilities. We’ll bring in a couple of steaks, maybe a pack of chicken breasts, some frozen spaghetti, something like that, in the cooler. We’ll try to get to whatever cay we’re staying on in time to get to the local grocery and liquor store; if they won’t be open for whatever reason, we may ask the proprietor to do a little shopping for us. We’ll eat out on arrival night, then alternate eating out and cooking in. We’ll cook breakfast in the morning, maybe carry a few snacks in the cooler (but we love stopping at places like Capt Jack’s or Nippers for lunch), then do our evening meal.
If we visit on the boat for two weeks, we’ll bring about four meals, eat out six or seven times, and plan on cooking what we catch maybe three or four nights. We obviously have extra room on the boat for storing food, but you may want to follow a similar arrangement.
I think people worry too much about this issue. So often we hear people say at the end of the trip, “I brought way too much food, and way too many clothes.” There’s a saying here: “Bring half the stuff and twice the money,” and it usually rings true. In most instances, I think you’ll find what you need in Abaco. If you have a particular need or want, bring it in a small cooler, you’ll definitely use the cooler. Otherwise, relax, mon, all will be well. Have a great trip!
Other guide/operators offer similar day trips with varying mixes of fishing, diving/snorkeling, boating, sailing, exploring, and rumming.
- Brendal has been running dive/picnic trips out of Green Turtle for over 20 years, his trips are fabulous.
- Mark Gonsalves' Cruise Abaco (Lubbers Quarters) does daysail trips, but also offers 4- and 7-day trips on his 37-foot sloop “Lokadune.” He and some other Abaconians have also established a sailing school, Abaco Sailing.
Taxis, golf carts, rental cars, and Ferries
(All listings below are current as of December 2012)
Taxi service is readily available on the doorstep of the airport in Marsh Harbour. Once you clear Customs, just walk outside and hail one of the numerous cabs that will have lined up. The standard fee for transportation into Marsh Harbour and the ferry docks is $12; it’s about a ten-minute ride. The cabbies are usually happy to stop for groceries, liquor, etc., but it is prudent to discuss the extra cost before you leave the airport. When it comes time to return to the airport, you’ll find cabs at both ferry docks, or you can have your marina hail them on the radio. Cab fare from Marsh to Treasure Cay and vice versa (about 45 minutes or so) is about $75; make sure you discuss this before you get in the cab. .
There are also cabs available at the Treasure Cay airport that will take you to the resort or to the Green Turtle ferry dock. At night, it’s usually easy to have someone at the resort bar or restaurant call a cab if you want to eat at one of the area restaurants. These are all five-minute trips, very inexpensive. There is one cab that I am aware of on Green Turtle, and I think he stands by on VHF 14. I am not aware of taxi service on Guana, MOW, or Elbow Cays.
You can rent a car in Marsh Harbour, but not on the offshore cays. Conversely, you can rent a golf cart on the cays, but not in Marsh, the auto traffic is too heavy. Here are listings for rental cars in Marsh Harbour (as of December ’12; all are area code 242):
- A&A Car Rentals, 367-2148
- A&P Auto Rentals, 367-2655
- Bargain Car Rental, 367-0555
- Covenant Car Rentals, 367-4007
- D’s Minivan Rentals, 367-3980
- Flamingo Car Rentals, 367-4787
- Reliable Car Rental, 367-4234
- SeaStar Car Rentals, 367-4887 (several friends have used and like them)
- Veronica’s Car Rentals, 367-2725
You really don’t need to rent a car unless you are staying out of Marsh, or you want to drive south or west to explore Great Abaco, a trip that we highly recommend.
Car rental agencies in Treasure Cay include:
- Cornish Car Rentals, 365-8623
- Treasure Cay Airport Car Rental, 365-8961
- Triple J Car Rentals, 365-8761
Golf carts provide convenient and useful transportation on the offshore cays. They usually run $40-$50/day; an alternative is to ask the people where you are staying to haul you into town or to restaurants, etc.; make sure you tip the driver. Here are current (December ’11) listings for golf cart rentals:
- Resort Cart Rentals, 365-8465
Green Turtle Cay:
- Bay Street Golf Cart Rentals (Bluff House), 365-4070
- D&P Golf Carts Green Turtle Club), 365-4655
- Island Property Management Rentals, 365-4465
- New Plymouth Rentals, 365-4161
- Sea Side Rentals, 365-4120
- Shell Hut Rentals, 365-4188
- South Beach Golf Cart Rentals, 365-4375
- Donna Sands Golf Carts, 365-5195
- Chariots for Hire (MOW Marina), 365-6008
- Waterways rentals, 365-6143
Hope Town/Elbow Cay
- JR's Car Rentals 366-0361
- Elbow Cay Cart Rentals, 366-0530
- Hope Town Cart Rentals, 366-0064
- Island Cart Rentals, 366-0448
- T&N Cart Rentals, 366-0069
Transportation from Marsh Harbour to the offshore cays is facilitated by Albury’s Ferry Service (check the web sites for schedules and fees). Ferries to Hope Town and MOW Cay depart from Albury’s Ferry Dock at Crossing Beach; ferries to Guana and Scotland Cay depart from the ferry dock at Conch Inn. Just tell the cabby you want the ferry to whatever cay, and they’ll get you to the right place. The Green Turtle Ferry shuttles between Treasure Cay Airport dock and Green Turtle Cay; they usually tie up in New Plymouth, but may access Black Sound and/or White Sound. Call 242-365-4128 or 4166 for schedules and rates, or see the ad near the back cover of Dodge’s Cruising Guide to Abaco.
For those hardy folks who desire ferry service from Abaco to Grand Bahama Island, Pinder’s Ferry Service runs between Crown Haven (about 65 miles west of Marsh Harbour on Little Abaco Island), and McClean’s Town on Grand Bahama Island (about 40 miles east of Freeport). As of December ’05, the fee was $40 one-way. There are rental cars available near each terminal. Call 242-365-2356 for details. Please note: these boats are smaller and open, unlike the ferries in the hub area of Abaco, and the schedule can be quite "flexible."
Some cottages and house rentals may include a boat; typically this is a smallish skiff or Whaler, 17-18 feet. Make sure you understand the limitations of these relatively small vessels. Most companies offer center consoles in the 20-26’ range. A couple can make due with a 20-footer; a party of 6-8 will want a 26-footer. Larger boats will typically handle rough weather better than smaller ones. Several companies offer locally produced Albury 20- and 23-foot center consoles. These are wonderfullly hardy seaworthy craft; others offer Paramount, Aquasport, Whaler, Ace Marine, Twin Vee, and Ocean Pro vessels. I think the size is more important than the actual make.
Most companies have restrictions as to the number of passengers you can carry in a given boat. They also may restrict your access across the Treasure Cay/Whale Cay shoal, and they may not allow you to take the boat into the ocean. Confirm these details at the time you make your reservation.
Reserve your boat early! We have heard many laments from prospective renters who could not find a boat 6-8 weeks ahead during the busier months (May-July). Do not get caught in the “I’ll wait ‘til I get down there and see how the weather is” mindset. This might work in the winter months, but it surely won’t during the rest of the year.
Traveling around in the Sea of Abaco in a small boat is a real treat, it’s the best way to experience the beauty of the area. If you have some boating skills and experience, we heartily recommend you rent a boat while you’re in Abaco.
One more note: gas runs about $6/gallon, and most outboards will burn 0.5-1.0 gallons for every nautical mile you travel. So a trip from Seaspray Marina on Elbow Cay to Guana Settlement and back in an Albury 20 will incur roughly the following in terms of fuel cost: 11.5 nm one way x 2 = 23 nm using about 15 gallons x $6/gallon = about $90! Just something to keep in mind while you’re figuring your trip budget.
Here is a list of rental boat companies as of December ’12; all are area code 242.
- Concept Boat Rentals, 367-5570
- B&B Boat Rentals, 367-7368
Green Turtle Cay
- Dames Boat Rentals, Bluff House, 365-4247
Elbow Cay/Hope Town