Posted on April 12, 2014
Posted on April 4, 2014
Posted on March 30, 2014
I was just about to give up on posting here after trying for a few hours…when magically, things started to move.
The weather looks like it will be great for cruising the Sea of Abaco this week so we will be heading back to Man-o-War to pick up our jib and then go on to Hopetown, which Bob tells me is lovely. And there is a lighthouse there for my collection of lighthouse pics!
I’ve been creating a series of Bahamas postcards from some of my images just for fun. There’s something about the views and light here that seems to suit a stylized kind of treatment. I’ve been experimenting and having fun with Topaz filters.
So here are some postcards for you, from Bob and Charles and me in the Bahamas…
Posted on March 24, 2014
We headed over to Man o’ War Cay the other day to drop off our jib for repair. It was a 50 minute ferry ride from Marsh Harbour. We stayed for the rest of the day to explore the cay and have lunch.
The history of Man o’ War Cay began with a shipwreck and a love story. In 1820 16-year-old Benjamin Albury found himself shipwrecked on the cay. He fell in love with Nellie Archer, whose parents had settled there to farm in 1798.
They married and today the name Albury is everywhere, from on the ferry line to boat-building to a popular canvas bag-making enterprise.
Boat-building began in the 1880′s and today Man o’ War Cay is home to self-sufficient and resilient residents who are proud of their island and their boat-building heritage.
We loved this little unspoiled cay and here is just a brief taste of what Bob, Charles and I enjoyed recently. (You may notice a certain colour story going on here…I can’t seem to get away from it, but nor do I want to!)
Posted on March 23, 2014
When we arrived here in Marsh Harbour, we anchored out in the harbour for a few days while waiting for a slip. Then when a slip became available in the marina, we moved in there. It’s romantic out there on the hook but a bit of a pain to dinghy Charles in in rough weather, schlep our water out and also run the generator every day to supply our electricity. In the slip we have lots of power, water, and Charles has easy access to land. We can also get four TV channels! As we’ve mentioned before the only real downside is poor Internet access. Other than that we are in heaven.
Marsh Harbour is a large protected harbour in the Abacos where many cruisers spend the winter. There is a wide choice of marinas and restaurants and tons of charter activity. Catamarans are a popular rental vessel.
The marina we are in has a good restaurant called the Jib Room which also serves as a cruiser’s lounge. We’ve eaten here quite a bit and really enjoyed it. Lots of fish options for me. The house drink is a “bilge burner” which goes down so easy you can get into trouble very quickly if you don’t watch it.
We dinghy across the harbour to do our groceries and shopping. There is an amazing grocery store called Maxwell’s which provides the best shopping outside of Nassau. In fact we have to go there in a few minutes to get some coffee.
Marsh Harbour is centrally located to allow day trips to many of the popular cays around. This week we took a ferry to Man o’ War to drop off our jib sail for repair. Pics of that trip to come…
Posted on March 21, 2014
Part III — March 11 to 15, 2014
After a fabulous day sailing, we arrived at Greet Turtle Cay at 5:00 pm. We had radioed ahead for a slip at the Green Turtle Club. As we made our way into White Sound Harbour we got a little close to shore because the rough weather had moved some channel markers.
We were all very happy to get our feet on dry land again, especially Charles! I jumped off the boat with him to take him to shore and he was super relieved about the whole business, if you know what I mean. The humans were all eager for a cold drink and a shower and a good meal. After getting settled in and having a tour of the beautiful marina and popular dining room and bar, Bob BBQ’d up some T-bone steaks for the two boys and they totally enjoyed them with fried onions, baked potatoes and corn. We hit the sack at 9:00 pm since we were still catching up on our sleep.
The winds forecast for the next two days were 35 knots so we were happy to be in a snug harbour. We chose to be in a slip since it is quite a challenge to be anchoring out and dinghying Charles back and forth in bad weather.
So we took this opportunity to see a little of Green Turtle Cay. Mike, who was at another marina down the way, came over and we all piled into a golf cart to do a tour of the island. New Plymouth, the settlement, is on the southern tip of the mile long island, which is home to only 500 residents. Most are descended from Loyalists to Great Britain.
After checking out a few secluded beaches, we headed to the Leeward Marina for a delicious fresh fish lunch with Mike and then toured around New Plymouth after lunch stopping to get some special Bahamian rum for $9 in the liquor store.
We left the road and Mike directed us through bumpy jungle trails to a charming spot by the water called Pineapples that held many great cruising memories for him. We enjoyed a rum punch there and then headed back to the marina to check the weather. This was my first opportunity since we left to check emails, check weather sites and get a post or two up, so I tried to take advantage of it.
In the next leg of our journey we were headed to Marsh Harbour and we needed to go through the Whale Cay Passage to do so. What this means is that we would have to leave the Little Bahamas Banks through a cut and go into the deep ocean waters for about three nautical miles and then come back in and continue our journey on the Banks until we reached our destination.
The Whale Cay Passage is infamous for the danger it can present to boaters about 20% of the time. It has caused more lives and vessels lost than all other areas in the Bahamas combined. You have to treat it with great respect.
You have to watch the weather and tides carefully and listen for reports of others who are going through in order to make an informed decision about whether to pass through on any particular day.
Over time, 20 mph winds from the North, Northeast or East can produce swells that make the Whale dangerous. Once the winds have been blowing for a day or two from any of those directions and then abate, it can still take a day or so for the wave action to settle. This is called a “rage”. From a distance, using binoculars, a rage looks like elephants dancing on the horizon. A rage is obviously not a good time to cross the Whale.
Every day all four of us would look at weather reports, talk to others and evaluate what would be a good day to go through the Whale. We were prepared to stay a week if necessary but we were hoping to push on sooner. From these discussions it appeared that Saturday morning would offer a weather window and high tides to transit the Whale.
We got up at 6:00 am, checked out at 7:00 am and were out of the harbour at 8:00 am where we rendezvous’d with Mike. High tide was 8:35 am.
A motor vessel, Rambler, which we had met in the Green Turtle Marina, was about two miles ahead of us entering the Whale. He radioed back as we proceeded and indicated a favourable passage.
He was right. The wind was less than 10 knots from the southeast. The waves in the Whale were 2 to 3 feet so conditions were very good. It was a smooth and comfortable passage. When we got out into the ocean, the waves were bigger (4 to 6 feet) but with a dominant period of 42 seconds, it was rolly but not unpleasant. I managed to get some pictures and take some video of Mike in the Casey Dee.
Posted on March 20, 2014
Part II — March 11 and 12, 2014
Once we left West End the first order of business was to get through Indian Cut, a shallow and narrow 10 mile channel in the reef that would allow us to reach the protected waters of the Little Bahamas Banks.
As we approached the channel, the water depth went from 30 feet to 9 feet. We sounded our way through it trying to find the deepest water. That was often only 6 feet deep and we need at least 5 feet to pass through without going aground.
Bob was watching the colour of the water as he steered manually from waypoint to waypoint. Leo and I called out the depths from the depth sounder as we progressed.
It was hard not to be distracted by the clarity and colour of the water since it is very unusual to be anywhere in a sailboat and be able to see the bottom. Our friend Mike had promised “gin clear” waters and they were.
Once we got through the reef Leo took control of the boat and Bob fell asleep in the cockpit, staying nearby in case we needed him. He went out like a light and slept a good two hours. We were trying to make Great Sale Cay by dark.
Leo and I took turns having snoozes later. At about 4:00 pm, we were all ravenous. It was lovely and calm so I laid out some cheese, crackers, sausage, veggies, hard-boiled eggs and olives in the cockpit to take the edge off our appetites.
Once on the Banks, the water depth varied from 9 to 12 feet. In the mid afternoon, Leo and Bob set two lures out behind the boat. We were moving a bit too fast for fishing but they thought, “what the heck, why not give it a try?”
We arrived in the anchorage at Great Sale just as the sun was setting. We were the last in — there were already 10 boats there when we got there. We set the anchor and launched the dinghy in the dark. Charles was quickly loaded to go ashore for a bathroom break. It was starting to blow about 18 knots. The shore was rough with coral, and with the surf it would have destroyed our dinghy in 10 minutes had Bob landed the boat. So he had to turn around and come back to Windsong II. We felt so badly for poor Charles, he had been a great boy all day. We tried to convince him to go on the boat but he would not go. He seemed to understand the problem. He has gone on the boat before, so we knew he could do it.
We used the propane BBQ on the back of our boat to make hamburgers for the guys. (I had a salad and veggies since I’m no longer eating meat.) After dinner we collapsed in our bunks — we were so tired from lack of sleep and being out in the sun and wind for so long. The water was a bit lumpy that night but nothing was going to interfere with our sleep that night.
The wind began to pick up again before dawn on Wednesday morning. We were all up at daybreak. Mike called on the radio, itching to go, because bad weather was coming. We had to leave without taking Charles ashore.
The weather forecast called for two days of high winds. The closest harbour that would provide protection was Green Turtle Cay, about 50 nautical miles away. We needed to get there before dark.
We were travelling in an easterly direction over the banks with a strong south wind, so the wind was on our beam, the best point of sail. We motored for a while and then pulled out our jib. The boat stood up and took off. The winds were 22 to 28 knots.. Our boat has a maximum hull speed of 7.1 knots, but we were surfing down waves at 8.5 knots. It was an amazing sail — we all had wide grins. Leo, our resident speed demon, took great pleasure in calling out our speed as we went along.
We motorsailed like that almost all day. When the gusts got bigger in the late afternoon, we reduced the sail size a bit, but not enough, so we blew the leach line out of our sail. What that means is that the stitching on the seam along the back of the sail let go. This was probably due to sun damage over 10 years since the jib was original to the boat.
Bob could fix something like this with his special Sailrite sewing machine, which unfortunately is in the truck back in Florida. (Next time we will know better and bring it with us!) However there is a sail maker nearby on Man o War Cay. We will bring it by and have it fixed by him.
It was another long day and we made it to Green Turtle Cay.
Next instalment: waiting out the weather in Green Turtle Cay.
Note to my fellow bloggers: I deeply regret that I’m not able follow your adventures and blogs right now and send you my comments. Our Internet service is so limited and unpredictable that I have only been able to publish a few blog posts and send a few emails. I’ve managed a few “likes” on Facebook but that’s about it. But know I am thinking of you and I so appreciate all your kind comments. When we get back to Florida, I will so look forward to catching up with all your posts and images. It will be like gorge fest for me!