To The Abacos

First Abacos sunrise

And so here we are: in the Abacos, the northeastern part of the Bahamas and the final region I’ll get to explore before returning to the United States and normalcy. I type that with a bit of sadness but also with some excitement. And I also type it knowing that I’ve had a great couple of days getting to this point.

As expected, Further and a veritable armada of other boats left the Spanish Wells area yesterday, bound for the Abacos a mere 50 or so miles due north. The route runs across the Northeastern Providence Channel, a stretch of very deep—how does 15,000 feet deep sound?—water where the Atlantic Ocean heaps up on the island chain after being sent by whatever storms happened to be churning between North America and Europe.

It was a great sail, with wind that varied from northeast to east-northeast and in strength from under 10 knots in the beginning to a nice couple of hours of high teens in the late morning, to a more-or-less steady 13 to 15 knots at the end. The seas were a little lumpier than I expected, with a nice four-foot swell running out of the east with a semi-confused wind-driven chop of two feet or so on top of that. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t cozy either.

Further entering Spanish Wells Harbor en route to the Abacos

I raised anchor from my spot in front of the Sandbar at 6:30 and, along with the Austrian couple with whom I’ve been buddy boating for a couple of weeks now and another Austrian couple that they met at Sunday brunch, headed east through the Spanish Wells harbor and then around Gun Point, the northwest corner of neighboring Eleuthera. Right there at Gun Point, Ridley Head Channel heads due north, but the intel on that channel is that, while deep, it is also very narrow with coral heads on either side, so our trio gave it a wide berth and continued on another half-mile or so to Bridge Point Channel.

That little eastward detour made a big difference as it gave us a better wind angle heading north. The folks sailing from Egg Island had the wind hard on the nose while those heading out Ridley Head Channel were still sailing pretty close to the wind. We sailed on tacks ranging from a close haul to an actual beam reach at times, so we not only made higher speeds but we had a bit less pounding into the waves. And since (as everyone knows, right?) anytime there are two or more boats heading in the same direction then there is a de facto race, that wind angle made it so we kicked ass. My Austrian friends on their Hallberg-Rassy blew everyone away. Even Further, despite being sailed solo by yours truly who managed to have his jib track set too far forward for a good three hours of the trip thereby giving up both speed and heading, managed to smoke all the boats who’d not only gone earlier but had taken the shorter route out Ridley Head. Boom! The “new” Austrians were thick in the pack behind us but only because they slowed down not once, not twice, but THREE times due to having caught a mahi-mahi on their trolling lines. Lucky buggers! They kept one and tossed the other two back.

Like a herd of lemmings: the many boats heading north as seen on AIS, a navigational tool

We all wound up in an anchorage behind Lynyard Cay, which is about halfway up the east side of Great Abaco Island. It’s a great anchorage with deep water, good protection from the east winds and, nearby, Pete’s Pub and Art Gallery located in Little Harbour. Little Harbour is a lovely spot but the water there is very thin—too shallow by a lot for Further to fit—so it was mostly only catamarans (and a lot of charter-boat cats, no less) in there when I dinghied over this evening for dinner. Yes, Pete’s is yet another Bahamas beach bar, but I dug this one: great vibe, great food and not insanely priced. I could definitely see myself returning to Pete’s Pub.

But the main fun has been over here at Lynyard Cay. The island itself is narrow and there are a couple of great little beaches a very short dinghy ride away. There are houses on the island but they’re all a ways off to the north; down here, it’s empty and wild and pretty. A short trail takes you over to the Atlantic side where there’s another lovely beach—but it’s not the kind of beach where you could go swimming, say. Between the fine, white sand and the deep blue ocean is a stretch of the ancient coral/limestone rock that makes up these islands, so interaction with the water is purely visual. But it would be a great beach to sunbathe on, to wander, to ponder.

Good times ’round the campfire on Lynyard Cay

Back over on the inside of the island, the beach had all sorts of chairs and tables and such that cruisers and locals have left there over the years. It’s a very social place to which everyone wandered by dinghy, SUP, kayak…whatever. Our group and another group of two boats crewed by Quebecois families, had a great little bonfire tonight—and it was fabulous: good conversation, lots of laughter, great stars and a first-quarter moon, with our boats quietly standing by behind us in the anchorage. A really, really great night.

And on the fringes of the island you can see potential of particular interest to me. Entering the cut into the protected waters behind the islands yesterday, there were sets of waves peeling off the reef on either side. Yes, they were messy waves due to the easterly, onshore winds, but you could tell that if there was a swell (from, say, a distant nor’easter up near New England) and less onshore wind, well, you could have some fun surfing here. When I dinghied over to Little Harbour and back, the swells were definitely noticeable as I passed the inlet—there was some juice to those waves, for sure.

Yes, it’s yet another beach bar in the Bahamas, but Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour is a definitely cool spot

So yeah, I really dig it here despite it being a short visit. And it’s shorter than I expected because my left foot—you know, the one that got stung by a sting ray?—has turned really swollen and painful today. It’s weird: the thing hurt like hell for a few hours after it happened (nine days ago) but by dinnertime wasn’t too bad. And it seemingly got better with each successive day. Yeah, my foot would hurt if I smacked it on a cleat or something, or if I flexed it too much while swimming, but it was no big deal. And then today…wow. Definitely swollen and painful for any real movement. The skin isn’t warm and I don’t have a fever, so I don’t think it’s infected—other than the sting ray poison that’s undoubtedly still in there. But it’s got me worried enough that I think I’ll head to Marsh Harbour tomorrow and go to the clinic there, see what they say.

And that’s been the only downer to what I think is one of my favorite locations thus far in the Bahamas. So here’s to a longer, healthier visit next time.


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