2018 New Year’s Sailing Celebration in Grand Abaco, The Bahamas

It’s wonderful how life delivers a cascade of friendships that take you to unexpected places! Our friends in West Palm Beach, Peter & Nikki, connected with their friend Alex who used to be a Charter Captain in Grand Abaco Island in The Bahamas. Alex and his girlfriend, Heather, were chartering a sloop over New Year’s and needed 2 other couples to round out their crew, and so the six of us came together in West Palm Beach Airport on the morning of Thursday, December 28th, 2017 to fly to Marsh Harbor on Grand Abaco Island to pick up our 45ft Jeanneau named “Aequanimitas” – meaning “Equanimity” or “demonstrating a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed”! I’m not sure it was appropriate for the 6 of us!

Abaco Map

The trip began as these trips usually do with lunch at the marina followed by the guys checking out the boat and its equipment, and the girls gathering supplies at the nearest grocery and liquor stores! We did have time to take the boat out of the marina, get underway and travel south to Tilloo Cay, where we set anchor and ate a light dinner of freshly prepared conch salad.

The Aequanimitas

The next morning, after a breakfast onboard of coffee, eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast, we set sail south to Sandy Cay, an uninhabited spit of sand and rocks that hosts a spectacular offshore reef teeming with fish. After anchoring, we took the dingy and looked for a shore access where we all disembarked and explored the beach for sea biscuits, shells and sea fans that had washed-up. While the girls continued beach-combing, the guys took the dingy to the diving mooring balls where we tied-up and snorkeled a wall of coral. Among the multitude of fish, we came upon a couple of Sea Eagle Sting Rays with a wing-span of 3-4 ft., and a tail extending 15-20 ft. behind! After our fill of snorkeling, we went back to shore to pick up the girls, ate lunch on the boat, and then continued our sail south to Little Harbor, where we picked up a mooring ball and took the dingy over to Pete’s Pub and Gallery. Here, the water was crystal clear, the seafloor was sandy, and the harbor was filled with sea turtles and smaller sting rays. At Pete’s Pub, we had drinks and fish dinners, including trigger fish, wahoo and grouper, and we took the occasion to make the 200-ft. short walk over the dune to view the Atlantic Ocean.

Beachcombing Sandy Cay
Swimming with the Rays

On Saturday morning, we motored north early to Lynyard Cay to take advantage of the higher tides, where we set anchor and ate a leisurely breakfast on the boat! After cleaning-up, we set sail north to Elbow Cay where we would have to slowly motor through a very shallow passage. Along our sail, the bottom was clear to view, and we saw numerous sharks ranging 3 – 6 ½ ft. in length, a school of small tuna, sea cucumbers, and sea turtles. We even saw a small group of 6 dolphins leisurely exploring our boat. However, with the tide too low, we could not successfully cross the shallows on our way to Elbow Cay, and so, having to wait for the tide to come in, we anchored nearby at south of Lubbers at Tavern Cay for snorkeling and lunch. At Tavern Cay, a series of small rock outcrops, “Fish Hotel Rocks”, serve as home to small corals, sting rays, conchs, and bigeye fish. After snorkeling and having lunch on-board, we slowly motored on the higher tide to Hope Town on Elbow Cay. The harbor of Hope Town is a beautiful and quaint area, and after picking up our designated Abaco Charter mooring ball, we restocked groceries and liquor, before returning to shore for drinks, conch fritters and wings on the dock at “The Harbour’s Edge”, and then eating dinner aboard.

Diving for Coral

Sunday was New Year’s Eve, and most stores and shops were closed. However, after a light breakfast on-board, we all went to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. This lighthouse was erected in 1864 and is the world’s last working kerosene lighthouse of its kind! With its octagonal mirror structure, it gives a group of 5 white flashes every 15 seconds. We climbed the 101 steps to the observation deck and took in the beautiful panoramic view of the area, before descending and leaving Hope Town to sail north to Guana Cay – home to both “Nippers Beach Bar & Grill” and “Grabbers Bed, Bar and Grille”. After setting anchor at the outer edge of the harbor, we took the dingy to the City Dock and took a golf cart across the narrow island to Nippers – a multilevel deck bar overlooking the famous “Seven-Mile Beach” on the Atlantic Ocean with loud music and 100’s of young adults drinking and dancing! After sampling the famous “Nipper’s Juice Cocktail” and joining in the party, we were getting ready to leave when two girls sitting on the railing, tumbled-over from 8 ft. up and were seriously injured. While medical attended to them, we walked back across the island to “Grabbers at Sunset Beach” where we sampled a frozen drink called the “Guana Grabber”, ate pizza, chicken tender and fish finger appetizers, and marveled at the largest catamaran “Raft-Up” any of us had ever seen – 36 catamarans in two rows of 18 – all anchored and roped together! After a bit of shopping, we returned to the boat where we enjoyed a late, light diner, and enjoyed music and cards until 11:00pm, when the first round of fireworks over the island were set off. Then, at midnight, we popped-open our champagne, enjoyed the next round of fireworks and celebrated the beginning of 2018!

Elbow Reef Lighthouse
View of Hope Town
Party at Nippers
New Years Eve Fireworks
Massive Catamaran Raft

Monday morning and a Happy New Year to everyone! After a light breakfast, we continued to motor-sail north, past the huge raft-up, to Treasure Cay. Unfortunately, a low-pressure front was moving in making for a very light wind day! But, that would be reversed with the storm that was forecast for tomorrow. Since today was a holiday, we picked up a mooring ball and went ashore to the “Coco Beach Bar at Treasure Bay Beach Resort” where we ate a lunch of mahi- and cheese-burgers, drank Gin & Tonics, rented beach lounges and an umbrella, and spent the afternoon enjoying the surf, sand, and sun. While beach-combing, we saw starfish, sting rays, sand dollars and delicate, fragile shells. We returned late in the afternoon for showers and a boat-cooked meal of chicken, potatoes, corn and beans before settling in for an early night.

The night brought the expected storm, and Tuesday we awoke to 30 mph winds out of the north, with gusts to 35 mph, and a driving rainstorm. Even though we had one day on the charter remaining, in respect for the predicted bad weather getting worse, we charted a course back south for Marsh Harbor to the south. We raised the main to before its first reefing point, and put the genoa out to its first reefing point, which is all the sail we were willing to expose, giving us a speed of over 7 knots over land! However, the mast-self-furling main jammed and the shackle holding the furling line broke off leaving the self-furling jammed and disabled! This was not too much problem while sailing and tacking towards the harbor in the south, but had to be resolved before we could enter the marina in those conditions! Finally, when we approached the harbor, we furled the genoa, and motored into the lee of an island where we set anchor, and, in a driving rainstorm, the boys wrestled the exposed mainsail to wrap it around the mast, and secure it with a maypole of the spinnaker halyard. This allowed us to motor into the Boat Harbor Marina where we docked at the T-dock and battened down for the storm. That evening, we hunkered down for the storm in the boat, cooking the foodstuff that we had left for dinner, and having a nightcap of Grand Marnier at the Marina’s Poolside Bar.

Securing the Sail in a Storm

The storm howled all night, but showed signs of let-up the next morning, allowing us to all walk to a local restaurant called “Jamie’s”, where all we had a hot breakfast. After breakfast, Alex and Heather took the ferry to visit with old friend back on Elbow Cay, and the rest of us played cards and enjoyed the facilities offered by the Boat Harbor Marina. The winds remained in the 30-40 mph range until late that evening, and with the occasional rain shower, kept us close to the boat until a break later that evening, when we walked to a local restaurant called “Snappa’s”. There we ate salads and drank wine and beer before returning to the boat. We “camped” that night on the boat, enduring the rest of the storm by playing cards and preparing to leave the next day by starting our packing.

Sunset at Abaco

Thursday morning, Alex and Heather rejoined us, and we all went to “Jamie’s” again for brunch before catching a cab to the airport and our flight back to West Palm Beach. From there, it was a short, 2-hour drive north back to our home in Indialantic. Another fantastic trip with high adventure, good close friends and new friends – what could be better!