Sunday, March 2, with the promise of several days of beautiful weather, we moved back of the Sea of Abaco to the little anchorage between Manjack Cay and Crab Cay. We got her anchor down a 12:45 PM and joined only a few other boats. After doing our boat chores, we settled down for a nice glass of wine and watched the sun go down on another perfect day.
Monday, March 3 thru Wednesday, March 5, we spent wonderful lazy days exploring the many little islands that surrounded this pretty anchorage. On Tues we took the dink to a small secluded beach on Fiddle Cay and picnicked under the trees and Toni spent the afternoon collecting the perfectly preserved seashells that littered the beach. Since the dink draws so little water, we were able to get into a little bay known as Nunjack Harbor. The shoreline also had a few little hidden beaches but it is also lined with mangroves just waiting for me to cast a fly. It seemed fish were everywhere. Maybe next time.
With the threat of bad weather and a repeat of the cold front conditions we experienced late last week, we pulled anchor on Thursday and ran back down to Green Turtle for protection. Good thing we did! We had a number of days of high winds and heavy rain.
Sunday, March 9 dawned beautifully and with high tide decided to move south into the southern portion of the Sea of Abaco. Although winds were light we were determined to sail through the infamous Whale Passage. Shouldn't be any problem since we had made this crossing several times ......wrong! Although the winds out in the Atlantic began to pick up speed, so did the huge swells (6' to 8') that we had to take on our beam. These were not the Rage Conditions we have heard so much about but the rolling was very uncomfortable so we motor-sailed to get through as quickly as possible.
The southern end of the passage re-enters the Sea of Abaco through the Loggerhead Channel and leads directly to a nice anchorage at Bakers Bay on the north end of Great Guana Cay. We had anchor down by 3:15 PM and the winds clocked around to 070 and dropped 9 knots. The swells that had been rolling up the bay from the Loggerhead Channel began to lessen and finally the serge disappeared. We enjoyed another pretty evening in the cockpit. Southern Cross brought us through once again.
On Monday, February 24, we left Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End, Grand Bahama Island and began our first leg of the cruise. Our course led us pat Mangrove Cay (a small island sometimes used by cruisers crossing the Little Bahama Bank) and on to Great Sale Cay which was our destination for the night. The weather was beautiful as we crossed the crystal clear water but the winds were light and variable. We had just enough wind to keep the jib filled with air as we motor-sailed downwind. Once we reached Mangrove, however, we began to see the squall lines forming to the north as the wind once again fell to less than 5 knots. We reached Great Sale Cay 30 minutes after sundown, dropped the anchor, ate dinner and fell asleep after a 9 hour trip.
Tuesday, February 25, our course would lead us around the north end of Great Sale and then veer more to the southeast. It was our hope that this angle, along with a predicted north wind would allow our first extended sail of the cruise. As usual, the wind turned light and clocked to the southeast and was directly on our nose......so no sailing today either. As the day went along, the rain squalls reappeared and began to surround us. As we approached Allans-Pensacola Cay, our destination for the night, we were hit with heavy rain and 30 knot winds. Anchoring in these conditions tested our ground tackle and our ability to find a good sand holding spot. Luckily, it only took two tries but the anchor finally set and held all night. As we settled in for the night, the storm passed, the wind died down, and we were treated to another incredibly beautiful view. Allans-Pensacola is one of our favorite places in the islands. It is uninhabited and located in a remote area of the Bahamas.
Wednesday, February 26, the weather forecast indicates that the unsettled conditions will continue for at least the rest of the week. We determined that we would move down to Green Turtle Cay and take a slip there until conditions improve. We are now at the Green Turtle Club Marina on Green Turtle Cay. We will take a few days to walk around the island and see the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic side. It looks like rain every day though so we will probably catch up on reading and boat projects
As I write this, we are safely across the Gulf Stream and are spending the day resting and getting ready for crossing the Little Bahama Banks tomorrow. The weather should be spectacular for the next week and we will be exploring some of the little uninhabited Cays in the northern Abacos.
But the fun began while we were still in Florida
The trip down the ICW from Stuart, Fl. Was very interesting in that we had to navigate our way through 19 bridges between Stuart and North Palm Beach and another 21 bridges from North Palm and Fort Lauderdale. Very expensive homes and even more expensive boats lined both shores of the waterway.
Along the way, we had the chance to visit with old friends and relatives that we hadn't seen for some time.
Our dear friends Richard and Temple Forment, who's yawl Artemis is bravely facing the ice and snow of Portsmouth, Virginia, raced down to our slip at Old Port Cove Marina to exchange the chilling winter weather for the opportunity to assist us in getting Southern Cross ready for the 2014 season. It was a wonderful time of work and friendship. Artemis is scheduled to begin cruising the Chesapeake this spring and then on to Maine for the summer.
We had not seen our cousin Mickey Ford for many years and we found that he lives only a few miles from our slip. We spent a very enjoyable lunch catching up on his family and his life in Florida. Mickey gave us a tour of his home town a few days later and treated us to lunch at his favorite Mexican Food restaurant. We really enjoyed being with him and we will be making the effort to keep in touch.
Last January we realized that our old inflatable dinghy had reached the end of the road. We were in Marathon on Boot Key in Florida and were at a loss for how to replace it. Gary and Joanna Wollenberg, aboard the yawl Bozo Cinq, were replacing their dinghy and sold us the old one. (It was a good deal and we used it all over the islands last year.) They sailed on to Grenada but fell in love with the Turks-Ciacos and bought a home there and it seems we would never see them again. But on a recent beautiful afternoon, Toni bumped into our two old friends walking in the marina. It was a chance meeting and we had a nice conversation on Southern Cross before they had to fly back to T-C. Joanna ends her emails with the phrase "friends are priceless". And so they are.
Also last year, as we returned to the US and waited on the weather in West End, we met Kenny and Claudia Higginbotham aboard their trawler Yacht Sea. These two are also the kind of people that are friends from the beginning. We were looking forward to cruising together this year, however, as they were leaving Scottsdale someone offered to buy the boat and so they would not be able to join us. Fortunately, they were in Fort Lauderdale as we arrive to stage for the crossing, and we spent a wonderful afternoon with them as Kenny and I talked aviation and Claudia and Toni talked about kids and family. Although their plans will take them away from the islands, we surely hope to keep this new friendship alive. Thanks for the poutin and hot dogs!
Let the cruising begin!
02/14/2014, North Palm Beach