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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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The transit back - a longggg day...
05/01/2009, West End Bahamas (N26*42.079 W78*59.484) to Fernandina Beach Florida (N30*38.277 W81*28.167)

Friday, May 1, 2009

As usual before any undertaking, I didn't sleep much and ended up getting up at 4:30 this morning. Footloose and another boat pulled out around 6am and we pulled in our mooring lines and left the harbor right before sunrise during twilight (close to 6:30am). We seemed to be running against the current for the longest time. Heading at 310* we were showing a ground speed of 3.8 knots while our speed through the water showed 5.1. The sun felt good and the seas were about 2 feet. A little more wind would have been nice but hey...motor sailing works. We put out our fishing line again and kept heading northward.

I probably forgot to mention that after going through all the belts and possible other hiding places we might store belts; we never did find one for our auto helm. We decided to MacGyver (spelling?) the broken one with strapping tape (not duct tape) running around the outer perimeter of the belt and hook it back up. So far, so good...

0900 - We had flying fish leaping and soaring out of our way but no fish were interested in our line with the pink hula skirt. Around 12:30 we gained a knot more in speed from 5.1 to 6.5 knots. The waves became more "swell" than wave and were pretty rhythmic. It was like the ocean was breathing in and out with little dancing ripples on the surface of the swells.

Around 2:30 the waves started growing back from 2-4 ft. Not much going on really - we haven't seen much boat activity out here - just endless horizon. The Cirrostratus clouds are becoming more status type further northwest. We saw a few freighters and passed them - interesting to think about what life is like aboard one of those behemoths.

Around 1800 as the sun got lower in the sky, I was hoping the auto helm belt would hold out through the night. This is when we really could use it - at night. I busted out the tuna/macaroni salad for dinner and turned on and fine-tuned the radar for our night sail. Wayne put a reef in the sail, just in case, with clouds on the horizon, the middle of the night is not the time to climb up top and try and put a reef in the main during bad weather.

It was a beautiful sunset tonight, the clouds turned cotton candy pink and looked like a wispy wedge coming down to meet the horizon in front of a blue sky. Pretty to gaze at... Blue sky, pink clouds, sunset, small waves on a flat sea...

We separated our watches into 2-4 hour shifts so we can catch some sleep (or try to).

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....

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