After almost a week at the Berry Island group, most of which was spent hiding from fairly strong easterly winds, we headed north to the Abacos group of islands. It was about 60NM. We were hoping to take about 9 hours, however the wind dropped in the afternoon and we just made it across a fairly treacherous bar into protected water just before sundown- total journey time was 12 hours so we were all fairly tired that evening.
Next morning after a great sleep behind a sandy barrier island, we decided to hit the school books in earnest, before a quick snorkel and then a short sail to Marsh Harbour, the third largest town in the Bahamas and the best town to restock the boat. We were expecting a few days of bad weather coming so were looking forward to the freedom of being in a marina, and being able to come and go without using the dinghy. As luck would have it the weather front came in early, and after pushing without much progress into 25 knot winds and stinging cold rain, Pete decided to turn back to our safe anchorage and wait till things settled. That night was noisy, with wind screaming in the rigging, and the boat sailing wildly around the anchor with each gust. Pete was pretty confident about the anchoring despite probable gusts of 35 knots that night, although the creaking of the snubbing line was ominous. We eventually made it to Marsh harbour the following afternoon – what should have been a two hour trip was extended to about 6 hours beating into the wind (although no rain this time). We had a tense time as one stretch was variously described as 1.2 to 2.1 metres depending on what chart we viewed, and the keel is 2m. Fortunately the bottom is usually very fine soft sand with weed, and the the top layer has the consistency of mayonnaise, so any groundings can be sensed somewhat before it gets fatal.
Our stay at Marsh Harbour was at the cheapest of the four marinas: Mangoes, a low key, single pontoon ‘marina’ with a lively bar. Many of the boaties gathered at the pool gazebo each day to chat whilst we all tried to get the damned internet connection to work (something we are getting used to).
One American lady put on a Zumba class each morning, much to the boys amusement. Quite distracting when they were trying to do their school work by the pool!
After 4 days however, we were ready to leave and start exploring the islands.
Sailing around this group of islands wasn’t challenging, it reminded us of sailing around Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Islands. The shoreline of some of the islands are lined with some very large and expensive looking homes and at times it was hard to believe we weren’t still back in Australia hanging out at Paradise Point on the Gold Coast.
Other islands still had the ‘junkanoo’ coloured traditional weatherboard houses in pink, light blue, pastel yellow and lilac.
We finally had a proper snorkel of the tip of the Great Guana Cay, and whilst not comparable to the Great Barrier Reef, there was still plenty to see.
Once again another shark joined us, and I’m starting not to feel so panicked when they turn up! Ben high tailed it out of the water like a dolphin at SeaWorld, although he’s very pleased to have seen a shark so close. Pete and Max had jumped earlier into the dinghy wondering if they should say something, battling with the ethics of it and the statistics of shark attacks.