Written by Michele Sylver
December 2020
Mystic Lady dinghy Tilloo - Cruising the Abacos - marinalife
Mystic Lady Dinghy in Tilloo by Michele Sylver

MY HUSBAND DAVE and I have lived aboard our 50-foot Viking Sportfish, Just Us, for the past four years, and we often find ourselves saying to one another, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?”

As a 25-year member of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, I am no stranger to sea voyages. After retiring in 2014, Dave and I spent 365 days cruising the Great Loop, and when we returned to our Michigan home, we decided to leave everything behind and start a new life as a liveaboard. In 2018, I officially set sail on my long-anticipated dream tropical expedition.

We were fortunate to explore The Abaco Islands before Hurricane Dorian hit this region the following year. With these precious memories instilled in our minds, Abacos is forever engrained in our souls.

Starting Point: North Palm Beach, FL

Dave and I arrived at Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach on March 1, ready to depart from the states but were delayed due to inclement weather. Eager to dive into a Caribbean paradise, we finally set off on March 16 and traveled 70 NM to Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End in the Bahamas. During our time at Old Port Cove, we met with friends aboard Mystic Lady and made the crossing together. Traveling alongside fun companions was well worth the wait.

Leg 1: West End to Great Sale Cay, Bahamas

Estimated Mileage: 53 NM
After two days of travel, we anchored at Great Sale Cay and settled in to the Caribbean Sea as we prepared for our long journey ahead. We knew we were off to a great start when Dave presented our first catch of the trip — a delicious Spanish mackerel. We cooked our fresh fish dinner and slept under the stars.

Leg 2: Great Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay

Estimated Mileage: 56 NM
We arrived at Green Turtle Cay and checked in at the The Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina. We ran into our looper friends aboard As the Crow Flies, and my jewelry-making girlfriend took me on my first sea glass hunting adventure where I felt like a little kid on Easter Sunday. The trick is to come at low tide to see what washes ashore. So, there I was, meticulously hunting for treasure, wearing a skirt and splashing around without a care in the world. Who would have thought something as simple as sea glass would bring out the child in me?

Leg 3: Green Turtle Cay to Elbow Cay

Estimated Mileage: 30 NM
We stayed at Sea Spray Resort & Marina, which is nice but sure does live up to its name, as we were constantly washing off the boat. Hey, at least they give you a fair warning! We took golf carts to Hope Town, a lovely historic village with eclectic waterfront cottages.

Sea Glass - cruising the abacos - marinalife
Sea Glass by Michele Sylver

On March 30, we anchored at Tahiti Beach in Elbow Cay, a small island only six-miles long and ideal for a quiet getaway. We toured the cays on dinghies and dined at one of my favorite restaurants of the trip — Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill in Great Guana Cay. The Caribbean cuisine was impeccable, but I must say, most meals were secondary to the spectacular view.

We ventured over to nearby Tilloo Cay and discovered an amazing beach, Tilloo Cut. Still stuck on my new sea glass obsession, I was determined to take Just Us to investigate these beautiful shores for more treasures. However, the captain of the ship was not up for the hunt. “Dangerous inlet, confused seas!” he shouted. Long story short, I lost that battle.

Instead, we walked the length of the beach and climbed through broken palm trees and jungle paths making for quite an adventure. Lo and behold, I did not find any sea glass here.

Leg 4: Elbow Cay to Marsh Harbour

Tahiti Beach and Elbow Cay Abaco - Cruising the abacos - marinalife
Aerial view of Tahiti Beach and Elbow Cay in Abaco, Bahamas. From Flickr by Larry

Estimated Mileage: 10 NM
We arrived at Marsh Harbour on April 3 and had a short stay at the Conch Inn on Bay Street before heading over to The Jib Room across the way. From here we had a rainy-day dinghy ride to Man-O-War Cay and met the sweetest woman named Carol whose husband is a Bahamian native.

Allowing our group of friends to pile into her golf cart, she hosted an educational island tour with history, fun facts and laughter — completely free of charge. Before leaving, I gave her the biggest hug, and with tear-filled eyes she said, “This is why I love doing what I do!”

Leg 5: Marsh Harbour to Lynyard Cay

Estimated Mileage: 26 NM
On April 17, we anchored one night in Lynyard Cay. We previously visited this area by dinghy during our time near Tahiti Beach and decided it was a good leave-off point to head south to our next stop at Royal Island and Spanish Wells.

Leg 6: Lynyard Cay to Royal Island

Estimated Mileage: 72 NM
During our voyage through the Northeast Providence Channel to Royal Island, we experienced a major highlight of the trip — a whale spotting! The charts showed 15,000 feet of water where we saw it. I discovered the hard way that the first time to learn how to use iPhone video should not be a once-in a-lifetime moment when you see a whale. I am thankful for my mental photos.

We anchored in Royal Island after a long day of travel before heading northeast to Spanish Wells.

Leg 7: Royal Island to Spanish Wells

Dinghy day buddies - cruising the abacos - marinalife
Dinghy day buddies by Michele Sylver

Estimated Mileage: 10 NM
With prevailing winds and dangerous conditions, it was risky to navigate around this area, so we decided to go the safe route and take the ferry to Harbour Island and Eleuthera. We rented a car and drove to Governor’s Harbour with Mystic Lady’s crew to spend the day sightseeing.

A friend took us to explore the old Potlatch Club, which was a lavish hotel and private club decades ago where European royalty and celebrities frequented. Elizabeth Taylor even visited a private home on the 60-acre site to play golf in the late 1950s. It was under renovation, and the stunning architecture left me speechless.

Leg 8: Spanish Wells to Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands

Estimated Mileage: 90 NM
Our arrival to this port became challenging as we approached tall rock ledges on our way in, but we held our breath and made it unscathed. Great Harbour Cay was an adorable small town made up of mostly locals. We walked six-miles along the beautiful beaches each day, rented a jeep, took dinghy-rides and hiked the ruins.

By May 7 we traveled 11 hours back to Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach, reminiscing about our epic Caribbean voyage.

So here I am leaving paradise, gazing at crystal-clear waters with lingering thoughts of sandy beaches and mystical sea glass. My heart was still yearning to see what washed ashore since the last humans happened to venture on that beach, because most of the time it was… just us.