Past the Whale Cay Passage to the west begins the western part of the Sea of Abaco. It is wilder than the central or southern regions but offers numerous anchorages to the adventuresome. To most, however, including the White Pepper, it is a transit route to and from Florida.
After the Whale we chose to skip Green Turtle Cay. Green Turtle is every cruiser's favorite, but Jan and I had spent three days there in May '08 and chose to travel further on the Spanish Cay. Spanish Cay is a privately owned island with a resort and marina. We chose to anchor off as the weather was predicted to be mild and dinghied in. I bought fuel and then later that evening we went back to the restaurant. We met the owner of the whole deal. His name was Don, and he hails from Texas. He is a restauranteur and owns restaurants in southeast Texas, Fort Lauderdale as well as Spanish Cay. He runs the whole empire wearing baggy red swim trunks and a white Tee. But make no mistake this is a first class operation. The resort sparkles, the marina hums and the restaurant serves excellent food. Don obviously has no qualms about serving what sells—butter and salt. My feet were swollen for 2 days, but it was an excellent farewell to the Bahamas or a good introduction to Florida. I am not sure which, but I am sure we will stop there again when we swing the the Abacos again.
The next and last stop in the Bahamas is Great Sale Cay which is an uninhabited island in the middle of the Little Bahama Banks It makes an excellent stop coming or going. There were 12 boats there that night. We did not tarry or go ashore. The next morning was a bitter sweet parting. There followed a longish 50 mile motor sail to the Mantilla Shoal and then out into the Gulf Stream for a 60 mile crossing to Fort Pierce Inlet. As predicted by Virtual Buoy the wind and wave conditions were perfect for the crossing. The moon came up at midnight. There was not a cloud in the sky. The stars twinkled. The wind was gentle and on the quarter all night. It even obligingly changed directions as White Pepper snaked across the Stream. In the morning as Fort Pierce came into view I told Jan the I doubted if we would ever ever get another Gulf Stream crossing this nice.
We cleared the Fort Pierce jetties about 7:30 am but chose to pass Fort Pierce and continue north up the ICW to Vero Beach. Conditions are much more congenial in Vero Beach for rest and repair.