Previously, the Jetski Junkies’ Bahama Ride Crew had endured a 10 hour, 127-mile open ocean ride from Boynton Beach, Florida to Grand Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island. You can read about that here. Three days later, seven jet skis and 10 riders, which included our female solo rider, Linda Cobelo and with no chase boat, set out to find Fox Town, Little Abaco Island some 90-plus miles from where we were staying in Grand Lucaya.
Everyone checked the weather reports and other than some overcast we were a “go.” We set out at 8am Wednesday morning into the Tongue of the Ocean, riding due east along the barren shoreline of Grand Bahama Island. The beaches were much more beautiful the further east we rode, and we passed only two settlements along the way. We saw dolphins, stingrays and of course sharks, correction: big sharks in shallow water off the beaches. We also came upon what looked like an oil/fuel refilling station approximately 500 yards offshore almost to the end of Grand Bahama Island.
The waters at this point were calm with a light rise and fall, so we were able to move right along. We came into McLean’s Town, the last settlement on Grand Bahama Island, pulling into a resort inside the passage for some directions. The locals told us of fuel in McLean’s Town but not on the water. We would need to shuffle cans back and forth. All of us had plenty of fuel to continue on to Fox Town so we decided to push on through the cut. The cut runs between McLean’s Town Cay and Big Harbour Cay and is a very shallow and obstacle-filled pass that dumps you out into The Little Bahama Bank.
The Little Bahama Bank is the shallow crystal clear sound that separates Grand Bahama Island from the Abaco Islands. As we exited the cut we were pinned at WOT and sitting on the edge of our seats praying not to run aground. As luck would have it, all of us cleared the pass and moved on to deeper water. From here we took a route northeast looking for the entrance to Big Cave Cay, one of the many small uninhabited cays spanning from the northeast tip of Grand Bahama Island to the Southwest tip of Little Abaco.
As we turned into our course, the wind kicked up a bit and light rain began coming down making it hard to see and slowing our progress. We soon found ourselves in shallow sandbars. Realizing we needed an alternative route, Vince Cobelo located the entrance to the channel that led into Big Cave Cay (called “cross rocks”), so we headed south a bit and out and around the sandbars until the cross rocks were visible at which point we were able to follow the way point in a near straight line.
Soon we were running along the western shore of Big Cave Cay and dialing in on a perfect deserted beach for a much needed pit stop. By this time, the rain had stopped and the skies were looking beautiful all around us. It was just a little past noon and we still had a good 30 miles to go to reach Fox Town. Derek Bowles set us up for a group picture and afterwards Andy Hodgen verified our navigation from Big Cave Cay up and around West End Cay putting us in the Outer Islands of the Bahamas. All was good until we rounded West End Cay.
The wind was blowing strong from the northeast putting waves right in our face and with an added twist of having to navigate coral rock barriers like a mine field all the way into Fox Town. Once in the mine field, Ken Roseman took the lead and with perfect precision, carved the team a path through the coral rocks all the way to the fuel dock. You would only know the Fox Town fuel dock or Ronald’s Rentals if you had done your research and looked at what little pictures are out there.
A small restaurant named the Valley Restaurant sits on the bluff with a raggedy dock attached and fuel pumps up across the street near the local market. As the Team neared the docks, the locals came out in droves, yelling and pointing with excitement. The dock attendants met us with ice cold beers at the fuel dock and quickly got us off the skis, fueled and heading to the restaurant for some much needed eats. The settlement is much of what you would picture of old Bahamas, a very slow and simple way of life, not much going on.
The restaurant would scare most tourists but Judy took amazing care of us and, I kid you not, produced the best burger I’ve ever had. A pool table kept a few of us busy while Andy made sure to leave our mark in Fox Town forever with a Picasso style drawing of the JJ logo. We sat with the locals on Ronald’s deck overlooking the aqua blue waters surrounding us and answered question after question until we realized it was after 3pm and we needed to go nearly 90 miles back to Grand Lucaya.
With that said, we mounted the skis and pushed off the dock while Ken and Andy gave the locals a little show while soaking them all with spray from the skis all in good fun. We rallied and decided to take the shortest path home, which at that moment was straight down the middle of the North Sound. Approximately 40 miles into the trek we could see storms building on three sides of us. Of course, the choppy conditions in the North Sound kept us from being able to really move along fast but we kept on pushing forward.
We were halfway to the Lucayan Waterway, and directly between Great Sal Cay and Grand Bahama Island when the storm hit us. The rain fell in sheets, reducing our visibility to 5-feet at best as the winds kicked up to 30mph (or worse) causing growing waves directly in our face. Everyone came together and we rode tightly within view on a new course due south in an attempt to get to land. We were 10 miles offshore and the pace was slow. Shortly after our course change, thunder and lightning began to crash overhead.
We could see the strikes ahead of us hitting the water but we had no choice other than push on towards land. The only GPS working at this point was my trusty battery-operated Garmin 76cx. We did have our VHF radios though, and those were working fine. The conditions worsened and waves got much larger. I could not see at all so I stopped. My GPS was still working but I got turned around and I didn’t trust it. I told everyone to stay put while I tried to get a read on the GPS, but it was no use because my gut told me one thing and the GPS said the opposite.
As I approached the team, Donna and Leslee both were shouting and pointing to what looked like trees in the distance. It was extremely difficult to tell due to the heavy rains but at this point, it seemed like a sign so we went for it. And as luck would have it, it was land. A beautiful sandy beach where we were able to stop and wait out the storm. It is hard to remember how long we were there but the conditions finally settled down and we headed back out.
The GPS was back in business so we rounded the tip of what we thought was a peninsula. Our plan was to run the shoreline of the island as close as you could get without smashing into rocks or hitting bottom. No sooner did we make that turn did that storm just pop right back up. Vince and I stopped and the others did also, but Derek and Donna kept on. We lost visibility again, so Mike radioed them to come back and hold tight. Again we took shelter near shore and we made the decision that we would wait it out here even if overnight.
What was funny after the fact, is we believed we were on Grand Bahama Island, a peninsula that jetted out from the island, but later we discovered that was not the case. Finally, after some time, the storm passed and the skies ahead of us cleared giving a view of a distant shoreline. We collectively made the decision to stay close to shore; however, we couldn’t stay too close due to the shallow nature of the North Sound. So the decision was made that I would run out front and all would follow in single file as best as they could.
With the storm gone, the waters smoothed and became very clear. I was able to see the depth easily making for leading the team through the shallow rock-filled waters much better. We were nearing the Lucayan Waterway when we got one last bashing from Mother Nature, hitting us with rain and wind again.
Once in the Lucayan Waterway, we were ghosts running at wide-open, cutting through the Grand Bahama Island then out into the Atlantic one last time before cutting in to Port Lucaya Channel. This brought us back to the Flamingo Bay Resort & Marina around 8pm that evening. We were met by rest of our crew who stayed back, the Harbor master and hotel staff thankful for our save arrival back at the marina.
We traveled nearly 167 miles of Atlantic Ocean in 10 hours of moving time in one day through a tropical depression. It is a story I look forward to sharing with my grand children and of course, all of you. The entire expedition was comprised of seven PWC, two chase boats, and 18 persons traveling over seven days, six nights and racking up a total of 440 miles of open ocean riding from Boynton Beach, FL to Fox Town, Little Abaco Bahamas and back.