One of the Slacker stations we’ve downloaded to listen to offline, is… now don’t be surprised… Margaritaville. 🙂 But it’s not all Buffett, the mix includes Springsteen, Eric Stone (talk about the two extremes of well-known and hardly-known) and my Bahamas theme song, “Working on a Tan”. (Brad Paisley) What you must realize dear readers is that obtaining a tan in the Bahamas is about as far from “work” as you can get. Tanning happens. Yes, I encourage it and slather on sunscreen. Some crazy (smart) folk keep covered up as much as possible, but we figure who cares if we look like wrinkled prunes at 80? I’ll let you know when I get there. Lots of body lotion and a generally moist dew point all winter is helpful.
Ok so now that you know our overall winter goal, let me share our Abaco goal. Spend time at favorite places, like Little Harbor, Hope Town and also anchor out at a few different spots. April brings some more pleasant weather (but still windy at times) to the Abacos and we hoped to make the most of it.
Our run up from Royal Island to Little Harbor was not as smooth as the prior day; which we sort of expected. The wave interval was an acceptable 9-11 seconds and coming from our stern quarter, but our guess for wave height is 5-7ft and that my friends was unnerving for me. Russ loved riding down them, getting that speed boost and I took comfort that he wasn’t worried. Before long I got with the program and as long as I didn’t look out from down below, the waves didn’t look so high. A photo just didn’t capture the reality, but trust me on this. So then I took the helm, listening carefully to the Captain’s instructions on dealing with the waves, and I am pleased to report that it was easier than I’d thought.
The last worry was entering the cut that would bring us into the south Sea of Abaco right near Little Harbor and our destination: Pete’s Pub or bust (cry.) With southerly winds we wanted slack or incoming (flood) tide which meant a late afternoon arrival that we nailed and I was near tears of happiness to see empty moorings in Little Harbor. The cut was very calm but I’d prepped for worse and that usually means all will be well. The channel leading into Little Harbor is rather shallow and many boats can only enter and depart at close to high tide, but we don’t have that restriction with a 3ft draft. We have other issues, but not that one.
As is typical, we arrive in the Abacos in need of many foodstuffs so after a couple of nights at Little Harbor (I mean how many Blasters can you drink?), the next stop is Marsh Harbor and Maxwell’s – the substantial grocery store within walking distance of the dinghy dock. There we took care of food, booze, ATM and meeting our friends Jim & Laurie of s/v Magpie2 for drinks on their Leopard then dinner at Curlytails located at the marina. We still had some catching up to do even after spending time with them anchored off Pipe Cay a couple weeks earlier. Jim always provides fantastic music and Laurie is a great cook- isn’t that a wonderful combo?
We’d planned to stay a few more days, and take a slip at Marsh Harbor Marina and the good eatin’ at their Jib Room, but had to cancel that plan to take an available mooring in Hope Town. We never did get back to Marsh, so the Jib Room is tops on our list for next winter.
Hope Town is a favorite harbor for many cruisers, most who appear to define cruising as “get to Hope Town from my summer haul-out marina in Florida and spend Dec- April on a mooring.” We are exceedingly fortunate to have a connection and if not for that, we’d be playing the “arrive early and search game.” Now, once you are in HT and bored, it can be entertaining to watch boats come in, head for a mooring only to realize that the milk jug tied to the floats says “Reserved/Occupied”. Nine times out of ten this means that a boat has temporarily left its mooring for the day, maybe two and they WILL be back.
The newly expanded and renovated Hope Town Inn and Marina is a great spot for a delicious lunch on the patio overlooking their docks which are mostly full but space is available. Our friends and former owners of sv Indigo, now own m/v Mintaka. We got to see them both on their arrival day, which was the day before they departed- zoomin’ at 19kts all the way from Hope Town to Ft.Pierce
The Abacos are not just close to Florida physically but since they are a tourist destination, one can find dining for all tastes and pocketbooks, shops galore, dive and snorkel tours, golf cart rentals, beach bars, harbors with only moorings, harbors with anchoring only and some with both, not to mention plenty of marinas. I had some free time one lousy rainy day in HT and spent hours designing these earrings, and in the end kept them short and simple.
Boats also have plenty of spots to anchor in the lee near a desirable place such as Tahiti Beach or off Man o’ War Cay.
A period of excellent weather, aka very low winds to cross back to FL, happened just prior to mid-April and as you might guess, moorings became available in Hope Town. We usually feel kinda bad for all the charter boats (Moorings, Cruise Abaco) who want to spend a night in Hope Town but will be hard pressed to snag a mooring. Any who came in after the exodus, felt very lucky for sure.
Then came our turn. As many of you know, most vessels leaving the Abacos for Florida must get past Whale Cay which happens to be the worst cut/passage in the Abacos, plus it’s a double; you leave the Sea of Abaco go outside around Whale Cay and back in. A cruise ship line abandoned use of this passage, if that helps explain it. 🙂 I can’t give you first hand info though because we have never used that cut; we shallow draft vessels can either use the shallow route inside Whale Cay or the almost as shallow “Don’t Rock” passage in the middle of the Sea of Abaco where you can gaze at the wondrously white Treasure Cay beach on one side and Whale Cay off on the other. Low winds and calm seas are highly desirable no matter which route you chose.
Our plan was this and we tweaked it as we went:
- Anchor at Treasure Cay- ATM, bakery and market. Diesel fill up.
- Do the Don’t Rock passage on rising tide
- Stop at No Name Cay anchor for the night
- Reserve a mooring with Donny in Green Turtle Cay, Black Sound
- Hang out on the mooring until the cold front, nasty weather passed
- Stop at a few cays before staging to cross back
Well, the ATM at Treasure Cay was down and we learned that this is a regular occurrence. Not every settlement has an ATM, in fact many have a bank that is open only one day a week, but no ATM. Turns out we made do because as you might imagine, many places take plastic plus a fee.
The window we expected to use to cross back, closed; mostly it never even opened. Still, we needed to be ready to take advantage of it just in case, plus deal with conditions in a way that kept us both happy.
Thus, we found ourselves in one those new anchorages in the middle of freakin’ nowhere with precious little food in the fridge and no money and nowhere to buy more. Let’s not mention the rapidly dwindling wine supply nor who might win the battle for the last jigger of gin. I mean after a few days, it’d be PB&Js without the J, on crackers!
We waited out the first slammed shut opportunity; the next one was two days later and while not ideal, it would be acceptable. How bad could it be? I’d take whatever it was, thinking of the Publix we’d ravage in Vero Beach. After a few days at Little Cave Cay we headed to Great Sale Cay, our last anchorage. That’s all it is. Room for plenty of boats and for those with canine crew, a few teeny places to bring them ashore.
And my farewell song: Woke up early this morning, kissed Bahamas good-bye. Going back to do mainland I say, Don’t worry mama don’t cry…………cuz we be back next year!
We were heading west, the winds at our back out of the east. Good that. Long day- 120nm, 12 hours from anchor up to anchor down. Very sweet doing this without an overnight.