The Main Attraction

The Sea of Abaco is a long narrow body of water similar in size to the Drake Channel in the BVIs, and like the Drake, is very well-protected on all sides.  A series of Cays shield it from the Atlantic.  An extensive series of reefs further shield the Cays providing a second barrier of protection.  In fact, the protection is so complete that there are actually only a few places that permit you to pass from the Sea of Abaco to the Atlantic.

What makes this body of water so amazing is the fact that it averages only eight to ten feet in depth.  That’s right.  On a sunny day, the whole area lights up in a brilliant turquoise that is simply stunning.  To your further amazement, you can make out every detail of the white sand bottom through the crystal clear water.

Given that the anchorages themselves are not overly spectacular when compared to places such as The Grenadines, one begins to appreciate that the Sea of Abaco is in fact the Main Attraction here.  It provides excellent sailing in protected waters, as well as endless swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing opportunities.  There is always the bright turquoise, the golden sand, and the crystal clear water.  You never get over the wonder of just being there.


Technically, you could anchor anywhere in the shallow water, including right smack in the middle, but you don’t have to.  This opens up a number of unique opportunities for anchoring that are not shown on any chart.  It is possible to go somewhere and hole up by yourself for long periods of time without being bothered by anybody.

“The Whale”

For the most part, it is possible to sail within the protected waters of the Sea of Abaco to get to most anchorages in the area.  Those north of Baker’s Bay are a little more difficult to reach.  There is one part, near Whale Cay, that is too shallow and rough to cross, so you must pass through a narrow cut to the open ocean, then back through another cut, before proceeding on your way.  This is the infamous “Whale.”

At times, these narrow passages can be treacherous due to extreme waves and current called “rages.”  Most often, they are caused by local high winds from a specific direction, but they can also be caused by residual swell from storms hundreds of miles away.  Basically, they form huge breaking waves that resemble “elephants,” making passage impossible.

Each day, cruisers report the condition of “The Whale” over The Cruiser’s Net.  They pass on their observations and report their experience if they have passed through.  No question that many unfortunate incidents have been avoided by this safety net.


There are reefs practically everywhere, and where there are reefs, there are snorkeling opportunities.  These reefs are among the finest in the world for snorkeling, as you will see nearly every possible type of fish and coral.

Sandy Cay is probably the best and most well-known snorkeling opportunity in the Abacos.  It is part of the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park and is protected.  You can anchor your boat or tie up to a mooring just to the west of Sandy Cay, then take the dinghy around and tie up to a dinghy mooring.  From there, just head towards the island and enjoy.

Two excellent spot for snorkeling the barrier reef are just to the northeast of Johnny’s Cay and just to the northeast of Fowl Cay.  Extreme care must be taken as these spots can become quite rough in bad weather.  The Cruising Guide to Abaco lists a number of other excellent locations.


There are a number of opportunities for catching dinner in the Sea of Abaco.  The simplest way is to troll while under way.  There is a possibility of catching a few 2-pound Spanish Mackerel that make for great eating.  Remember, if you don't have a hook in the water, you most certainly cannot catch any fish.

The Florida sport fishing scene has found its way to the Abacos, so it is not unusual to see large sport fishing boats with an impressive array of outriggers and fishing gear.  These people are serious about their fishing and they have the equipment to prove it.  They are there to land the big stuff - the Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Barracuda, and possibly a Blue Marlin.  These big game fish are not found in the Sea of Abaco, but just outside the barrier reef.  You need the right equipment and be in the right place to land these fish, and there are plenty of professional outfits around that can take you out for a day.


Although the supply of conchs has been depleted somewhat, they are still there to be found.  There is nothing like a fresh Conch Salad to sharpen your appetite for dinner, and in the Abacos, you can get the conch yourself by snorkeling for them.  You need to be in 8 to 15 feet of reasonably dense grassy bottom to find them.  There is a minimum size that you can take - essentially the conch must have a well-formed lip.

Last Updated: July 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002