destinations-caribbean-champagne_cruising-largeIt's 11:59 p.m. on New Years' Eve and I'm ensconced like a king on his throne in the cockpit of a sailboat.

The clock strikes twelve and a hundred ships' horns shatter the night. Cheers echo across waters that shimmer with the Christmas lights strung from the railing of the candy cane lighthouse.

The sky explodes in a display of fireworks. Sound waves roll over dunes that rise up between the village and the pink sands of the beach inside Elbow Cay Reef.

My wife and I uncork the champagne in the cockpit of УFarewell BendФ. The fizz tickles our noses; the tart flavour teases our tongues.

We're celebrating New Years' on a Jenneau 36', a Sunsail charter boat we've booked from Marsh Harbour in the northern Bahamas' Sea of Abaco. We're sipping champagne tied to a mooring ball in Hopetown Harbour, a town that time forgot.

An hour later we dinghy ashore and join a procession of partiers for a celebration that happens only on Boxing Day and New Years' Eve, transforming a usually staid specimen of the Loyalist values that have characterized this island chain since the American Revolution into a Bahamian Bacchanal.

Welcome to Junkanoo.

Blacks and whites together march through the streets, following a pickup band clad in African costumes, belting out syncopations and street beats on goatskin drums. The followers call out en masse in a rhythmical chant.

УHappy New Year. Happy New Year.Ф

Next morning we dinghy back to shore. We savour the taste of homemade quiche and we sip fresh ground and brewed Costa Rican coffee at the Hopetown Coffee House.

At the end of the dock an empty champagne bottle lies on its side.

It is both a sign and a metaphor.

Our first day – my birthday – ended at a coral-painted picnic table at Nippers's on Great Guana Cay. Nipper's is famous for its weekly pig roasts.

We missed the barbecue, but one lobster and two Bahama Mamas were sufficient consolation. We'd adjusted our clocks to island time and we'd crossed the Sea of Abaco, one of the most unique passages in the North American tropics. Winds were a perfect ten knots out of the southeast – starboard tack close-reached in flat water. A lazy and peaceful two-and-a-half-hour jaunt – the Bahamian equivalent of a day sail in the middle of June. Only the calendar said December 28.

Happy Birthday to me.

Flashback to November. I discover Silver Donald Cameron's Sailing Away from Winter, opening the pages to the section on the Abacos.

УChampagne cruising. The kind of sailing you get in your dreams.Ф

Fast forward, six weeks later: the passage from Great Guana Cay to Treasure Cay.

We make for a well-protected anchorage where mansions ring the lagoon and populate Pineapple Point. A short dinghy ride and an even shorter walk and we're on a pristine crescent of talcum powder sand. National Geographer Traveler has rated the beach at Treasure Cay one of the world's best.

Today is our wedding anniversary and dinner tonight – despite the restaurant – will be pork tenderloin on the Force Ten in the light of the full moon.

And champagne.

But right now the winds rush out of the northwest at eleven knots, over water painted lime green and aquamarine. The boat is gently heeled; the palms and casuarinas dancing over the approach to Treasure Cay loom dead ahead, Great Guana falls off the stern. And УFarewell BendФ loves it just as much as we do, making six knots on a summer afternoon halfway between Christmas and New Year's. Silver Donald Cameron is correct. We are champagne cruising.

The perfect conditions, the amazing colour of these waters, mesmerize me. Then I look down at the depth meter. My heart skips a beat.

Twelve feet. Decreasing quickly. Panic sets in. I yell УPrepare to come aboutФ in a choked voice. And then I remember a basic fact. Twelve feet of depth is commonplace as opposed to catastrophic.

We are in the Bahamas, a corruption of the Spanish for Уshallow seas.Ф And the shallowest part of these seas is right here, in a stretch of water they call the Abacos. Both selling feature and cautionary tale. Waters the colour of heaven, true, but also potential threats.

We pull into Great Guana Cay and look for an empty mooring ball. Think I spot one but it's not a ball. I realize my error too late. The boat shudders. Stops.

Two kinds of sailors out there. Those that run aground and those that lie about it.

Luckily the tide comes in and we float off painlessly.

Orchid Bay Marina is beautiful. Tied safely off, we watch another boat enter the harbour. It heads up to that selfsame marker, strings a line to it and spends the night aground. Blissfully unaware. At Man 'o' War Cay we watch a boat – shipping a full keel – zoom through the narrow passage. They grind to a stop with a painful groan.

A towboat chugs out an hour later, kedges them off.

Then there's the opening to Hope Town on Elbow Cay. Err to the starboard, inside Parrot Cays, and you're in five feet of water. Miscue to port and you're up on Eagle Rock. Here hazards to navigation are part of history. One of the earliest local occupations was УwrackingФ – salvage rights to grounded or shipwrecked vessels.

According to one tale, the church minister at Hopetown, his pulpit facing the sea, saw a ship run aground, instructed his congregation to bow their collective heads in prayer, and promptly took off. The pulpit faces inland on the new church. But you just have to befriend your charts – small price to pay for the treasure you'll discover here.

A bit reminiscent of BVI's Drake Passage: quick jaunt to the next anchorage; cerulean waters; flat seas protected by the surrounding archipelago. But there all similarities cease. Highest point in the Abacos is one hundred and twenty feet. And depths are twenty feet tops. And Abacos are a lot closer.

The Abacos are one hundred seventy miles from north to south, but the most popular cruising ground is from Green Turtle Cay to Marsh Harbour. This area, roughly five miles across and twenty miles long, includes the best known overnight spots: Great Guana and Man of War Cays, Hopetown and Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay, and Little Harbour, Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay on Great Abaco Island in the west.

Each cay is the perfect hors d'oeuvre, ideally paired with a champagne cocktail.

On our last morning I get up and nod at the skipper of the boat moored beside us: older fellow, big bushy beard, mahogany skin. A Canadian flag flutters off the stern. The skipper lifts his coffee cup in a toast.

УPulling out?Ф I yell.

УMaybe.Ф He squints into the morning sun. УMaybe not.Ф

I don't have that option. Still, we are in no hurry, sailing back to the Sunsail base on the second day of the new year. We fly the jennie, main still flaked, steady on a broad reach. I've got the autohelm on and I hold hands with Sharon.

Forget about velocity made good. I've adjusted my biological clock to island time.

And I've developed a taste for champagne.

Lifestyle

  • Prev
I am new to boating. Bought a 2019 Ranger Tug in April followed by taking a short boating course ...
Arie and Maribeth sent us this photo from their honeymoon departing Killarney…I think they were in ...
This shot was taken last week by Jessica Lee, a freelance photography pro, Albacore racer and part ...
On a sunny and windless day we led Alicia and another sailboat into New York Harbour. There were ...
It was a trip 2 or 3 years ago, and all 4 boats traveled up to the Killarney area in a ...
My name is Alexandrine GOVAN, mother of a 5 years old girl and I found your contact on internet. ...
John Booth, who passed away just a few weeks ago was one of the most amazingly gifted and ...
We left Vero Beach on Saturday morning with Alicia, a boat from Sweden, following close behind. The ...
At the end of last month, Canadian sailors gathered on the Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca, Spain ...
In 2019, C-TOW celebrates its 35th anniversary of providing 24/7 “Peace of Mind Boating” for ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
On the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had ...
A reader suggested we take a look at anchors. Anchoring seems simple enough. A weighted hook with a ...
If you’ve spent any time in a boat yard during spring commissioning season, you won’t find it out ...
As a busy marine mechanic, I tend to have the same or similar conversations often, and they’re ...
This time of year, great deals abound. That boat with the ‘for sale’ sign looks quite attractive. ...
For less than US$2,500, Jim Leshaw, a lawyer who lives and works in Key Biscayne, Florida, ...
Each spring, I tend to notice canvas. I wish it was because it’s been immaculately maintained and ...
I’ve had two emails over the past few weeks with a count-down to launch (47 days per the last ...
Last time we looked at making proper electrical connections – the tools, supplies and methods ...
Winter is a great time to look at some of the hidden spaces on your boat – to take stock of what is ...

Cables SecuredOn the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had exploded at a local marina; the boat’s operator was seriously injured. At the time, I heard that authorities were investigating and were attempting to determine the cause of the explosion and fire.

What would I do if an explosion occurs on a boat that I was working on? What was the cause? How could this happen?


 

 

Read more about Safe Starts............

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...
ILCA is seeking new builders to complement its existing network of manufacturers, the International ...
Nelson Gilbert (1854-1921) began building canoes in Brockville in the 1890s, a time when the sport ...
I have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting ...
To get you in the mood for cruising the Boat Show then launching in spring, here’s a boat that ...
Quite simply, the styles of boats have changed. Where in past years a buyer might have been looking ...
At the boat shows, the Ranger Tugs’ classic tugboat lines always grab the crowds, with the wives ...
Sometimes a great idea requires an encore, and French yacht builder Jeanneau got that with the ...
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1The Oceanis official US debut will be at the upcoming Newport International Boat Show in September and will be featured at the United States Sailboat show in Annapolis in October.

With an overall size under 30 feet and a light displacement of less than 8,805 lbs., the Oceanis is easily trailerable without a wide load permit. If you prefer to access your sailing grounds by canals and rivers, the lifting keel and rotating mast open a world of endless possibilities. Perfect for sailing on lakes or for coastal hopping, this new Oceanis is, nevertheless, a robust category B sailing yacht, fitted for offshore sailing. The smallest of the range offers the biggest choice of programs! 

Read more about the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1............................

 

Grady White Freedom 235 Dual ConsoleBy Jill Snider

Once again, I had the pleasure of joining CY’s test guru Andy Adams on a boat review. This time, out on Georgian Bay, we put the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console to the test. There are so many great things to tell you about this classic beauty.

Andy
If I were required to compare Grady White’s Freedom 235 Dual Console to an animal, I would tell you that she has the character of a Labrador Retriever. Here are a few reasons why...

Read More about the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console......................


Coal Harbour MarinaVancouver is ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world. You can explore much of the cityscape by water and moor at several marinas. The city offers the marine visitor a panoply of fine dining, waterside pubs, shopping and cultural amenities.

English Bay and False Creek, one of the choice urban boating destinations in North America, bring you into the heart of the city. Good moorage and anchorages are available and there is lots happening both on the water and all along the shoreline.

 

 

Read more about Vancouver...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
The Seabin device part of the Oak Bay Marine Group trial, has had promising results so far while ...
When I took the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV down to Wednesday night racing, the people that came over ...
Protecting your boat from scratches and dents isn’t always easy. That’s why the Big Bumper Company ...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Forespar has just introduced a new smaller size version of their ...
As boaters we all have a very unique connection to the water and all the opportunities it presents. ...
Edited by the Quebec Marine Association under the direction of L'Escale Nautique (producer of the ...
Blue Guard has announced the general availability of the BG-One, a solid-state bilge pump switch, ...
With the introduction of the Ion Power Basic, a safe Lithium Ion battery formulated with Lithium, ...
Finding a car brand that you enjoy while it does what you need can be tough, as they can be ...
Yikes! No boat refrigeration? You’ve Got to be Kidding me!! But then again, true campers don’t use ...