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BrianH
16th October 2012, 01:12 AM
We placed our FP Orana 44 in a small, high-quality "botique" charter service in the Abacos called "Curise Abaco".

What a great company. All of the boats are "owners boats" meaning that the fleet (about 12 boats) are well appointed. We put a lot into this boat to make her really comfortable. They charge a little less than the going rates for the boats in their fleet compared to the big charter companies, and the upkeep is excellent. I am very happy with the maintenance they perform and the condition of my boat every time we go down there. They also do a great job of catering to their customers - very personal, friendly and helpful. If they had a motto it would probably be something like: "Do what it takes to keep the customer happy". Its more like a good B&B compared to the big charter companies, which are more like a Holliday Inn.

The Abacos are wonderful. Its like a giant swimming pool. The Sea of Abaco is surrounded on all sides by reefs, and keys to the North and East, and the island of "Great Abaco" to the West and South. The water is crystal clear and radiantly green. So there is very little fetch from any direction. On the worst days its just a bit choppy - about 2 feet of chop. We have been down there 4 times now and the wind is almost constantly in the 12 -14 knots, usually from the East -sometimes with some South in it, which is perfect since the Sea of Abaco runs mostly North-South. The consistent nature of the wind is probably due to the fact that the Abacos lies right on the edge of the Atlantic trades.

The best thing about the Abacos is that while all the normal services are readily available (dive companies, restaurants, small costal towns, almost universally accessible wifi, etc.) it is still very uncrowded. Even in the peak season its incredibly easy to find lots of small anchorages and moorings as well as deserted white sand beaches and quiet little coves. Its more "small town" compared to, say, the BVI, which has become more like a Disney World for sailors. U.S. money is accepted everywhere with a 1-to-one exchange rate.

The worst thing about the Abacos is that it is shallow, usually about 10 to 15 feet. This means that the bottom comes up in many places so that if your boat draws more than 4 feet you can sometimes find the bottom a little too easily. So watch your depth gauge and charts. (On the other hand, anchoring is always easy to find in the 10 feet range.) The local guide book is EXCELLENT in describing approaches to harbors and the seemingly countless anchorages.

The weather is like South Florida but always breezy so we almost never use the on-board air conditioning, except to cool the boat off after she has been bottled up for a few hours in a marina. After the boat is cooled off we just open her up and let the almost constant breeze do the rest.

If you are passing through, don't miss the Abacos. If you want to charter a boat for a few days or a week or even longer, check out Cruise Abaco. They even have a unique program called "Captained by Day". If you want a skipper, he will pilot the boat (letting you sail if you like) during the day then, after you are secure on your mooring for the night, he will depart and come back the next day or whenever you want him. That means you don't have to allocate a cabin for the crew and have the boat to yourself for the night or for however long you want to stay put.

Check it out!!

-BH

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2hulls
16th October 2012, 02:22 AM
The Abacos are wonderful.

.....except in January and February.

Good things about the Bahamas >> glorious shallow sand for excellect anchoring. You'll need it. Cold fronts off the continent in the winter can be relentless and in most places there are few places to hide. There are more places to hide in the Abacos, but they're the farthest north and get the worst of the cold fronts. I'd rather stay home than be in the Abacos in the deep winter.

The Out Islands, Exumas, and further southeast are better weather-wise, but the cold fronts in the deep winter are still dominant. Weather advoidance is a full time job. This is a lot more "work" than the eastern Carib where the cold fronts rarely reach.

But the Bahamas offer more seclusion, if you're willing to get away from the "easy" cruising of the Abacos and the Exumas. That's why there are no (or very limited) charter boats available beyond the Abacos. Away from the Abacos and Exumas, I've experienced more secluded, beautiful anchororages than anywhere else, except perhaps the Spanish Virgins.

This is just an objective observation from someone who has no commercial interest. For the record, in about three weeks I'll make passage for the Bahamas to spend the winter after spending the past two winters in the E Carib. A little variety and we'll hope for the best with the weather. But my landfall from sea will be south of the Abacos, probably Harbor Island on Eleuthera, and we'll head south from there until April, when we might visit the Abacos.

I wish Brian and other charter operators well, but some first hand objectivity seems appropriate and hopefully helpful to potential charterers who shouldn't have to wear sweaters on a charter.

2 Hulls Dave

BrianH
16th October 2012, 04:48 AM
Weird.

I was there last February and it was not bad at all. Upper 70s and breezy. My wife wore her shorty wet suit sometimes when we were snorkeling and I did not. The wind was the usual - about 15 kts all day and a bit lower (10kts) most of the night. None of the problems you mentioned. Hooray for global warming?

The "Rage" (Northerly winds blowing down on a Southerly current) runs intermittently on the outer reefs, beyond the keys during the period of November through January and it frequently closes many of the passages between the outer keys. Approaching the passages into the Sea of Abaco while the rage is running should be done very carefully. People die there and the big weather people don't mention it. You have to listen in on the local sources.

-BH

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2hulls
16th October 2012, 02:34 PM
For sure there are periods in the deep winter when the Sea of Abaco is fabulous. I didn't mean to make it sound bad all the time in the winter. But it frequently can be dismal when a strong front comes through. The strongest fronts are in the deep winter. Visit there often enough and you'll see what I mean.

The "rage" runs whenever strong wind is against an outgoing tide through the cuts. The potential for these is easily predicted >> just avoid an ebb tide with an opposing brisk breeze. Confirmation is when you see breakers on the shoals and bars in the vicinity of a cut, or you listen to VHF chatter: "How's the Whale today?"

But you are spot on about the crowding in the BVI and the Bahamas' (general) contrast to this. I first chartered in the VI in 1980 and the crowd was sparse. Not so now, except in certain times of year, like hurricane season. The Bahamas have their crowded, popular sites too, like Marsh Harbour, Hope Town, and Georgetown. Some folks seek out the social aspects these locations offer.

2 Hulls Dave

BrianH
16th October 2012, 05:25 PM
I understand that almost every year some tourist dies in the rage. Perhaps its usually a combined case of too much rum and not enough sense to stay off the rocks when 30 foot waves are breaking on them.

Last year when we were there in November, fresh fish was rare which seemed odd ...until we learned that a supply ship had been lost on the reef while trying to come in at Whale Key during the rage. Skipper should have known better.

-BH

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windwhisper
23rd October 2012, 09:23 PM
Such tact in steering the conversation - you must be a priest :whistling