I'm in the Abacos now and have done something like 10 cruises here.
I like checking in at West End. (but have also been to Walker's, Lucaya and G.T.) It's an easy day sail from Fort Lauderdale
or Palm Beach. I like that one can anchor
for free at Palm Beach to wait for weather, and also like that a pre-dawn start is easy from there. Fort Lauderdale
is a better angle on the stream for SE winds, through I've only seen one or two of those days in the last month...(My last crossing was on a light north. That on a run was much easier than crossing on a strong SE close hauled)
Once in the Abacos, islands are close and you have the protection of the banks - it basically is "near coastal". In 2.5 months of cruising from northern Florida
through the Abacos, Eleuthera, Exumas
and back to the Abacos, I've never sailed through the night.
Count on most things costing about 50% more than in the U.S. However, the things I'd stock up on are boat parts
and repair kits. Pasta may cost 25% more but blowing engine
belt or impeller with no spare may seriously hinder your cruise
if you don't have a spare on board
I personally think it's too bad so many people ignore the northern 2/3 of the Abaco islands. They have much to offer. I also think many much of the information makes one think easy things are difficult while some difficult things are easy. For example, the Indian Cay Passage is very wide and easy compared to say the Lubber's Cay or Double Breasted passes which are much shallower, wider and much more complex, but people think nothing of using. (I went through it a MLW 2 days ago)
I find both Dodge's guide and the explorer charts to be a great help. I highly recommend both. However, you always need to consider your own context and doing some of your own exploring. Finding out where the guides and charts are wrong can lead to some of the most wonderful times. Realize, most "anchorages" are based on the "prevailing" SE winds and may not apply to other wind
directions. Again - look at your own context.
is generally easy. I almost never pick up a slip or mooring
. Even at West End I almost always anchor
out (though I did pick up a slip yesterday when winds began clocking to the NE at 30+ (had to stay for crew change))
Marsh Harbour is the best place to provision in the Abacos. Old Bahama Bay and The Grand Cays have some basics. The settlement at West End has a few small stores. Elbow
Cay, Man-o-War, and New Plymouth (Green Turtle) all have stores resembling corner grocery stores you would find in the States. I haven't been to Fox Town or Cooper's Town yet, but believe they have basic groceries as well.
and wine is somewhat reasonable at a couple places in Marsh Harbour and the liquor store near the dock
in Green Turtle. In many places you will pay double what they charge. (I paid $2/can for Heineken and $2.5 for Guinness)
Towns I like are New Plymouth and Hope Town.
More isolate Islands I like are: Strangers, Joe's, Jacks, Big Carter's and Manjack. The trails and beaches on Manjack are really nice. (Powell also)
Favorite (accessible) snorkeling: Fowel Cay, Sandy Cay, the reef off NE Great Guana and the reef NE of Elbow
Biggest advice: Wait for the right weather for your gulf stream
Other Advise: Understanding and using tides opens up all sorts of possibilities.
Have a great time. The Abacos are truly a wonderful place to cruise. I wish I could stay here forever.
- Dave Z.