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Jascat to the Bahamas
West End to Lake Worth Inlet at Riviera Beach, Fl
04/30/2011, Riviera Beach Municipal Marina slip 313

Five foot swell off West End, Grand Bahama

We've been back in the USA for 4 days now and we've assimilated back into the culture with no problems. We've shopped at Target, Barnes and Noble, CVS, Publix, Starbucks, Home Depot, U Haul (for propane), West Marine, the UPS Store, and Boater's Warehouse, and eaten at Subway and Chipolte Grill. Here's a review of how we got here.

As the previous entry notes, we stayed in West End one day longer than planned due to a thunderstorm the morning of our planned departure. About a half dozen other boats suffered the same delay. So the next morning, there was a flotilla of boats chomping at the bit to head west.

No more thundershowers popped up during the night and the morning dawned bright and clear. We all headed out at about 6:30am for what promised to be an easy crossing. The early morning weather forecast predicted 12 to 15 kt SSE wind and 2 to 4 seas. The seas were a little high but otherwise the forecast was just perfect.

We weren't out of sight of West End when it became clear the forecast was wildly optimistic. The winds were more like 17 to 22 kts and the seas 5 to 7 ft. The seas were clearly going to make for a rough ride, but on the other hand, the high winds promised a fast trip to Florida. So each boat weighing the pluses and minuses, the little flotilla decided to continue on. Nobody turned back.

Continuing on turned out to be the right decision. After the first hour or two, the winds abated a few knots and the seas dropped down to 3 to 5 ft. Since we were riding with the swells, the seas were tolerable (but definitely still bumpy). The fast passage did come about. We completed the roughly 63 nm in 9 hrs averaging 7 kt. (note: the passage distance is a little longer than the rhumb line because we went southwest out of West End until reaching the Gulf Stream. This allowed for a more efficient use of the current boost while in the Gulf Steam.)

The only thing difficult with the crossing was the arrival at the marina in Lake Worth. The slip we had reserved for the night at the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina was oriented directly across the wind which was blowing about 15 kt. It took two tries and some extra dock hands to get us safely tied up.

Our first task on arrival was to clear Customs and Immigration. You must call Customs immediately on entering the US, which we did as soon as the adrenalin subsided from our docking excitement. Immigration allows a 24 hr time span for checking in but requires a face to face meeting. One of the nice things about the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina is that it is only about three blocks over to the Cruise Ship docks which has an Immigration office. We hustled over there first thing Thursday morning and after only about 10 minutes, we were officially back in good standing with the US government.

After renting a car later Thursday morning, the rest of the day was spent shopping and provisioning. We originally intended to head out late-morning on Friday to start making our way south around Miami to the Florida Keys but we finally decided that we needed a rest day. A forecast of bad weather extended the rest period to Saturday. So Sunday morning we'll be setting out to make our way down the ICW possibly stopping to anchor in Boca Raton or continuing on to a marina somewhere in the Hillsboro area.

Still in West End
04/26/2011, Old Bahama Bay Marina slip C18

The pool at Old Bahama Bay Resort

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. We haven't departed the Bahamas after all. We're still in West End. And we won't be leaving until tomorrow, Wednesday.

About 4am this morning, lights started to flash through the overhead hatch. I tried to figure out where these could be coming from but I fell back asleep before I could work it out. Then just before our wake up time, 5am, light rain started to fall. As we closed the hatches, we could see lightning off in the distance. The lights were of course lightning from a thunderstorm. Hoping that the storm would just brush past us, we reset the wake-up alarm for 5:30 and tried to go back to sleep. At 5:15 we could hear thunder and the rain became steady. We reset the alarm for 6:15.

At 6am, the crash of thunder was continuous and the rain torrential. It was evident that the thunderstorm was right over us. You could feel the water under the boat quiver when the lightning bolts hit. Not a good feeling when you are sleeping under a 40+ foot metal rod.

Our hopes of leaving for Lake Worth were dimming fast. As 8am came and went with rain still falling and high winds still blowing, we gave up completely. So now, we are aiming for tomorrow morning, Wednesday, to make the crossing. Maybe it is just as well, the wind and wave forecast for Wednesday were better than today anyway, 12 to 15kt wind and 2-3 foot seas.

Mangrove Cay to West End
04/25/2011, Old Bahama Bay Marina slip C18

The beach at Old Bahama Bay Resort, West End, Grand Bahama

Synopsis: 25 nm in 5 hr, 12 to 19 kt from ESE, 1 to 3 foot waves, down wind sail all the way

Today's run from Mangrove Cay to West End was just the most comfortable, pleasant, finest Bahamas sail yet. Don't have time to write about it, however, as we are getting ready to cross the Gulf Stream tomorrow. We'll be making our re-entry into the US at the Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach, FL. It's 60 nm over there so we'll be leaving at about 5:30am hoping for a 5 to 6pm arrival.

The weather forecast is for ESE-SSE winds at 12-19 kt and seas 2-4 ft. We should be running with the seas so the ride shouldn't be too bad. I may be too tired to blog when we get in so don't be surprised if there aren't any posts till later in the week.

Cave Cay to Mangrove Cay
04/25/2011, Anchored on SW side of Mangrove Cay

Apr 24:

Synopsis: 39 nm in a little under 7 hr, winds 12 to 20 kt from ENE, wind within 20 deg of dead downwind entire dayl, close spaced 3 foot swells kept us wallowing all the way

We expected to be by ourselves here at Mangrove Cay. Even though the island is right on the most traveled path from the US to the Abacos, the guide books don't have much to say about it. From the lack of info, I got the impression that most travelers bypass Mangrove Cay and continue on to Great Sale Cay. So it was much to our surprise that 8 other boats ended up sharing the Mangrove Cay anchorage with us.

Manjack Cay to Cave Cay
04/25/2011, Anchorage on west side of Cave Cay

Sunset from Manjack Cay

Apr 23: The 34 nm passage from Manjack Cay to Cave Cay was completed in 9 hrs for an average speed just under 4 kts. The avg speed is so low because we spent about 2 hr running (walking, strolling?) at 3 kt in 5 to 7 kt winds. The seas were flat and the sailing smooth. Just a lovely passage.

Our previous visit to Cave Cay was back on Feb 26 as we passed out of the Bight of Abaco on our way to Marsh Harbour. Then we anchored on the east side to avoid west winds. This time we anchored on the west side to avoid the prevailing ENE wind that brought us here.

The Explorer Charts note that the "holding varies" on the west side of Cave Cay. We certainly found that to be true. On our first attempt at anchoring just off John Cove, the anchor failed to dig in at all. So we moved over to a white sand patch about 100 yards away and tried again. This time the anchor dug in and held 1900 rpm which would normally indicate a pretty secure set. When we snorkeled out to look at it, however, the anchor was laying on its side and only partially dug in. After some discussion, and a little bit of rationalizing, we decided to leave as it was. The set had shown that the anchor could hold the current wind, around 13 kt from the ENE, and the conditions were forecast to hold steady through the night and well into the next day.

We shouldn't have been so complacent. About two hours later just as the sun was setting, a dark could appeared off to the east. Included in the forecast had been the comment that there was a 20% chance of rain. I routinely ignore this part of the forecast because virtually every day in the Bahamas (and Florida for that matter) has "a 20% chance of rain". Included with rain showers are wind shifts that could move the boat around and trip our poorly set anchor.

We were lucky, however. It did began to sprinkle as I finished up bar-b-queuing the chicken for the evening meal, and the wind did clock around a little further to the east, but the anchor held and we enjoyed a peaceful meal and a reasonably good nights sleep.

Marsh Harbour to Manjack Cay
04/25/2011, Anchorage between Manjack Cay and Crab Cay

Marsh Harbour in our rear view mirror (so sad)

Apr 22: Ann and I left Marsh Harbour at 10am with Bruce and Ruth waving good-by from the dock. No sooner do you get good crew trained than it's time for them to fly home.

Our intended voyage for the day was the 27 nm run north to Manjack Cay. With the wind forecast to be out of the ENE, this portended to be an easy sail with only one complication. Getting to Manjack from Marsh Harbour requires navigating the dreaded Whale Cay Channel. (see the entry intitled "Green Turtle Cay to Treasure Cay for why it's dreaded).

The run from Marsh Harbour to the south end of Whale Cay was a fast beam reach in 8 to 13 kt of wind from the NNE. Till we passed Guana Cay the seas were flat making for ideal sailing conditions.

Past Guana, however, you have to pull out into the Atlantic Ocean to pass on the east side of Whale Cay. There, the seas were rough with a light chop on top of five foot swells. The ride was still acceptable, however, as the swells were pretty far apart. Jascat just wobbled from side to side. The worst part of the passage was getting slammed around by the wake of two big power boats going south around the Whale. Had we not been prepared, every dish in the galley would have ended up on the cabin floor.

Rounding the north end of Whale Cay and re-entering the Sea of Abaco through the Whale Cay Channel was almost anti-climatic. Jascat's wobbling motion smoothed out as we were now running with the swells. As we progressed back into the Sea of Abaco and into the lee of Green Turtle Cay, the swells and waves died out and we went back to smooth, broad reach sailing.

Manjack Cay proved to be as great a destination as the guide books claim. The anchorage between Manjack Cay and Crab Cay is as beautiful as we have seen in the Abacos. We passed by the island as we came into the Abacos back in March but were too pressed for time to stop. We won't make that mistake again.

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Who: John and Ann Barton (and Sarah, part time)
Port: San Antonio, Texas
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