ICW Florida and Abacos | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

ICW Florida and Abacos

December 12, 2008

Green Turtle Cay
Abacos, Bahamas
Latitude:  N 26 46.883
Longtitude: W 077 20.114

Seasons Greetings, Everyone!

Today we are writing to you from lovely Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos group of the Bahamas. For the last week we have been island-hopping and enjoying warm weather and beautiful clear water here as we prepare for Christmas and an offshore passage to Antigua.

Boats at anchor, Green Turtle Cay.

In our last position update on November 15th, we were at the dock in Beaufort, North Carolina, waiting for good winds to jump offshore and travel down the coast of the Carolinas to get further south to find some warmer weather.

Distant Shores at Beaufort Docks, NC

On past trips down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in November and December we have always had very pleasant weather but this year there were frost warnings all the way to Florida! Brrr! We were constantly in our foul weather gear and running the heaters at night. Oh well, at least it wasn't snowing, as friends and family from our home in Canada constantly reminded us.

Paul dressed for the cold weather that followed us most of the way down the ICW this year.

We had a good overnight sail from Beaufort and came to the Winyah Bay inlet near Georgetown, South Carolina, the following evening where we anchored in the bay by the ICW entrance. The following day we motored down the waterway to McClellanville where we tied up with the many shrimp boats that are based there.

Shrimp boats docked at McClellanville, South Carolina

We interviewed one of the shrimp boat captains for an upcoming episode of Distant Shores and came back to the boat with a basket-load of fresh caught shrimp. You can buy directly from the boats or the seafood market on the docks for the freshest seafood.

Sheryl with bowls of fresh-caught shrimp.

The weather didn't get any warmer so after spending a few days at our next stop, the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina, we hopped offshore again to reach Fernandina Beach, Florida. Cruising friends from the Levant Basin Rally and Med cruising, Larry and Eileen Murphy of SV Wayward Wind, have just bought a house here so invited us to stay with them for a few days for a visit and to get warmed up!

Guest Matt Heron and Paul as we leave the Lake Worth Inlet for a nightsail to the Bahamas

Next jump was a 2 night sail down the Florida coast past Cape Canaveral to the Lake Worth Inlet where we came in to Riviera Beach Marina to prepare for the voyage across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Florida friends, Kaye Hamilton-Smith and David Johnston, spent a day with us driving us around town to provision and pick up additional spare parts for the season ahead. David also kindly drove Paul to the Fort Lauderdale airport to meet our guest, Matt Heron, an Australian ex-pat working in Dubai, who flew in to join us for the voyage to the Bahamas and the upcoming offshore to Antigua for Christmas. We had planned a few days in Florida for Matt to get over his jet-lag and get accustomed to the boat but we had a weather window with southerly winds the day he arrived so, with his blessing, we cast off for a night sail across the Gulf Stream within hours of his arrival. This was so we could avoid an big front coming down the coast that would trap us in Florida for a week. We all wanted to spend more time in the Bahamas so decided to make a run for it.

Arrival in the Bahamas

It would have been best to leave that morning as it was a tight window. The winds really started to build through the night. It was a "perky" passage and we felt bad that we couldn't ease Matt in to life aboard a little more gently, but he loved the excitement and pounding seas and was keen for more. What excellent crew! We knew we were going to have a great time together over the next few weeks.

Paul clearing in to the Bahamas at Walkers Cay.

We had planned to come in to the Bahamas across the banks entering at Memory Rock but with the big seas and building winds Paul decided it was too dangerous. So we headed further north around the banks to get in behind the protection of the reefs and islands. It added distance and time but was safer. We learned later that a boat went on the reefs that day attempting to get in just near there. The crew made it safely ashore but there were injuries and damage to the boat. Just before sunset, we arrived safely at Walkers Cay, our port of entry for the Bahamas and anchored off for the night. In the morning we moved to the main quay at the harbour entrance to check in at Customs and Immigration. The marina at Walkers Cay was been destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago and it is dangerous to try to go in to a slip since there are sunken boats there. It took about 30 minutes to fill out all the papers required. The entrance fee for our 42-foot sailboat was $300 US dollars and includes a fishing permit. They only take cash so be prepared if you are planning to cruise in the Bahamas.

Sheryl and Matt playing dominoes at Rosie's Place, Grand Cays, Bahamas

After clearing in we sailed over to the settlement at Grand Cays where we enjoyed a Cracked Conch dinner at Rosie's Place and spent an evening playing dominoes in the bar with the locals and fellow cruising sailors. We had met the Dutch crew from SV Greenlight just off the reefs the night we came in. They had blown out their mainsail and jib in the strong winds and since they had just sailed 6 days from New York were low on fuel. We passed them 2 jerry cans of diesel to help them get in to port and to continue on their way to meet crew in Marsh Harbour.

Matt kite-surfing from the boat in the Double Breasted Cays

After the front passed we enjoyed some great days of cruising through the Abacos. Matt is an avid kite surfer so we found some good shallow anchorages where he could kite around the boat in amazing Bahamian blue seas.

Fresh-caught lobster tail dinner aboard Distant Shores

Paul introduced Matt to lobster hunting with a hand spear and we've been enjoying some mighty fine lobster dinners aboard the boat!

Dolphins playing at the bow as we sail along.

From the Double Breasted Cays we sailed to Great Sale Cay with dolphins playing at our bow and the day after that continued on to Green Turtle Cay where we have been enjoying the local restaurants and snorkelling as we wait for weather to jump off to Antigua.

Green Turtle Cay. View from the top of our mast.

It's great to be back in the Bahamas, one of our favourite cruising destinations! We'll continue on to Marsh Harbour and update you on our next adventures.

A few notes:

New DVD just released
If you're looking for a gift for the sailor in your family, we have just released our latest DVD "Distant Shores Season 5: The Med to the Caribbean and Bahamas" in time for the gift-giving season. This new DVD is a 3-disk set featuring our adventures aboard our new Southerly 42 sailboat and last year's voyage from England to the Caribbean and Bahamas. Lots of beautiful tropical destinations to warm you up this winter! You can order this and any of our DVDs through the store on our website. (If you want to have your order shipped to an address different from your credit card billing address just send an e-mail through Contact Us with the preferred shipping address.)

Wishing you all the best for a warm and wonderful festive season,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Distant Shores
Green Turtle Cay
Abacos, Bahamas

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