Cruising the Bahamas


Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.


Location: Caribbean, chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
Geographic coordinates: 24 15 N, 76 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 13,940 sq km
Land: 10,070 sq km
Water: 3,870 sq km


3,542 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream


Long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island 63 m


The Bahamas is a stable, developing nation with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago's labor force.

Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences had led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but the slowdown in the US economy and the attacks of 11 September 2001 held back growth in these sectors in 2001-03. The current government has presided over a period of economic recovery and an upturn in large-scale private sector investments in tourism. Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy, accounting for about 15% of GDP.

However, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, many international businesses have left The Bahamas. Manufacturing and agriculture together contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector, which depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors.


Airports: 64 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 30
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 34
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 22 (2005)
Heliports: 1 (2005)

Merchant Marine

Total: 1,156
By type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 226, cargo 251, chemical tanker 60, combination ore/oil 18, container 71, liquefied gas 31, livestock carrier 2, passenger 118, passenger/cargo 37, petroleum tanker 171, refrigerated cargo 121, roll on/roll off 18, specialized tanker 4, vehicle carrier 27
1,070 (Angola 5, Australia 3, Belgium 11, Canada 14, China 5, Croatia 1, Cuba 1, Cyprus 13, Denmark 65, Egypt 1, Estonia 1, Finland 7, France 28, Germany 12, Greece 217, Hong Kong 7, Indonesia 2, Ireland 2, Israel 5, Italy 6, Japan 51, Jordan 2, Kenya 1, Latvia 1, Malaysia 12, Monaco 17, Netherlands 25, NZ 1, Nigeria 2, Norway 258, Philippines 1, Poland 15, Reunion 1, Russia 4, Saudi Arabia 12, Serbia and Montenegro 2, Singapore 14, Slovenia 1, Spain 11, Sweden 10, Switzerland 7, Thailand 1, Turkey 10, UAE 14, UK 68, US 121, Uruguay 2)
Registered in other countries: 5 (Barbados 1, Liberia 2, Panama 1, unknown 1) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point 

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Aruba - Bahamas - Barbados - British Virgin Islands - Cayman Islands - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Grenada - Guadeloupe - Haiti - Jamaica - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Lucia - Martinique - Montserrat - Netherlands Antilles - Puerto Rico - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Virgin Islands (USA)

Further Reading

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