Sandy and I reside in a small town tucked against the east slopes of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Our snowy home is about as remotely located from the soft coral sands, aqua waters, intense sun, and cooling breezes of the Bahamas as one can be in the lower 48 states and yet, in the short space of 6 weeks we hope to be cruising those exotic waters. Our vessel will not be a touristy cruise ship, with its hordes of fellow passengers and rigid itinerary. Nor will we be aboard a chartered sailboat, as the cost of chartering imposes unacceptable limits to the length of time we could afford to spend on the water. Our dream cruise will last 2 ½ months, and we will sojourn aboard our trailerable sailboat, Chinook.

We decided to take up sailing rather late in life, with the purchase of our MacGregor 26X power sailor in 2002. Macs, as they are affectionately referred to by their many owners, are most frequently known as “those sailboats with big outboards which motor really fast.” Owners of more traditional sailboats often look down their noses at Macs as lightly built boats with poor sailing characteristics. Most Mac owners, however, simply love their boats for their low purchase cost and versatility. Being trailerable, the Mac can be “moored” in your driveway when not in use. With its large outboard engine (typically 50 to 70 hp), the Mac can indeed plane at speeds of 15 to 20 mph or more. It can serve as a day sailor or carry a small family on overnight outings. Mac owners love to modify their boats to suit their personal boating interests.

From the outset, we wanted to explore as many different places as possible in our Mac. This would take the form of extended cruising, and thus, we focused on maximizing fuel, water, electrical and storage capacity. Being newcomers to sailing, we read books, hung out at boat shows, and took classes, but most importantly spent time on the water, always with the focus on extending horizons, both in terms of our expertise and the boat’s capability.

We spent our first boating season gaining experience on Puget Sound and various Eastern Washington inland waters. Our second season would coincide with retirement, and the unique opportunity to embark on a year long circumnavigation of the US. Hitting the road in early July 2003 in a pickup and camper, with Chinook in tow, we spent the next year as vagabonds, following the seasons and experiencing scenic and historic highlights. About one third of our time was on board Chinook, cruising such waters as Jackson Lake in the Tetons, Yellowstone Lake, Isle Royale on Lake Superior, Lake Champlain, the coast of Maine, the Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida, the Everglades and Florida Keys, the northern (Abacos) Bahamas, and Lake Powell.

Subsequent sailing seasons have led us to such varied places as the majestic Inside Passage to Alaska, remote lakes in coastal British Columbia, the classic sailing waters of Chesapeake Bay, and the starkly beautiful Sea of Cortez. When out on one of these cruises, conversations with fellow sailors from much larger boats will frequently turn to questions about our MacGregor. Being somewhat familiar with the speedy reputation of the MacGregor, they frequently ask, “How fast will she go?” I invariably raise eyebrows with, “She cruises nicely at 60…” and then add “while on the trailer, of course.” And that is the feature of our Mac which appeals to us most. Our “home waters” are only limited by the existence of a decent road and boat ramp, and once we’ve launched we’re free to partake of the cruising lifestyle while exploring enticingly new waters.

The idea for this cruise dates back to our initial visit to the Bahamas in early spring, 2004. We had actually intended on heading for the Exumas, but a salty dockmaster at a St. Augustine marina suggested we focus on the Abacos for our first Bahamas cruise. Not so far out, fewer major crossings, yet still outstanding cruising waters. We followed his advice and found him right on all counts. We had a memorable time, but whenever our thoughts returned to the Bahamas we recalled a comment we’d heard more than once. “If you think Abaco waters are clear, they’re nothing when compared with the Exumas.” We just had to return to the Bahamas. And this time, we’d make it all the way out to the Exumas.


If the idea for a cruise is the seed, it will never bear fruit unless thought is given to best time to plant, optimum location, how to nourish. Planning for a major cruise often begins a full year before the actual trip. I thoroughly enjoy this process. It enables me to begin the cruise in my mind many months before the actual departure. We evaluate the boat, truck and trailer and consider which components and systems need maintenance, repair, upgrades or replacement. Cruising guides and chartbooks are selected and ordered, electronic charts are loaded into the laptop, various cruising routes are evaluated, and the start date and length of trip must be estimated. We favor spring as the most attractive season for cruising the Exumas. Possible dates are bookended by weather. Try to leave too early and we’re tempting late winter blizzard conditions on the cross country drive. Also, we know from experience that east coast northers do make their way out to the Bahamas in February and March, thus complicating Gulf Stream crossings and resulting in getting pinned down during extended norther blows. On the other end, hurricane season officially begins June 1. Heat and bugs also become more of a bother as summer sets in, so we plan on crossing back to Florida no later than the end of May. Water temperatures should be hitting the mid 70’s by late March and April. A final consideration, minor in comparison with weather factors, is the closing date for lobster season in the Bahamas, which happens to be March 31. I’d love to spend at least a few days in snorkel gear, pole spear in hand, hunting for these delicacies.

This thought process results in the following planned itinerary: begin the drive east on March 2; allow 9 days for the cross country drive, with several sightseeing stops along the way; arrive at our son’s home in Lexington Park MD on March 10 for an extended weekend visit and some long overdue grand-parenting time; pull out for Florida on March 15 (2 day drive); hook up with friends in Ft. Pierce FL, where we’ll do last minute provisioning and boat prep work; launch the boat on March 19 for a 3 day shakedown cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway, bound for No Name Harbor at the south end of Key Biscayne; allowing a couple of days for last minute provisioning/prep as well as weather delay if it’s blowing out of the north, we hope to make our Gulf Stream crossing to Bimini sometime around March 24; cross the Great Bahamas Banks to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands with a hoped for arrival of March 28 or thereabouts; exploring the Berries for a week, with lobster hunting on the agenda for our first few days there; cross over to Nassau somewhere around April 5 for several days of layover-sightseeing-provisioning; depart for the Exumas around April 8, allowing over 2 weeks to work our way down to the cruising center of Georgetown; spend several days in the Georgetown area before heading up to Eleuthra, possibly via Long Island and Cat Island; spend a layover week at Hatchet Bay on Eleuthra around mid May, so we can participate in a mission project with Bahamas Methodist Habitat at James Cistern; depart Eleuthra around the start of the third week in May for a week long cruise back to West End on Grand Bahama Island where we’ll pick our weather window for a crossing back to Florida (probable destination will be St. Lucie Inlet); short run back to Ft. Pierce and our awaiting truck and boat trailer, with a target date of May 27; pull and clean the boat, with about 10 days allowed for the drive home, making a few stops along the way to break up the trip; expected arrival home about June 7.

Of course, it goes without saying that all of the above is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances such as mechanical breakdown during road trips, trouble with the boat, extended weather delays, health problems, or simply arriving somewhere we can’t bear to leave. The itinerary is fairly detailed and specific for a couple of reasons. First, I like to work these things out ahead of time, so I can properly pace the trip and try to allow adequate time for places of particular interest. It gives us a useful frame of reference when we’re going to be out for so long. Also, I just enjoy planning out such things. We’re able to imagine ourselves in various exotic places long before we actually pull out of the driveway.