We landed in Marsh Harbor on Wednesday, May 2nd. We were a little worried about how our boat had fared in our 2 week absence. In the prior week 50 knot winds had buffeted the harbor. It was all good. The lines had not chafed through and the boat had not banged up against the dock.
After a quick trip to Maxwells, one of the 2 really good grocery stores in the Bahamas, we were sufficiently provisioned for our return trip to the states. Brown Tip, the bottom cleaning service hacked away at the bottom of our boat for an hour using a version of a compressed air hookah to breath underwater. As he worked it looked like chunks of turf were being expelled from our stern. Having the bottom cleaned at this point in our voyage was one of the smarter things that we have done. Our speed increased by about 1.25 knots after the cleaning.
We filled water tanks, water jugs, and lugged 4 five gallon containers of diesel down the dock and onto the boat the following day. Maryanne did her usual stowing magic, making everything disappear into places where they would not fall when we heeled to starboard or to port.
We had a little bit of a dilemma. Chris Parker, our weather guru, indicated that there would be a weather window open for a few days that would allow us to make a comfortable Gulf Stream crossing. I thought we would need a week just to reach the staging point for our crossing. If that were the case we would have to wait at Great Sale Cay for a week (where there is nothing to do) or wait at an expensive marina at West End on Grand Bahama for a week for the next weather window. Maryanne thought we could make it. She suggested a short hop Thursday afternoon to Great Guana Cay and then a stop at Green Turtle Cay about 20+ miles further. We thought we might get a last chance at good snorkeling on the way. We left Great Guana at 8:15 a.m. on Friday headed for Green Turtle Cay by way of the Whale Passage. The Whale Passage is a cut in and out of the Sea of Abaco that requires calm seas and in-flowing currents for safe passage. Our passage went smoothly. On our way to Green Turtle we decided to push further along get to our staging point. We decided on Foxtown.
I had asked Chris Parker by way of SSB radio what the difference would be if I sailed from Foxtown straight through the night to Fort Pierce, FL or if I went first to West End and sailed a day later. He reported that there would be little significant difference but that we would be bucking headwinds in the Gulf Stream if we waited until Sunday. As we made our way west I spotted Romanta Sea on the AIS ahead of us. I had a pleasant conversation with George, the skipper, who said he was headed for Great Sale, then to West End for fuel and ultimately to Savannah. Savannah was way more than we were ready to do!
|Sunset at Great Sale Cay|
(Phew - we made it before dark!)
Despite the fact that we might not make it into Great Sale with good light we decided to go for it. George assured us that the moon was closest to the earth tonight and that we would have no trouble finding our way in the light of the full moon. We made it by sunset - 11 hours. The next day Chris Parker told George that he needed to get north quickly to avoid some nasty weather. George who had offered to lead us through the tricky shallow Indian Channel set off directly for an overnight sail to Cape Canaveral. Before he left he let us know that a Beneteau 50, French Kiss, had been trying to contact us because they were headed to West End also. We spoke with Michael, the skipper of the Beneteau, and planned our joint departure for 8 to arrive at the Indian Channel on a rising tide.
The water was so still we could see the bottom clearly 12 feet below us. We could see dinner plate sized starfish on the bottom. Dolphins appeared at our bow. We could see them above and below the surface as they swam all around us and then back to French Kiss.
As it turned out we arrived at the Indian Channel with very little water to motor over. Despite the fact that it was a little past low tide the close pass of the full moon meant that the water was still lower than mean low water (the average low tide). French Kiss with her 6 foot draft followed slowly behind us as we radioed back the shallowest spots as we crossed them. We saw 4.1 feet on our poorly calibrated depth sounder but we know that we will hit bottom at 3.8 feet. 3.8 feet if it were properly calibrated should read 5 feet which is our draft. We had a good 3 1/2 inches to spare! After 9 hours of motoring we arrived at Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End on Grand Bahama Island.
We had some refueling problems with a faulty diesel pump and then fuel clogging our fuel vent but we managed to pour a couple of our containers of fuel into the tank and then filled the containers from a different pump. (after waiting for another boat to fill up with 225 gallons!) We docked without incident and went ashore for a celebration of our last night in the Bahamas at an outdoor restaurant on the beach. (While we were there we saw someone send their glass of wine back - it wasn't good enough! Who does that at a beach bar in the Bahams?!!! Usually you don't even get a glass - most wine is served in clear plastic cups! Yeesh!!)
|Sunrise as we leave West End with a trawler passing us.|
83 miles to go.
|This guy startled me when he appeared just a few feet from my head 20 miles out to sea.|
I wasn't expecting anyone to get up and close and personal with me on my Gulf Stream Crossing!
We felt accomplished! We had 3 days of travelling - 11 hours, 9 hours, and 13. If we had been driving a car from Glen Cove that many hours would get us to Santa Fe, NM! Sailboats are really slow!
We really enjoyed the Abacos. Fun places were a short easy sail from Marsh Harbour. We loved Hopetown with it's beautiful pastel colored homes and its well-protected harbor. Nippers, the bar scene, was something to behold above the beautiful Atlantic beach and the barrier reef. Our snorkeling off Fowl Cay in the Atlantic was excellent as was our swim over Mermaid Reef outside of Marsh Harbour. We enjoyed the cruisers we spent time with in Hopetown. We definitely want to come back for more. We need to explore Little Harbor with Pete's Pub and the foundry where sculpture is made. We also would like to spend some time at Green Turtle Cay. We definitely plan to return to the beautiful turquoise waters of the Abacos and the Exumas. The Berry Islands may also be on our agenda.