Our sailing & kitesurfing trip thru the Sea of Abaco (NE Bahamas) was nothing short of a â€œtrip of a lifetimeâ€.
We arrived in Marsh Harbor and ferried over to Hopetown to board â€œKathleen D.â€, the Maine Cat 41 from Abaco Multihull. After a day of provisioning and dinner ashore and roaming the quaint streets of Hopetown , we relaxed on board this incredibly roomy boat for the first night. Early the next day we went for a check-ride with the charter operator and then headed North toward Great Guana Cay.
The winds had been blowing a constant 25+ from the ENE and there was still a full blown â€œrageâ€ going on the outer reef. The first few days we stayed mostly on the lee side (West) of the outer cays to avoid the 12â€™-18â€™ swells that were running outside the reef but still enjoyed the full effect of the fresh breeze. Our cat handled magnificently in these conditions, screaming along at 12 kts with a single reef in the mainsail, rum drinks sitting quietly on the salon table, the boat never healing more than 5 degrees. It didnâ€™t hurt having a world class ocean cat racer, Cam Lewis ( http://teamadventure.org ) & family, on board to fill the crew roster. Once familiar with the rigging this boat can be single-handed very easily, virtually every halyard, sheet, reefing line, etc. run into the Cockpit/salon area for easy access.
The 3â€™ draft allowed us to approach and anchor the boat in close proximity to the shore to set up our kitesurfing activities with great ease. Our RIB dinghy could be launched off the stern, loaded with gear, and ferried to the beach within minutes. The 8hp motor was sufficient since we never had to go far from the boat. The beautiful thing about this area is that there seems to be a great beach or sandbar to suit virtually every wind directionâ€¦and with a little planning and studying of the charts and the quickness of the boat it was never more than a 2 hour sail to the next incredible kiting spot.
Hot showers, a spacious galley, a palatial sized salon, and some incredible provisioning made for a very pampered cruise. We were really â€œroughing itâ€! And Cam made sure we kept moving from dawn till dusk. We did some snorkeling on the outer reef the day after the rage subsided, but the water was still a bit murky. We had hoped to gather some fish but were reluctant to take anything undersized. We dined on some locally caught Grouper picked up in Hopetown, and another night we had some fantastic ceveche that Cam prepared with some local Conch. A cooler full of steaks, lamb chops, sausages, bacon, and other meats was brought down in a large cooler. We cooked most of the meat dishes on the gas grill on the stern. A good variety of fresh vegetables are hard to find, so either bring some good frozen stuff or stock up when you can.
Some of the incredible kiting spots we hit include: Green Turtle Cay â€“ an awesome sandbar at the south end of the island; Spoil Cay - a man made cay (from dredging the ship channel) with great exposure and a short upwind ride (in the NE wind) to the North end of Great Guana Cay for some wave riding; Nunjack Cay has a great beach but it looks like they are in the process of developing it; Ambergris Cay â€“ another incredible sandbar configuration; and Powell Cay. Once the rage ended we had mostly 12m and 16m conditions. The kids were powered up with 5m kites for the lessons and had blast learning how to kitesurf, fishing, snorkeling, sailing, learning seamanship, etc.. and then writing about our adventures later on.
NOTE: I highly recommend bringing and wearing watershoes â€“ you will encounter something sharp somewhere along the way. One day I could not find my shoes and went to the beach without - bad mistake - only to impale my foot on a conch shell spike while teaching water-relaunching techniques.
With more time I would have been nice to explore Double Breasted Cay, and the areas around Treasure Cay also looked like good kiting possibilities with the proper wind direction. With an experienced group of kiteboarders this could be an even more epic trip, offering endless flat water riding, down wind rides, and big wave conditions in a pristine environment. I highly recommend it and hope to return one day.
Getting to and from Hopetown from the mainland can be a challenge. Next time (if traveling there from FL) I will opt to simplify and fly from Daytona or Miami directly to Marsh Harbor to avoid the seemingly disorganized coordination of flights, customs procedures, multiple baggage checks, etc.
A few useful items that we had with us included a Sirius XM satellite radio receiver; snorkeling gear (wetsuits recommended-the water was cool); some games, books, cards to fill time; handheld VHF radios; hammock; waterproof bag; sling spear; hand-held GPS;
Among features of the boat that stood out: The boat was well supplied with the right charts & cruising guide; first aid kits; towels; bedding; cooking/eating equipment; good sized reefer and freezer; very nice Garmin GPS and nav system; electric winches for main halyard and main sheet, electric windlass. The hard-top over the main salon and helm station was awesome. The roll-up windows were divided into 9 sections so you could adjust ventilation very easily while having a 360 view at all times. The hot/cold hand shower on the stern of the starboard ama was great for rinsing off and minimizing the importation to sand and dirt onto the boat.
Weather broadcasts were erratic. Every morning at 0815 a Cruiser Net broadcast out of Hopetown would give weather information and discuss oher useful topics, however we were often unable to pick up a signal. Internet access: If you want to say â€œconnectedâ€ you need to be within range of some of the wireless networks there. I believe you can get a 1 week or 1 month subscription. Cel phones â€“ apparently some US cel phones work â€“ neither of ours did. I think you can also get a short term el hone subscription as well. It was pretty nice being disconnected from a lot of this anyway â€“ I think weâ€™ve all gotten too caught up in it perhaps?
So if you want to go to a really cool place, chill out and get away from the big crowds â€“ try the Bahamas, youâ€™ll love it!!!