Having lived in Florida my entire life, and with the ability to hop on a short, hour long flight to the Bahamas, you would guess that this Sunshine State local would spend weekends in the beautiful sands of Bimini or in the gin-clear waters of the Abacos. Sadly, I am ashamed to say this is not the case. But when the first opportunity to cruise these ground came a knocking, I was all in.
Getting the gang together
It was everything we envisioned and more. Seven friends with the opportunity to charter the not so chartered territories of the Abacos. We were looking for the freedom to go where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go, all while cruising and discovering different islands each day. And how to best achieve this? If you are in the Bahamas there is no better way to do this than on a spacious powercat. With a pull of only 3.5 ft. on a 51 ft. yacht and with a 25 ft. beam, you can’t go wrong.
Navigating the shallows
So there we were—setting off on a Leopard 51 PC. First stop? Tahiti Beach. A white sanded beach with a thick grove of palm trees and far reaching sandbars. Located south of Marsh Harbour, which is where we picked up the yacht. This being our first time cruising the Abacos, we were well aware that the waters could get quite shallow. But who is afraid of a navigational challenge? Not this group of Florida gals, where depthless waters are all we know.
Whether your depth meter reads 4 ft. or 30 ft. is irrelevant, you could see everything happening underneath you. The waters were a turquoise hue that were completely stunning and at first left us in awe. But, eyes on the charts here people. Yes, charts, plural. When navigating the Abacos always have your cruising guide open and your chart plotter on. These trusty tools will ensure you don’t make the mistake of all mistakes as a charter guest—grounding the boat. And keep your paws off of the auto pilot.
Considering the islands are close in proximity, sit back and enjoy the ride from the helm station on the massive fly bridge. You and a first mate can lounge at the helm, and the bridge itself holds enough seating for up to 10 guests. This is the place to be—trust me! Powercats do not have trampolines and why would you need one? With the views and the breeze from up top, there is no comparison.
Trouble in paradise
Pulling into Tahiti Beach we found the perfect location to set anchor. Now is the time that I think I must come clean and admit that this was the first charter us ladies had ever done without our guys with us. And as we are setting anchor our windlass decides to take break for a little while. So what do we do? Rig and set the storm anchor. And what I have to admit is that the most rewarding part of this trip was that when something went wrong, we would do some troubleshooting and figure it out ourselves.
When cruising these grounds, it is important to study your tide charts. Low tide is generally not a good time to navigate through the channels. During our days of cruising we would wait at least an hour and a half after low tide to mosey into a harbour for the evening. The first evening, our destination was Hope Town Harbour. Once we tied off on a mooring ball for the evening, we made up some dinner and then decided to head ashore for cocktails. The best part of a yachting vacation is meeting your fellow boaters. People you meet when cruising are typically some of the most down-to-Earth folks out there. I also considered the fact that they too have been on a boat for days with the same few people, so it is always refreshing to strike up a conversation with someone on shore . The next morning we climbed the Hope Town Lighthouse – a must do – and it was off to swim with the pigs in Piggyville.
Swimming with pigs IS all it's cracked up to be
The cruise up to Noname Cay could not have been better. In order to get there you must run on the Atlantic side of the islands through Whale Cay Passage. If the weather is not good it is advised to not make this passage. Unfortunately you may be forced to alter your itinerary due to the narrowness of the passage with rocks and shoals surrounding you.
Arriving to Noname Cay we were the only people in the harbour. We dropped our anchor and enjoyed the view for lunch. From there we loaded up a bag of goodies—bananas, onion bagels, a little lunch meat and some bread— and jumped in the dinghy. The welcoming committing was quite excited to see us. Although I found that the pig’s opinion of me was highly influenced by whether or not I had food in my hands. A word of advice: Don’t mess with the MaMa Pig’s food! Give her some goodies and then move on—if you try to pick it up and re-administer it she will not be impressed.
Aside from the adorable flock of pigs that inhibit this island, the beach itself was dazziling with clear waters and little rippling waves that shimmered and seemed to go on for miles. We spent hours on the beach that we had all to ourselves discussing the various ways we could bring a pig home.
Sundowners at sundowners
Again, as a slave to the tide, we waited until an hour before sunset to cruise to our last spot for the day. In the meantime, we cleaned up and dressed up before moving into White Sound on Green Turttle Cay. Heading into the sound, the navigational beacons looked like buoys and they were not very easy to spot. I don’t suggest attempting this after dark. Once in the sound we snagged a mooring ball, ate a quick dinner and headed for shore. Our dinghy engine failed thus we sang “row, row, row your boat” as we made our way towards civilization. After taking a taxi through the forest we danced the night away at a great little place called Sundowners. The vibe was Caribbean and we made friends left and right as we swayed with the palm trees into the night.
Beach bars, golf carts and an unforgettable sunset
The next morning we were not up with the sun. We were told by numerous people that we needed to get to Nunjack Cay this particular morning to experience the sea life. However, after the late night we had the previous evening, sleeping in was a requirement. Once some of the group was up and at it, we set off for Great Guana Cay for an afternoon at the infamous Nippers. And while the big day to go here is Sunday for the pig roast, a Saturday afternoon spent here did not disappoint. We hitched a golf cart ride to the Atlantic side of the island and sipped on “Frozen Nippers”, a cocktail that was recommend to us by a gentleman named Travis who worked at the marina where we picked up the boat. These cocktails should come with a warning sign—all you need is one and done! Of all of the beach bars that I have been to around the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, I can confidently say that I would rank this as one of the greats-- it is right up there with the Soggy Dollar. For sunset we wandered over to a place by the name of Grabbers. And this turned out to be a fantastic decision. We watched the sunset between some palm trees on a tiny little Island off in the distance. It was an ideal way to end the last night of a spectacular cruising vacation.
5 down, 695 to go
The following morning we cruised at a slow pace to Marsh Harbour where the group had flights home at various times throughout the day. While I began to slip into post-vacation blues, I couldn’t help but think that I had only just scraped the surface on my new found love for the Bahamas. The Bahamas are made up of 700 islands, this means that you could spend years cruising this territory without growing bored. While I had previously kept my loyalty to cruising in the Virgin Islands, after exploring the Abacos, I am more eager than ever to discover islands I have not previously seen. There is nothing quite like that specific charm that each island offers that keeps us seeking more.