06/13/2012, Fernandina Beach, Florida
Here are some great photos of a thunderstorm we experienced a few nights ago.
Rain, Rain Go Away! Abacos 2012
"Anchors up at 5PM!" That was our plan to leave the Berry Islands on a Wednesday afternoon bound for Marsh Harbour. The trip would take overnight and most of the next day and this window was the best of the worst we had to choose from. It was either too much wind or not enough. Collectively, with Good Trade making the trip with us, we chose the lighter weather window and committed to motoring the whole way. And that is what we did, except for 2 hours overnight where we made 3 knots with a full main and jib. It wasn't an eventful passage, just a drizzly, dreary and boring one. We arrived into Marsh Harbour around 3ish on Thursday with enough time to make a meal and relax.
The Abacos are a whole different Bahamian experience than most. Definitely different than the barren Berry Islands that we had just come from. There is so much development. Honestly, it reminds me quite a lot of Florida. But we were ready for this indeed! I had a long, long grocery list and lots of laundry to do. Time to start the acclimatization period. Fortunately, on Friday, the bad weather cleared and we were able to complete all of our errands. Cue clouds, wind, rain and lightning! And keep them hovering overhead for days, days on end!
We managed to have a clear-ish day to sail over to Man-O-War and explore that lovely little settlement for the afternoon. That evening we checked the weather and 40 knot squalls (which became Alberto) were predicted for the next few days so back to Marsh Harbour we went. Albeit, reluctantly because two years ago when we were in the Abacos, Marsh Harbour was about all we saw. This year we really wanted to explore the other islands.
The best thing about the rain was the continuous fresh water rinse Anastasia enjoyed. Over the winter months it doesn't rain much in the other islands so we were quick to start collecting and filling our water tanks. In jest, I call the system for collecting water: "My Watermaker/Air Conditioner." The system entails a small tarp stretched over the forward hatch with two 4-gallon buckets strategically placed to catch the runoff. The forward hatch is now able to remain open, which is great when it gets super hot and rainy.
We did make it to Green Turtle but not ashore much to explore the island. Once in that area of the Abacos it seems that everyone gets itchy to cross back to the US. We were no different and every opportunity online we checked weather.
Collectively, this year the Abacos were a bust, but there were definitely bright spots that will stick in our memory. The wet weather had us aboard much more than we preferred. But I guess fate was leaving some things unexplored for the future.
05/27/2012, Man-O-War Cay, Abacos
We have always loved the Berry Islands. Last season we spent a few weeks there just before our crossing back to the states and absolutely fell head-over-heels. This season it was a must on the northern itinerary. And, it is no doubt that time of year now...time that we reluctantly make our way in the northern direction. From Nassau we sailed very, very slowly to Bird Cay along with our friends Good Trade and Imagine. Imagine was practicing their motor-boating skills and Good Trade is a catamaran so needless to say, we ended up in the anchorage dead last. But it was a great day nonetheless. Bright sunny skies, calm water and nowhere to be but where we were.
When we pulled out of Nassau Harbour we had forgotten to retrieve our spinnaker halyard from the top of the mast. During the previous sail to Nassau it had fouled and gone up to the masthead in the bad weather. I guess we just had so much fun at Atlantis that we forgot to get it while in the calm anchorage. The bad thing was that the sail to Bird Cay was definitely a spinnaker day. We tried really hard to make it work with the jib and main. Then just the jib, then just the main...nothing worked. We were seeing speeds lower than 2 knots at times. Uggh! I have never needed to go up the mast before while underway and never really ever wanted to try it either. The gentle rollers were fine at sea level but watching the pitch of the mast 56' above the water was a different scenario all together.
We laid out the strategy of how to get me up there the fastest and back down in one piece so we could then throw up the main again to regain our stability. It wasn't the easiest climb...normally I am able to help pull my weight against the shrouds as Maxwell takes up the slack with the winch but all I could do was hold on tightly as he cranked me almost all the way. A few times we had to pause while Anastasia pitched fore and aft and then go back at it. At the top I grabbed the shackle end of the halyard and down I went with my legs wrapped around the mast for stability. At the bottom we agreed that we both didn't want to do that again any time soon. The reward was a bright and fun sail that kept us above 3 knots the rest of the way!
We zeroed in on the anchorage just after sunset with the sky still bright and at the edge of coming back on soundings we snagged a nice Blackfin Tuna. Thirty more minutes we had the hook down and fresh seared tuna on a nice salad. Happy to be there, happy to be fed and full.
The next week or so we made a few stops up the chain. Frozen Cay, Little Harbour, White Cay and Hoffmans. We harvested the absolute largest conch ever inside the Cays near White Cay. They were plentiful in about 15 feet of water. Needless to say, I do not care if I ever see, or have to clean, another conch for a long, long time.
The Berry Islands don't seem to be on the list for many cruisers. Perhaps that is why it is so lovely, still sort of wild and free. Just be prepared for self sufficiency and reserve plenty of time for relaxation.
Nasty, But We Had To Do It
05/20/2012, Marsh Harbour, Abaco
When someone offers you the opportunity to hang out with them in Atlantis, you'd be silly to turn them down. Even if it means playing dodge ball with 30+ knot squalls to get there. We left George Town under gray skies and misting rain hoping that the weather would clear as we made our way north toward the day's goal of Staniel Cay. Unfortunately our hopes were not enough to keep us clear of bad weather. Instead the weather worsened, and we settled in with the fact that the day would indeed suck. The squalls were relentless, packing plenty of wind and drenching sideways rain. The kind of rain that somehow comes around the dodger...forcing us to close the companionway entirely. The waves grew from 5'-7' to 10'-12' in short order. I kept reminding Maxwell that Atlantis would be fantastically fun and this was all totally worth it. At that point he did not agree with me, at all. Nonetheless I remained powerfully optimistic.
We bailed Exuma Sound at the first (and safest) opportunity thinking that we could sail much faster on the flatter waters of the banks. The cut was thrilling to say the least. Fortunately, the tide was in our favor and cooperating with the wind direction on our back. Ideally, smaller waves would have helped our stress levels while negotiating the cut but as I said earlier we were prepared for it all to suck. I was super proud of Maxwell as he sailed Anastasia through the tricky entrance. We had the engine on but not engaged as a safety measure. Once inside it was like a different place. We sailed at 7+ knots (very fast for our sea slug) with only our yankee jib. The water was close to flat, an extreme contrast to what we had just slogged through for the past 4 hours. The only problem at this point were the ever present squalls with their gusty winds and our course required us to head up substantially thus creating and uncomfortable, super heeled boat. My optimism faltered and we were very tired so we called it quits at Little Farmer's Cay accepting the fact that Atlantis might not happen. We know and respect the cardinal rule of not sailing to a schedule and anchored for the night over 80 miles away from Nassau. A distance Anastasia cannot sail in daylight hours.
The next morning we were underway fairly early but not the-crack-of-dawn early. We planned to make it to one of the northern Exuma islands, Norman's or Highborne, great jumping spots for a passage to Nassau the next day. I am not sure exactly when we made the decision, but somewhere along the way we pointed directly for Nassau. As the day progressed we committed to the decision knowing that we would be entering Nassau Harbour with our running lights on. We crossed the Yellow Bank (a.k.a. coral head alley) with not 30 minutes to spare as the sun waved goodbye and visual spotting went out the window. The nice thing about Nassau is that all vessels entering and exiting must clear with Harbour Control so we knew when there was a tanker or ferry headed our direction. Against the bright lights of the city it was really hard to see oncoming lights so this heads up was helpful. We negotiated the channel just fine and went under the two bridges to the anchorage just west of the second bridge. We dropped the hook around 11:30 that night just off of the port side of one of our friends and the bow of another, giggling to ourselves about when they might notice we were there. Utterly exhausted after two demanding days underway we prepared for bed ecstatic to be there.
Atlantis was amazing. Our friends on Good Trade put their boat into the marina and shared 2 of their 20 water park passes with us and Imagine, a family of 5 who have just completed a circumnavigation. All total our gang added up to 10 people, 6 adults and 4 very excited and energetic kids. Good Trade was the home base for our group as we all came and went throughout Atlantis. There is so much to do there from the aquariums to the casinos, restaurants, movie theatre, water park, and shops. It was so much more than we expected. Over and over again we told ourselves that it was worth the discomfort we endured to be there. However, the best part of all was what we brought with us in coming as a group. The children's excitement was an energy that we all fed from. Maxwell and I agreed that if we had experienced Atlantis alone, it would have been totally different and we are sincerely grateful to have been included in all of the fun.
National Family Island Regatta
04/28/2012, George Town, Exuma
What a week of fun! This is our third year in the Bahamas and our first in attendance of the National Family Island Regatta. It is so neat to watch as Regatta Point transforms into Party Central. We already knew that Bahamians know how to throw down from our experience in Rock Sound a few years ago but it has been a while. By day, the crowd is slightly more conservative, attending the three daily races. By night, the place gets bumping and jumping.
On Thursday Maxwell was lucky enough to get on a B-Class sloop #7 out of Acklins. Unfortunately, during the completion of their first lap they were wrongly advised by a committee boat on which side to round a mark and were disqualified. Later this was resolved, but they did not finish the race so his on-board time was cut short.
We have been anchored on the town side of the harbour with an excellent view of the races from our deck. Often times the boats warm up by sailing through the anchored boats. These sloops are so beautiful...handmade out of native wood, Bahamian owned and Bahamian captained. The size of their sails and length of masts and booms are crazy. Hence the need for the planks off the side with men as ballast.
We have really enjoyed being here and glad that we came back to do it.
The Hardest Part Of Cruising
04/10/2012, Black Point, Exumas
There are many things that are difficult in this charmed lifestyle but the toughest thing for us, by far, is saying goodbye. We meet SO many interesting people who become fast friends and no doubt will be lifelong companions. But they are not neighbors across the street or members of a home softball team. They are explorers like us, traveling and searching for their dreams. By chance we have crossed paths and touched each other's hearts marking special places on all of our internal maps. We never know if or when we will meet again and because of this our farewells are bittersweet.
Goodbyes happen throughout the trip but seem concentrated this time of year. Most of our friends are either heading back north or points farther south, all at different speeds. Whether we cruised long term together, for a month or just a few days we cherish each connection as one of the best parts of cruising.