Just back from Grand Cay, Abaco!
Part of / linked to Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos
by Gary Moline
We just completed our second Memorial Day boat trip from our home dock at the Coconut Palm Resort Marina (CPR Marina for short!) here in Ft. Lauderdale. Our good friends Ed & Jan jumped at the chance to run back over with us again this year as they had been with us on our first journey over to Grand Cay, Abaco this time last year where we all four had a blast in this tiny village in the far north of The Abacos. You can only get to Grand Cay one of two ways, by boat or swim! You can still fly into nearby Walker's Cay and clear Customs there but you still would need a ride over to Grand Cay. The marina and hotel on famous Walker's Cay is still closed after a battery of hurricanes pummeled it in 2004/05. Will it ever re-open? Who knows, but since it's still an Official Port-Of-Entry, Customs is still available there. Last Thursday, we four shoved off the dock at the CPR Marina at the crack of 0730 with our 30 foot Grady-White, the ";HEY MON!"; loaded with gear, bait, 306 gallons of fuel and plenty of ";supplies";! Punching out into the ocean at Hillsboro Inlet at 0800, we headed slightly north of east and after a 3+ hour, somewhat sloppy ride across the 70 miles of open ocean, we soon pulled up in the beautiful Marina at Old Bahama Bay in West End on Grand Bahama Island. There, we cleared Customs and soon headed for the local and wonderful beach bar/restaurant that is now called ";Teaser's"; to see our favorite waitress and friend Mary and to start the trip right out with a bang by all of us having an incredible conch lunch! As we sat down and ordered some drinks, we saw a guy with a big bag of fresh conch slip into the tiny kitchen and the sound of some serious ";tenderizing"; (aka banging the hell out of the meat with a mallett!) was soon in the air! Did I mention that Teaser's is ON the beach? That's Ed, Jan, Jen Jen and myself...... I ordered a Cracked Conch Burger, Jen Jen and Jan got a Cracked Conch Platter and Ed got a large bowl of spicy Conch Salad. Wow, was it ever tender and delicious!! After the relaxing lunch and with the trip just barely half over (120 total miles), we hit the fuel dock at OBB ($5.45/gal) on the way out of West End to top up before making the final, 50 mile run across the Little Bahama Bank and into Grand Cay. (Note: Jen Jen and I will be coming back to Old Bahama Bay for a 4-night stay aboard the HEY MON! over the July 4th weekend and I'll be posting a stand-alone report on that trip as OBB is the perfect location to begin and end any boat trip coming and going to the Abacos from South/Central Florida.) Here's our trusty tail gunners making sure that no sword-swinging Pirates sneak up on us from behind as we ran across the bank right after the nice lunch! Ssssshhhh, don't wake them! Looking at this very cool map, you can follow our route from Ft. Lauderdale to West End/OBB, then popping up onto the Little Bahama Bank just beneath Wood Cay, crossing to the left of Sale Cay and Grand Cay is located right between Walkers Cay and the gorgeous, Double Breasted Cay. We got a nice slip on the little side dock at Rosie's Place/Marina, just down from where we were last year. We soon had a few local guys with wheelbarrows who wheeled our many bags, coolers, etc up to our little, 2 bedroom cottage that is part of the ever-growing ";Rosie's Place"; which includes the marina, hotel/cottages, resturant, bar and fuel dock! The GREAT news was that our little cottage was just steps away from a Bakery that truly rivals Florence's in Treasure Cay! We enjoyed some fresh bread for toast as well as just ";maybe"; some coconut pie and carrot cake back here at home after the trip was over!! Did I forget to mention that it's ";tiny";? For that first night, we enjoyed some great snacks and an adult beverage or two before making the one minute walk back to the Marina and had a nice meal right there at Rosie's restaurant. Our game plan for the next day included FISH! Prior to dinner though, we walked next door to ";Jolly's Bar"; for a rum drink and in this over-the-water bar, they had a huge fish tank under the bar and looking down we saw some HUGE bonefish, turtles, triggerfish, etc. Pretty fascinating but hard to photograph! Here's two gorgeous Leopard Rays just outside Jolly's Bar/aqaurium...... The next day, we shoved off the dock at the crack of 10:20 and headed out to the ocean between Tom Brown's Cay and Seal Cay. In the ocean proper, we trolled four lines up past Walkers Cay in the hopes of some nice dolphin and/or tuna but after 2+ hours and no hits, we pulled the lines in and eased into some reefy looking bottom and jigged for grouper and snapper. Ed soon pulled this beauty aboard..... a 10 pound grouper! We also cought about a dozen nice yellowtails but we never really found the bigger yellowtails and we never caught a nice mutton snapper either. Back at the dock we cleaned the day's catch and after showers, some drinks, etc, we made our way up the ";main road"; to enjoy a great Fresh fish dinner at Ron's Hot Spot restaurant! The ";main road"; being mostly just a golf cart road! I've yet to see a car or truck on Grand Cay.... the tiny village having just 200 citizens. Here's Jen Jen, Jan and Ed at Ron's Hot Spot which turned out to be very nice. Other tables of boater's in the background.... Grand Cay, Abaco--Part Two!
I took this photo from Jolly's Bar and it shows the side dock at Rosie's. The two smaller boats are used for conching. Every afternoon, the local fishermen tie up here and then clean their conch. The HEY MON! is just beyond. On our second day of fishing, we ran out to the ocean and this time we trolled down past Double Breasted Cay and when we again had no hits, we pulled into 50-70 feet down near Strangers Cay. Drifting with jigs as well as anchoring up and chumming, we slowly put some fish in the box. Again, no mutton snapper (my favorite!), but we caught some nice strawberry grouper as well as some more nice yellowtail. Here's Ed hooked up to a nice fish while Jan serves as his advisor/coach! Turns out to be a very nice, 20 inch yellowtail snapper! Amazingly, I even get in on the action! We caught plenty of fat yellowtails in the 14-16 inch range but we only kept enough for a few dinners. Finally, it was time to put the rods away and check off one of the MAIN squares of this trip and that was a visit to the gorgeous, Double Breasted Cay! We ran inside onto the bank and looped around and slowly entered the channel at Double Breasted Cay so that we could drop the hook, grab a cold beer and hop into the cool water there! Here, we're in about 5-6 feet of water and the sand bar is at mid-tide with about 2-3 feet. At full low-tide, the sand bar is out of water which makes it easy to walk across, look for shells, etc. But for today, it was a cool place to just hang out.......... Double Breasted Cay is a very popular place for boaters to pop into after a day of fun to just relax and enjoy this beautiful and unique island. We were not alone on this day! That night, after Ed and I cleaned the fish and boat, we took our bag of fresh fillets to Rosie's Restaurant...... but only after a few nice rum drinks on the Marina seawall next to our buddy Tony's gazebo bar, ";Tony's Tiki Bar";! Tony's a real joy to hang around with and here's his little bar in a photo from last year's trip....... It's the little brown brick gazebo. During this second day of fishing (Saturday), we discussed the upcoming weather forecast that had deteriorated for our scheduled Monday run home and we decided that it would be best to leave a day early and play it safe. With a normal, 5+ hour, 120 mile run home, none of us were anxious to make it a sloppy, rough 7+ hour journey. So, for our last night on the island, we had one last fresh fish dinner at Rosie's, walked the docks and turned in back at the cottage. Grand Cay, Abaco Part Three-Going Home! Knowing that the wind was going to be picking up almost by the hour, we were able to get quickly checked out of our cute cottage and load our bags into the boat for our day-early departure. Here's the HEY MON! getting close to shoving off. We idled around the docks to tie up at the fuel dock there at Rosie's. Here's the ";office"; at the fuel dock. Gas that day was $6/gallon and we took on 70 gallons to ensure that we had plenty+ to get home. For you non-boaters, most boats only get about 1-2 miles per gallon so hitting the fuel dock is not for the faint of heart! In this photo we can see the large fuel barge that Rosie uses to run to Freeport to fill the barge's two fuel tanks. Sitting on the wall there are ";Brooks"; who runs the dock and our friend Anthony who runs ";Tony's Tiki Bar"; that's there at the marina waterfront. Both are great guys! Rosie's caters to boats of all types and takes great care of his customers! As we pulled away from the fuel dock, you can see more of the local boats along the waterfront. As we pulled out of the harbour, we pointed the bow towards our next waypoint, some 50 miles across the Little Bahama Bank. We had a very nice ride and an hour and 45 minutes later, we passed just north of Old Bahama Bay at West End where just three days earlier, we had cleared Customs and had that incredible lunch down at the beach bar. You can still see the water tower there and that goes back to when West End was an airfield during WW 2. As we worked our way to the southwest and towards Hillsboro Inlet just north of Ft Lauderdale, we had moderate seas feet initially as we began to cross the Gulf Stream. We slowed down for a lunch/potty break and as I later pushed the throttles forward, a large pod of dolphin suddenly showed up all around the boat! We spent a good 15 minutes as we idled along and took dozens of photos as they played in front of the boat! I finally got off the bow and Ed went forward to take some photos...... All-in-all, it was another great trip to the far north of Abaco and we plan to return again...... probably more than once! We found Grand Cay to be a very clean island, the people very friendly and polite, no one hassles you about things and the staff at Rosie's bend over backwards to make your stay wonderful. Being that the next nearest island that has people on it is about 40 miles away, it's not ";busy"; at all there, either out on the water, or there in the village. Every afternoon, a few well-dressed ladies come down and set up a fresh conch table at the marina and you can buy conch salad from them as well as a few other delicasies! The last evening, I was the last one down to the dockside (as usual!) and as I plopped down at the pinic table there, Jen Jen shoved a styrofoam bowl in front of me and says, ";Don't ask what it is, just enjoy it";! It was ";similar"; to conch salad and that's all I'm gonna say! Our next Bahamas trip is coming up over July 4th weekend and we'll return to Old Bahama Bay at West End and this time we'll stay aboard the HEY MON!. Old Bahama Bay is the gateway to boaters running back and forth to the Abacos from all of South Florida so I'll post a detailed report here for the boaters who may want to learn more about the benefits of stopping there during their Abaco boat trips........
Remember, Grand Cay is very unique in that there is no ";commercial"; way to get there. If you wanted to go there, you'd have to hitch a ride with someone on their boat, charter a plane into Walkers and then somehow get a ride (5 miles) over to Grand Cay. There are virtually no ";shops";. There are only two restaurants that we know of on the island, one bakery, two bars (both at Rosie's), one small grocery store (also at Rosie's Place) and Rosie now has the only liquor store and T-shirt shop on the island!! The next nearest island that has people on it is about 40 miles away......... Fox Town or maybe Spanish Cay. It truly is an ";isolated"; island!!
Back to Walkers Cay
Just back from Grand Cay, Abaco!