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.
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.
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.
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
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.
returned to Lynyard Cay while Simon, Geoff’s son was with us.
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.
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.
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.
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
Just as we turned to
enter the channel we caught a small Spanish Mackerel.
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, 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
residents objected strenuously when Trinity House decided to erect a
lighthouse as this would remove wrecking as one of their sources of income.
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.
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.
spent one night on a mooring
in Hope Town harbour
and took the opportunity to
up the lighthouse and explore the town.
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
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.
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.