Crossing the Whale
One of the major parts of going past Green Turtle Cay and into the Southern Abacos is through the Whale Cut Passage. This can be a bit daunting as it is where the mighty Atlantic Ocean meets the Sea of Abaco. If the wind is kicked up from the North or East, you can expect the break to cause a treacherous ride across the 1.5 nautical mile trek. Although it doesn’t seem long, problems can arise at any time. We’ve crossed this area twice on two very different days. Our first time through was calm and uneventful with very little wind and waves. The second time through was much windier and a bumpier ride.
Here’s what you should know before crossing –
- Don’t Psych Yourself Out!
- Stay calm and just be smart about your decisions.
- Know Weather & Wind Direction
- Do NOT cross in North or East winds. These will be the roughest conditions to cross in.
- If you know a front is coming through, consider waiting.
- Know your Tides
- At mid-tide, the currents can cause troubled seas. Try leaving at low or high tides.
- Know your Draft
- If you’re at 4.5’+ you should be going around the cut. An alternative path for shallow drafts is the inside of the Sea of Abaco BUT even at high tide can cause grounding with the ocean swell coming in.
- It would be wise to consider local knowledge before any attempts on the inside.
- Check your Resources
- We’ve use many different weather/wind predictors but our favorites for around the Bahamas are Barometer Bob & WindAlert
- Listen to the cruisers net! On your VHF tune in to Channel 68 at 8:15AM. The net provides a 30 minute program detailing weather updates (including others crossing the cut), community events, advertising for local events/restaurants, and an open mic section for questions, announcements, etc.
- Know your Comfort Level
- In our opinion it’s always better to wait for the right weather window.
The Southern Abacos
Our experience in the Southern Abacos was incredible and we highly recommend visiting for anyone interested in having their own Bahamas vacation. At one point in time, they considered having cruise ships visit Great Guana Cay but that came to a halt due to the conditions of the Whale Cut Passage. As you arrive back in the Sea of Abaco across the cut, you’ll see pilings from where cruise ships would turn around. You’ll also see the swanky Baker’s Bay where said cruise ships used to dock. Instead, Baker’s Bay is now private and vacation for A-list celebrities and mega-yachts. Here are the islands we stopped at!
After the crossing, we went straight to Spoils Cay. This in an inhabited island with Shells all over the shoreline. The dogs loved running around the small island and helped find a nice fire pit made for a relaxing evening. They also found thousands of small hermit crabs while we found large hermit crabs for racing. To race hermit crabs, simply draw a medium circle in the sand and place the hermit crabs in the center. Whichever one exits the circle first, WINS! This island was lots of fun for it’s seclusion but is a fair weather anchorage meaning it would not be a comfortable place to stop at if the winds are kicked up too much.
Great Guana Cay
We entered Settlement Harbour at Great Guana Cay on a windy/rainy day. This area is much more developed but is sectioned off in private communities. We originally thought to stay at a mooring ball but as we were calling Dive Guna for a reservation, our friends called on the VHF and told us of a special at Orchid Bay Marina. Instead of paying $20 for a mooring ball, we paid $18 at the docks. Pretty awesome! We stayed here for an entire week to relax, work, and wait for our incoming friends to join us. Our favorite parts include being at the docks, sneaking into the private communities with our scooters, and enjoying the beaches.
We really enjoyed their Ocean Beach, surrounded by breaking waves in the distance, beautiful reefs to snorkel, and scenic rocks to climb all around and through. It was a highlight to our experience in the Bahamas and we were there multiple times through out our trips over to this island.
There are quite a few restaurants to enjoy while on the island but they tend to be a bit pricey in comparison to other islands we’ve visited. We were highly recommended towards Nipper’s & Grabbers. Here’s our thoughts!
Nippers – Cool attraction with direct access to ocean-side beaches. Two pools, gift shop, restaurant, & tiki bar. Although we skipped out on Barefoot Man, we’ve heard fun things about his music and weekend concert here. Overall, we went here a few times and each time we missed the ‘crowds’. It’d be best to go for Pig Roast Sundays, during Spring Break, or if you’ve got a big group.
Grabbers – Beautiful sandy beach on the Sea of Abaco with hammocks to enjoy. Food & beverage was decent but their pool was not clean. Guest service was spotty but the sunsets were always perfect.
We stayed one night inside their East Harbour on a mooring ball. We had to wait for high tide to access this area but it would be protected from every direction. It was fun to explore this historic boat-building shops and Albury’s Sail Shop but was surprisingly quiet for being a favorite cruiser’s stop. It is a dry island and it must have been an extremely slow day for visitors when we stopped. A favorite part of this island was kayaking around the mooring field and seeing all the turtles poking their heads up. We also got to enjoy the annual Craft & Trade Fair. It was actually a lot of fun once we found the correct area of the event!
This is our favorite island in the Bahamas thus far and we stayed a total of 34 days, the longest we’ve been in one place on Gypsy. It’s fun to island hop but it’s also fun to stop for a while too. Although we stayed longer than we probably needed to we have no regrets about living in this area for a while. The majority of the delay was because of our love for Hope Town.
Hope Town is a well-protected harbour packed with mooring balls and tons to do. We were lucky each time to have an available mooring ball, but they can be reserved ahead of time depending on the owner. If you’d rather stay at a marina, there are also a couple of those to choose from. The main one is the Hope Town Inn & Marina and we enjoyed a shower or two and some delicious food and a couple beverages here. Alongside the restaurant there are a slew of others to enjoy. Here are some favorites (in order)!
- Wine Down Sip Sip
By far the best happy hour in the Abacos! We went here quite often for their flatbreads. YUM!
- On Da Beach
Cute beach bar and restaurant. We got the same thing every time, a chicken melt and a fish melt. Their jerk seasoning is so good!
- Firefly Sunset Resort
Everything is great here but especially their martinis. We loved our service from Leanne!
- Abaco Inn Resort
Everything is good here too. Beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean & the Sea of Abaco!
- Captain Jacks
Bingo Nights! So much fun. They also have decent prices which is nice 😉
- Hope Town Harbour Lodge
Have you met Gary!? It seems like everyone knows him.
- Harbour’s Edge
This place gets pretty crazy.
- Sea Spray Marina
We only went here once but they host fishing tournaments sometimes. It was a blast to see all the HUGE fish coming in.
Our stay on Elbow Cay was not entirely in Hope Town. We did anchor outside of Tahiti Beach and Firefly Resort. Both areas had great holding but do not provide much coverage from strong winds. We had fair weather throughout our time anchoring in those areas and the price is always right.
Lubbers Quarters Cay
Across from Elbow Cay on the Sea of Abaco is Lubbers Quarters Cay. While anchored at Tahiti Beach, we made our way over to this cay for some grub at Cracker P’s. They have a fantastic beach bar and restaurant with Stand Up Paddle Boards, Beach Volleyball, Bocce Ball, Horse Shoes, and other outdoor activities. They are also famous for their Full Moon parties but we did not get a chance attend the festivities. This cay is far less populated than Elbow Cay but provides much more affordable real estate for those looking and a relaxed atmoshpere. We mainly just enjoyed Cracker P’s
Tilloo Cay, Sandy Cay, Deep Sea Cay, & Little Harbour
We did not travel down to these cays with Gypsy, but lucky for us our new friends Dan & Becky took us for some pretty fabulous day trips through these areas. Tilloo Cay is entirely a National Park. We enjoyed a beach or two on the cay and it is the next cay over from Elbow Cay. Sandy Cay was by far the best snorkeling we had while in the Abacos. The reefs were pristine with hundreds of fish, stingrays, barracudas, and even some reef sharks. We could have snorkeled for hours, it was awesome! Deep Sea Cay is where we witnessed some of the most amazing starfish of our lives. They were HUGE and somehow Tharon, Dan, and I all found one at the same time. Afterwards, we zipped around Lynard Cay and made our way to the big island of Great Abaco. We only toured around a couple spots — Little Harbour & The Bight of Old Robinson. This area is absolutely gorgeous and we had great time at Pete’s Pub. I can almost recite their entire ad from the net but will instead just mention that it is ‘where the elite eat in their bare feet’. In this area we also went on a mission to find some blue holes. Apparently they are all over the Bight of Old Robinson but we were unsuccessful finding them with the very low tide. Next time! We loved Little Harbour, it was scenic and a lot of fun to explore.
Before we started back tracking to our favorite islands, we made another stop to Marsh Harbour. The first time we stayed at Abaco Beach Resort with our friends David & Courtney. They were visiting and flew out of Marsh Harbour providing a convenient final day in the Bahamas. It is also one of the only areas in the Bahamas that provides a pump-out service. We had to be guests at the marina to call the service and was by far the priciest stays whilst in the Bahamas. On top of the stay, we also paid the most we’ve ever paid for a pump-out. Right now we don’t have a macerator pump, but we did find a free pump-out at the Hope Town Inn & Marina afterwards.
Our second time in Marsh Harbour we chose a much more affordable place, the Conch Inn & Marina. A very nice marina where most of the charter boats are staged and stored. We enjoyed our stay there and especially liked provisioning at Marsh Harbour’s large grocery store, Maxwells. We also checked out a couple restaurants, Snappas and Curly Tails
This part of the Abacos was by far our favorite. If you’re going to go to the Bahamas, definitely check out these islands!
Cheers & thanks for reading!