Crossing to Abaco
13 April 2012 | Marsh Harbor, Abaco
Eleuthera crossing to Abacos
Our travels so far have been fairly uneventful. Some sailing has been mild and some has pushed the limits in our abilities. On the Chesapeake Bay we typically sail in anything from 5 to 20 knots of wind where 20 is my upper limit of comfort. In our Bahamas travels we've sailed in winds up to 30 and did well in body, mind and spirit. The seas were good, the sun was shining and we've been with other cruisers in those conditions.
Now for the Eleuthera to Abacos crossing... It was a 50+ mile sail crossing the Northwest Channel into the Atlantic Ocean before we hit the cuts into the Sea of Abaco. We had a weather report from the day before with NNE winds at 10 - 20 knots and a 20% chance of rain. We knew we'd be coming into the Little Harbor channel on the southern Abacos on a rising tide. That means we'd have the current and the wind in the same direction, critical for going through any cut. If the 2 oppose you can get a rage where there can be HUGE breaking seas, not good. Note for future reference... I did not have a report on sea state which provides wave conditions. We had been sailing on the Exuma banks for the last 2 months where it wasn't a critical piece of information.
We woke to sunny skies and 15 knots of wind out of the east... off we go. The beginning of the sail was quite nice, the seas started to build a little as we left the protection of Eleuthera. No biggie, we've been in that before. Foolish Heart was screaming and at one point hit 10.8 knots. Our boat has a hull speed listed at 7.4 knots, we were sailing the heck out of our boat (we averaged 7.7 that day). However, the further we got out in the Atlantic the bigger the seas got and the shorter the duration of those waves. It's one thing to have 8 - 10 foot seas if they are coming every 15 - 20 seconds. Up, Up, Up, Up, Up, Up... Down, Down, Down, Down... slow and steady (very much like our gulf stream crossing in January). Not so lucky on this day, the duration was more like 3 - 6 seconds and the waves started to get confusing and breaking within themselves. It was like UP, UP, UP, SURF down the other side, rinse and repeat. Then the weather started to turn and we had storms in front of us with winds up to 35 knots. I kept asking my Mom, "Please hold the weather off for us. Please get us through this crossing. Please hold the weather. If ever a time for your weather worries to benefit, now is the time." When we got within VHF distance to the cut I called to anyone in the harbor and asked for the current conditions. Not a good response, "Breaking waves, big swells, not a great day for that cut. Maybe try the next one." Well, of the 2 cuts we were considering (both had reefs on either side and both were deep), this was the better of the 2 as it provided a better angle and some protection from the waves. Ugh, what to do??? We did spot 2 other sailboats out on the horizon and managed to catch their conversations on the VHF. One boat made it through the cut but we couldn't hear the conditions. I managed to contact the other boat still out in the Atlantic and he said, "The other boat made it through fine. It will be a few minutes of sheer terror followed by calm seas. You'll be fine." Sheer terror??? Let's go for it, I have always been an adventurous person. One thing about going through any cut, once you commit you keep going. There is no turning around, that's when bad things happen and boats sink. So, we tied ourselves to the binnacle (in case the boat flips and rights itself we would still be attached), floored the engine and went for it. We could see the reefs on either side, waves breaking is a good indication. The seas slowly subsided as the depth decreased and we made it through the cut safe and sound. WHEW!!!!! Actually one of the easier parts of our day. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time.
Kevin held the helm all day and did excellent, my wonderful Captain! Super props to my man for holding it together, manning the helm (it was not easy to stay on track), and keeping me safe and sound. To say the least, we slept well that night. The Abacos await!