Tearing Ourselves Away From Paradise
28 April 2012 | West End, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
I accused the Admiral of bringing rotten weather with her from Canada and, as she told you in her blog, we had to hunker down in the harbour at Man-O-War to wait out some high winds for a couple of days. While we were awaiting the passage of one of the strongest cold fronts to pass through this year we kept a close eye on the weather forecast hoping that we could get out for a few days of fun before having to head back to the States. Early forecasts showed a prolonged period of benign weather coming in after the front's passage but as time got closer it became apparent that this wasn't going to materialize. It seemed that the early predictions of a full week of good sailing weather was going to be significantly shortened to about 3 days. Late Tuesday afternoon we reluctantly made the decision to leave the Abacos tomorrow morning and make tracks so we could take advantage of the shortening weather window to make it back to the States.
Although we couldn't leave Man-O-War too early because of the tide we got everything ready for sea and departed the harbour about 8:30 am with the intent of making as many miles to the northwest as possible. The sky was virtually cloudless under a blazing sun and the light winds out of the south-east which made for ideal conditions for our trip.
We motor-sailed out past the North Man-O-Way passage and on past Fowl and Scotland Cays, skirting Great Guana Cay and proceeding out the sometimes treacherous Whale Cay passage into the North Atlantic. Today the 4' swell and slack tide made for rather gentle conditions although you always seem to bounce a little either coming or going through the pass. With the Whale cut behind us we carried on past Green Turtle, Manjack and Powell Cays on what was now an absolutely flat Sea of Abaco. We had thought of anchoring at Crab Cay (which is just north of Cooperstown) for the night but after a short discussion decided to take advantage of the good traveling conditions to carry on to Great Sale Cay.
In order to make Great Sale Cay it would take the rest of the day and we would just have enough daylight to get into the anchorage but we thought that by using the rest of the day to make significant miles it would position us to take advantage of the weather window that now seemed set to close on the weekend.
We steamed along with our sails flapping gently in the vespers and watched the landscape slowly changed from the closely-packed islands that surround the Hub of the Abacos to the more sparse and rugged islands of the northern Abacos. Slowly the miles ticked away and we made our way into Great Sale's anchorage at the last light of the day.
The next day we still needed to put on some significant miles and left the anchorage at 7:30 am so we could get to Memory Rock and then down to West End for the crossing to Florida on Friday. Again the weather was benign and we actually had showers on deck as the boat powered along with "Helmsley" our trusted autopilot at the wheel. We decided to go up to Memory Rock rather than taking the Indian Cay Channel (which we had used on our way over) because we were on a falling tide and would reach the entrance to the channel about low tide making passage even trickier than normal. By going north to Memory Rock and then turning south to ride the counter-current along the edge of the Bahama Bank we added some miles to the day's travel but managed to stay in (relatively) deep water throughout the day. We arrived at West End just in time to get to fuel dock before their 5pm closing. We then took a rather expensive slip (they have you over a barrel here) for the night and enjoyed a peaceful night in the beautiful resort resting up for our crossing of the Gulf Stream tomorrow.
We traveled over 130 miles in the last two days which in a sailboat our size is a very long way. We wanted to position ourselves for a good Gulf Stream crossing by taking advantage of a shortening weather window. But, what we had really done was leave paradise behind for another year.