Blue Turtle Cruising

Cruising the Abacos Islands, Bahamas

We left the West Palm Beach anchorage around 6am and motor-sailed about 109 nautical miles on calm waters. We were so glad we waited for a good weather window. The wind wasn’t great for sailing, but less winds usually means a calmer sea state which was just fine for us. We arrived at Little Sale Cay, just beyond the Bahamas Bank around 1am and dropped the anchor to get a few zzz’s.

The next morning, we pulled up anchor and headed to Green Turtle Cay where we were hoping to get a mooring ball and clear into customs. Once we arrived, we were told there were no moorings available (you can’t reserve them ahead of time) and with a front coming our way, we needed to find protection. We radioed our friends on SV Minx and they told us to that the weather was perfect then to come around “the Whale” and anchor where they were at Two Sisters, Treasure Cay. Whale Cay lies between Green Turtle Cay and Great Guano Cay. You have to go around this Cay to go north or south in the Abacos. This outside passage is notorious for its swell and can cause a lot of problems for sailors going through at the wrong tide and wind conditions. After catching up with Jay and Tanya (SV Minx) the next morning, we headed to Marsh Harbor where we now planned to check in to customs.

Marsh Harbor

The trip from the Two Sisters anchorage to Marsh Harbor is about 14 nm. The nice thing about the Abacos is that once you are there, everything is pretty close in proximity so island hopping literally only takes a couple of hours. Once anchored in Marsh Harbor, we dingied to shore to find the customs office. We were told to look for a blue building near Union Jack public dock. The customs building is actually more purple than blue (or periwinkle to be more specific), and at the time we visited, there was no identification outside the building whatsoever. Randy proceeded to walk in with our paperwork and 10 minutes or so later, we were checked in. After checking in, we returned to the boat to get Sophie so we could walk a bit on the island.

Marsh Harbor, a town on the island of Great Abaco, is the commercial hub of the Abacos islands. It hosts the larger of two international airports in the Bahamas and the largest western-style grocery in the Abacos. From the anchorage, industry is apparent on the shorelines with commercial freighters being loaded and ferries buzzing workers and tourists from place to place. Our first impression of Marsh Harbor was that it wasn’t the most pedestrian or stroller friendly with narrow, rocky roads. The streets were lined with dilapidated buildings most likely damaged from Hurricane Dorian. We were told that while some of the islands (like Hope Town) rebuilt after the hurricane, Marsh Harbor didn’t so much. We were impressed with Maxwells, the large grocery store that seemed to have most of what we needed. Compared to the smaller stores on other islands, they quickly became our go-to. After checking in, we really only anchored off Marsh Harbor to provision or pick up Corey at the airport when he visited.

Hope Town

While checking out Marsh Harbor, our friend Jay on SV Minx let us know about a mooring ball that was available in Hope Town. He knew someone staying in the mooring field and asked them to reserve a ball for us. We were so lucky for this opportunity since the mooring field was full for the next month or so. We headed over the Hope Town immediately to claim the mooring. The next morning, we checked in at the marina and paid for a week. The nice thing about the moorings there, is that once you are on the buoy, you can stay as long as you like. We extended our stay one week at a time. I think we ended up keeping the mooring for 4 weeks and it became our “home base.” We would still head out and cruise and explore the islands but it was nice to have the ball to come back to for protection whenever a front came through (which was a lot this past winter). As long as you leave a bottle or bumper with “reserved” on the mooring, no one would claim it while you were gone.

Much of Hope Town rebuilt after the hurricane. With vacation rentals and tourism, it appears to be booming again. The streets are lined with quaint cottages to large mansions and the landscaping and flowering trees really make it such a lovely island. Our first order of business was to go up in the lighthouse. The Elbow Reef Lighthouse is open to the public free of charge (they accept donations) and offers stunning views of the harbor and surrounding waters. Built in the late 1800s, is the only remaining manned kerosene lighthouse in the world. With it being open to the public all day, we sometimes visited more than once.

The mooring field in Hope Town is a buzzing vibrant community. Various activities, including pickle ball were often going on. With multiple dinghy docks, cruisers came and went to shore often. We walked a great deal there and with the majority of traffic being golf carts, it was fairly easy to do so. We found a great exercise loop on the north end of the island where we would run with Sophie in the stroller. There are a few bars and restaurants. With vegan options being non existent, we didn’t eat out but we did visit Capt. Jacks, where Monday night bingo and their special Jack Hammer drink were quite popular. We also took a walk down the beach to a beach bar aptly named On Da Beach.

Corey came to visit us for a long weekend. It was filled to the brim with activity, island hopping, and snorkeling. I’m mentioning this because he appears in many photos from Hope Town and also Little Harbor and Lynyard Cay which I’ll mention later.

Outside of Hope Town, the majority of our time in the Abacos was spent island hopping and dodging the weather fronts that came through.

Below are some of the spots and anchorages we enjoyed while cruising the Abacos. They aren’t in chronological order of how we visited them since we did a lot of hopping back and forth to these different islands and areas.

Some of the cruising spots in the Abacos

Aunt Pat’s Bay & Tahiti Beach

Tahiti Beach is located on the southern tip of Elbow Cay. It’s a well-known sandbar spot at low tide for day boaters and cruisers to relax on the beach or look for shells. There is a floating bar and grill called the Thirsty ‘Cuda that cruises from Hopetown Harbor down to the sandbar on most days. One can grab a burger and one of the specialty rum punches from them. The anchorage nearby is Aunt Pat’s Bay which offers stunning view of the island and a quick dinghy ride to the beach. It’s about 3 miles from Hopetown harbor so you’ll likely see your mooring neighbors there as well.

Tilloo Cay

Tilloo Cay National Reserve is an 11 acre shoreline off the eastern side of Great Abaco south of Elbow Cay. It’s a beautiful spot for anchoring and exploring by paddle board. While anchored off Tilloo Cay, we visited the Tilloo Cruiser’s Beach which is a camp created from flotsam and jetsam. It’s a great spot for a barbecue or happy hour on the beach.

Lynyard Cay

Lynyard Cay is one of the few larger cays in the Abacos that remains undeveloped. It’s a large area that is great for anchoring. We enjoyed anchoring with friends SV Minx and SV Kismet and had dinner with them aboard Minx one evening.

Little Harbour & the Blue Hole

 Little Harbour is only 10 miles from Marsh Harbor, but is a totally different world and a great place to get away from the crowds. It’s located on the east side of Great Abaco Island about midway between the Great Abaco’s north and south ends. The most famous thing there of note is Pete’s Pub & Gallery which is a cool little sandy beach bar and grill offering beautiful views and a remote island feel. The owner, Pete, is a naturalist and sculptor of marine wild life and is recognized as one of the most celebrated Bahamian artists.

Besides Little Harbour island, we also explored the back waters of an area called the Bight Of Old Robinson where there is a blue hole. We anchored the boat and dinghied in at high tide to some very shallow waters full of red starfish, sea turtles and rays. Luckily, there was a large rock marked with lots of conch shells at the entrance to show how to get in. Once we found the blue hole, a shelf that drops off to a bottomless pit, we decided we’d come back when Corey visited so the boys could snorkel it. There is a placard there in memory of 3 young divers that lost their life there while scuba diving and running out of air. The shallow back waters full of sea life made for a great paddle while the boys snorkeled.

Fowl Cay & Man-O-War Cay

Considered one of the best areas to snorkel in the Abacos, Fowl Cays National Park is located just north west of Man-O-War Cay. We anchored in the most unbelievably clear blue water we’ve ever seen and dinghied around the area in search of a spot to snorkel. This was the one and only time I got into the water since it was still very chilly in February. While the visibility was spectacular, we didn’t get to see much probably because we were on the wrong spot. Randy continued to snorkel the area some and saw some fish and rays.

After snorkeling Fowl Cay, we headed over to Man-O-War. Since the weather was perfect, we anchored outside the harbor and dinghied into shore. Here’s little history of Man-O-War Cay:

When the American colonies were successful in defeating the British in the U.S. Revolutionary War, some Loyalists fled the country, traveling to the closest Crown territory, The Bahamas. Man-O-War Cay is one of the early Loyalist settlements in The Abacos, and beginning in 1798, its residents started farming. In 1820, a shipwrecked sailor named Benjamin Albury met Eleanor Archer, who worked on a farm, and they married in 1821. Their descendants are the Albury’s of today, industrious people who operate the many family-owned businesses found on this cay.


From what we saw, Man-O-War Cay is a very quiet town where most who live there know each other. It’s 2.5 miles long and half a mile wide and it’s narrow streets are mostly used by bikes and golf carts. It’s also a “dry” island where no alcoholic beverages are sold there. We saw the shipyard where the Albury boats were being made and walked the mostly deserted streets. Other than the grocery store, most businesses or buildings appeared to be boarded up probably still from Hurricane Dorian. We did visit the Albury’s Sail Shop where colorful bags are made from canvas and sailcloth.

Great Iguana Cay

We happened to visit Great Iguana Cay one afternoon because we had planned to go around the “Whale” cut to get to Green Turtle Cay but needed to wait for slack/high tide. Since we had half a day to kill, we stopped at Great Iguana and dropped anchor. We dingied into shore and tied up Grabbers docks. There were two places we were told to visit if we went to Great Iguana, one was Grabbers and the other Nippers. Both are beach bars. We walked around the island some and located Nippers which is situated on the eastern side of the island with the most spectacular beach and ocean views. Unfortunately, Nippers was closed the day we visited but we enjoyed the many colorful signs with funny sayings that marked the way to get there. After exploring, we headed back to Grabbers, where our dinghy was located. Before leaving, we decided to sit at the bar and sample their famous “Grabbers” rum drinks. After a couple of Grabbers we dinghied back to the boat and got ourselves ready to transit Whale cut.

Green Turtle Cay

Green Turtle Cay, one of the Abaco Out Islands, is a 3 mile long barrier island off the coast of Great Abaco. Aptly named for its abundance of green sea turtles, Green Turtle Cay is known for its white sandy beaches and laid back style. While there, we explored the town and located the 2 grocery stores on the island. We also dinghied over to Coco Bay where there is a public dock to view the many rays and sea turtles. A local fishing guide sometimes feeds the rays and turtles which is what makes this a popular viewing spot. While, anchored there, we got to catch up with our friends Ron and Phebe from SV Noodin’ and we visited one of the local beach bars called Pineapples, where we were warned to drink no more than 2 of their rum punches (that pack quite a punch!). In order to do some laundry, we visited the Green Turtle Club which is a beautiful marina and resort. We also got to catch up with friends from Fort Myers Beach, Bridgette and Scott (MV Putzn’ Around).

No Name Cay

No Name Cay was apparently a mostly uninhibited cay just south of Green Turtle until some wild pigs somehow landed there. There are lots of stories surrounding how they got there and they’ve become quite the tourism phenomenon. There’s a restaurant and bar there now that seem to support the pigs along with the tourists feeding them. We decided to check it out since we had a gorgeous day of weather at Green Turtle. That morning, we went to Coco Bay and saw the turtles and rays and after lunch, we dinghied down to the southern part of Green Turtle Cay and visited No Name. We didn’t spend too much time there but watched as people fed the pigs. There were quite a few small ones and a couple larger. While there, we watched as a woman with her dog on a leash walked out onto the beach and one of the larger pigs charged after it. Thankfully, a charter boat captain grabbed the dog and picked it up. We knew that even though these pigs rely on humans for food and water, they’re still wild which is why Sophie stayed in the dinghy with one of us while the other went on shore. After leaving No Name, we beached the dinghy on a phenomenal white sand beach on the southern tip of Green Turtle to explore. It was such a perfect day.

Homeward Bound

As we waited for a weather window to head back home to the states, we made a final stop at Marsh Harbor to provision. We then cruised to Two Sisters anchorage near Treasure Cay. We had a gorgeous day of sailing and as luck would have it, our friends on SV Minx were already anchored there. We decided to do a cruise-by and ask them to video us since we didn’t have any great footage of us under sail. They captured the most amazing video of us before we took down the sails and anchored for the night. We left the next morning, to head around the Whale one last time and over to Green Turtle Cay (where we would catch up with Bridget and Scott). After that, we reanchored near the airport on Treasure Cay to wait out the weather window to head back home.

Our original plan crossing back over was to get as far north as possible. We were hoping to make it to St. Marys, GA, but our forecast wasn’t cooperating. Seas picked up and between the swell and chop it made it impossible to sleep or do much. After checking in with SV Minx, we decided to cut the trip a bit shorter and head into Port Canaveral. From Treasure Cay to Port Canaveral we motor sailed 217 nautical miles over 38 hours. It was time for the crews to get some rest and check back into the States.

West Palm Beach, FL to Little Sale Cay, Bahamas= 109.5 nm
Little Sale Cay to Treasure Cay = 64 nm
Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbor (Where we cleared customs) = 14 nm
Island hopping around the Abacos = 322.9
Treasure Cay to Port Canaveral, FL = 216.7

TOTAL miles to date: = 5,643.7 nm

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