The Best Kept Chartering Secret?
Getting to Marsh Harbor, Abacos is very easy and it’s a reasonably priced air fare from the USA. The Sea of Abaco is a curved archipelago dotted with small islands called “cays” (pronounced “keys”), with some of the very best beaches in the world. We would classify the Abacos as a splendid charter destination for families with small, teenage and adult children.
The world’s 3rd largest barrier reef shelters the turquoise crystal clear waters where snorkeling and visiting the slow-paced cays and islands will make your charter a real HOLIDAY. Our family with 2 1/2-year-old twin grandsons found the shallow waters of the Sea of Abaco perfect for our needs. When the toddlers needed a diversion, down went the anchor (even miles from shore) in shallow water and into the water we all went for a refreshing swim . The beaches are stunning and perfect for building sandcastles.
DAY 1 – MARSH HARBOUR TO HOPE TOWN
This is an excellent sailing area. Hoist your sails and cruise around the area between Matt Lowe’s Cay, Great Abaco Island, north of Lubbers Bank and west of Parrot Cays.
Walk over to the world famous Hope Town Lighthouse. Climb (if you dare) to the top of the lighthouse with your camera for a spectacular view. The lighthouse was built by the British Imperial Lighthouse Service in 1853, which still uses a windup brass mechanism to send out a beam of light up to 20 miles.
Dinghy to Captain Jack’s Waterside Bar and Restaurant, which has a reasonably priced menu and local Kalik beer. Or dinghy to the public dock and dine at Harbor’s Edge or Hope Town Harbour Lodge. Hope Town Harbour Lodge has a beautiful pool and beach on the ocean. You are welcome to enjoy a cool drink or tasty lunch, take a dip in the pool, or simply lounge in the shady hammock. If you feel like toting your snorkeling gear, this is a good place to do some off-the-beach snorkeling, especially for novices.
Walk to the High Street and visit the famous Wyannie Malone historical museum. Walk a little further and see the interesting tombstones in the cemetery. All graves are above ground with names of early Hope Town settlers and interesting epitaphs. The old cemetery is located on the ocean side of Hope Town and the ocean view is spectacular.
DAY TWO: MAN – O – WAR CAY
Man-O-War Cay is located about five miles northwest of Hope Town.
So that you can visit the historic and very interesting Man-O-War settlement without being dependent on the tide, proceed to anchorage areas between Dickie’s Cay and Old Scopley’s Rock. You will see other boats anchored. Take care not to drop anchor over the power cable, which runs into the north end of the harbour. This anchorage is good for winds from north through east. Otherwise, it’s recommended you anchor inside. Then dingy in to Man-O-War Harbour and tie up at any of the piers near the public dock. The residents are most friendly and there is no charge for tying up.
Inside Man-O-War Harbour are the main and east harbours. The main harbour has moorings to rent from Man-O-War Marina. However, both anchorages are quite crowded so we suggest you anchor outside the harbor and dinghy in.
The Man-O-War settlement is quite conservative and no alcohol is sold there. Appropriate attire is expected from charterers, i.e. don’t walk around in your bathing suits.
DAY THREE: FOWL CAY AND GREAT GUANA CAY
Fowl Cay is an excellent dive site with easy access for snorkeling and SCUBA.
Drop the anchor in 8-10 ft. of water just north of the small white beach. Don’t get too close…there’s an area of much shallower water just off the beach. The little beach is perfect for the non-divers in your group. There’s a tidal pool to explore and you can wade and swim. Occasionally, a ray or dolphin will cruise by.
To get to the dive area you can dinghy around either end of Fowl Cay; however the north end is preferable as there is often a significant rip tide on the south end. Avoid the depicted “current” areas; these have been known to sweep low-powered boats (i.e. dinghies) right out to the open ocean. Pick up one of the moorings if available or drop your anchor in the sand (please, not the coral). Remember, Fowl Cay Preserve is a protected area so “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but bubbles.”
Once you’re finished with your dive, head 4 NM North to your overnight destination at Great Guana Cay. You have two anchorage choices if you decide to spend the night on the hook. The wind forecast will dictate where you should anchor. The Settlement Harbour provides better access to shore activities but the holding ground is questionable if the breeze pipes up. Fisher’s Bay has better holding ground and there also are moorings from rent from Dolphin Beach Resort.
Another option is to take a slip the new Orchid Bay Marina. Once on shore, the Guana Beach Resort provides a relaxing spot to enjoy conch fritters and a round of their famous “Guana Grabbers.” They also have a pool and very nice dining room you may want to consider.
Then of course there’s Nipper’s Bar and Restaurant, rapidly becoming one of Abaco’s most popular hangouts. For a real treat, walk up the School House sidewalk between Milo’s and Tom’s to the top of the dune where the path will open up to a spectacular view of Guana Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Then turn right and walk down the beach to Nipper’s.
Guana Beach is also a great snorkeling location, right off the beach at Nipper’s but especially to the South at “High Rocks”.
DAY FOUR: BAKER’S BAY
You can anchor overnight at Baker’s Bay, weather permitting, or you can make a day trip out of it, either returning to Guana Settlement or pressing on to Treasure Cay. A good spot to anchor is just off the old “Treasure Island” dock. From there, dinghy in and enjoy some exploring, beach time, snorkeling, and perhaps a picnic lunch. You can also take the dinghy around the north end of the island where there’s a beautiful and “very isolated” white sand beach. Park the dinghy on the bay side (be mindful of the tide change and take heed of the notes on page 130 and) it’s just a short walk over to the ocean. There are a few coral heads just off the beach for snorkeling. When crawfish are in season there’s a good chance you might find some in this general area.
On the way to or from Baker’s Bay, you might think about a quick stop at Guana Seaside Village at Crossing Bay. They have a quaint little hotel and bar with a fresh water pool and the view from the gazebo at the top of the dune is hard to beat. This has become a popular site for wedding ceremonies.
DAY FIVE: TREASURE CAY
Treasure Cay is a unique little resort community with a nice blend of more upscale amenities and beach life. You can rent a mooring from Treasure Cay Marina, which includes free use of the marina shower rooms, or if you wish, you can rent a slip.
The “Tipsy Seagull” bar and pool area offers a great place to relax and there is shopping nearby. A short walk will get you over to the crescent beach which some say is one of the most beautiful in the world. Drinks and meals are available at Spinnaker Restaurant.
DAY SIX: WHITE SOUND
For the sailors, you’ll want to get an early start since it’s about a four-hour sail with favorable winds. It may seem like a long haul but White Sound is worth the effort. The entrance to White Sound is quite narrow and tricky so it’s best to anchor your boat outside just off the two small islands and take the dinghy in to the pristine cove under The Abaco Inn using the range markers. You can order lunch while you take in their beautiful overlook of the Atlantic. Sea Spray Marina is also a good choice for authentic Bahamian food. It’s an easy walk south from Abaco Inn. There is also a shop in White Sound which sells locally made jewelry and paintings.
Another option is to move further down Lubber’s Quarters Channel and anchor off Tahiti Beach. You will usually find other boats anchoring in that general area.
After anchoring, take the dinghy south to Yahoe’s, Abaco’s newest fun destination for food and drink. It’s best to stay up near Tahiti Beach; that way you’ll be able to leave without depending on the tide.
DAY SEVEN: RETURN TO MARSH HARBOUR
Once back at Boat Harbour and all snug in your slip, it’s a great time to head over to the pool for a refreshing dip and maybe a delicious rum punch at the bar to wind down and toast the completion of a most successful and enjoyable charter on the Sea of Abaco. We think you’ll agree with us when we say it’s undoubtedly the best cruising grounds in all the Bahamas and one of the best-kept secrets in the charter world.