The Sea of Abaco is defined by a series of cays that create a protected waterway roughly 5 miles wide and about 100 miles long. The outer cays shelter the inner waters from the winds and often rough seas of the Atlantic. The Sea is mostly shallow (5-15’ deep), with warm, clear water and a sandy bottom. Spread around this area is a series of well protected harbours. Those we visited include White Sound (Green Turtle Cay), Marsh Harbour (Great Abaco Island), Settlement Harbour (Great Guana Cay), Little Harbour (Great Abaco Island) and Hope Town (Elbow Cay). Each place has its own character, from the bustle of Marsh Harbour to the upscale vibe of Hope Town and the ‘back in time’ feel of Little Harbour.
Most of our visit has been spent in these harbours on mooring balls or at very nice marinas. Usually they have resort amenities and an active social scene among the cruisers there. Often we joined the crowd for ‘sundowners’ on the dock, to swap stories, share a barbeque dinner, and watch the beautiful sunsets. Many of the locations also have a well-known local watering hole where we spent some time (notice a theme here?), such as Nippers (Great Guana) and Pete’s Pub (Little Harbour).
After the relatively cool temperatures we experienced in early February the weather became more seasonal, with highs reaching the mid to upper 20’s and with gentler trade winds from the east. We enjoyed walking Great Guana’s 5 mile long beach, one of the most impressive we have visited in the Caribbean. It was even calm enough to snorkel the barrier reef there. Another highlight was our visit to the peppermint-striped Hope Town lighthouse. Built in 1838, the 120 foot tall structure is the world’s last operating kerosene-fueled beacon. When it was built, then residents feared it would end their profitable wrecking practice.
After 5 very enjoyable weeks in the Bahamas it was time to return to Florida to continue our explorations there.The Captain had been monitoring the weather forecasts closely, watching for the right opportunity to make the Gulf Stream crossing from Grand Bahama’s West End to Lake Worth (Palm Beach). Calmer days are infrequent at this time of year, so when March 6th looked promising we made a long day’s run (118 miles) across Little Bahama Bank from Green Turtle Cay to the West End. Although it was quite choppy on the Bank, we were able to achieve a 14 knot cruising speed for most of the way, and made the trip in 8 hours. Fortunately the next day’s weather forecast held, and the Gulf Stream crossing was relatively smooth.
The following pictures cover the remainder of our time in the Abacos up to our arrival at Lake Worth.
Our next post will include the Florida ICW all the way to Key West, and hopefully the Dry Tortugas.