Are you heading to the Bahamas, there already, or thinking of it for the future?
It’s a wonderful trip and a great “first offshore” experience. The crossing can be done as a day hop and there is plenty of help should anything go wrong.
Bahamas Winter Weather Tips
Still, I wanted to hit on a few important things regarding winter weather in the Bahamas:
- From November through March – roughly – northers are a fact of life. They come through every few days.
- Northers bring north winds – often 20+ knots – and chilly temperatures.
- The further north you are in the Bahamas, the more the northers will affect you.
- The typical weather cycle has winds from the E, clocking to the S, then W for relatively short bits of time, then swinging to the N for a few days.
- You do not want to be heading across the Gulf Stream in a norther! It’s also generally hard to head E against the easterly winds.
- The typical window starts as the wind swings to the S and then the W, with boats arriving at a safe harbor in the Bahamas before the wind switches to the N. You can watch these patterns on Windy. But I strongly recommend using Chris Parker’s Marine Weather Service to help you pick out the best windows.
- Windows in the winter tend to be short and spaced out. It’s not unusual to wait two or even three weeks for the right weather to cross the Gulf Stream. While it can be frustrating to wait, it’s worth it to have a good experience. Windows are much longer and more frequent from April to September (we’ve had 10-day windows in May).
- Abacos, Berrys, Andros, Eleuthera and even the northern Exumas will tend to be chillier and have more northers than most cruisers like.
- Weather will absolutely dictate your cruising. Make sure that you have access to good weather reports on your boat – don’t just plan to use wifi from local businesses when ashore. Again, we like Chris Parker’s service.
- With the clocking winds with the norther cycles, expect to be changing anchorages every day or two to get protection. There are tons of anchorages with E protection but other directions have more limited choices. Many boats find themselves spending more time in marinas than expected.
- If you are cruising the Bahamas in the winter, I recommend quickly going as far S as you intend to, then slowly working your way N as the weather warms up.
- Snorkeling is generally not as good in the winter – the water is cool (you’ll need a wetsuit) and likely to be stirred up from the northers.
Planning Your Trip
Six years ago, I wrote an article on 7 Things To Know About Cruising The Bahamas. The points there are still relevant, no matter what time of year you go.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from going to the Bahamas – it’s a wonderful trip. However, realistic expectations and a solid plan of how you will deal with the weather conditions will make it that much better.
Two things that you may want to get before going:
- Bahamas Quick Reference Cruising Guide – this makes finding anchorages for any predicted wind direction a snap, as well as finding the nearest fuel, groceries, propane and more. Now available as a PDF download as well as print – perfect if you can’t get mail.
- Get Ready to Cruise the Bahamas – our online course with everything you need to know before going. Believe me, it’s way more than I can cover here!
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