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. Displ.: 16,880 lbs.
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.
LOA: 42’8” / Beam: 12’0” / Draft (engines up): 2’4” / Displ.: 16,880 lbs. / Fuel: 610 gals. / Water: 68 gals. / Power: (4) 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-strokes / Price: $982,340
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 beachside 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.
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue.