Northern Exumas to Hopetown, Abacos
29 March 2019 | Hopetown
On Friday, March 8, we picked up anchor and headed the short distance north to Bitter Guana Cay and anchored off the white cliffs and beach there. It is another very scenic anchorage with good protection from NE to SE winds with only a couple of other boats here. The beach is populated with iguanas which are visited by a number of small tour boats (and one sea plane) during the day but there is plenty of room and the visiting boats did not make much of a disturbance. We went ashore and found a way back from the beach and up the hillside to the top of the cliffs for good views and a fresh breeze. Overnight we had some heavy rains that persisted the next morning, so we stayed put until the afternoon then had a nice downwind sail with solent jib alone in 20-25 kts around Harvey Cay and north to Pipe Cay. A good number of others were sheltered in the lee of Pipe Cay here while the winds continued strong from the east overnight. Sunday morning (Mar 10) the winds were down below 20 so we sailed on a broad reach under full sail the 38 nm to Highborne Cay along with a fleet of six or so others going the same way. By early afternoon we were anchored amidst a large fleet off the north end of the west coast of Highborne and enjoyed a dinghy trip to the long beach there, then around the southern corner to the high end marina there for a look see and drink at their bar/restaurant which was very nice. The anchorage there was more popular than most with a couple of dozen boats or more, but there was plenty of room for boats to not feel crowded. This spot is often a popular first stop for boats on their way from Nassau to the Exumas.
Monday (Mar 11) we were up early and were underway before sunrise for a long sail north, leaving the Exumas via the vast area of banks between Nassau and Eleuthera. After speaking with our very experienced friends about crossing these banks along this route, we were emboldened to make the trip exiting the banks through the Fleeming Channel, then on to Spanish Wells. There were plenty of dark looking patches on light sandy bottom, but as we crossed them, the depths never varied more than a foot or two from the quite uniform 15 to 20 ft we typically saw. Once in the deep water west of Current Island we proceeded north to near Spanish Wells and anchored of 'Meeks Patch' for the evening and overnight, whereupon we had another good rinse off with a two hour downpour. It was a fine trip with a nice close reach the 53 nm that took about eight and a half hours. The next day around noon we made our way into the marina at Spanish Wells, our second visit since last being here two months earlier. We again rented a golf cart and enjoyed 'bombing around' St George's Cay and Russell Island, and took the opportunity to hit the grocery store and restaurants that we like. After two days (Mar 14) we left the marina and headed the 6 nm over to Royal Island Harbour to be ready to head north to the Abacos the next day. Again we got an early start (Mar 15) and the winds had veered to just south of east making for a fantastic ocean sail on a reach all the way to the Sea of Abaco where we crossed the bar through the reef near Little Harbour. We then continued north in the Sea of Abaco the 15 nm further up to Elbow Cay and the picturesque harbor of Hopetown (73 nm trip/11 hrs). Our good friends on Fancy Free had been able to snag an available mooring inside--an often challenging if not impossible feat--and reserved it for us for the week. We were so grateful since we had not been able to stay inside on previous visits, and plan to stay at least one maybe two additional weeks for an excellent weekly rate. From there we've enjoyed the many features of this cozy quaint harbor and kept it as a base while exploring this corner of the Sea of Abaco, doing stuff with friends while ashore, as well as riding out some stormy conditions on Tuesday (Mar 19). In this anticipated weather event, the winds stayed in the 28-32 kt range with gusts to 40 most of the afternoon and evening and the rain poured for hours. It was so great to be inside this all-around protected harbor for this weather episode. In subsequent days, the weather returned to its beautiful typical normal of sunny, breezy with temps in the 70's. On Tuesday (Mar 26) we headed over to Man O War Cay with 'Sea Jules' & 'Fancy Free' and enjoyed a walk around town, the ocean beach, and enjoyed lunch/dinner at the "Dock & Dine". The next AM we took it easy to make water from the crystal clear seawater around us there and to wait for higher water with the afternoon high tide for reentry into Hopetown Harbour. Once back in the harbor we were ready for another frontal passage that brought a day of high winds and heavy seas on the outside (Thurs, Mar 28), but harbor's protection enabled us to dinghy ashore for walks on Elbow Cay. We plan to continue with more of the same from here in Hopetown for another week or so before moving on to stage for a crossing back to the US in April.