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furtherafield Bahama split T he art of chartering is one that it pays to master - particularly when it comes to somewhere like the Bahamas, which throws some 700 islands and uninhabited cays into the mix. Where to start, quite literally, can be baffling. Just how far do you go ( again, quite literally) to ensure you get the best of the islands? Fortunately, both nature and the practicalities of cruising help to narrow your choice, leaving you with the cream of the Abacos and Exumas, and a few more remote islands for those with the desire, and time, to prolong their cruise. Most Bahamian charters tend to begin and end in Nassau, whisking you through the Exumas and often being extended a few days to encompass Harbour Island and Eleuthera, and possibly the Berry Islands. As sea conditions are unpredictable in the Gulf, it is advisable to let your yacht travel ahead and for you to meet it in the Bahamas. Daily flights to Nassau make this easy. You can fly direct from many US cities, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach international airports, as well as from many international destinations. Travelling to your yacht is then a quick sprint on a local plane, seaplane or private air charter. Clustered in distinct groups, with a few drifting loners, the islands of the Bahamas are perfect for chartering - you just need to know which to include on your itinerary BySuzette McLaughlin cruising grounds WINTER 2010I sea& iI55 ?

56Isea& iIWINTER 2010 THE EXUMAS The most popular charter area in the Bahamas is the Exumas - but that shouldn't conjure up images of crowded cruising grounds. With the entire Exumas chain extending around 100 nautical miles and comprising 365 islands, there's plenty of potential for privacy. The islands are easily accessible from Nassau, or you can fly direct to Staniel Cay ( which has its own airstrip), and meet your yacht mid Exumas. Anchorages are anything from an hour to seven hours apart, so how many of the islands you visit really depends on the length of your cruise, the speed of your yacht, and your desire to see it all or take it easy. THE OUTER ISLANDS HARBOUR ISLAND, ELEUTHERA AND THE BERRY ISLANDS The Berry Islands can be incorporated as part of an extended Abacos cruise from Nassau, while Harbour Island and Eleuthera can be included on an Exumas itinerary. Eleuthera is 177 kilometres ( 110 miles) long and great for snorkelling, with diving being particularly good at the Current Cut channel, the Blue Hole ( an inland saltwater lake), and the Train Wreck ( an underwater relic dating back to 1865). Harbour Island, just east of Eleuthera, is a tiny island famous for pink beaches that stretch along most of its length. CAT ISLAND- being more than 200 kilometres ( 130 miles) southeast of Nassau, Cat Island is not generally included on charter itineraries. LONG ISLAND- positioned southeast of the tip of the Exumas, and more than 400 kilometres ( 250 miles) from Nassau, Long Island is only on select charter itineraries. TURKS & CAICOScharters here are possible but infrequent, as it's not always easy getting a yacht to this area. THUNDERBALL CAVEis famed for its appearance in the films Splash, and James Bond's Thunderball. You'll find it near Staniel Cay, and it's a great place to go snorkelling with stingrays. STANIEL CAY YACHT CLUBhas more than 50 years' tradition of fishing tales, sailors' yarns, conch fritters, rum punch and great waterside views. PIG BEACHon Big Major Spot Island is an extraordinary place to swim with pigs and watch them sunning themselves on the sand. SAMPSON CAY CLUBhas dining, drinking and shopping galore, along with water and beach activities and a sheltered hurricane- hole marina. RACHEL'S BUBBLE BATHis a deep, crystal- clear lagoon on northwest Compass Cay; it's one of the finest swimming holes in the Caribbean. At mid to high tide, ocean waves splash into the serene pool creating a white foam: nature's huge Jacuzzi. ROCKY DUNDAS GROTTOESoff Fowl Cay is a top snorkelling spot. Swim into the small cave to gaze at stalagmites and stalactites. JOHNNY DEPP ISLANDaka Little Hall's Pond Cay was bought by The Pirates Of The Caribbeanactor a few years ago. Spot it as you cruise through the Exuma Land and Sea Park . WARDERICK WELLS CAYis among the cluster of islands that make up the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which is a conservation area for marine life. SUNKEN DRUG PLANE, off Norman's Cay, is a DC- 3 airplane that was used for drug smuggling in the 1980s, when it was shot down and sunk. Today it makes for an excellent dive site. MACDUFFS AT NORMAN'S CAY BEACH CLUBis the perfect spot for a curry conch chowder, sunset watching and cocktails. TOP SPOTS A GREATBAHAMSBANK THE BAHAMAS GREAT ABACO ELEUTHERA SAN SALVADOR RUM CAY LONG ISLAND CROOKED ISLAND MAYAGUANA GRAND BAHAMA Freeport TURKS & CAICOS Grand Turk Nassau NEW PROVIDENCE BIMINI ISLANDS GREAT EXUMA ACKLINS ISLAND GREAT INAGUA ANDROS ISLAND LITTLE ABACO BERRY ISLANDS EXUMA CAYS LAND & SEA PARK CAT ISLAND