Taking the Maple Leaf to the Bahamas

By Andy Adams

Destination Atlantis, Paradise Island!

It’s an awkward fact of life for us at Canadian Yachting magazine that while we know the majority of our readers are power boaters, the majority of people who want to write about their cruising experiences are sailors!

In addition to that, the greatest attraction seems to be far-off and exotic locations that can be both expensive and challenging to anyone’s skills as a skipper. So, we wanted  to offer the power boater’s perspective too and to remind our readers that some of the most memorable and spectacular scenery is really closer than you’d think.

Remember too, most of the larger charter companies have a fleet of power boats available, both for bareboat and skippered charters and we don’t want our power boat readers to feel left out!

My brother-in-law Michael, often accompanied by my sister Rosalind and frequently with my two nieces, Sarah and Chelsea who often have their friends on board, takes the Maple Leaf from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau or Paradise Island a couple of times annually. The Maple Leaf is his 54 Bertram and he is a dedicated sport fisherman. They held a World Game Fishing record at one point just a few years ago. They are passionate about fishing!

Week-long fishing expeditions to new as well as proven locations, are are planned every year and after a life-time of cruising and fishing throughout the Caribbean, Michael firmly believes the Bahamas is the place he loves the best.

I joined the crew on board the Maple Leaf in June for Sarah and Ben’s wedding which was held at the One & Only Ocean Club, a part of the simply amazing Atlantis Resort complex.

The Maple Leaf, departing from Fort Lauderdale and heading to Atlantis on Paradise Island (assuming a good “weather window” – don’t leave home without it), makes the trip in six hours; that can be broken up into three sections of two hours, running 25 knots.

For a power boat, this is a comfortable crossing with other small vessels nearby, but relatively few big ships, fuel and service facilities available and you are always in contact by radio. Safe and secure.

Specifically, it is 81.2nm (nautical miles) from the Port of Miami to Old Bahama Beach, West End or 68.9nm between Port Everglades (where Michael has the Male Leaf serviced in Fort Lauderdale) to Old Bahama Beach, West End.

So, the first leg takes The Maple Leaf about two hours across the Gulf Stream from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini or Cat Cay, then two more hours over the Great Bahama Bank or through the North West Passage turning north east to Chubb Cay, and then another two hours on to Nassau or Paradise Island.

The total trip is 188.14nm from Fort Lauderdale to Paradise Island or approximately 178 nm from Miami to Nassau.

The traffic coming into the harbour at Paradise Island is mainly smaller vessels due to the narrowness of the channel, but there are colossal cruise ships running out of Nassau and you’ll find that numerous super yachts have already made it to Atlantis!

The marina facility at Atlantis resort is located right in the heart of the complex, close to all facilities, restaurants and the nightlife too!

The marina has a limited number of slips though and you will need to reserve well in advance.

On Paradise Island, you can also put into Hurricane Hole which is a safe semi-circle, and one of many marinas available for transient boaters. See the sidebar for planning resources.

It would be a blast to either begin or end your Caribbean cruise at Atlantis Resort and cruising through the Bahamas can be breath-taking. Michael has taken me on trips where the Maple Leaf is the only vessel on beaches that stretch for miles. With the white sand and azure seas, the Bahamas can be the picture postcard paradise you dream of, but it’s not far from the continental U.S., yacht service and everything else that you need, but want to leave behind!

In a power boat like the Maple Leaf, you can easily day trip, returning to Atlantis at night, or cruise through the islands as long as you’d like. Just plan ahead because some little out islands have very limited docking.

On arrival, Atlantis, Paradise Island rises magically from the turquoise lagoons and blue Atlantic of The Bahamas. This unique, ocean-themed destination is sprawling and amazing too. On top of having a variety of guest accommodations available, there are 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, the largest casino in the Bahamas and of course, a marina capable of handling yachts of any size. 

Our boating readers will love the fact that water is the focal point of Atlantis.  The resort is built around 20 million gallons of fresh and salt-water pools, lagoons and cascading waterfalls.  Atlantis’ marine habitat includes an unparalleled assortment of exhibit lagoons and underwater formations – all located on a stretch of white-sand beach that has been called the most beautiful in the world.

I will skip the pictures of myself swimming there, but the colour of the water and the white sand made the ocean look like a swimming pool – even the marina has a surreal look!

In recent years, the waterscape and marine habitats at this destination have become even more impressive with the opening of Aquaventure, the lushly-landscaped water experience of rides and thrills and also Dolphin Cay, the state-of-the-art dolphin education center and interaction habitat.

Atlantis is unforgettable from an architectural standpoint with its soaring arches, domes and spires, the enormous 70-foot ceiling of the Great Hall of Waters, and the most spectacular and exclusive suite at any resort, The Bridge Suite.

But, I stayed at the One & Only Ocean Club, a very tasteful ocean-side facility with manicured grounds, a great beach, magnificent pool and spa facilities and very few guests. I literally had the huge pool to myself more than once.

I couldn’t resist having most meals at Dune. It is an elegant restaurant on the beach that interacts with the outdoors; much of it is open and the ocean breezes blow through in the most delightful way!

The menu features a mélange of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s dishes from his critically acclaimed New York City restaurants. Lush local ingredients of the Caribbean – from fruits to seafood – are used whenever possible. To further illustrate Jean-Georges’ commitment to incorporating local ingredients into his cuisine, he engaged native Bahamian Teresa Kemp to design and maintain the organic herb garden that is located in front of the restaurant.

The One & Only Ocean Club isn’t for everybody but a few days there were simply amazing. Throughout the Atlantis facility, a sprinkling of celebrities come and go and if your trip needs some nightlife excitement before you head out to tranquility, this is the place!


The deep-water Atlantis Marina is capable of handling 63 yachts up to 220 feet in length  and the Marina Village at Atlantis features a 65,000 square-foot marketplace including superlative dining and world-class shopping. The Marina Village resembles a quaint Bahamian marketplace.

For further information about Atlantis, Paradise Island visit Atlantis.com.

For more Bahamas cruising information, check out the blog swingsetonthehook.blogspot.ca/

For a full list of marinas in the Bahamas visit: marinas.com/browse/marina/BS/

This breaks down the list of marinas on the islands by region, and you can click on all the marinas for all the contact information and details on the facilities.
Another central resource for visiting boaters is The Marina Life website: www.marinalife.com/destinations/26-the-bahamas.

A general Bahamas resource is Bahamas.com and www.bahamas.com/how-to-get-here-nassau-paradise-island-marinas
There is also an American website that has mostly content for American boaters, but that others might find helpful as well. www.boatus.com/magazine/2011/october/bahamas.asp.
For your security and safety, learn bout BASRA (Bahamas Air See Rescue Association: www.basra.org/contact.html.

For those still within U.S. jurisdiction can contact the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami. The contact information for the Miami office can be found here: http://www.uscg.mil/d7/.
Additional general information: The population of the Bahamas is 316, 182 (July 2012 est).

The three largest cities in The Bahamas are Nassau, with 227,940 people; Lucaya, with 46,525 people; and Freeport, with 26,910 people. These are followed in population size by West End, with 12,724 people and Cooper’s Town with 8413 people.
In 2005, almost 68,000 people visited the islands aboard private vessels registered to the United States

There are more than 700 islands, cays and islets in the Bahamas. One might be just right for you!

Photo Captions
Photo 1: This is the view of Atlantis Report on Paradise Island as you approach from the channel.
Photo 2: The Maple Leaf secured at our slip at the Atlantis Resort Marina.
Photo 3: Even the Bahamian captains run aground occasionally because the water is so clear it’s very difficult to judge depth visually!
Photo 4: Native Bahamian Teresa Kemp designed and maintains the organic herb garden at Dune. This is a grouper dish.

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