Monday, April 20, 2015

Abaco Islands

Joe takes a closer look at an approaching
squall line on the horizon.
     Both Joe and I agree that sailing conditions in the Sea of Abaco are comparable to our home cruising grounds of Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound, Rhode Island. Of course there are differences concerning depths and coloration. The Sea of Abaco is warmer, shallower and depending upon sunlight and time of day morphs from viridian to cerulean blue with shades of cobalt and ultramarine. An entire day without brilliant, warm sunshine is rare. A cruising sailor could easily become complacent in the Abacos with numerous all weather protected harbors and spectacular sailing conditions.

Reflections of the Hopetown Lighthouse
by Joe Boulay
Hopetown became our base of operations in the Abacos with a two week stay on a mooring. The pristine beach was delightful for a walk and swim with only a few tourists speckling the area in front of the resort leaving the remainder of the beach relatively secluded. The resort was actually a pleasant stop for a Kalik before heading back to the Simple Life.
The beach Hopetown, Elbow Cay, Bahamas


Friends Kitty & Scott from Tamure aboard
Simple Life in Hopetown

Michele & Guy playing at the Hopetown Harbour Lodge Resort


Pete's Pub, Little Harbour, Abaco

      Little Harbour was also on the itinerary this year since we hadn't stopped there for eleven years! The last time we'd visited we hitchhiked 20 miles from Marsh Harbour with our Kiwi friends Bob and Robin. This time we sailed there timing our arrival for high tide to avoid running aground on the shallow bar at the harbor entrance.

     A couple of highlights of Little Harbour are Pete's Pub owned by sculptor Pete Johnston whose family settled Little Harbour when it was virtually uninhabited in 1951 and the Johnston's Foundry which was built by Pete's father, sculptor Randolph Johnston in the early 1960's. The foundry was closed to visitors during our short stay, but we did enjoy lunch at the pub and a walk on the beach.
Joe ordering Kaliks at Pete's Pub, Little Harbour, Abaco
Rowing in Little Harbour, Abaco
Dolphins on the Little Bahama Banks off Simple Life's bow

Joe & Michele at the Jib Room
Marsh Harbour
by Hayden Cochran
    After a final provisioning at Marsh Harbour Simple Life sailed through the Whale Cay Cut to Great Sale Cay in the northern Abacos where we staged for an overnight Gulf Stream crossing to Fort Pierce, Florida. The crossing was successful with enough wind to sail during the entire passage. The only drawback was the number of cruise ships and cargo ships that crossed our path during the darkest hours of the night. One cruise ship crossed astern within less than a half mile. I stopped counting after spotting 13 ships.

Dolphin escorts as Simple Life exited the Little Bahama Banks

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Friday, April 10, 2015

The Berry Islands and Beyond

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Simple Life's anchorage in Devils Hoffman Cay
  The most recurring comment among cruisers transiting the Bahamas this spring has been, "This sure was a rough winter weather wise in south Florida and the Bahamas." During prior years, there were more opportunities for Gulf Stream crossings in early January. The crossing opportunities this season were few and far between. In late February some boaters who managed to cross chose to head south, but several like us decided to skip the Exumas Island chain since the season was shortened in favor of remaining north in the Berrys and Abacos.                                                          

A ray transiting the shallow banks surrounding the anchorage

Joe enjoying the view of the Blue Hole in the Berry Islands

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Showering aboard Simple Life with 2.5 gallon Sun Shower
           The end result happened to be a positive one for the Simple Life. It was our first visit to the Berrys and we enjoyed the isolation and fishing in Devils Hoffman Cays. The islands also provided adequate protection from numerous days of strong easterly winds in the 30+ knot range while offering an unspoiled scenic anchorage; a pristine marine environment unscathed by development. The resident four foot barracuda seemed to enjoy the shade Simple Life provided and we were treated to a tribe of Green turtles who frequented the anchorage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
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The triggerfish that almost got away!
     When planning a few days in this area provisioning becomes imperative. There are no stores, pharmacies, clinics or settlements nearby. In other words the boat needs to be well stocked with food, drinking water, adult beverages and a crew familiar with self reliance. Weather kept us anchored in nearly total isolation for over a week since the cut from the ocean to the cays became treacherous and impassible due to high winds from the east. While there we caught more than enough fish enabling us to save food supplies we'd brought along.
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Triggerfish filets for grilling.

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Jim Austin & Bentley Smith enjoying the sunset
aboard Salty Paws
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The winds eventually abated, the cut became negotiable and we headed across the Northeast Providence Channel to Royal Island and Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. During transit we landed a Mahi Mahi, spotted two pods of dozing dolphins, a school of tuna and two bull Mahis leaping out of the water as if competing in the long jump!

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Sunset at Meeks Patch with Salty Paws
     After arriving in Meeks Patch and spending a few days with friends Jim and Bentley from Salty Paws we continued sailing north across the Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos with plans of devoting  a month to visiting areas we'd hurriedly bypassed on previous return trips to the States.