The Abacos to Green Turtle Cay
05 April 2017 | White Sound, Green Turtle Cay
March 18 - April 5: Saturday the 18th we checked the weather and headed out early from Royal Island for the trip north to the Abacos. We passed west of the shoals that lie north of Royal Island and Spanish Wells then due north to the southern entrance to the Sea of Abaco about 50 nm distant. The winds were up and more forward of the beam than ideal but we were able to sail on a close reach then close hauled with a reefed main and solent jib to a point just short of the entrance cut. The body of water is known as the New Providence Channel and can have significant shipping going through it. We encountered little of that but a westward flowing current turned our reach into a beat for most of the trip. At the beginning of the trip as we crossed off of the banks and into deeper ocean we had the fishing line trolling and had a big strike. The line was screeching out with maximum drag and at the same time we're in some very boisterous seas, then the bilge indicator went on and stayed on--too much happening at once! A small amount of seas over the bow had caused us to take on some water through the anchor's hawse pipe, but nothing to worry about (especially with a bigger secondary bilge pump and two manual pumps set to go). The automatic pump was failing to empty it out, however, and had to be shut off until it could be addressed later. And the fish was just too much to reel in and after a few minutes of trying to play it, the line snapped taking the lure & leader with it. Since it was 80 lb test line, it had to be something big...probably bigger than we would have wanted to deal with, we'd like to think...maybe a shark. The rest of the trip was a bit of a slog to windward but a good sail. The entrance cut near Little Harbor was choppy but not a problem since it was perpendicular to the wind and waves. Once inside we found a secure anchorage in the north end of "The Bight of Old Robinson" to be situated to get into Little Harbor with the high tide tomorrow.
Near Midday we headed over to Little Harbor and just made it across the infamous entrance bar with a slight touch on the sand 1 hour before high tide. We snagged a mooring there amidst a flood of competitors and went ashore to check out Pete's Pub, the only establishment in the harbor. The place is famous for its classic beach bar and bronze sculpture gallery and foundry. We enjoyed a dinner there as well as the gallery and boardwalk to the ocean beach. The next day we left again just before high tide and had more water and no trouble getting across the bar. That afternoon we got settled at a peaceful anchorage off of Lynyard Cay, a higher wooded long island with only a few houses. Tuesday (21st) we headed across the southern Sea of Abaco to the Angel Cays, site of a new land and marine park for some exploration by dinghy. Once there we took a long dinghy cruise around Deep Sea Cay where we saw eagle rays near a blue hole at the mouth and shallow mangrove shores in depths of 1-2 ft for several miles along the west side. The cay to the north was the site of a lumber industry port from the 1950s that is now barely discernable. The local pine forests were harvested commercially at that time and shipped out via barges there at Snake Cay. Today the pine forests seem to have mostly regrown and the tall spindly Bahamian Pines seem to virtually cover the island of Great Abaco, giving it a very different character than the other cays to the south. After our dinghy excursion we moved Mystic Star over to Hope Town through another entrance only accessible to us at above half tide. Hope Town is a quaint cozy harbor with brightly painted houses and narrow roads, kind of reminds you of a misplaced New England village. The harbor is full of close spaced moorings which proved too much in demand for us to find one available, so we went back outside and anchored in a spot west of the [Elbow] cay. We were just west of the famous light house there that still operates using hand wound rotation mechanism and a kerosene lantern behind a Fresnel lens. Once back in the harbor via dinghy we toured the lighthouse grounds and tower that is maintained by volunteers. It was a great view on a beautiful day from the top of the tower and worth the 100+ step climb up the spiral staircase. We enjoyed a walk around town and dinner at Capt Jack's on the water. The next day we did some more touring of the harbor by dinghy and walks around town including a lunch at the beautiful Hope Town Harbour Lodge overlooking the ocean beach.
Later in the day we made the short trip over to the major town of Marsh Harbour and anchored where we stayed for three nights during a frontal passage. We again got together with Gail & Laura on Fancy Free who were also in the harbor at the time. The town is kind of spread out so long walks were involved to visit the marine supply and the first US style supermarket that we've encountered since leaving home. Saturday (the 25th) we headed back over towards Elbow Cay and anchored near the south end in "Aunt Pat's Bay" near a beach known as "Tahiti Beach". Sunday we dinghied from there into White Sound and a marina/lodge where we rented bikes and toured the entire island in a couple of hours. There were more ups and downs on this cay than might be apparent at first glance, so we really got a good workout. In the process we found a good sports bar to watch Carolina make it into the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament by winning over Kentucky.
Monday (27th) we were on the move again for a short sail to Man o War Cay. Once again we tried for a spot in the crowded inner mooring field with no luck, so made our way to a nice spot on the SW coast of the cay and visited the town by dinghy. This is another quaint harbor but more involved in boat building and fishing than Hope Town and the houses are colorful but feature less of the fancy wood work trim. The boat building (now in fiberglass) is still going strong at the harbor's edge and has a long history here. We took a long walk around the island and town and met by chance with Scott and Kitty of "Tamure" whom Donna had met years ago while crewing with Jill and Parker aboard "Tootsie", both widely traveled Valiant sailboats. We also enjoyed a visit to Albury's Sail Loft on the water there where seamstresses were actively putting out sturdy and artful canvas bags of all shapes and sizes.
Tuesday we left the anchorage at Man o War Cay and attempted to exit the cut to the ocean north of that island. It proved to be rougher than I expected in part due to ebb tide against ocean swell, so we thought better of it and turned around and headed back into the calmer waters of the Sea of Abaco. From there we went back into the all-around protection of Marsh Harbour where we stayed for a few more days and booked a SCUBA dive trip on a dive boat from a nearby marina. The dives south of Scotland cay and east of Fowl cay were nice in relatively shallow water (18-28 ft), nothing spectacular but featured large coral heads with deep overhangs and caverns to look in. The shallow depths and clear water light up the reef areas for great colors. By Thursday (30th) we were headed out again this time up the Sea of Abaco, first to anchor off of Water Cay for lunch and to run the watermaker, then on to the large marina at Treasure Cay for a two night stay. This was a convenient stop to do laundry and rent a car for the day to tour the island of Great Abaco. Friday we drove the length of the island to the south (about 60 miles) and noticed the roads were long and straight passing through vast areas of pine forest without any signs of development or even ruins of old places. We visited the settlement of Cherokee in the southeast with its famous 'longest pier' in the Bahamas, a nice quiet and very isolated community on the coast there. Also stopped by the new development of "Schooner Bay" with its fancy new homes and facilities, with lots of 'room for expansion' shall we say. At the end of the road we found Nancy's Bar and restaurant in the small community of Sandy Point at the southwest most point of Great Abaco. There we had an excellent cracked lobster lunch as recommended to us by our friend Parker (of Tootsie) who had spent a number of winter seasons here in the Abacos. From the beach there in the distance we could see one of the Disney cruise ships that was moored off its private "Castaway Island" for guests to enjoy time on the beach there.
By Saturday (April 1st) we were off again, this time to visit Great Guana Cay on the opposite side of the Sea of Abaco. There we found a mooring in Fishers Bay for the calm night and went ashore at the Orchid Bay marina in Settlement Harbour where we rented a golf cart to tour the island and to visit the famous "Nipper's" beach bar on the ocean side. The cart ride was OK but limited by the exclusive developments at both the north and south ends of the island with gated entries and guards not allowing casual visitors like us. And to top it off, we were stopped by an officer who was ready to give us a citation for an expired registration sticker on the cart! Fortunately he merely asked us to inform the rental people to contact him about the matter. Aside from that we had a nice visit to a beautiful new restaurant/bar up on the high ground overlooking the Sea of Abaco, "Mermaids" which had just opened a few weeks before. Hopefully they'll get a few more visitors in the weeks ahead as we were the only ones there at the time, and just found the place by chance. The next day we were at Nipper's for the Sunday pig roast which was good, then off to make our way around "the whale" late in the afternoon. The Whale Cay passage is an area where boats leave the Sea of Abaco to go around Whale Cay with the open ocean swell coming in from the northeast. One needs to verify that conditions are favorable before getting into this area as the seas are rarely less than 3 - 4 feet and are on the beam which tends to cause heavy rolling. It can be much more dramatic than that with big rolling waves that can be tough to negotiate. Once inside the narrow cut to the north, one is back on the relative calm of the banks with outlying cays and reefs to shield you from the ocean swell. We had a very good day for this and the passage was a non-event. Along the way, at anchor near the huge and exclusive Baker's Bay resort facility, we sailed past the second largest private yacht in the world "Eclipse" at 533 ft LOA, quite a sight!
Once north of the Whale, we made our way to Green Turtle Cay and its very protected inner harbor of White Sound. We were able to get a good solid mooring in there where we planned to stay for up to a week while we explored the cay and watched the weather for a good time to sail north towards home. The harbor does not have the best holding for anchoring and a front was expected later in the week, so we were glad to get a deal on a week's stay on the mooring. While here we enjoyed touring the island by dinghy and by rental golf cart shared with our friends from Fancy Free. The town of New Plymouth at the other end of the island is another quaint little village, but seems to have an overabundance of good little restaurants and several well stocked grocery stores, more so than anywhere we've been so far in these islands. As I write the harbor is now filling up with boats trying to anchor in the few open spaces left and taking slips at the marina here. It looks as though there will be a good window to sail towards Florida and points north from here starting about Sunday (the 9th), so we'll be getting ready for that move in the coming days. There are lots of other boats here with something similar planned.