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A Rough Ride To Abaco

Let me first say, Happy Easter (though I know this is much belated). In the Bahamas, Easter is a very special holiday. So much so, that everything is closed on the islands, making it unappealing to stick around. We are ready to move on to the next island in our chain, Abaco.

Today, March 27, brought with it some very grumpy sailors. Due to another terrible night of little sleep, Jake and I were really starting to feel the pangs of life. That would make 3 nights in a row…maybe 4. Im’ losing track. Our swell bridle worked fine until about 1AM when Jake took it down thinking we were all good. It was premature and sure enough, Bosco started rocking and rolling again. I didn’t fall back to sleep until 4AM and didn’t stir again for 3 hours.

Both of us were up by 830AM. We planned to move to Spanish Wells, the north end of Eleuthera. Our journey would take us through a tiny gap in the island, 10 miles from here, called Current Cut. This would save us 12 miles in our journey, but it has to be timed with the tides because the current can run 8 knots through there. So we planned to leave just after 9AM, to arrive at the cut at slack tide.

The wind was very strong this morning. We held our line on a beam reach. And we were moving fast. The only caveat were the rolling waves, making for a rolly sail. Though it was annoying, we were too mentally drained to let it bother us much.

We flew the first 10 miles towards the cut. As we neared, we kicked on the motor to more easily maneuver through this tiny 150-foot gap in the islands. This sort of thing is always nerve-wracking but thankfully we had luck on our side. The current was working in our favor and only slight. Bosco flew through at 7.5 knots!

Now hindsight is 20/20. What we SHOULD have done is pull around the next corner passed the cut and drop anchor. Here we would have been completely protected from all waves AND wind. It would have been a perfect spot to stop and recover before the next 70-or-so mile jaunt to Abaco.

Instead, we decided to keep moving west. There is a small chunk of land (called Meek Island) that looked just as protected on the map, but 6 miles closer towards our destination. We stopped the motor and continued on sailing. There were no waves and lots of wind. So on we flew and it was great.

We pulled into the anchorage a bit after 2PM. Once we stopped, we realized that this spot was not very good. In fact it was more rolly than yesterday. Obviously this little feature of land won’t give us much protection.

We decided to wait it out a bit, maybe things would calm down. Jake took the time to whip up some of his famous Jambolaya. He made a HUGE batch so that we would have food ready to go for tomorrow as well. And it was very tasty. Our early dinner was done by 330PM and we figured that we should find a better spot for the night.

On the map is an island just outside of Eleuthera, called Egg Island. It looked as if it would provide more protection, since it is a much larger bit of land.

So we kicked it up and off we went. A little squall came through but it didn’t do much to slow us down. We maneuvered Bosco through the last of Eleuthera and back out on the big ocean, toward Egg Island. There were 3 other boats anchored here, 2 of them were mega yachts and 1 was a catamaran. The big boats weren’t moving at all, but the catamaran was rolling around like crazy. Oh no, this doesn’t look promising.

But sadly, we were too late to turn back. The sun was setting and we both had to stop to sleep for a bit. So we dropped our hook in 20 feet and let mother nature do the rest. And it sucked.

We went down below and promptly passed out before 6PM. And all was well enough.

But it didn’t last too long. By 10PM, conditions changed a lot. The rolling swell was so violent it felt as if Bosco would flip over completely. It was almost unbearable and I fell out of bed twice.

For the next 3 hours, all I did was lay there and wait. By 2AM neither Jake or I could handle it anymore. This was by far the worst anchorage we’ve ever experienced. It felt worse than being out at sea, and at least there we’d be making progress.

So we decided to get up and go. Neither of us felt very good. We didn’t speak, just got up and to our positions. Jake went out to pull the anchor while I took the helm. And off we motored in the pitch of blackness heading north towards an open expanse of ocean.

Right away, conditions felt wonderful. There was no wind or waves and Jake went down below, hopeful to get a few hours of sleep. But within 30 minutes, Bosco cleared the last of land and swell kicked up to extremes like we’ve never experienced. Again, it felt like the boat would tip over. Both of us were scared, tired and miserable.

I held our course for the next hour, hoping things would get better. They didn’t. We just couldn’t escape the rolling waves and well. I realize now that they were hitting us from 2 sides, making it impossible to sit comfortably. I figured that the farther from land we get, the less the swell would impact us. But that is still hours away. All we could do is hold on and pray for sunrise to come (So we could see).

It felt like an eternity. The 6-foot swell kept us rocking and rolling. We took turns at the helm, switching places every 30 minutes or so. Jake couldn’t handle it anymore and had to lay down around 430AM. I took the helm for the next few hours, despite my delirium, actually found a rhythm with the ocean.

Time didn’t exist anymore. All I could do is feel the rise and fall of the boat. The first sign of change came when I could actually see the horizon to my starboard. Then I noticed as the water would slowly rise into a long rolling wave, pulling Bosco down her trough and up her crest. Nothing could be seen ahead but the wall of the last big wave. Then she’d be on top of it, and all that could be seen was the sky. The giant rolling elephants continued. I would say they grew another 2-3 feet since we started. At least they were coming in long intervals.

Morning came and went. The waves simmered a bit and Jake took over sometime after 7AM, so I could get a reprieve. I passed out for at least an hour and only stirred because a big wave came and jostled me awake. I moved back up in the cockpit, where it was much more comfortable. But sleep never came back.

Because we left so early, we were pleased to see the miles toward our destination go down. 10 miles to go, then 8…5 more miles. The water was so beautiful despite the large waves. And by now we were used to them.

As we approached the entrance to southern Abaco, the swell came back. It was in sync with the waves, but that just made them grow even more. They were easily 10-feet high now. By far the largest we’ve experienced. It was creepy to see waves tower over the boat. (I wish I took photos or video). Thankfully they were on our backside, so we surfed our way through the channel entrance.

AHHHH protected waters. Finally. We still had 3 more miles of winding and maneuvering up into the Sea of Abaco but at least its flat water here. Jake and I were elated to be here.

An hour later, we reached Pelican Bay, our anchorage for the night. It appeared that it would be protected from wind and waves, though there was a slight swell coming around the point. But honestly, this is NOTHING compared to the last 3 nights.

It was 2PM when we stopped. And we were both so happy…and starving. We didn’t take a bite of food for almost 20 hours. Jake heated up our Jambolaya which we gorged. OH SO GOOD.

Then we laid down and passed out. We woke up after 6PM. Both of us could have kept sleeping but didn’t want to get off of our normal sleep schedule. So we went out in the cockpit to enjoy the beautiful evening in Abaco.

It was a gorgeous night. The water was crystal clear and perfect. We could see a thunderstorm brewing in the distance, but it was well away from us. We sat out and watched the heat lightening and stars in the cockpit for a few hours before going back down below to sleep for the night. And though the swell did pick up, it was nothing compared to the horrendous conditions of the last 3 nights.

And so we slept. And it was bliss.

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2 comments on “A Rough Ride To Abaco

  1. So sorry to hear that you guys have had such bum luck on anchorages. I know from experience that what seems like a good option on a map doesn’t always sync with local conditions…especially in the islands. Hopefully you enjoy some more peaceful nights and recover so you can continue to explore those beautiful places.

    • Its crazy how that works sometimes!

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