THE POWER IS­LANDS

The Aba­cos are the ideal des­ti­na­tion for a fast, out­board-pow­ered boat like the Ever­glades 435cc

Soundings - - Contents - by Gary Re­ich

An Ever­glades cen­ter con­sole with a shal­low draft and 45-knot top end turns out to be the ideal plat­form for ex­plor­ing the stun­ning Aba­cos is­lands.

See­ing the Ba­hamas can take a life­time. The ter­ri­tory en­com­passes more than 180,000 square miles of ocean space, has tens of thou­sands of miles of shore­line, and boasts in­nu­mer­able is­lands, har­bors and scenic gunk­holes. Sail­boats and pas­sage­mak­ing power­boats—es­pe­cially trawlers—tend to cruise here, but their deeper drafts and slower speeds can limit cruis­ers to see­ing only the great­est hits, at­trac­tion-wise.

So, we took a dif­fer­ent ap­proach be­hind the wheel of an Ever­glades 435cc cen­ter con­sole with 1,200 ponies’ worth of out­board power. The idea was to lever­age the boat’s 2-foot, 4-inch, en­gine-up draft to get into the skinny spots, and then use her 30-knot cruis­ing speed to mo­tor along at least 60 miles’ worth of is­lands.

The catch? We gave our­selves one day to get or­ga­nized, and just one more day to com­plete the itin­er­ary.

We landed in Marsh Har­bour on a morn­ing flight from Fort Laud­erdale, cleared (amaz­ingly friendly) cus­toms, caught a taxi to pro­vi­sion, then headed to the Conch Inn Ho­tel and Ma­rina, where hosts Kenny McLeskey and Ch­eryl Allen met us with

Blue Moon, McLeskey’s Ever­glades 435cc. We took on a load of fuel, bought about 10 pounds of stone crab claws from a

fish­er­man, and then headed out for the 9-mile run to El­bow Cay.

A stiff, 25-knot north­east­erly stirred up the Sea of Abaco into a turquoise mael­strom, but the Ever­glades kept us dry and com­fort­able as we cruised at 30 knots to El­bow Cay’s White Sound, our base of op­er­a­tions. Our tie-up was in a cozy slip at Sea Spray Re­sort & Ma­rina, about 2 miles south of the iconic Hope Town Light­house. Af­ter lunch, we re­set our clocks to is­land time at the on-site tiki bar as a breeze rus­tled the palm trees over­head.

Re­laxed and mel­low, we loaded our­selves into two golf carts (there are only a few cars on El­bow Cay) and rat­tled along the pot­hole-rid­den dirt road up to our rental house. Our com­pound, Bare­foot Bay, was at the south­ern end of El­bow Cay, over­look­ing scenic Til­loo Cut and Til­loo Cay. The re­mote­ness and beauty con­trasted sharply with busy Ba­hamas hot spots. It was the sort of pic­ture you could put with the word “par­adise” in the dic­tio­nary.

The next morn­ing, the smell of freshly brewed cof­fee and siz­zling ba­con stirred our crowd.

“Who wants to feed some swim­ming pigs?” McLeskey asked. “It’s a 25-mile run up to No Name Cay, where they live. Trea­sure Sands Club is only a few miles from there, so we can wade in there from the boat for lunch.”

We gal­loped north at 30 knots, rid­ing the beam sea flatly with the help of a Sea­keeper gyro in the Ever­glades’ belly. A few miles south of No Name Cay, we tran­sited Whale Cay Shoal, which, at 2 to 3 feet, had our eyes locked on the depthfinder. The white sand un­der­neath the waves cre­ated an elec­tric-blue color in the wa­ter.

“It doesn’t look real,” some­body said, mes­mer­ized. I didn’t see who— my eyes were glued to the down­ward view.

No Name Cay, also known as “Pig­gyville,” ap­peared off the star­board bow. It looked des­o­late at first, but a pack of pigs came scur­ry­ing out from the lush palm groves. We an­chored in about 4 feet of wa­ter and then waded ashore to feed them. The pigs had done this rou­tine many times be­fore; sev­eral big boars swam out to meet us while the piglets stayed

ashore. These swine were gen­er­ally friendly, but a care­ful hand was re­quired. One of our crew suf­fered a cou­ple of force­ful nips be­fore we de­pleted our ap­ple sup­ply and waded back out to the boat.

A quick run south­west back through Whale Cay Shoals landed us in front of the Trea­sure Sands Club, where we picked up a moor­ing ball in just a few feet of wa­ter. A re­sort em­ployee in a dinghy fer­ried all eight of us ashore, two at a time. The shal­low­ness made this a lo­cale that only a boat like the Ever­glades could ac­cess. A quick beach- side lunch in the shade fol­lowed by a stroll on the white sand beach, and we were back on the boat, headed south.

SUNDOWNERS AND STONE CRABS

Twenty- five miles later, we ar­rived at Fire­fly Sun­set Re­sort on El­bow Cay, tied up at the guest dock, and headed up to the bar for sundowners over­look­ing the Sea of Abaco. Since we were only a few miles from White Sound and our ma­rina, we took our time with the view. There’s a won­der­ful al fresco din­ing area here, and lo­cals rec­om­mended the sushi.

Blue Moon de­served a spa day af­ter be­ing driven hard through the salt spray, so our crew spent an hour wash­ing and dry­ing her to a shine. Hot show­ers and cock­tails were on tap be­fore we all gath­ered in the main house for stone crab claws paired with McKen­ley’s su­per-se­cret dip­ping sauce.

Sev­eral of us lounged on the deck in the warm breezes, set­tling in for the evening. In a short pe­riod of time, we had cov­ered more than 70 miles and vis­ited or viewed at least a half- dozen scenic lo­cales around the out is­lands of the Aba­cos. The task would have been dif­fi­cult in a boat with more than 3 feet of draft or speed slower than 10 knots. Our Ever­glades han­dled it all in style.

Kenny McLeskey pi­lots Blue Moon through Whale Cay Chan­nel; a 30-knot cruis­ing speed gets you places (be­low).

Ap­ple ban­dits pa­trol Pig­gyville on No Name Cay.

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