24 July 2015

Cruising In The Abacos, Bahamas | Shakedown Recap

Now that we've finished a whole slew of posts telling you about our adventures taking our new-to-us sailboat down to the Abacos, Bahamas, I thought I would do a little recap of our month-long shakedown cruise. Want to know what we loved about the Abacos, where we went, what surprised us and how our boat held up? Then, you've come to the right place!

Our Route & Where We Went

We started off at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, made our way through the Okeechobee Waterway to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and down to Lake Worth near West Palm Beach. We anchored for a night and then braved the Gulf Stream to make our passage over to the Bahamas. Turns out it was an easy crossing, but a long one. After close to 22 hours, we dropped the hook at our first Bahamian anchorage - Mangrove Cay.

Mangrove Cay was the first of 24 nights we anchored out in the Bahamas. Well, 23 really. We cheated a little and picked up a mooring ball at Man O'War Cay one night. We skipped marinas entirely. The cost of marinas in the Bahamas doesn't really fit into our budget and we found the anchorages to be relatively uncrowded and with decent holding while we were in the Abacos.

We then made our way back the way we came and had another easy passage across the Gulf Stream. Over the course of a month, we logged a total of 527 nautical miles, burned around 40 gallons of diesel (to be honest, this is a total guess), consumed around 70 gallons of water (a more accurate guess) and ate way too much coconut bread.

The Good, The Surprising & The So-So

Some people talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of things they've experienced. Fortunately, we didn't experience anything bad or ugly (unless you count the trash strewn on some of the islands), but we did have a few surprises and some so-so experiences. I find when I read some blogs, it sounds like folks are living in paradise. Nothing ever goes wrong. It's all tropical slushy drinks, magical sunsets and smooth sailing. I don't know about you, but as much as I wake up every morning expecting to have the best day ever, in reality this is our everyday life and sometimes things are just so-so. It isn't a bad thing, it's just life. For us at least.

So what was good? 


This is the top of my list. In general, the Bahamians that we met were incredibly friendly, warm and open. You felt like they were happy to see you. From the shopkeepers helping you find what you need to the cute little kids asking you for a ride in your dinghy to the folks on the street who shout out a cheery hello as you walk by. Wonderful people. The only place we didn't experience this to the fullest was at Man O'War Cay. People seemed to be more reserved there. Maybe that's just the way they are on that particular island. But, I get it. I'm pretty reserved too. That's how I knew the Bahamian people were so special - their infectious spirit even got someone reserved like me smiling and saying hello to complete strangers.


I had read about the bread in the Bahamas before we went there (and in fact it was one of the few things I knew about the Bahamas, but that's more a commentary on how little planning we did for this trip, which is probably a whole other post.) Guess what. This is an example of where all the hype does meet reality. The bread is delicious. The coconut bread is super delicious. French toast made with coconut bread is super, super delicious. I think you get my point.


It's generally just a hop, skip and a jump between anchorages in the Abacos, so you can usually find what suits your mood. There are many uninhabited islands where you'll find just a few other boats anchored at and you can have all the solitude you want. Or, if you need to re-provision or want to grab a drink or a bite to eat, there are plenty of picturesque towns to stop at. Our favorite town was New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. Chock-full of those friendly Bahamian folk and Miss Emily's famous Goombay Smash rum punch. A winner.


The water was warm. This might sound kind of silly to you, but when we were living in New Zealand, we only went in the water a handful of times. It was just way too cold, even in summer. So, being able to hop in the water and not start shivering within two minutes was delightful.

So what was surprising? 


To be fair, I don't think we did enough snorkeling to really get a feel for what the underwater life is like in the Abacos, but I expected to see so much more. The only other times I've ever snorkeled have been in Thailand and Tahiti and I was overwhelmed by all of the critters down below. I expected the same sort of thing to happen when we went snorkeling this time around. It didn't. We've talked to some people who said that there are better places to snorkel in the Bahamas and other folks who have said that the fish population has really declined over the past few years and it just isn't as good anymore.


The Bahamas are flat. Flat, flat, flat. If I had done any sort of research about the Bahamas before we went, I probably would have been prepared for this. As it was, when we anchored for our first night at Mangrove Cay, all I could think of was, "Wow, this is so flat." For some reason, I had it in my head that the Bahamas would be full of these tropical islands with rocky cliffs and paths leading you up hills to the top of picturesque overlooks. I never did find those islands of my imagination.

And finally, what was so-so?


Don't get me wrong, the Abacos are great cruising grounds. But we just didn't have the wind in our favor much of the time. So, we didn't get as much sailing in as we would have liked. We only have ourselves to blame, really. If we had let the wind dictate where we would sail to and when we would stay at anchor, then we probably would have had our sails up a lot more. Instead, we had that noisy engine of ours running way too much.


Marsh Harbour is a largest town on Abaco Island and it has everything you might possibly need, but we found it kind of dull. It lacked the charm of some of the other towns we had visited. Our time there was just so-so. It did, however, have a laundromat and a can opener. Two things we needed. So our time was well spent. Kind of. I'm sure there are other parts of Marsh Harbour that are great. We just didn't find them.

Shaking Down Tickety Boo

We needed to take Tickety Boo out of Florida for tax purposes. Plus, we really just wanted to get our there and play on our new boat. We could have headed up to Georgia for a while to cover off the tax issue, but going to the Bahamas was a much better idea and really gave us a good opportunity to shake down our boat and see what worked and what didn't.

So, how did she do? The short answer is that she's still floating and we're still glad we bought her. The longer answer is that she did great, we love the layout, she sails fine and, as expected, there are a number of things which need to be addressed. It would be kind boring to list all of them here, so you can see some of the things that need to be sorted out on our Boat Projects page, if you're so inclined. I will say that we had one major issue crop up at the start of our cruise and that was the windlass breaking. The windlass is the magic machine that drops and picks up your heavy anchor. Poor Scott. He had to suck it up and do it all manually during our cruise. It's top of the list of things to fix!

Overall, It Was Fabulous!

And why wouldn't it be fabulous? Spending a month on a sailboat in the Bahamas beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick any day. In fact, I might let you poke me in the eye with a sharp stick in exchange for going back to the Bahamas for a month.

Want To Know More?

If you want to read the nitty-gritty details of what we got up to, then check out our Bahamas page for links to posts from our time cruising the Abacos and if you want to see a detailed breakdown of what we spent on our shakedown cruise, then check out this post.

Next up on the blog...to be honest, I'm not sure. Now, that we've shared our Bahamas adventures with you, we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming of random posts about stuff like living aboard a boat, some Scamp travel adventures that we haven't shared with you yet, procrastinating boat projects, daydreaming about next season's travel adventures and daily life in Indiantown. Oh, yeah, we'll also tell you about the time I sent someone porn. Accidentally. What an embarrassing fiasco.

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  1. Finally had enough wifi to catch up on reading your blog, love the "summary". I too, keep reading about all those perfect all day, every day paradise experiences -- sounds like it may get mundane :). Glad the shake down went smoothly for the most part-especially for the crossings!


  2. Things couldn't have gone more smoothly on our shakedown. Such a great opportunity to get to know our new boat better. I'm so glad we didn't have any weather issues. Are you back at Green Turtle - the land of WiFi?

  3. Reading this you had so many positive experiences and just a few hiccoughs. Wind is a tricky little bugger isn't it when sailing.

    1. We really lucked out pretty much with everything. The perfect way to start off cruising in our new boat.

  4. I have never been to the Bahamas, but your adventures do sound alluring. I love the idea of sailing, but the reality may just be too much for me. You see, I'm really a wimp at heart! Kudos to you!

    Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

    1. You can definitely explore the Bahamas without a boat by flying in somewhere and then taking ferries or private boats to explore other islands. Although, it is nice to travel around in your home - kind of like an RV on water :-)

    2. My husband & I are trucking our boat (Wind Spirit) from Portland, OR to Indiantown Marina at the end of September. After we get her put back together & do some other projects we are headed to the Bahamas, returning in May. I really enjoyed your posts as we are first time cruisers. You provided some great information for us newbies! Maybe we'll be lucky enough to run into you! Thanks for all the good info. I'll be sure to get extra cookies! ��

    3. Michele - we'll definitely be around in September. We have to stay laid up here until mid-November as part of our h-season restrictions with our insurance so looking forward to meeting you guys! We used to live in PDX and my family is still there. Great city! Do you guys have a blog or FB page that you're tracking your adventures on?

    4. Not yet, but I am planning to do both. Maybe I'll pick your brain a little over a nice cold beverage! We look forward to meeting you both when we get there. We can hardly wait for our next chapter!

    5. Looking forward to it - see you in September!

  5. I didn't even know coconut bread was a thing! I love coconut and I love bread so I'm sure this will be a big favourite of mine.

    1. If you love coconut and you love bread, then you're definitely going to have to get some of this!

  6. Coconut bread- yum! The Bahamas is one place in the Caribbean I have never been. I've heard about the flat terrain there. Such a fun trip- I could read books and chill for a month in some warm water!

    1. Sound like an ideal vacation - books, warm water and coconut bread!

  7. We´ll have to try the coconut bread! Will be going to Abacos this winter, chartering with the family for the first time. I hope they´ll like it as you did, I hope the family enjoys sailing as I do...Keep it up!!

    1. I'm sure they'll love it! The Abacos is a great place to take the family - really easy waters to sail in and of course the coconut bread is delicious! Hope you guys have a wonderful time :-)

  8. Try the reefs off Walker's Cay. They R excellent

  9. Thanks for sharing nice information.keep sharing tips.Bahamas is the best place shore excursion


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