Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco
Friday 20th May 2011
Distance run: 217 nmiles
We arrived in Marsh Harbour yesterday lunchtime after a less than pleasant passage. On both nights we had to change course several times to avoid electrical storms and squalls, and then when we were just 10 miles out from the Harbour an enormous storm cloud appeared off the land and we could do nothing to avoid it as it passed right over the top of us bringing wind of 35 knots, torrential rain, thunder claps that we could feel as well as hear, and most frightening of all, frequent lightning that appeared to come from every direction.
Fortunately it lasted no more than 20 minutes and although we were rather wet, Scott-Free weathered the storm with her usual class. By the time we reached North Man-of-War Cut the weather was calm and settled and we entered the Sea of Abaco over a bubbly but otherwise unproblematic sea.
Entering Marsh Harbour was slightly more problematic, however, as we had misread the pilot and tried to turn out of the commercial shipping channel at an inappropriate place and immediately went aground! The channel is dredged to 5 metres but has steep sides as we discovered as we ploughed into it with no warning. Even the forward-looking sonar was taken by surprise! Fortunately the bottom is sandy and we were able to reverse off the bottom and regain the channel, and then found the correct small boat channel (virtually unmarked!) into the harbour.
The upside of passage making with the full moon was that the night time was almost as light as day. The downside was that our arrival coincided with a spring tide low water of minus 0.1 metre, and the keel managed to stir up a bit more sand before we managed to find a spot in which to anchor which, although the echo sounder read zero, did still keep us afloat.
We went ashore for a beer and stayed for a bite to eat, and next day we took a stroll around the town to see what’s there. We also went to the Port Authority building to check in, but were told we had to bring the boat. We explained this was not a good idea because we were now at low tide and couldn’t move the boat. Eventually they agreed we could bring it to the Government Dock in the morning but do immigration now.
It appears that not many boats check in here as it’s easier at Green Turtle Cay where they are happy for you to anchor the boat and dinghy in, which is precisely what we did here. Unfortunately we didn’t know this, and so we had to jump through their hoops and pay the $300 cruising fee for the privilege. As it lasts a year, we will be able to use it if we come back this way in the autumn.
We will spend the next few days getting diesel & propane, shopping, doing laundry and boat jobs, meanwhile monitoring the weather in order to make a decision on when to leave for the US coast. At present we think we will head straight for Beaufort, North Carolina as it is only 20 nmiles south of 35 degrees. It’s a passage of about 500 nmiles so we’ll be at sea for 4-5 days.