Whale Key Passage

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They got in first and radioed a report, then we passed our friends on Otter in the Whale Cay passage

One thing people heading south in the Abaco Sea do at Green Turtle Cay is wait for the Whale. We’ve been wanting to get south and talked with our friends about striking out Friday morning. Otter’s captain said “I’m sure you’ll make it, it’s been worse, but you’ll get pretty beat up.” He planned to go also and was going to wait one more day.

Travel through the Abaco Sea is protected and unhindered except at Whale Cay. A shifting sand bar stretches from the main Abaco island all the way to the Whale Cay barrier island, preventing boats larger than our dinghy from crossing that way. Instead we have to go out on the open Atlantic at the north end of Whale Cay and back into the Abaco Sea at the south end. The north passage is only 15 feet deep. Significant wind from the NE or swells from storms thousands of miles away can produce breaking waves across this entire passage. They call it the “rage” condition, and it can be life threatening.

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Tough to get a mooring ball in Hope Town on Saturday. Friends Jim & Belinda from Rickshaw marked one for us.

Fortunately, when traveling south, you can turn back if you see waves breaking across the inlet. It is also common to call out on channel 16 asking who has recently done the Whale. This is the only “weather window” to wait for in the Abacos, and usually not more than a day or so.

When we started out I heard someone else call out on 16 before I had a chance. Someone who just completed the passage answered and said conditions were fine. When we got there the waves seemed around 2 feet, no problem at all. We were outside is only 30 minutes, and went back into the Abaco Sea via and old channel made for a cruise ship, “The Disney Big Red Boat”, that used to call on Guana Cay, the next major cay after Whale Cay, before 1993.

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Hope Town Inn & Marina. Kerosene lit lighthouse and our dinghy below it a bit right.

We went another 20 miles to Hope Town harbor and arrived at noon. Hope Town is one of the busiest places in the Abacos. Fortunately our friends Jim and Brenda Wolfe had “saved” a mooring ball for us and helped us to tie up to it.

We had only an hour to talk to them before they had to leave for and anchorage 20 miles further south. There they’ll be ready to take off to Spanish Wells on Harbour Island, 60 miles south of the Abacos. The weather window, which opens more seldom than for the Whale, is tomorrow.

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We float just a bit left of the center of this picture. Atlantic Ocean is beyond. Harbor entry to left, marina to right.

We won’t go any further than 20 miles south of here, then we’ll return northward on the Abaco Sea and, weather permitting, jump straight over to northern Florida.

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