West End is about 150 miles from Hopetown by boat. We left Tuesday and arrived on Thursday, March 19. Yeah!!! It was pretty easy, with just a few exciting moments. If you have the right weather, it all works.
We received our weather email in West End Monday night and decided to leave early the next morning. From West End, you can get onto the Little Bahamas Bank via a shortcut that is supposed to have 6 feet of water at low tide. [See the route heading northeast.]
We need five feet. High tide was at 5:51 am, but by first light, we’d still have lots of water, albeit a falling tide. Goldwin did a dock walk and found a couple of other boats with the same plan. We’d go together, with the boat drawing 6 feet leading the way.
We got up early. Lots of boats were leaving, half westbound to the US, and half eastbound. In the little corner of the marina where we were tied, three westbound boats were starting their engines. The first boat out, “white boat,” was on our side of the corridor, about three boats down. It backed out and ended up sort of crosswise in the empty slips behind it. It somehow got its bow into a red fishing boat tied to the wall; the fishing boat managed to move, but the white boat was still askew in the corridor. At about the same time, a gorgeous, pristine “green boat” was untying its lines. We knew it had bow thrusters because we’d watched it come in. You can make perfect 90 degree turns with bow thrusters – they push the bow to one side or another. He’d come into his slip with precise, controlled turns.
So the gorgeous pristine boat backed out hard and only then realized there was already a boat in the corridor, behind him. Hard forward now; starboard bow thruster; hard reverse; more hard forward. Lots of swirling, bubbling water. He was swinging the bow around sharply to port when – CRUNCH. He hit a big piling on a finger dock. Swung the bowsprit right into it. But DIDN’T STOP – kept motoring into it. I think he didn’t even realize he’d hit it until “Oh, shit,” could be heard all through the marina – from his wife, who was on the bow. More hard reverse and then he motored out smartly, as if the front end of his pristine boat was not all mangled, the bowsprit at an odd angle, the bow pulpit peeled right off the deck.
We left without incident: sometimes you get to watch the show and sometimes you are the show. Thankfully that morning, we were not the show. But we sure had a great view of it.
Right at sunrise, three boats exited the break walls of Old Bahama Bay marina together and followed each other in a little line, slowly, until we’d transited the shallow shortcut channel onto Little Bahama Bank. No touches.
We continued on to Great Sale Cay, about 55 miles, mostly east. The anchorage on the northeast side, which we’d selected to provide protection from the predicted southwest wind, was very rolly. The wind was right out of the west – no south in it. Since there was some possibility that the wind might go north in the night and strengthen, we opted to relocate in the main anchorage, which has no protection from the south. About a dozen boats tossed all night long in a wind that went, of course, to the southwest. Probably a 2 foot chop in the anchorage. VERY uncomfortable. But not scary. Goldwin and I finally moved from our forward bunks to the main cabin – less upping and downing. When we finally fell asleep, it was a very deep sleep.
We did not leave at first light, although the sunrise was pretty nice.
It was about 8:30 when we started our 60 mile trip to Green Turtle.
The north wind calmed quickly and it turned out to be pretty windless, so we filled the solar shower, let the sun heat the water, and got all clean. Notice that Goldwin has his life jacket/harness on and he’s clipped to the boat.
We arrived at Green Turtle at 6:00 pm on a high tide. So we went into White Sound and anchored. A wonderfully peaceful night, with background music from a Rake & Scrape at the Bluff House marina.
The next morning we were up early and anxious to cover the 30 remaining miles to Hopetown.
The first part of the trip requires us to go out into the Ocean, around Whale Cay. We knew 5-6 foot swells were predicted, diminishing through Saturday, but we wanted to press on. Other boats left as well.
Wow. They were right about the swells. Pretty rolly as the boat rode them up and down. We’d be looking at a wall of water, coming right at the boat. Then we’d roll hard to starboard as the swell carried the boat way, way up; and then we’d roll hard to port as it carried us down into the trough – to face another wall of water. But there was no wind, no chop on top, and the swells were 6-8 seconds apart. So a bit adventuresome, but all okay. Swells on the Whale – https://youtu.be/L7Nz0hwKEsM
Then we re-entered the Sea of Abaco. A reef off the next island gave us protection, but also caused the waves to be much closer together, somewhat confused, and frighteningly pointy on top. They seemed to be coming from every direction. Did we rock and roll! Sharp, fast and somewhat violent motion. Hard to steer. Nothing broke and almost everything below stayed stowed. Except the oven door fell open and the muffin tins came shooting out. It was all pretty exciting. Although “exciting” was not the word I was thinking of at the time – more like “H**y S***!
Once in the Sea of Abaco it was FAC – a nautical term meaning “flat a** calm.” We were grateful for the calming, FAC part. Finally we could see Hopetown’s candy striped lighthouse. Now it was low tide – extra low. We probably had less than an inch of clearance under the boat as we approached the entrance, but we never touched. Soon we were tied up in the marina.
Thank you Hopetown Inn & Marina for letting us have the only slip available.
A quick trip to Cap’n Jack’s for a Goombay Smash and Kalik beer, a key lime pie from Vernon’s and then dinner on the boat.
We were so ready for an early night. But the marina was sponsoring a rehearsal dinner – right next to our boat. LOUD music – disco. Disco??? Really??? The music ended at 10:30 but the drunken yelling continued until almost midnight.
Who cares. We’re in Hopetown.