Abacos

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Abacos

                      
The Abacos
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Abacos make a superb cruising ground due to the existence of the Sea of Abaco, a normally calm, shallow stretch of water between Great Abaco Island and the outlying cays.

The Abacos are also easy to reach from Florida. Many cruisers only go as far as the Abacos. The Abacos also make a logical stop for cruisers who have been further south on their way back to northern Florida, and states further north up the US east coast.

So many cruisers are in the Abacos at any one time that a cruisers net exists and every morning there is a cruisers radio net on channel 68, with weather, world news, local information, cruisers' contacts.

 

Cherokee Sound

Cherokee Sound is the first available anchorage in the Abacos as you approach from the south. We sailed from Spanish Wells on 10th May together with Take Two. After a fairly gentle sail with some motor-sailing to make water and charge batteries we decided to go into Cherokee Sound while Take Two, which was a little faster continued to Little Harbour. The anchorage at Cherokee Sound offered no facilities, so we only stayed one night before moving on into the Sea of Abaco and the Little Harbour area.

Little Harbour

Cruisers are attracted to Little Harbour for two reasons. Firstly because it offers all round protection from winds of any direction. Secondly due to the arrival of Randolph Johnston and family in 1952. Randolph Johnston was an assistant professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and a sculptor. He and his family decided to move to The Bahamas and discovered Little Harbour in their converted lobster boat. They set up home there, living in a cave for a while until they had built accommodation. Randolph is no longer alive, but his son Peter is now the sculptor and runs the only pub in the harbour. Pete’s Pub was built from parts of the lobster boat. There is a sizable gallery to visit containing both Randolph’s and Peter’s sculptures.

Dream On’s draft is too deep to enter Little Harbour, and the harbour being quite small becomes very congested with smaller or shallow draft vessels.

We anchored outside the harbour for the day, visited the gallery and Pete’s Pub before heading off with dinghy and kayaks to explore the much much larger Bight of Old Robinson, adjacent to Little Harbour. The bight is very shallow with white sand, see grass and coral. Very close to shore there are several small blue holes. Divers have disappeared in these blue holes in the past as they probably lead out to the Atlantic with underground currents through the limestone.

 

Lynyard Cay

After visiting Little Harbour the Bight of Old Robinson, we moved Dream On over to Lynyard Cay. Lynyard Cay has some beautiful beaches on the west coast and offers secure anchorage in prevailing easterly winds. We found Lynyard Cay to be one of the best areas for collecting shells and sea glass.

We returned to Lynyard Cay while Simon, Geoff’s son was with us.

On 12th May, we sailed from Lynyard Cay, starting south to leave the Sea of Abaco into the Atlantic by way of the Little Harbour Bar, turning north to sail around to North Man-O-War Channel, a distance of 28 miles.

 

Man-O-War Cay

History: Loyalists first settled the island in the 1780’s. Almost all the residents of Man-O-War Cay can trace their roots back to Nellie Archer and Ben Albury. Nellie Archer used to visit Man-O-War Cay to farm a plot of land that her family owned there. On hot days, she and her family would visit the beach. One particular day they heard voices coming from the beach and went to investigate. Nellie found several survivors from a wreck on the reef offshore being led ashore by 16 year old Ben Albury. True love being what it is, the rest is history. 

The settlers of the Abacos tended to be merchants and boat builders and those traditions have endured. Man-O-War Cay has always been the traditional boat building centre. The Albury surname is still the most dominant in the area.

Our visit: We arrived at Man-O-War Cay on 12th May, coming in from Lynyard Cay via the outside Atlantic route, entering the Sea of Abaco through the North Man-O-War Channel. During the trip we encountered increasing sea and wind up to 21 knots. We were passed by up to 25 sport fishing boats as we approached Man-O-War Cay which had obviously just completed the days fishing tournament. Not all of these were polite as a few insisted on passing in front of us to create even more swell around Dream On.

Just as we turned to enter the channel we caught a small Spanish Mackerel. 

We spent that night in Corn Bay off the northwest corner of Man-O-War before heading to Marsh Harbour to collect Geoff’s son, Simon. We returned to Man-O War Cay again with Simon to explore the harbour and town and met up with Take Two, anchored in the harbour. We also returned after Simon had left to have our genoa sail repaired.

 

Marsh Harbour

Marsh Harbour, the main town on Great Abaco Island is the centre of the Abacos. The harbour is very large, though shallow and offers all round wind protection.

This is a great place to re-supply with some of the best supermarkets we have seen throughout the Bahamas, several suppliers of marine items, electronics and mechanical support, good restaurants, pubs and marinas. Many cruisers use this as their base and go no further south.

We arrived in Marsh Harbour on 13th May after the short crossing of the Sea of Abaco from Corn Bay on Man-O-War Cay. We had made an earlier booking to go into the Harbour View Marina so we could re-supply and wash the boat down with mains water to remove the accumulated salt. Being located in a marina also made it easier for Simon to find us on his arrival on 14th May.

We returned to Marsh Harbour on 22nd May in order for Simon to leave on 23rd. This time we anchored out. We made a day trip to Man-O-War Cay on 23rd to drop of a sail that required repair and returned to Marsh Harbour and its secure anchorage to wait out the passage of two cold fronts with westerly winds. 

 

Great Guana Cay

We remember Great Guana Cay as one of our favourite spots when we chartered a boat here seven years ago. After collecting Simon in Marsh Harbour on 14th May, we headed to Baker's Bay at the northwest end of the island.

Baker's Bay has a long curving white beach and was once used as a cruise ship stopover. A channel was dredged for cruise ships to enter from the Atlantic into the Sea of Abaco and moor outside Baker's Bay. The spoil from the dredging was piled in one area to create a new island, Spoil Cay. This provides a wonderful source of shells.

On land at Baker's Bay, a very discreet facility was built for the cruise line's guests comprising restaurants, bars, watersports facilities, a tame dolphin enclosure and a small open air theatre. Due to the fact that the swell in the Atlantic from prevailing winds can often make the channel dangerous, the whole project flopped, the cruise line pulled out and for around 10 years the facility has lain dormant as a ghost town. On our visit seven years ago, it was as if they had just walked away. Everything had been left behind.

On this visit, we see that things are changing. There are workers ashore removing some of the old diesel tanks and there is a vast project planned including a golf course and exclusive resort. The residents of Great Guana are objecting to this development, so we will have to wait and see what happens.

Baker's Bay is the most northerly anchorage useable by deep draft boats in this part of the Sea of Abaco. To go further north requires departing the Sea of Abaco through the cruise ship channel, the Loggerhead Channel into the Atlantic, heading northwest for 3 miles, then turning in through the Whale Cay Channel. The Whale Cay has a notorious reputation, particularly when wind and current conflict and enormous and dangerous seas can build. Cruisers do not head through this passage unless they have had a good sea report over the local cruisers' radio net. Baker's Bay becomes the holding point for cruisers waiting the weather to make this passage.

The following day, we motored a small distance down the coast, dropped anchor in Fisher's Bay and dinghied in to Great Guana Harbour in order to visit Nipper's Restaurant for their Sunday pig roast.

Nippers is an institution in Abacos. A multi level wooden decked outdoor restaurant overlooking one of the best beaches in the Abacos on the North Atlantic. Hundreds of customers on a Sunday. They say that in the fishing season they have up to 1,000 guests. Great ambience. And the dress code is quite interesting. Bikinis, even thongs are acceptable wear for Sunday lunch!

We enjoyed a great lunch at Nippers where we met up with Tom & PJ from Conch'd Out, last seen in George Town. They were on their way back to Florida with a bent mast.

After leaving Nippers, we sailed south to Man-O-War Cay and anchored just outside the northern entrance to the harbour.

 

Hope Town

Hope Town, the main town on Elbow Cay is a more mixed environment with many descendents of the original loyalists who arrived in the 1790’s, descendents of released slaves and new foreign investors. 

Many years ago, the inhabitants on Elbow Cay made their living from off the salvaging off vessels wrecked on the reefs on the east of the cay. A popular tale relates how the minister was preaching to his congregation when he saw a ship on the reef. His flock had their back to the sea and could not see this windfall. The minister asked everyone to bow their heads for a few minutes of silent prayed. After a few minutes a few of the flock realised the minister was missing and went to investigate. The minister was then spotted heading to the wreck in his boat. The next day the congregation turned the altar around so they had the view of the sea.

The residents objected strenuously when Trinity House decided to erect a lighthouse as this would remove wrecking as one of their sources of income.

Hope Town’s candy striped lighthouse survives to this day, mostly as a tourist attraction. It is one of the last three oil burning lighthouses in the world and still requires the lighthouse keeper to climb the 101 steps every two hours to hand crank the weights that operate the beacon.

Hope Town harbour is the nicest secure natural harbour we have seen. The waterfront comprises houses, marine facilities, resorts and houses all in smart Caribbean pastel colours.

We spent one night on a mooring in Hope Town harbour and took the opportunity to climb up the lighthouse and explore the town.

Despite all of Hope Town’s advertised attractions, the one that far outweighs all others is that it is the home of THE best bakery in the Bahamas. So much so that we made a 6 mile detour on our later trip back from Lynyard Cay just to visit the Vernon's bakery again.

 

Green Turtle Cay

We headed north again to Baker's Bay and anchored overnight  before heading out through the Loggerhead Channel and back into the Sea of Abaco via the Whale Cay Channel to reach Green Turtle Cay in time for their Island Heritage Festival.

Whale Cay Channel was smooth and we enjoyed a good sail up to Green Turtle, where we met up again with Phil & Judy, Take Two and Tom & PJ, Conch'd Out.

The festival included local culture, crafts, food, music, singing, dancing, wrapping the maypole, the Bahamian Police Band and other local entertainment. 

When we left Green Turtle we went to the next island, No Name Cay, which has a great beach and access to reefs. We made a brief stop here to snorkel on the reef and walk the beach before heading back through the Whale Cay and Loggerhead Channels then head for Treasure Cay.

 

Treasure Cay

On arrival at Treasure Cay, a peninsular off Great Abaco Island where we entered through a very shallow narrow channel and anchored in the centre pool of this marina and residential development for one night.

We dinghied ashore to the marina and walked across to the 2 mile white sand Treasure Cay beach which faces northeast towards to Green Turtle Cay.

The books warn that Treasure Cay can be buggy in calm weather. They are right! We spent a calm, buggy night there. There were young turtles in the harbour that swam around the boat.

As we left the harbour and pulled into the Treasure Cay fuel dock, the heavens opened and it just poured for an hour. Visibility disappeared for some time so we stayed at the fuel dock until it cleared. We then headed off back to Marsh Harbour.

 

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