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Bahamas Cruising Guide: Eleuthera & Harbor Island

Visiting Eleuthera, Bahamas is sure to be forever sketched in your memory as one of the most amazing places you’ve ever visited. This is home to the famous Harbour Island and its pink sand beaches, various blue holes, The Queen’s Bath, amazing snorkeling/scuba and tons of untouched beaches and sandbars! The best way to access Eleuthera is of course by boat, so you can explore all the best parts of Eleuthera on your own.

Here you can discover your own private untouched beaches and sandbars, snorkel the most beautiful reefs in the world, go fishing for your dinner, dine in the best marinas, explore cliffs and caves and soak up that turquoise-blue water in its most natural and beautiful form!

Horizon FD85. Photo: Horizon Yachts.
Horizon FD85. Photo: Horizon Yachts.

Eleuthera is one of the skinniest and longest of all the islands – a mere 2 miles wide at its widest point, and 112 miles long. If you’re trekking through Eleuthera via car, you will notice there is one road, that is basically a straight shot from the North to the South. Considering it’s only 55 miles from Nassau, Eleuthera makes for a very convenient travel spot for locals, especially due to the “real island vibe” you can feel as soon as you arrive.

Florida To Bahamas, Nassau and Eleuthera

If you’re an experienced boat captain planning to make a trip to Eleuthera via your own yacht, then you’ve come to the right spot! This guide will cover how to best yacht to Eleuthera, crossing from either Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Nassau. We’ll provide you with tips and tricks from the locals who’ve made the crossing, as well as best practices when making your boating trip through the Bahamas. Caution: The Bahamas is known for having the clearest water in the world, and it may just blow your mind!

Choosing The Best Boat For Bahamas Cruising

The ideal vessel for boating around the Bahamas is one with a shallow enough draft to navigate skinny water with confidence, yet seaworthy enough to handle rough water. You’ll want to be able to access hard-to-reach, exotic beaches in comfort and with peace of mind. Of course there are many boat builders and custom yacht manufacturers who build vessels that are ideal for Bahamas cruising. For example, Leven Yachts touts their models as “the ultimate Exumas Superyacht” with a class-leading draft of only 4’6″ on a big, stable, seaworthy yacht.

Additionally you’ll require adequate water and fuel storage. Other features that have clear advantages for cruising the Bahamas are: protected prop, flybridge (for elevated, 360-degree viewing, making it easy to spot sandbars and reefs) and comfortable sleeping accommodations. 30-45 feet is the ideal size for a Bahamas cruiser as it will allow you to handle different sea conditions with confidence, while also being able to access smaller marinas and docks for overnight. Also consider fuel efficiency (if you’re planning to bring a motor yacht / power boat versus a sailboat), or perhaps consider an affordable Bahamas sailing cruiser as an alternative.

Navigating The Waters Of The Bahamas

First things first, if you’ve never driven a boat in the Bahamas, there are a few things you should automatically be cautioned about. Regardless of whether of not you’re boating over from another location, or just cruising around locally, it’s important to know a few tips and tricks to make your experience safer.

The Bahamas is surrounded by banks and reefs, making some points extremely shallow situated right next to a huge drop in depth. Depending on the current and weather, sand can shift, and arrive in different places that never existed before, causing extremely shallow banks. Depending on tide, reefs can be completely sticking out of water or 10 feet below the surface. With this being said, it’s important to extra diligent when navigating through the water. I recommend not only relying on GPS, but also reading the water, using guidebooks and paper charts, as these waters can be very tricky.

You can study some great charts ahead of your trip over at Explore Charts.

Crossing from Fort Lauderdale/Miami to Eleuthera

Before you embark on your crossing from Fort Lauderdale or Miami to Eleuthera, you’ll need to make sure to check the weather in a few places – including but not limited to, Fort Lauderdale or Miami, Bimini, Nassau and Harbour Island, Eleuthera. If the winds are blowing over 15 MPH, you’ll want to consider rescheduling your trip, as a bumpy ride through The Bahamas will be tough and uncomfortable in the deep waters.

Your journey from Fort Lauderdale or Miami to Eleuthera is approximately 191 Nautical Miles and will take an estimated 7-10 hours, depending on the type of hull and engines you’re working with. You’ll need to bring water and food and safety equipment!

As you travel South, you’ll pass through the Gulf Stream, which will be the deepest and roughest part of your journey. The strength of the Gulf Stream current should not be underestimated or treated lightly. Make sure your GPS is in good working order in case the current knocks you off course and you have to make the necessary corrections to stay on your planned route.

Next you’ll find yourself near Bimini and the Bahamas Banks. Proceed with caution here, as the banks are shallow! Upon reaching Bimini, its best to clear your vessel through customs and fuel up. Fees and information regarding customs are below in this article.

Once you’ve passed through Bimini, you’ll cross through the Berry Islands and make your way to North Eleuthera. As you approach Harbour Island, Eleuthera, you’ll have to pass through the Devils Backbone in order to land in Harbour Island for the rest of your exploration. This is also a very challenging area to navigate, and thus it’s highly recommended that you pick a local pilot to help you navigate through the reef, especially if it’s your first time. This is actually an easy process; the pilot will come over via dinghy and help you navigate through the Backbone for about $100 each way.

The Devils Backbone

The Devils Backbone gets its name from being exactly that – the devil to all boaters that have taken on this crossing without being properly prepared! This is a shallow and treacherous reef with jagged-edges that stretches across the Northern end of Eleuthera. It has unfortunately been the demise of many other vessels.

Of course it is also a snorkeler’s dream come true, where you can spot all sorts of fish species from parrotfish and angelfish to stingrays and moray eels. The Devil’s Backbone has sunk so many ships, that it is now a primetime dive spot to explore more than 7 shipwrecks, dating all the way back to 1648.

Bahamas Customs And Fees

All boaters entering The Bahamas are required to pay an entry fee.
a) For boats up to 35′, the fee is $150.00
b) For boats over 35′, the fee is $300.00

The fees will cover:
1) Cruising Permit
2) Fishing Permit
3) Departure Tax for up to three (3) persons. Each additional person above three will be charged a $25 departure tax. This fee is good for a second re-entry within a 90-day period.

Nassau To Harbour Island, Eleuthera

Crossing from Nassau to North Eleuthera is a relatively quick shot. Being so close at only 63 Nautical Miles, it only takes about an hour or two to get there. Using the same caution as you would driving anywhere on your vessel and using your GPS, charts & maps will get you there quite easily. As always, when crossing to Eleuthera, make sure the wind is in your favor, any east wind blowing more than 15 MPH will give you trouble on your journey. And be cautious of the Devils Backbone.

Where To Dock Your Yacht In Eleuthera

There are many options to dock or anchor in Eleuthera. There are about 22 spots to anchor and 12 marinas to dock your vessel. Harbour Island will most likely be your first stop when arriving in Eleuthera. It is located in the most northern part of Eleuthera, just on the other side of the Mainland and Spanish Wells. Harbour Island is considered one of the most popular and desirable locations in Eleuthera, so this is a must see!

It is recommended that you plan out your route as well as where you will be docking or anchoring. You will want to inform the marinas of your arrival to ensure your slip space for the time needed on your travels! See below for a List of Anchorages and Marinas in Eleuthera.

Anchorages in Eleuthera Bahamas

  • Alabaster Bay
  • Annie Bight
  • Bottom Harbour
  • Cistern Bay North
  • Governers Harbour
  • Half Sound
  • Harbour Island
  • Hatchet Bay
  • James Cistern
  • Jeans Bay
  • Littler Bay
  • Meeks Patch
  • Palmetto Point
  • Pitman Cove
  • Rainbow Cay
  • Rock Sound
  • Royal Island
  • Sookie & Annie Bight
  • Spanish Wells
  • Tarpum Bay
  • Ten Bay
  • Winding Bay

Marinas in Eleuthera Bahamas

  • Gun Point Marina (North Eleuthera)
  • Harbour Island Club & Marina
  • Spanish Wells Marina
  • Russell Island
  • Windermere Yacht Club
  • Cape Eleuthera (Rock Sound)
  • Runaway Bay (Palmetto Point).

Where To Stay In Eleuthera

Explore all Eleuthera has to offer by staying at local Hotels & Airbnb’s, rent a car, and explore the island by land as well as by boat! Eleuthera is known to have some of the most natural exploration sites of all the islands. Some of the top spots are the Sapphire Blue Hole, Queens Bath, Lighthouse Beach & The Glass Window Bridge.

If you are a surfer, there is also a great break (one of the only ones in the Bahamas) on the Northeast side of the island, located just outside of Gregory Town! It’s best to book your accommodations in the Northern part of Eleuthera, as many of the famous beautiful spots will be more accessible and have a shorter drive! Check out my detailed Eleuthera Guide toLeven  find info on the best sightseeing, restaurants, accommodations and more!


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Space Saving Solutions for Living Aboard A Boat Space Saving Solutions for Living Aboard A Boat. Photo: C. Ryan McVinney[/caption]

Soft Storage Sacks

Boat design is all about the carefully conceived curves, so rarely will you find nice, neat square storage space. Using a container that has hard, angular edges can further reduce the volume of an already tight storage area. Opting for a soft sided bin or basket means the container can conform to the odd shape of the hold. In dry compartments, try a soft canvas or mesh bag. For potentially wet storage areas a sturdy roll-top, waterproof gear sack will keep goodies safe.

Collapsible Containers

With the advent of silicon there are now a variety of collapsible storage bins on the market. These pieces are a handy addition, allowing the convenience of having many luxury items onboard without cluttering up cupboards. Full-sized bowls, measuring cups, salad spinners and washtubs all accordion down flat and can be stacked and stowed in small spaces when not in use.

Folding Tables and Chairs

Often times common areas on a boat are multi-use. The cockpit, for instance, needs to be a functional space while underway but it is a favorite hangout spot when on anchor. Having a folding table, whether it is a built in or completely removable, allows you to enjoy a meal under the stars as well as make room for crew to work while the boat is moving. Folding chairs stow easily but accommodate extra guests around the table. The salty, marine environment is harsh, quickly corroding items that may last years on dry land. When buying folding tables and chairs check that the hinges are durable, and the item is made out of high quality stainless, aluminum or plastic.


There is always a spot on the wall, a strange-shaped nook or a cupboard door that could be utilized for storage simply by adding a hook. Hang keys, bags, hats and other everyday items on a hook for quick access. Adding a few hooks in the head makes for a spot to hang a dry towel, and a hook by each bunk is a great spot for an in case of emergency, easy to reach flashlight. If permanently affixing a hook with screws is undesirable, look for heavy duty 3M removable hooks that don’t require tools and won’t damage surfaces.


Popular on boats since boats started floating, small hammocks are a terrific way to store items such as clothing and blankets when not in use. Usually made out of netting these hammocks make the most out of empty spaces. Taking up very little room when not in use they expand and accommodate any shaped items, stowing them safely in a conveniently reached spot. Many people also use net hammocks in the galley to store fresh fruit and vegetables instead of taking up precious fridge space. Net hammocks do allow for more airflow around your produce but softer fruit such as peaches, pears and summer squash may be cut or damaged by the thin net strings.

Hanging Organizers

Usually partitioned and designed for use in a closet to store items such as shoes these handy organizers are great on a boat. Pretty enough to be hung within sight they make a great spot to store towels in the head, a place to stow soft toys in a kid’s cabin or hung in a closet to keep clothing tidy. Hanging organizers are also a neat way to keep the crew items corralled while underway. Simply colour cod or number each nook and every crew person can have a place to put small items when not in use.

Overhead Bags

Trying to maximize storage space means making use of every available nook and cranny, including the ones directly overhead. There are purpose-made bags on the market like the “T-Bag” that are designed to attach to the underside of a t-top or bimini. Large enough to store items like life jackets and safety equipment that are needed in the cockpit, they provide a spot to stow gear out of the weather but within easy reach. If there is head room down below utilizing overhead nets or bags is also a cleaver way to stow light weight items like bed linens or clothing.

Hanging Pockets

Whether it’s on a rail, the wall or over a door, a hanging pocket is a handy way to keep things tidy. Used to keep lines in the cockpit from being dangerously underfoot, the anchor rode from becoming tangled on the bow or a pair of binoculars within reach of the helmsman. Made out of canvas or a weatherized mesh, hanging pockets come in a variety of colors and sizes. Turn the back of a sliding door into a wall of pockets to store shoes, sunscreen, gloves, even fishing lures. Placed in the head, pockets can instantly organize crew toiletries and be a spot to hold precious jewelry items while showering or swimming. Use a hanging pocket in the galley to make frequently reached for condiments, snacks or coffee mugs easily accessible. There are never too many hanging pockets on a boat.


At first glance a pillow doesn’t seem like it belongs in this list, after all pillows can take up a lot of space. However, making a pillow do double duty turns it into a super space saver. Stuff pillow cases with extra or unused bedding, clothes or towels to keep the cabin tidy and give people a soft spot to lean. Choosing pillow cases that accent the décor of the boat will ensure that even the most discerning guest won’t guess your secret storage solution.


Heavy duty or industrial Velcro is an easy way to keep small items from sliding around while underway. Self-adhesive and customizable to any shape Velcro pads can be stuck by the helm to keep small gadgets within sight of the captain or used to secure delicate items down below. Velcro can also be used on vertical surfaces, keeping décor items like photos firmly in place. Strong enough to keep overhead panels stuck in place or chair backs in proper position Velcro is a heavy hitter when it comes to storage solutions onboard.

Vacuum Bags

Need to compress large items like bedding or store seasonal clothes? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Buying provisions in bulk but want to preserve the freshness of half your order? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Need to ensure that items like flares and the emergency medical kit in the ditch bag are waterproof? Vacuum bags to the rescue. Available in sizes ranging from 8” x 10” to suitcase-sized, vacuum bags are an amazing, and extremely versatile, storage solution. Vacuum bags not only compress items by removing air but also seals them in a heavy-duty air-tight, and waterproof, bag. When opened the items like clothes and bedding are dryer-fresh. Foodstuffs that are vacuum packed are not only free of bugs and moisture but removing air prevents spoilage and extends potential shelf time. For the avid fishermen a vacuum packer is the quickest and easiest way to portion and preserve the days catch. Items frozen in vacuum packed bags are less prone to freezer burn.

Magnetic Strips

Perhaps one of the best storage solutions for the galley a magnetic strip is both handy and unobtrusive. Mounted on a bulkhead a magnetic strip is the best way to keep knives out of harms way. Strong enough to keep items secure in a rough seaway magnetic strips are also a convenient place to stow a pair of scissors or a bottle opener. Mount one in the cockpit and keep fishing lures from becoming tangled or falling underfoot, not to mention keep the fileting knife ready for action. Some magnetics strips are sold with a selection of metal canisters which provide a convenient way to sort spices in the galley or keep small items like nuts and bolts tidy in the tool kit.

Bungee Cords

Used to gather and hang lines in a storage hold, tie down odd shaped equipment or keep canvas from flapping in a breeze bungee cords, or shock cords, are indispensable on a boat. One stretched around a storage bin or long a wall makes a spot to tuck flip flops. Use a bungee to hang a roll of paper towel or create a spot to hang sunglasses so they won’t get scratched. Stretch a bungee cord overhead to make an instant clothes line to dry a wet towel after a swim. Fasten a length of shock cord along a wall at regular intervals to create a custom storage solution for hand tools like screwdrivers or a spatula in the galley. A bungee cord never stays idle on a boat.

Hanging Glass Racks & Cup Hooks

Once only found in your favorite local pub, hanging racks are now common place on boats. Used to store drinking glasses these simple metal racks install under cabinets or overheads and add a touch of class to any boat. Hanging stemware not only frees up precious cupboard space but delicate glassware is stored safely in an easy to reach spot. Cup hooks are traditionally mounted on the underside of a shelf or cupboard and are a way to store more durable items like coffee mugs.

Nesting Pots and Dishes

Cupboard space in the galley can quickly get taken over by dishes and cookware. One easy way to maximize galley storage is to invest in dishes that neatly stack and pots that nest inside one another. No need to break the bank at the chandlery, although there are lots of thoughtful products available there. Simply keep storage in mind when you are choosing pots and pans - make sure they stack together neatly, avoid long handles on pans and lids, look for a pot and pan that are the same diameter so one lid can be used on two items. For dishes choose low profile plates and make sure they are small enough to fit inside the cupboard, many galley storage areas are narrower than a typical dinner plate.

Charging Stations

It seems impossible to live without handheld gadgets these days, and it doesn’t take long before there is a tangle of cords clogging up the counter next to the nearest outlet. To avoid an unsightly mess, and to charge as many devices as possible at once consider installing a dedicated charging station. Designed to hold multiple devices while tastefully hiding all those USB cords, charging stations are a cleaver way to stay charged up and clutter free. For an even more boat friendly solution, turn a drawer into a charging station. The stack of devices will be out of sight and won’t fall off the counter while the boat is in motion.

Custom Built Options

Sometimes the best option is one that is tailored to your specific needs, especially when it comes to getting the most out of storage space on a boat. Tables that fold against a bulkhead walls, a sofa that conceals a built-in fridge, a lift away counter top that hides the onboard bar. If you are in the market for a new boat, then exploring what custom storage options each design offer could buy you a few more square feet of usable space. And, for those who are already boat owners, custom modifications can mean the difference between boating in chaos or living clutter-free.

Think Outside the Boat

There has been a trend in recent years to downsize and declutter, to live with less and do more. With an increasing number of people choosing to live in small spaces there are more products and storage ideas for those spaces. Yes, there are a few more obstacles on a boat- items have to be secured for sea and often need to be waterproof – but don’t get stuck at the local marine store. Many of the storage ideas used by RV-ers and Tiny Home owners are perfect fits for boat storage as well, you just have to think outside the boat./>
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