Sunday May 21st – Monday May 22nd – Green Turtle Club
Next stop on the grand tour of Abaco with our friends Frank and Julie was lovely Green Turtle Cay. This would be our third visit here on this year’s cruise.
On Sunday we used the Green Turtle Club’s pool and on Monday we rented a golf cart from D&P’s Cart Rental. We took our guests up to Coco Bay beach, then ran down to New Plymouth to show them the town and get some groceries from Syd’s Grocery. We also stopped by the monument to the British Loyalists who made Abaco their home during the American Revolution (rebellion!).
We had read about the bar and restaurant called Pineapples, just outside New Plymouth. We had never been there before so decided to go look for it. We followed Google Maps and ended up on a very narrow, rocky path more than a road. However it was worth it when we bounced along in the golf cart and arrived at the restaurant finding a cool place to have drinks and a meal. In future we will go there the way we were obviously meant to go – by dinghy from our boat!
After a stop the beach at the Tranquil Turtle we checked our dinner reservation at Bluff House for this evening was in place.
When we came out of Bluff House we found the battery on our golf cart dead. When Paul called D&P it so happened that she had a cart left by other renters parked right there at the Bluff House Marina. We grabbed that and were quickly on our way!
That evening we had a very pleasant meal at the Bluff House, though we were bothered by a number of flies that suddenly appeared as soon as the food did. A lit Sterno soon helped resolve that!
Tuesday May 23rd – Orchid Bay
We were working our way south through the Sea of Abaco on our guided tour of the islands. Next stop was to get back across the Whale Cay Channel and down to Great Guyana. There was more of a swell through the channel than when we came north but it was still pretty comfortable for our stabilized boat.
We had planned on taking Frank and Julie up to Nippers for dinner, but were disappointed to discover that it was closed on Tuesday. We were surprised as Tuesday seemed a strange day to close, however we should have checked into that during our planning.
We did go up and used Nippers’ beach access and walked the wonderful wild Atlantic beach before having dinner onboard.
Wednesday May 24th – Man O War
We thought it would be interesting to take Frank and Julie to see Man O War as it a unique place in the Abacos with its small boat building industry and other small businesses such as the canvas shop. It is also a dry island!
We picked up a mooring ball right off the marina, which is still in the rebuilding stage. The outer docks have been build but no slips. We went ashore and walked the interesting streets, looking in at some of the boat building and visiting the canvas shop, which unfortunately we found very expensive.
It was dinner onboard that night as there are no restaurants up and running. Just as well as the clouds rolled in and the rain started pouring!. And boy did it pour!
We awoke Thursday morning to find a nearby mooring ball had gone under our stern during a wind shift in the night. Paul got into the dinghy and easily pushed the stern off the ball and it swung free well off our starboard given the new wind direction.
We had been told that there was a nice coffee shop in the settlement. We walked up and had an excellent breakfast and then visited the small museum attached to the coffee shop. This is well worth a stop if you are ever in Man O War. Julie stayed behind and investigated more of the island on foot. After we picked her up we dropped the mooring ball and headed off to our next stop, Hope Town.
Thursday May 25th – Friday May 26th – Hope Town
We entered the narrow entrance to Hope Town harbour towing the dinghy. As we got to the Lighthouse Marina we stopped and moved the dinghy to the bow to allow us to back into our slip and then bring the dinghy alongside. We needed the dinghy in the water as this was the only way to get across the harbour to Hope Town proper.
After Paul the dock master got us tied up we got into the dinghy and went across to Hope Town and walked through some of the town. We stopped at Munchies and got ourselves an ice cream. We had a golf cart rented for tomorrow, Friday, so we would be seeing more of Elbow Cay then.
This evening we had booked a table at Bridget’s Rum Bar at Hope Town Marina. We were able to walk there and back from our slip at Lighthouse Marina. While the food and service excellent unfortunately there had just been a cloud burst before we walked over and again as soon as the food arrived so did swarms of flies. The restaurant brought out three lit Sternos and that successfully chased the flies away!
The next day Paul went across early and got the keys to the golf cart. After breakfast we all went over and drove around the town and then drove the length of Elbow Cay down to Tahiti Beach. On our way back we stopped at The Abaco Inn to take some photos and to grab a half dozen of their plastic cups. This was to replenish those we had as mementoes off previous visits.
We also stopped by Sea Spray Marina to see how their rebuilding was coming along. We found the marina fully functional and a small Tiki bar in place. The rest of the on shore facilities were still being built.
We had a pleasant lunch at Capn Jacks. Frank and Julie then did what everyone should do when visiting Hope Town, they climbed the Lighthouse!
Saturday May 27th – Marsh Harbour
Sadly it was time for Frank and Julie to leave us. We left Hope Town and headed for Conch In Marina for the sixth time this trip! Eric was there to greet us and help tie us up on our favorite slip – slip 53 with the long T-Head. Meaning we could use both our lower gate and upper gate to get Bella off without trouble regardless of the tide.
On our way to Marsh Harbour Paul contacted Lorenzo, the electronics guy who had ordered the replacement fuse to resolve our house charging issue. He gave us the sad news that the fuse had not arrived and we would have to manage the charging issue all the way back to Jacksonville.
Today was Sian’s birthday and this evening we went up to Snappas and had a birthday dinner, with Sian indulging in the Imperial Double Chocolate Cake!
Sunday May 28th – Powell Cay
This morning Frank and Julie left mid-morning for the airport and we left our slip soon after. We took on some diesel, we probably had enough to get home, adding in the 150 gallon we lock down in our small forward tank “just in case.” But being conservative we took on an extra 250 gallons, which would give us plenty of reserve.
So off we went across Whale Cay Channel for the last time this trip. It was actually the least comfortable crossing we had experienced so far, with Paul having to manually handle Sonas for most of the run through the reefs, but we got through without issue.
We dropped anchor at Powell, launched the dinghy and took Bella ashore. Our trip out of Abaco had begun, tomorrow Great Sale, then West End and the Gulf Stream crossing.
Monday May 29th – Great Sale. Tuesday May 30th to West End
The trip to Great Sale from Powell was straightforward. We got there early afternoon and we were the first boat into the anchorage. By nightfall we had been joined by a dozen other boats, four of them arriving after dark. some heading back west towards Florida, some of them just starting their cruise through the Bahamas.
Because there was absolutely no wind this evening we ran the generator to run our air conditioning. Around 3am Sian woke up and heard a pump running. Paul went into the engine room and found a small stream of water running into the bilge there, triggering the bilge pump. After much checking he found the water coming from the generator. It was salty, hot and was coming from the coolant overflow hose. He checked that generator control panel and found the temperature gauge normal and the power output also normal. However he shut down the generator and tomorrow we will call our mechanic in Jacksonville and get some direction.
Next day we had another simple run to Old Bahama Bay. We had only booked in for the one night as all of the forecast sources indicated that a Gulf Stream crossing was available tomorrow, Wednesday. As we got within cell tower range at West End we found that the window had closed. In fact we found out that Saturday would be a possibility but it could be next week before we had an opening.
We ate at the marina restaurant this evening.
Wednesday 31st – West End
Paul called the marina office and extended our stay until Saturday. We walked the docks talking to boats that had arrived from Florida and hearing their stories about rough waters. We also talked to boaters who were, like us, waiting to cross back to Florida. All seemed aligned to waiting until Saturday at the earliest, maybe longer.
We used the resort pool and beach to relax.
That evening Paul checked all of our forecast resources and there seemed to be a small opening for tomorrow. However we decided to be conservative and wait until the morning Chris Parker and other forecasts.
Thursday June 1st – Crossing to Fort Pierce and Vero Beach
We set an early alarm for today in the hope that what we saw last night had firmed up. Sian took Bella for an early walk as we waited for the morning Chris Parker report. It finally came in around 7am and indicated 3 foot swells for the crossing. This meant some 4s or 5s but was doable for Sonas, The issue was the low in the Gulf Of Mexico creating severe storms off the coast of Central Florida during our arrival time, with winds to 40 knots and heavy downpours.
So we had a decision to make. Paul reached out directly to Matthew who had sent the Chris Parker report. He confirmed the doable conditions for the crossing itself but also confirmed the potentially nasty conditions we could meet off the coast of Florida.
We decided to go. Apart from a mega yacht heading further north we were the only boat out of the marina heading west. We had our ditch bag packed and our PLBs on us. We also updated those on our float plan of our decision.
And the conditions were fine all the way across. We had 12-14 knot winds from the north. Not what you would want in the gulf stream but the swells were consistently around four feet with minimal waves on top. The only issue was that the swells were not consistently from the same direction so it was a bit of a “washing machine” effect. However one good monitor of the conditions was Bella. If she was sick it was an uncomfortable crossing, and she wasn’t!!
Around 18 nautical miles from Fort Pierce, traveling north west on our Rhumb line, we got the emergency WX signal on our radio, warning of dangerous storms coming off Florida all the way from Lake Worth (West Palm) to Fort Pierce!
Well here we go!
We had our radar on. We have a Furuno “old fashioned” big box green radar. However we believe it is better than any fancy new multi color multi functional other radar. It clearly indicated not only the storms, their edges, but any boats in and around it. We saw the first storm coming, changed direction to due west to miss it. We did catch the extreme edge and our instruments showed gusts to 39 knots. But this was only for a few minutes until we got past it. Then we saw that if we changed course towards the north west and Fort Pierce again we would hit the gap between this storm and the next. And we successfully did it. We got a smattering of rain, but no wind or other impact.
We made the Fort Pierce inlet around 4pm and turned onto the AICW towards our booked slip at Vero Beach. 90 minutes later we were tied up with the help of the crew of a Sabre 45 called Bull Run, as the marina staff had gone home for the day. Sian took Bella off to the excellent dog park right by the marina.
We were across! We had left a float plan with a number of people so we updated them on our status. We also have a Garmin InReach which had been on while we were cruising, allowing people to track us. We now turned this off.
Friday June 2nd – Sunday June 4th – Titusville to Home Dock
We ran easily from Vero Beach to Titusville City Marina. We have traveled the AICW from Norfolk all the way to Miami and think this is the easiest stretch of the whole waterway. No bridges, no slow zones and plenty of deep water in the channel. We even had a face dock tie up at the marina which is always an easy in and out. Only slight issue we had was a dog was bullying at the dog park by the marina, so Sian had to take Bella for her walks elsewhere.
Saturday we ran north through Haulover Canal, avoiding the manatees in the canal and noticed the Falcon rocket staged at the space station ready for its launch tomorrow. Then along Mosquito Lagoon, through the slow zone by the fish camps before transiting New Smyrna Beach. On through Daytona and up to Palm Coast Marina. Again we had an easy face dock tie. As mentioned before PCM is always our first stop on our trips south and our last stop on our trip back north. We walked across to The European Village and the 5th element Indian restaurant for our final cruising meal!
Finally on Sunday we again headed north for the six hour trip through Marineland, St Augustine and into our lock for our home dock. As we progressed north the wind grew and grew, gusting in the low 30s. It stayed with us all the way home. We had no issues transiting the lock however and were tied up by 2pm.
This year’s Bahamas cruise was complete. We are already looking forward to next year and planning for Exuma and the far Bahamas again.