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Exploring The Real Bahamas Aboard The Ballymena
By Mike Thiel

As a fan of all watersports—fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing—and a lover of tropical islands, deserted beaches, and quaint fishing villages, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that until this past spring, I hadn't visited the Out Islands of the Bahamas.

More than 700 islands floating over thousands of square miles of ocean, strewn with reefs, vast shallows, and one of the world's deepest trenches, make this region among the top cruising, diving, and sportfishing grounds in the world. For those seeking the ultimate, get-away-from-it-all hideaway vacation, the Out Islands hold a special appeal. The "forgotten in time" ambiance of these islands is a dramatic contrast to the mass tourism, crowded beaches, and bustling casinos so prevalent in the better known Bahamian playgrounds of Nassau and Freeport.

Why had I never visited this unique area before? The problem, in part, has been that with so many choices of islands, it was difficult to know where to start, and sampling just a few on one vacation meant dealing with some daunting logistics. No cruise ships visit any of the interesting islands; the waters are much too shallow for the big vessels. You can fly to different islands in a series of puddle-jumpers, packing and unpacking, checking in and out of various resorts. But that certainly wasn't a relaxing prospect! That left chartering as the only practical means for exploring these island gems. But a crewed charter wasn't affordable for just two of us, and we weren't ready for an extended bareboat trip.

Fall/Winter 1996

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