04/28/2012, 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.
04/25/2012, Man-O-War Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We always say that our plans are firmly set in jello - you know, shifting, moving, flexible. It's a good thing that this has been our philosophy for cruising because this winter was not what we had thought it would be. I was planning on getting to the boat for a couple of weeks in February and then again in April/May but my work commitments made it impossible for me to travel to the Abacos to meet up with Wayne as we had hoped. After what seemed like an endless winter, I finally got away on Thursday, April 19th and flew to Miami and then on to Marsh Harbour, Abacos to meet up with my Captain. Both flights were on time and at 1:00 pm, I was walking down the dock, backpack over my shoulder, my heart racing with the anticipation of being with Wayne again. He had anchored in Marsh Harbour the night before and then moved the boat to a dock at the Harbourview Marina the morning of my arrival so that he could get things shipshape for the Admiral's inspection.
It always feels like home the minute I step on board and this time was no different. The familiar feel of the boat is what I look forward to each and every time. We took the afternoon to catch up and then went for a swim in the pool. Palm trees swaying, drink in hand, floating around the pool was my idea of heaven. We ended up staying another day at Harbourview so that we could put on some provisions. Wayne had done extremely well on the provisions we had put on board at Christmas, but there wasn't going to be enough for the two of us for 2 ½ weeks. Marsh Harbour is an excellent place to re-provision. With our cupboards, fridge and bar restocked we were ready to leave on Saturday morning to get to Man-O-War Cay ahead of the forecast high winds.
Wayne was eager to point out all of the islands and places that he had traveled over the winter and after a lovely 1 hour motor from Marsh Harbour and taking in the sights, we settled onto the mooring that Wayne had rented at Man-O-War Cay. I was anxious to explore this little island, so after lunch, we jumped in the dinghy and headed to shore to explore. I'm sure that Wayne had every street memorized, but I wanted to experience what he had over the winter. Man-O-War Cay is a very quaint island with the most friendly people. Everyone waves when they pass (on their golf carts - there are only about 6 full-sized vehicles on the island) and are very helpful. We wandered up and down the streets looking at the well kept houses and stores that dot the island. We picked up some gifts for our granddaughters and then headed back to the boat for drinks and a lovely dinner.
Over the next few days the wind blew at about 25 to 30 knots, but we were well protected and enjoying our time together. We went to shore again on Sunday and walked over to the ocean side to see the surf and then went over to the other part of the harbour to meet up with Vince Purcell (a guy Wayne had met earlier who keeps his boat in Indiantown as well, is from Halifax and a single-handler) and invited him over for dinner the following night. This is the best part of cruising - making new friends and meeting up with old acquaintances. Even though our boats spend the summer in the same marina in Florida, we had not met Vince. Monday afternoon Vince arrived and we had a great time getting to know him over some rum, wine and a lovely dinner. It's always great to share stories and hear of other's experiences.
We had intended to leave Man-O-War on Tuesday morning and start making our way back across the Sea of Abacos to West End Bahamas, but both of us were feeling a little under the weather. I think that we may have picked up some bad ice at the marina. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. We thought we had a good long weather window to get over to Florida and could take our time getting to the West End, so we weren't worried about spending the extra day. Little did we know that our weather window was closing in and we would have some long days ahead. But that's what cruising is all about and again, those plans set in jello certainly help keep us from getting stressed out when things change.
04/01/2012, Paris, France
So you saw in Wayne's blog that the Admiral went to France for a short trip. So for those who think that Wayne gets to have all the fun while I work (and for the most part it's true), but I do get to do some fun things. I had the opportunity to go to Cannes for a major real estate investment show in March to promote some large projects in our City. First off, I asked the Captain if he wanted to go with me. We have travelled throughout many countries in Europe, but France was not one of them. He reluctantly said he didn't want to leave the boat, so I invited my friend Lynn to go along. She has never been to Europe and so jumped on the chance to join me. The show was 4 days and so we took a few days on either side to explore France. We flew into Paris, explored this incredible City for a day and a half (not nearly enough time) and then headed south to Cannes. We had rented a car so that we could explore the countryside, get off the beaten track and truly see the country. France is a large country by European standards. We drove 975 km from Paris to Cannes, stopping mid-way in a 14th century town called Chalon-sur-Saone and stayed in a lovely French inn. On our drive south, we saw the Swiss Alps, the French Alps and the Italian Alps and hundreds of vineyards, castles, churches and cathedrals dotting the countryside. It doesn't get any better than this.
The time spent in Cannes was busy and productive for me. I have been in the Economic Development field for over 25 years and never in my life have I seen a trade show and conference like this one. There were almost 20,000 delegates and something like 4,500 exhibitors. In four days, I had 31 meetings including a very interesting "speed dating" for hotel investment. It was incredible and I feel so fortunate to have had this experience.
At the end of the show on the Friday afternoon, we jumped in the car and drove to Nice. While Cannes was OK, Nice was incredible. The blue of the Mediterranean ocean was what I had envisioned the French Riviera to be. An incredible mosaic of colours awaited us as we drove along the waterfront. Breathtaking views from the hilltops and lunch in a 16th century square rounded out the side trip to Nice. Saturday morning, Lynn and I jumped in the car and started our trek back north, but not before heading west along the coastline for an interesting drive through hairpin turns, up and down the cliffs all the while dodging cyclists. It was crazy, but a blast.
We drove for about 6 hours and stayed in a small town called Macon. On the river Saone, this beautiful town of 36,000 is the wine centre on the Saone. While many French towns had churches dotted throughout them, Macon had very few because 14 were destroyed during the Revolution. We enjoyed our side trip to this lovely town and Sunday morning continued our journey north. We both wanted to see the Palace Versailles and arrived about 1:00 in the afternoon. The opulence of this estate was mind-boggling. The palace was started by King Louis XIV in 1668. Gold covered gates, incredible paintings on the ceilings of each of the rooms, the hall of mirrors, libraries and over 400 acres of gardens made this stop worth seeing.
Alas on Monday it was time to head back home. It was a wonderful trip and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Lynn. It would have been wonderful to have the Captain exploring the French countryside with me, but perhaps we'll get there together some day. Besides, he would have missed those bathing beauties! It was too cold in France for swimsuits.