The Main Attraction
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
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
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.
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
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