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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Prep day to leave tomorrow
80, sunny
04/30/2009, West End, Grand Bahamas Island

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Well today was pretty much a "get ready for tomorrow" day. The morning entertainment though was watching a 120 ft mega yacht (Bella Bri) try and maneuver out of the marina. He was tied to the same wall we had a problem getting off of (the winds were up again this morning) so we spent the first few hours watching him try to get off the dock and back out. All I can say is I'm glad I don't have to try and jockey that behemoth around. It also made me feel better about our antics yesterday (after all - this was a professional captain and crew handling the ship).

After that it was time to start stowing things that can go pitching in the cabin. Then filling the water tank, taking the engine off the dinghy, putting the dinghy on the deck, then the all-important "What do you make to eat as far as comfort food for a 2 day, nonstop trip?" Why brownies of course. So I baked up some comfort food - banana muffins and brownies. Actually two batches of brownies, since we devoured ½ of the first batch... Check the weather, check the email, notify kin of path, play on the computer a bit, with my awesome internet connection I discover some people I know from teaching and made a connection (this takes a little longer of course).

Then chart plotter on, coordinates plugged in for the possible landings and the Gulf Stream. Quick shower, dinner and last minute blog check and update.

Now the plan -we're currently at West End on Grand Bahamas Island. Tomorrow we're going to leave the Old Bahamas Bay Marina around 6:00am since there is no northern wind component in the Gulf Stream. We've plotted a course for Ft. Pierce Florida and along that course line we've estimated where the middle of the Gulf Stream is. By using the Gulf Stream we'll get a 2-3 knot increase in our ground speed, going north (on the way down, we lost speed). We're actually not planning on going into Ft Pierce unless the waves are really rough - then we will. What we're planning on doing is going to the mid-pt where we plotted the gulf stream, and if all looks well, we're planning on shooting up to Fernandina Beach (St Mary's Inlet) and checking in to customs there. This is a 278-mile - non-stop trip unless we have problems. If we run into rough seas between Ft Pierce and Fernandina, we'll go in at Port Canaveral, which is 134 miles from here. These are nautical miles (larger than regular) so we are projecting that we'll be a couple days at sea.

Okay - Bermuda Triangle - here we come!

We'll keep the sand in our shoes until we return...

In to West End our last port in the Bahamas
Scattered showers, 80* winds E25
04/29/2009, Mangrove Cay, Little Bahamas Bank to West End Grand Bahama

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It saddens me to think that this was our last morning at anchorage in the Bahamas on this trip. Tonight we'll be in a marina at West End, Grand Bahamas Island, getting ready to cross back over to the U.S. The skies are darkening, as we get ready to depart. More later.

Dennis & Brian are still here at Old Bahamas Bay, West End. We saw their boat at anchor outside the harbor as we entered. The winds were really strong and pushing us onto the fuel dock as we came in. Heck we didn't need any lines to tie up to the dock really. Getting back off was not fun... I remember another fuel dock under a similar situation and didn't much want to try my hand at it with rocks right off our stern. I let Wayne try and maneuver us off this time to bring us off the fuel dock and into our slip. He had no luck. The marina called for reinforcements and it was full throttle forward with one hand holding our bowline so we could get the back of the boat off the dock, then full reverse hard to get away and try and get into the assigned slip. The currents and wind had other ideas though, and one of the dockhands was on board with us (we were using his leg muscles to push off too). We ended up going to another slip because we couldn't maneuver between a large cat with the winds and currents on one side and the cat on the other. We came in too fast taking out their fire extinguisher (how embarrassing).

All while this was going on, a couple of fishermen were trying to sell us lobster and said they'd make us a good deal and throw in some conch to boot; Now was not the time to argue that lobster is now out of season... I told them that we were a bit busy and to maybe come back tomorrow... After we got docked we heard one of the dockhands saying that maybe they should close the fuel dock until the winds died down... Now they tell us...

So we crunch their fuel dock, can't get off it, come in to our slip, take out their fire extinguisher on the dock, and are by now stressed... and I thought it would be easier on my stress level having Wayne bring us in.

Definite Gin and Tonic night - this time with olives... Can anyone say - martini, extra dry please? On the good side - I have internet access so am busily uploading my pictures that I couldn't last time I uploaded my blog...

I also heard from Carrie (hi Carrie!) and got an email from Chris and Marie (Spirit). It sounds like they had one heck of a crossing back to the states. I'm so glad they made it in one piece - it was not a gentle crossing at all with 12 foot seas... Marie and Chris - sending you a large heartfelt hug!

According to Dennis (Blue Max) this is the place where John Travolta had a condo and his son died (Old Bahamas Bay). It sounds like it was a tragic event. I hope they can find peace with what happened, and mourn privately. The place isn't all that crowded but more boats keep coming in. A 120-foot Mega Yacht (Bella Brie) is coming in now and churning up the path as it comes in. It's kind of an upscale place (a little expensive for our taste) and the minimum length they allow is 40 ft, so even though we're 36 ft, we have to pay for a 40 ft slip. I wonder if they'll charge us for taking out part of their docking system... hmmmm....

Weather permitting, we'll head out to cross Friday. Now, time to relaxxxxxx....

Dolphins to see us off...?
Mostly Sunny, 80*
04/28/2009, Great Sale to Mangrove Cay, Little Bahamas Bank

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

After listening to Bria give Chris Parker's weather report this morning, then searching unsuccessfully for our spare auto helm belt (we don't have one), we picked up our anchor, let out the Yankee and set course to Mangrove Cay, the half way point between Great Sale and West End on Grand Bahama. West End is our last stop on the Bahama Banks before we cross the Gulf Stream back to the U.S. It struck me that while I miss people back home, I'll miss our little boat when we have to leave it and the sense of freedom that I've come to know while living on it.

I started thinking about this last year. It seemed like it took us so long to get here. First in actually realizing that we might be able to make such a trip; second in planning to make it happen; then at long last, taking the plunge and actually releasing the little hummingbird spirit in us to fly from the north, southward to the warmer climes. It made me feel sad as the realization struck me - we're heading north and westward - away from the beautiful aqua waters, back towards home. This time wasn't enough. I'm not sure what I'm returning for. I'm not sure what I'm returning to. It's strange to think that living in 36 ft of space, on a floating piece of fiberglass and wood, could be at times confining, at times comforting, at times scary, and exhilarating. There's a sense of freedom that I've found here that I've never experienced before. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but I don't want to lose it. I don't want to give it up. It was such a gradual change. A letting go if you will. It will be interesting returning home. Another change of pace, another change of space. Unfinished business, unfinished pieces of life. I started getting glum when Wayne yelled "Dolphins!" "Grab your camera - they're swimming all around the boat and in our bow wake!"

I dashed below for my camera, thinking they'd be gone when I got back up topside, and ran to the bow. Sure enough, they were criss crossing under the bow and swimming along beside it, leaping in the air, and diving down under the boat to splash back up on the other side. I giggled, and had to contain my laughs of joy for fear of scaring them off. It was hard getting them in my camera sights, I was so busy, grinning like a fool, jumping up and down and pointing them out to Wayne (at the helm, trying to keep the sails from flogging as he watched too). Most of them were out of focus, but I got a couple decent shots. I was so elated to see them. It's been a while since they joined us. Then I was so sad again. I can only give this up if we can continue the journey again, after hurricane season. This can't be the end, only the beginning. As the song goes: "How many dreams does a lifetime get?" "Surely I haven't been through all mine yet..."

Mangrove Cay... it's more mangrove, less Cay, but a protected area from the east winds hopefully. I look around and see nothing but water surrounding us, and a little patch of mangroves in the water clinging to shallow marl mud. It offers us a resting place to spend the night. This may be my last night to blow the conch horn at sunset. The plan for tomorrow is to find a marina at West End to fuel up and fill our water tanks and get ready for a weather window to cross. Our last night this trip on an isolated little patch of Cay surrounded by.... Nobody...

05/03/2009 | allllisssssssa.
this is my favorite entry out of all that i've read.

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