The anchor is up at Manjack Cay at 6:20 AM. From all appearances, it is a perfect day to transit Whale Cay passage. Under clear skies, the wind is light and variable at less than 5 knots.
Our course takes us southeast past No Name Cay, then due east into Whale Cay Channel. At slack high tide, 3 to 4 foot swells and no breaking waves, the channel appears manageable. As in most areas of the Bahamas, there are no buoys or aids to navigation here to define the edges of the channel. Instead, we plot our course using a series of latitude and longitude coordinates published in the Dodge cruising guide.
Once in the ocean, waves are breaking on Channel Rock to our port side and crashing onto the reefs at Whale Cay to starboard. This is the most significant navigational challenge in the Abacos. During rage conditions, large ocean swells funnel into the relatively shallow water of this cut causing waves to break in the channel. One can only imagine what the Whale would be like in a storm. Thankfully, conditions are benign today.
A right turn to the southeast places us on a course that passes parallel to Whale Cay for a distance of two miles before turning south into Loggerhead Channel to enter the Sea of Abaco. A cruise ship channel was dredged here in 1989. But the cruise ships discontinued visits to this area in the early 1990s because rage conditions sometimes rendered the channel impassable during the winter months. The abandoned ship terminal near Baker’s Bay is visible to port as we enter the Sea of Abaco.
The Sea of Abaco is a protected body of water that lies between Great Abaco Island and a series of cays to the northeast that provide a buffer from the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, offering cruisers an ideal destination for sailing, snorkeling and visiting small villages. We will spend the next month exploring this area before retracing our steps to Florida in mid-to-late April.
Our destination today is Marsh Harbour, 9 miles to the southwest of Baker’s Bay. By 11 AM, Cutter Loose is anchored in the harbor, well in advance of the approaching cold front. We will remain in Marsh Harbor for a few days, exploring the town and monitoring the weather picture.