Tag Archives: Sea of Abaco

Hope Town, the Royal Bahamian Defense Force and Little Harbor – by Randy

Hope Town Light House

Hope Town Light House

HOPE TOWN

Since our last post we have covered quite a bit of ground. We spent five fabulous days moored in Hope Town Harbor on Elbow Cay. As most people familiar with the Abacos already know, Hope Town is a very quaint little town with a well protected harbor that is a strong draw for cruisers as they work their way through the Abacos. The harbor has one of the last kerosene fired lighthouses still in existence, plus numerous shops and eateries that make re provisioning easy and convenient.

While we were in Hope Town, we were all treated to some fantastic views from atop the lighthouse. From the lighthouse you can see the Atlantic on one side and the Sea of Abaco on the other with a commanding view of the Hope Town harbor thrown in for good measure.

In addition to the spectacular daytime views, we got a unique opportunity to climb the lighthouse with the lighthouse keeper and Ryan and Ronan got to light the giant kerosene lantern and hand crank the light house lens.

We could have easily spent another week or more hanging out in Hope Town but believe it or not, we are actually beginning to come under some schedule pressure. We still need to get down to Staniel Cay in the Exumas by December 1 so that we can pick up some friends who are flying down from New Hampshire, therefor it is time for us to move on.

 BAHAMAS ROYAL DEFENSE BOARDING

The day we left Hope Town was a beautiful clear day with light winds on the Sea of Abaco, making our transit south to Little Harbor both scenic and comfortable. About half way into our day, we passed a Royal Bahamian Defense Force patrol boat that captured the boys attention when they saw the multiple deck guns and 50 caliber machine guns mounted to the rails. We were all caught by surprise when the patrol boat launched a twin engine RIB (rigid inflatable boat) crewed by 7 heavily armed sailors who pulled alongside the Pilots’ Discretion and advised us that we were about to be boarded.

Bahamas Royal Defense Force

Bahamas Royal Defense Force

Although I participated in many such boardings as a crew member in the Coast Guard many years ago, I must confess that I felt some apprehension as we had to heave to and allow the armed crew members aboard. The good news is that all of the Bahamian sailors were extremely professional. They conducted a thorough search of the Pilots’ Discretion (we did not learn until after they had completed their search that there had been a boat carrying 100 Haitian refugees in the area and the Bahamian Defence Force was involved in a large scale search for them), after which they wished us a safe journey and were off to their next boarding. An hour after our boarding we were gliding smoothly into Little Harbor where we picked up a mooring ball and settled in for the night.

LITTLE HARBOR

Pilots Discretion position 2014 November, Litle Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas

Pilots Discretion position 2014 November, Litle Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas

Little Harbor as the name implies, is a small harbor located on the southeastern coast of Great Abaco Island. There are a few very nice homes, a completely protected harbor teeming with marine life of all descriptions, a great reef for snorkeling and some magnificent beaches. Beyond the natural beauty of this harbor, it is also known as a favorite stop for cruisers because  it has one of the Bahamas better known cruiser hangouts known as Pete’s Pub. The pub is named appropriately enough for it’s owner Pete Johnston, a world renowned sculptor. Pete also has a gallery on the island to display his works plus the works of the many artisans who travel to work with Pete on various projects. We were looking forward to visiting the pub and gallery but since they are only open Thursday thru Sunday this time of year and it was Wednesday afternoon when we pulled in, we did not expect to do anything but chill the first night on the mooring. After getting the Pilots’ Discretion secured for the evening, we all took the dinghy to shore to look around.

Pete's Pub Dock, Little Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas

Pete’s Pub Dock, Little Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas

As we were walking down the dock, a big, booming voice called out from the closed pub and said “you guys look like you could use a drink”. It was none other than Pete himself and the next thing we know, we are sitting with Pete and a dozen other folks, both cruisers and locals. Pete proceeded to cook dinner and provide drinks for all and as he said “the restaurant is open tomorrow, you can’t buy a drink on this island tonight.” Ryan and Ronan were eating like they had not been fed for weeks. Ronan was very impressed with the small, freshly cooked “chickens” and he told Pete how good they were. Pete, much to Ronan’s surprise replied ” those aren’t chickens, those are pigeons, I shot them out of that tree over there, this afternoon.” Ronan who at times has been accused of being a finicky eater was pleasantly surprised by Pete’s culinary skills.

Satellite view of Pilots' Discretion track into White Sound, Green Turtle Cay

The Sea of Abaco – by Randy

Since leaving the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End on Grand Bahama Island, we have been exploring the Abacos.

Our first day out, we transited the Little Bahama Bank, passing just north of Mangrove Cay to anchor in Northwest Harbor at Great Sale Cay (a run of 47 nautical miles) The entire day we cruised across unbelievably clear waters without seeing another vessel. When we got to Great Sale Cay, there were two other cruising boats already anchored but there was plenty of room for each of us to find just the right spot with good holding and clear water beneath us.

After spending one night at Great Sale Cay, we elected to proceed northeast to Double Breasted Cay. We had read in the various cruising guides that this was indeed a special spot worth the slight detour north of our originally planned route. Entering Double Breasted Cay requires weaving through a very narrow passage as you wind your way around a series of coral heads and sand bars. Although Navionics has taken some heat in the past for the accuracy of their charting data in the Bahamas, it is my opinion that they have made great strides to address the issue with their current generation “freshest data” package. We found the information on our Raymarine E127 chart plotter regarding Double Breasted Cay to be precise all the way in and it was indeed helpful although the area clearly demonstrates why a mariner needs to be able to read the water visually while cruising in the Bahamas.

Once securely anchored, the boys set out on their first snorkeling trip at Double Breasted Cay; they swam from the back of the Pilots’ Discretion over to Sand Key where they saw all kinds of marine life. It was here that they saw their first Bahamian shark, a 4 foot black tip. In addition they got a good look at a barracuda as he swam under our boat. We enjoyed Double Breasted Cay so much that we elected to spend two nights there before heading south down the Sea of Abaco for Green Turtle Cay. The run to Green Turtle Cay was just over 60 miles and since we ran a portion of the trip at 25 knots , we were pulling into White Sound in the early afternoon.

October is the slowest time of year in the Bahamas and as a result, many of the resorts and marinas are closed. We are staying at the Green Turtle Cay Club, a beautiful resort in White Sound. The docks are open but the restaurant and bar as well as most of the resort facilities are closed. That said, the staff that is here ( they have a maintenance staff doing facilities upgrades) has been super helpful. I had been here ten years or so ago by air and it is clear to me that they have done a great job of upgrading this great facility over the years.

Maptech Raster Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Maptech Raster Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Radar Return Approaching Great Sale Cay (Grand Bahama Island on the Right)

Radar Return Approaching Great Sale Cay (Grand Bahama Island on the Right)

Navionics Vectar Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Navionics Vectar Chart Entering Double Breasted Cay

Snorkling, Double Breasted Cay

Snorkling, Double Breasted Cay