Shore ExcursionKeith, a bit overcast and humid, but nice overall
11/02/2008, Lucian National Park
Jake, Anne, and I were invited to explore Grand Bahama island with Aiden and his parents in their rental car and we gladly accepted. We drove through West End Settlement, Through the "Town" of 8 Mile Rock, through Freeport, down the road to the Lucian National Park (don't know if I'm calling it by the right name). It was a very pleasant outing. There are underwater caves and burial grounds along the park trails that were quite beautiful. We hung out at their beautiful beach with its sand bar 50 feet off shore and took the forbidden passageway back to the rental car. The dogs had a blast and so did I. What a nice family. Rob has just come to the boat and we're talking about departing tonight since a weather window has opened up this evening.
NeighborsKeith, nice again
11/02/2008, West End, Grand Bahama
We've got another beautiful day here on the West End of Grand Bahama island. The kind of day that makes me wonder why I didn't just depart last night in spite of the gusting winds and higher than predicted seas. As a result of the winds last night, the seas are kicked up to 6 feet so tonight's window is probably scrapped as well. It is definitely trending to calmer this week but the next really sweet spot isn't until Friday, another five days off. I expect it will become safe to cross in the next several days and will go when a good window opens again. In the meantime, I'm keeping myself busy. Unlike my neighborhood in Tucson, everyone gets to know everyone at the marina. That's the infamous Rob across from me waiting for his window to cross in his little two masted canoe boat and a new arrival, Aiden, who is here with his parents vacationing at the resort. He has befriended Jake and Anne, as you can see. I got to know the family when I helped them to take over sailing the Hobie yesterday afternoon. The conditions were perfect and they did great without any trouble at all.
Departure Delayed Another DayIncreasing wind
11/01/2008, West End, Grand Bahama
It is 9:00 p.m. and the wind has picked up to around 20 knots per hour. A small craft advisory has been issued for ports north of West Palm. That pretty much scraps tonight's departure. The weather forecast for tomorrow night (Sunday night) is more favorable in terms of wind speed and wave height, but not wind direction. Tonight would be better conditions for sailing across, but it would be rather aggressive and could get rough across the gulf stream since there the wind has a north element. No, I think I'll wait until tomorrow night to depart. No use taking chances with just myself and the dogs. We'll survive in paradise for one more day.
The Afternoon Before The Crossing HomeKeith, Perfect
11/01/2008, West End, Grand Bahama
It's a little after 5:00 p.m. I am planning on heading out across the gulf stream after midnight tonight. Today was a beautiful day. Makes me want to stay the in Bahamas and wait for the rest of the sailors to come, but this trip is over and it is time to depart for home. There will be other cruising adventures, maybe even greater than this one. Rob helped me to put the dingy on the foredeck. I've started to secure it but it needs a little more work. Boat is ready for the crossing as far as I can tell. There are a number of things left to do, but nothing that monumental. I spend the afternoon at the straw bar listening to the live music and enjoying a late lunch. Managed to get in some sailing on one of the resort sailboats this afternoon. It verified to me that we are in for some serious sailing on the way back to the US. I've got 3/4 of a tank of gas and I anticipate that will be way more than enough since we will be sailing back to the US tonight whether or not the motor is on. Going to try and get some shut eye in a little bit since I'll be up shortly after midnight. This Bahamas adventure is coming to a close, but hopefully it won't be too long before we are back, whoever we turns out to be.
Watching The Freighter DepartPerfect
10/31/2008, West End
Last night was one of the those perfect tropical sunsets. The sky was redder than I had ever seen. As I was taking the dogs for an evening walk I noticed that the freighter that had earlier unloaded tons of supplies to the island was calmly pulling up its docking lines in preparation for departure. Eventually the ship was held in place only by the rear door lying on the hard. Then they raised it and were slowly on their way. Heading out into the relatively calm ocean with the darkening red sky ahead, the captain and crew probably thought they had the best jobs in the world and for that moment they did. Now, 12 hours later, another front has come in and it has been blowing between 20 and 30 knots inside the marina. I've got the wind gen on and it is providing the power for this posting. I created a list of things to do yesterday for the first time in a long time but didn't get to any of them. Instead I rode the bike into town again with friend Rob and wound up having fried shrimp, cracked conch, and french fries (i.e. everything was fried) at the only restaurant that was serving. While in town we checked out the old Texaco Star marina which was once the nicest in West End and which is now run down and nearly in ruins. They will store Rob's boat there for $100 per month if he can't get out during the next planned weather window. When we got back I was too pooped to do anything and wound up watching a movie and snacking until bedtime. Woke up at 6:00 a.m. to this howling wind. Thankfully the boat is well secured at the dock and I don't have to worry about the anchor holding, waves, or taking the dingy to and from shore. It still amazes me the amount of hard weather I've encountered in the Bahamas this trip. Probably 7 or 8 cold fronts or the equivalent at this point in additional to all the rain and humidity and bugs at first. There have certainly been some nice days, but a lot of hard weather too. It's generally pretty mild in Tucson so it's been a completely new experience. This is the 3rd front since I arrived at the marina. I've been checking weather regularly and its looking pretty good for the crossing Sunday night and Monday. Listening to the wind this early morning that is hard to believe.
Fresh-Made Conch Salad In West End SettlementPerfect weather
It was a spectacular day on Grand Bahama Island. Sun, clear sky, light breeze, the sort of day they depict in the advertisements. Spent some time at the beach with the dogs and new friend Rob, then took one of the resort bikes into the settlement to do some provisioning (bread, eggs, cheese, onion, canned fruit and meat, candy, batteries, rum, etc.) Its about a 7 mile ride to the end of the settlement and back and I really enjoyed it. Stopped along the way at Dr. Conch for some fresh-made conch salad. You can see from the pile of conch shells near the shack that he's made a few conch dishes in his day. He took the conch out of the shell, cut off the skin, and diced the raw mollusk meat, then diced some onion and tomato and added the juice of four lime halves. Finished with some home-made hot pepper sauce and it was time to eat. I was a bit wary but it was actually quite good. Very fresh tasting, not "fishy" at all.. like ceveche but without time for the seafood to "cook" in the lime juice. I couldn't finish it all and took some back to the boat for later (or to add to the dog's food, depending on what it takes like the second time). On the way back I stopped at the resort front desk to drop off last night's movie and to pick up two more. I've been watching more and more movies. Didn't have the time or patience before, but now I do and I've been enjoying them nearly every night before bedtime. It's a good time to cozy up with the dogs and relax from the hard day of... well of nothing particularly hard except for some bad weather sailing. I starting getting into the nightly movies when the weather was particularly bad. I would close up the cabin and turn off the light and it was almost like I wasn't rocking and rolling at anchor out on the water in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Having spent a few days at the marina I can say without a doubt I'm hooked (so to speak). So pleasant and convenient and social. Not that I would always stay at marinas, just that I plan to stay at them more often in my future cruising. I'm sure my crew will appreciate that as well. Jake and Anne have been able to go on and off the boat a lot more often since we're right at the wall. And there is a 3-4 hour period each day where the tide is so low that it is too far for them to jump from the boat up to the dock, so I can leave them on deck and have some time away from each other. There is technically a weather window to cross tonight, but the forecast is for up to 7 foot seas due to the recent bout of windy weather from the north. I could do it, but I just checked and the National Weather Service is predicting 2-3 foot seas for Monday. Light seas are by far the preferred scenario for ocean crossings. That means I have to stay in this beautiful, modern marina resort for five more nights but if it means an easy, safe crossing, I suppose it's worth it. I'll do it for the dogs, if not for myself. I'll force myself to be happy here (just kidding, of course, I'm happier here than I've been in weeks of stressful bad weather). If the conditions are right, I would even consider sailing farther north than West Palm and avoiding a few extra days on the ICW to get to a place where I can store the boat less expensively. Maybe a window will come sooner - maybe another front will come down and ruin it. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm heading up to the deck to enjoy what is gearing up to be a great sunset.
The Calm Before The Cold Front10/28/2008, West End, Grand Bahama
This was the twilight view from the boat last night. Yesterday was a relatively calm and sunny day, one of maybe 10 I've enjoyed since I arrived in the Bahamas. At least the cold front that has arrived this morning is not accompanied by rain and clouds. It's sunny and very windy today, which is a lot better psychologically than when I'm holed up in the boat with the ports closed to keep out the moisture. Enjoyed a brisk walk around the resort with the dogs and then a nice breakfast at the restaurant with friend Rob. I think today is laundry day. I haven't done it since I arrived in the Bahamas 1.5 months ago (don't ask how). I've got enough tokens for three washes and three drys, which should do it. I now understand why the guidebooks say one can be stuck here waiting for a window to cross for weeks at a time. For those of you thinking about cruising in the Bahamas, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time because when the fronts start coming, there's nothing you can do but sit back, relax, and wait until it is time to cruise again.
Rob's Little Sailboat Awaiting A Crossing WindowWindy
10/28/2008, Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Bahamas
I spent a second night at the marina and awoke at 1:30 in the morning to more heavy winds. Another cold front is coming through and this is the biggest one yet. Sure am glad I'm at the marina and not at anchor. Gin has built a beautiful resort here and it's well protected from the wind and seas and has all sorts of nice amenities. Another great place to be stranded while waiting out the weather. The boat in the picture is the one Rob sailed from Little Harbor several weeks ago. There's a picture of it in my blog from when I was there. He got this far and has been stuck for almost two weeks waiting for a weather window. He actually made a go across the gulf stream about a week ago but got turned around by the coast guard when they inspected his boat and found he was lacking flares (which I have plenty of) and then turned him back. He had to sail 6 hours back to West End. What a let down. Now he's seriously considering shipping the boat back and flying home but that is extremely expensive. I'm determined to motorsail back and will wait out the wind and waves until my window comes. Fortunately I'm not on a schedule and this is a fine place to hang out with the dogs until calm weather eventually comes as it must eventually... right?...
Docked Safely At Old Bahama Bay Marina In West End, Grand Bahama10/27/2008
This was the view from the dock next to my sailboat as it started to get light this morning. Jake has parked himself on the dock next to the boat. Anne is still on board for now. Soon it will be time for breakfast and a long walk. It looks like its going to be a pretty nice day day weather wise. There's plenty to do here in preparation for the crossing to Florida in several (or more) days and I aim to relax and enjoy my stay at this Bahamian resort before heading back home.
Twilight Shore Excursion10/27/2008
Singer Family Adventures
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