A brand new boat. A couple with very little, actually no sailing experience set off for Abaco Bahamas for the first time six years ago. We were scared sh*tless. I’m sorry but there is not other word to describe the feeling. You’ve read the story, heard the legends. The Bahamas lies due east of Florida, USA and inside the Bermuda Triangle. The Gulf Stream in-between. On the other side is paradise, if King Neptune allows a safe passage… lies paradise.
Between the gentle and shallow Florida coast lies the Gulf Stream. A misnomer. It’s not a stream, it’s a fast flowing, devious river about fifty miles wide that rushes at nearly six knots north. Fellow yachtsman told us this. Watch out for elephants on the horizon. If you see them. Stay where you are you don’t try and cross to the Great Guana Banks. ‘Elephants’ are huge waves and turbulent seas, just waiting to crush the ignorant sailor. We waited two weeks anchored in Lake Worth to cross. Then you don’t sail east either. If you do you’ll end up in Portugal. You head south towards the Caribbean. The Gulf Stream is so strong it takes a boat in its claws and drags you with.
We were very much relieved when we saw the water tower at West End. The first settlement on the Banks, in an otherwise flat and watery landscape.
The Sea of Abaco is the most northern of the Bahamas Islands. And the most are spectacular. Crystal water. Snow white sandy beaches. Hundreds of little uninhabited cays (pronounced ‘key’).
The Abaco’s are so alluring that we sailed there for the next three years. Our home base became Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana Cay. From there we explored the length and breath of the Abaco’s. Snorkeling, swimming, fishing, sailing. Hunting lobsters as long as your fore-arm. Under star lit skies, roasting fresh fish in the embers of dying driftwood fires. Manta rays nibble at your toes as you feed them left-overs. The Bahamians are proud, warm and friendly people. After all these years we are still close to the friends we made there.
Passports, Bikini’s and the Biggest Bag of Rice you can Carry
The best way to explore the Bahamas is by boat. Your own is best. Otherwise Sunsail and Moorings charter boats from Marsh Harbour. Fly to Marsh Harbour from Fort Lauderdale. You need a passport for customs. A bikini for yourself. Your camera to take pictures with and the biggest bag of rice you can find. The rice you give to Lisa at Orchid Bay Marina. If you don’t you’ll grow whiskers. Trust me. She feeds the tens of feral cats on the island. A small kindness that will be much appreciated by the homeless cats and kittens. Leave your watch at home.
The lifestyle is laid-back. Every day flows seamlessly into the next. The food is simple. Conch (pronounced ‘konk’) and fish. Or delicious coconut or pineapple bread and cake. You drink a lot. It’s hot you know. But beware of the Nipper’s cocktail. After two… I’m not responsible for what happens then.