We have come to the end of the Eleutheras. We could take a right and head over to another pink beach and cute island, but we decide to head back into the Big, Bad Atlantic and cross over to the Abacos and then make our way to Hope Town.
Start: Mooring ball, Spanish Wells, 0639
End: Anchorage off of Great Abaco Island, Abacos, 1800
Total Distance: 67.2 nm
Average Speed: 5.9 kts
Why oh why do we set our alarm for a time that is BEFORE the sun rises? That is more an existential question; the answer is we have 50 miles to go, not any wind to speak of and so it will take a long, long time to get to the destination. So wakey wakey, we have to be on our way!
Lucky does his duty in the dark, Jan and I put up the dinghy in the dim light just before dawn and by the time the sun peeks over the horizon, we have left Spanish Wells and are heading southwest.1 The wrong way. We have two options. Option one it to head out our mooring field, turn north and thread our ways through a minefield of coral heads. Or turn (temporarily) south, curve around the west side of Eleuthera and then turn north. It will cost us an hour and a half, but we are all good with paying that price.
Forecast today is for winds from the south at (hold on to your hat) four, count ‘em, FOUR whole knots. We are going north. Our motors will drive us at 5-6 knots so those four knots aren’t going to do anything much for us. The waves are supposed to be 4-5 feet which makes us throw up a bit in our mouths. But with a 10 second period, so they will be rollers (as opposed to breakers over the bow). When we round the land into the Big, Bad Atlantic the sea is basically calm. There are big rollers, but they lift us up and put us down gently. Otherwise the wind, what little there is, has no effect on us or the water. We put our sails up to say that we put our sails up. They wave uselessly at passing sailboats and eventually we pull them back down.
We are not alone out here today. We count at least four other boats on the horizon and two enormous tankers cross behind us crossing to/from Europe. Throughout the day we see at least a dozen more sailboats making the trip between the Bahama islands on this nice calm day. The day is what we want. Benign. Other than the stress I feel when we burn fossil fuels (as opposed to, you know, sailing), this is as stress free as it gets.
We arrive at the cut into the Abacos at 1630 and follow a monohull through. We take an immediate left and head into Little Harbor where there are mooring balls and a place to anchor. There is a wind coming and we would like to get someplace relatives protected. But when we get in the harbor, it is full to the gills. It is, as its name implies, little and all moorings are taken AND there are a ton of boats anchored really, really, really close to each other. Not the level of comfort we are looking for. So we head back out.
Next stop is Lynyard Cay, just off our right (starboard) side. This cay is just north of the cut we just entered and we can see that there are already a large number of boats anchored in two different locations. We go to the southern most first and see S/V Schole and Irish Rose and look to get a good place to sty close to them, but the waves coming through the cut (with the south wind) make this anchorage pretty rolly. We don’t like rolly, so as much as we want to stay by Schole, we decide to head north around a little spit of the Great Abaco Island itself and have an anchorage all to ourselves. No surge, no waves, not boats.
Onto Hope Town
Start: Anchorage off of Great Abaco Island, Abacos, 0809
End: Mooring ball, Hope Town, Abacos, 1106
Total Distance: 12 nm
Average Speed: 4.1 kts
Our quiet anchorage was most excellent. We were protected from surge, there was a light breeze blowing in our hatches and when the sun came up we were all well rested. I took Lucky to shore at 7:30 and by 0810 we were pulling up the anchor and heading out. Our destination was Hope Town and its mooring field and more importantly, protected harbor. I put in a copy of the weather forecast for the day and you can see the there is light winds for most of the day but then the wind jumps up to 20+ knots from the north east and it stays that way for 24 hours. We looked at our charts and Hope Town looked good, though it was popular. We figured if we leave early, we get there early and if it is full we have plenty of time to find a protected anchorage, or make the decision to head to Marsh Harbor. Options. We want options.
The morning was absolutely spectacular. Sunny. Flat, crystal ice blue water. It is quiet. We can see turtles peek their heads heads out of the water in front of us and then take off like a rocket when we get close. I’m close to service time on engines, so only run one today and we take our time on the short 12 mile trip to Hope Town. The trip is over shallow water; twice Jan has to go up front to make sure we are heading through water deep enough for our keel. The least we saw was four feet–plenty for what we need.
The Abacos are much different than Eleuthera, Exumas or the Berries. We are running between the VERY large Great Abaco Island to our left (west) and the string of cays/small islands to our right that protect us from the Big Bad Atlantic Ocean. It feels like we are in a very large lake, similar to what we experienced in Canada in the Georgian Bay. Tree covered islands. Houses built upon the islands/cays over looking the water. Tons of boats of all sizes running about. We are no longer all alone; we are close enough to the United States that there are a lot of people enjoying the weather/water/land.
The trip is short and just after 1100 we are turning into the Hope Town harbor. It is a narrow channel and outside the channel there are a couple of boats already at anchor, BUT we did find a couple of good places to park if there are no morning balls. And when we get inside the harbor, it appears that may be the case. There are a ton of boats in a very small space. Jan and AJ are up front and we begin to pick our way through the morning field and see that there are a couple of mooring balls that appear to be free. We line up on one and as we are about to grab it, a friendly dude tell us that it is taken. If the morning balls are marked with a floating gallon jug by a float handing off of it, the owner is gone, but will return. He does point us to a ball that is free. So we move over, Jan and AJ stick the landing and we are in. But as we look around the mooring field, there aren’t a lot of extra places for other boats.
We finish up school, eat some lunch and head into town to walk the dog and explore. While we are in town, the front hits; clouds roll in, a quick squall blows through, the wind shifts from south to north in about 10 minutes. And it picks up dramatically. The front, scheduled to arrive at 5ish, has hit about three hours early. Our calm harbor is now not so calm, but better than outside.
We dinghy back to our boat and chaos has ensued. Apparently we aren’t the only ones who can read a weather app, nor are we the only ones who wanted to get in from the wind. And a bunch of boats were trying to get into the harbor and find a free morning ball, of which, at this point, there were exactly NONE. One of the boats was a 52 foot catamaran lumbering through very narrow aisles, making for some very close calls. We stood at the ready with our ‘boat stickers’ in hand ready to fend off other craft, but no one got close and within an hour, things had settled down.
And so we sit for at least one more day. Good news? We are getting some wifi, and one of us is basking in the glow of free (albeit slow) internet. We settle down for another game of Pandemic and for the first time on the entire trip WE BEAT THE GAME! We immediately throw it overboard so we can finish on a high note.
1And we are SHOCKED when we leave Spanish Wells and see that the channel markers, which are actually IN PLACE, have lights on top that are ACTUALLY WORKING! Chalk that one up. It is 50/50 if there are actually aids to navigation as seen on the charts and, at least up to this point, a zero percent chance that there are any lights marking said aids to navigation!