April 20th we left Clearance Town, Long Island at 0300 for Great Inagua, the south eastern most island in the Bahamas. The wind was 15 kts with 1m - 2m seas on the beam making for a lively sail. That night the wind picked up and gusted 22 kts as we romped along in the dark. The moon two past full was hidden in a partly cloudy sky after it rose just before midnight.
We set the anchor off Mathew Town at noon just before the rain squalls hit gusting to 25 kt. Our buddy boat BAKA wasn't so lucky. They lagged behind us several hours by mid night and got hit with some squalls that we made it past. Having their boat knocked down by the wind and waves caused Jewels to fall on the stairs down to her cabin and bump her head. That, and some generator malfunctions, and loosing their dingy the first night anchored in Mathew Town, made them decide not to carry on with us but to sit back and regroup. Some times it is a very fine line between riding in your personal comfort zone and too much.
We spent three days in the VERY rolly anchorage off Mathew Town, talking to boats coming from other Caribbean islands to check into the Bahamas at this remote spot.
We ourselves checked out Easter weekend for Panama, leaving Saturday at 1700 after a southern squall. We had been in the Bahamas five great months. I think we will always keep the Bahamas as a place to go for some easy living.
We arrived in Colon, Panama this morning, Saturday, making 850 kt mi in 7 days. The first day we had good winds, 15 kt and 1m -2m seas.
The 2nd and 3rd day were almost calm and we just drifted along east of Cuba and Jamaica at about 3-4 kt.
The 4th and 5th days were very windy and wavy, 16 kt- 18 kt gusting 22 kt with 2m-3m seas on the beam, so we made good progress. At night the phosphorescence in the water gave us a sparkling show that made us feel as if we were sailing on a fantasy ocean.
The last day was light wind and we started the motor at supper and motor sailed to Colon arriving at Shelter Bay Marina at 0900. We were advised by Henry, the previous owner and friend that by the time we left the Caribbean we would be used to 20 kt winds. We now conceder them acceptable if not on the bow!
On this passage, our first long offshore sail, we realized the importance of good equipment. I am convinced that the best money I spent was on (1) the Marine Single Side Band Radio with which we receive our weather routing info and keep our family updated daily with position reports via e mail. When a medical emergency arose hundreds of miles and days from shore we were able to e mail for advice. (2) The Monitor wind vane self steering unit. We would never have been able physically put in the hours of concentration needed to steer the boat for days in 20 kt winds and 2m - 3m seas. At no time was I able to keep as good as course as it did! Using no power I am sure it will be the last piece of equipment working in a deteriorating situation. If you are planning trips longer than just an overnight passage, where an electric auto pilot would suffice, I would recommend considering this unit.
We will be here about a week I think, making minor repairs and arrangements to leave the boat in July. There is a marked difference in the boats down here as compared to those in Georgetown, these are more of a function over form variety, set up for offshore work and remote sailing. Many of the sailors here have been where we want to go so we will spend some time with them taking notes. It used to be called networking but now we call it happy hour. A much preferred name and attitude.
Georgetown to Long Island
Cats have taken over the big bunk as all the company is gone!
Had a great sail over to Long Island, then the rest of the day spent reading. Next day up early and off to Clarence Town, 2/3 the way down Long Island. Eventful trip.
1) Randy caught a beautiful Maui Maui after loosing a big something, maybe over 50 pounds! Lost yet another lure! Another fish with a lip ring! Hope he shakes it!
2)We saw our first water spout! We able to steer around it and the pictures don't do it justice, but the surrounding winds and drop in air temperature were impressive!
3)We were healed over so much that the low fuel tank got a air lock and the engine died. As we had to get 50 miles in, because it is recommend that we don't enter Clarence Town Harbour in the dark that was an issue. Randy saved the day and fixed it.
4) Saw the monument up in the hill acknowledging Christopher Columbus! While we are waiting on weather here toured the town. They have a small population but 2 churches. The local fellow we hitched hiked a ride with, yes mother I hitch hiked, told us most of the islanders were Anglican. He thought he would be able to sell more fish with upcoming Good Friday! Saw some interesting flowers, salt beds, and surroundings. As I write the boat is rolling side to side significantly, hanging on the hook! Randy and I just came in from lying on the bow, looking at the almost full moon. How blessed are we! Went to the Blue Hole and how lucky are we, there is a diving competition here! We saw the women's recorded being broken - a Russian woman went 100 meters down! She is in the yellow wet suit. Canada is represented by the guy in the Speedo beside her! These folks are true athletes. Sunday we saw Serbia represented by Lena do almost 68 meters! Her cirrent record is 62 meters! Wow! Too bad there isn't more money and fame in it for them! Spectators can get in the water and watch from outside the white ring. Got a ride home with a boater we helped yesterday. The motor boaters didn't like the ringing in their rigging through the previous night so she had to turn her 48 foot sail boat around. Not so easy a feat but her hired Captain and a few helping hands did a good job turning it the other way! On the way home saw some wild goats running about and more salt ponds. It is hard getting used to travelling on the left side of the road. One of the fishing boats at the marina had a fighting chair. Reminded me of a birthing chair from work! Took a few picks of refuelling. Sometimes it is easier to get fuel and water with cans rather then bring the big boat in. Our aluminium dingy is making quite the impression. I love it and it feels more secure and sea worthy then many of the inflatable's we see. The dingy is our car and the 15 horse power is barely enough at times to get us where we need to go. Had some new friends over for happy hour. They sailed from Spain, are from Holland and have been to St Lucia and are on their way to the states. Wonderful couple. So many adventures, brave people and fun things to do. A sailor's life for me! Tonight I asked Randy if this was his dream come true and he says yes, but the constant watching of weather is more work then he though it would be. It is our life line, to make wise decisions based on what weather is coming our way. Hope all is well in the great, less white, north! Dawn
Black point, Galliot to George Town
We had a great sail from Blackpoint to Galliot Cut. Arriving at slack high tide allowed us to snorkel over a shallow coral reef between Big Farmer's and Galliot. Tom and Marty who were down visiting tried spearing some fish but the tidal current picked up and forced us to move to a calmer reef before they had any luck. There was a bit of discussion on which fish they were shooting at as they look different in the water swimming away from you than the side view in the book.
Leaving at dawn the next morning through Galliot Cut was a bit of a challenge as the tidal current was against us, but fortunately the ocean was calm and we only had waves of several feet to motor through. The wind was light so we didn't get the sails up until late morning. After studying the manual we were able to get the Monitor Wind Vane self steering working better than ever. Tom for his want of blue water sailing said he found Lake Superior more challenging than anything we had in the Exuma Sound! Hope it keeps that way for our crossing to Panama.
In Georgetown we spent time on Stocking Island beach swimming and playing in the waves. Tom's may comments that the sun is so hot here that he feels like he is melting into the; sand, the road, the deck, prompted Dawn to do some sand art of a couple "melting into the sand", see photos. In the morning before it got very hot we went for some hikes along the Island's trails. The signs on one trail made identifying bushes easy.
Tom, Kelly and Marty were off on the 9th back to Pennsylvania and Ontario. Hope spring comes soon for them. They all got a good start on their summer tans! We have been glad to have had summer for a year almost now.
Randy is checking the boat over and doing some repairs for our up coming passage to Panama and had to run around town for some engine hose but now all is ready to go. Well almost every thing. The salt water really keeps you busy cleaning the rust of the stainless hardware. What we had to polish once a season at home in fresh water we have to do every two weeks here. The Sailing directions list April and May as the best period to cross the Caribbean to Panama from the Bahamas, the best wind and the least chance of seas over 10 feet. Here we go!
George Town to Staniel Cay
March 26 had yet another birthday celebration at the Chat and Chill. I really like to work this birthday thing! Night before had a party with Kat and Paul from La Vita, they brought a cake! Company got delayed a day as they had a fire in Miami airport! Many people spent the night in the airport, Tom, Kelly and Marty drove 42 miles to find a hotel to stay for the night. Eventually they came after 7 pm on the 27th! Had a weather window so took off back up the Exumas to Farmers. Had a nice snorkle on the reef then settled down for happy hour on the boat. We are teaching them the Bahamian sailor routine and they are adapting well. Next day Randy took them to the cave and another snorkel. Then we sailed off to Staniel because yet another system is coming through. System used to mean another totally different thing to be in the working world! Staniel Cay stop has included trip to town to see the sharks and get propane, ships stores and happy hour on the beach. Today the guys are going to spear fish with another more experience couple from Owen Sound. Crew is hoping to get lobster for supper!
April 4: So the crew brought back 3 lobster and a grouper! Next day the weather being uncooperative with the wind out of the west made the anchorage rough so we spent the day onboard, reading. Randy is teaching the crew Bahamian Dominos. Tom swam to shore, and we braved the surf to go for you guessed it happy hour! The crew is mastering blowing conch at sunset, Kelly being the master next to Randy so far. Sailed out of Big Major spot and to Bitter Guana, where we had the anchorage to ourselves and swam, snorkled and visited the iguana on shore. Today are doing laundry and showering at Blackpoint! At the internet café we have to buy beer to use internet so excuse the ramblings! Love to all, Randy, Tom, Marty, Kelly and Dawn
Had a great few days with Jen and Mark playing in the waves, playing dominoes and visiting with Kat and Paul from La Vita. George Town music festival was on this last weekend and we ate some great food and listened to some Bahamian music. Met some other travelers - pilots from Italy who fly the world! Faster way to travel than us but seems like they are having a good time too! Did some water runs - drive the dingy to town, a few miles away and fill our 10 gallon jugs - 2 of them at a time to fill our 100 gallon tank. RO - Reverse osmosis water is available here for free! We have a parts per million checker for the water and it tests under 200 usually. We decide how much chlorine bleach we add based on the results. On one of the runs, Jen was in charge of the hose and accidentally, I think, hosed the guys down! Jen also drove the dingy 15 horse power Yamaha motor, we were all so proud! Jen made a birthday dinner for me - mac and cheese and cherry cheese cake! Just like mom was here! Mark and Jen are back to Canada, our friends Sue and Mark from Michigan joined us, only for a few days. Had some swimming and sailing fun - sailed around Stocking Island on Thursday. Sue loved the colors of green and blue of the water. Mark mastered the art of couch blowing very quickly! Today clean up, beach time and La Vita's Kat and Paul for supper. They have a change in plans and are going back to Toronto for the summer and then off to the BVI's - British Virgin Islands, in the fall. They are storing their boat here. They have been most generous and given us much of their canned goods! Tomorrow is my birthday - 54 years young! Getting nervous of the passage to Panama, watching weather patterns and talking to folks that have more experience than us. Not sure if I am ready for a week passage with no land, 3 hour watches. Glad we both have experience with shift work and sleep deprivation! Thinking of doing the passage with out extra crew as the hassle of trying to met up with someone and going on the weather window as they come up would be hard. But before that challenge we have our friend Tom and his brother Marty and wife Kelly joining us tomorrow for 2 weeks! Tom and Marty have sailed with Randy in cold Lake Superior, so I think they will enjoy the temperature change here! Hope to be able to go to Conception and maybe Long Island, weather and God willing! Take care, be brave and safe out there! Dawn
We are back in Georgetown after a week or so of easy living in the out islands of the Exuma chain. The wind determined that we would revisit with our adventuresome friends Jen and Mark, some of the places that Dawn and I had explored.
We met up with Brenda and John, on Some Dream, in Big Major's Spot after several years of talk and numerous e mails and SPOT messages. Instant plans took us to a happy hour and a bon fire on the beach with the other boats anchored there. A Saturday fund raiser for the Staniel Island all age school children's trip to nearby island communities filled us with local dishes of Conch Fritters, Conch Soup, Sous Soup, Ribs, peas and rice, and Johnny Cake. The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling from convenience store to store ( 3 ) searching the shelves for interesting meal ideas. The slim pickings left us with a box of Rice Crispies, at an outrageous price, that Jen turned into great squares.
We used Sunday's wind to sail with Some Dream10 miles north to Little Halls Pond, an island in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We swam over great coral heads and multitudes of colorful fish then sunned ourselves on soft sandy beaches before our pot luck supper.
Monday's fresh breeze took us 30 miles south to Galliot Cay where we spent two more stress free days drifting in the tidal currents over coral, combing rocky shores for fire wood for a beach bon fire, and yes, sunning our selves on soft sandy beaches. We also talked on the radio to some of our boating friend as they sailed north on their long voyages home. It's sad to see them pass leaving us with memories of good times and a wish of fair winds and safe travels.
Wednesday afternoon the anchorage started to fill with boats staging for the sail south to Georgetown in the favorable wind predicted for Thursday. There was a group discussion on the radio in the evening on the best tactic to get through the narrow Galliot Cut between the islands out to Exuma Sound. The passage has to be timed with the tides as strong currents and standing waves are set up due to the volume of water flowing on and off "The Banks" behind the barrier islands. When we went through at dawn Thursday, an hour after high tide, there was a seven knot current carrying us out and three foot standing waves.
The morning breeze was good as we beat to the south east but in the afternoon it picked up to 17 gusting 20 with 2 meter waves that sprayed the cockpit more than the once which is enough. We were all well worn by our fresh sail by the time we reached Georgetown eight hours later. We arranged to meet Tsumie, one of the boats that made the passage with us, at the Chat and Chill on the beach for supper. New friendships were formed as the sun set on another satisfying day.