Day 5: There's 2 Crab Cays!
May/22/2012, Crab Cay, Little Abaco Island to Crab Cay off Manjack Cay
After our first dolphin and shark sighting in the picturesque bay of Crab Cay, we were off to Green Turtle to meet up with Steve and Bonnie (Luna Sea) and also some friends of theirs that had flown in. We made it pretty close before the weather let us know that pulling into a slip wasn't going to happen anytime soon. The sky opened up dumping inches of rain and the winds kicked up to around 18 knots. We dropped sail, put the Diesels to work and charged into an Anchorage at Manjack Cay. We came in hot weaving through some boats that were already anchored. Of course, with the pouring rain, wind and unfamiliar anchorage, the windless (winch that controls the anchor/chain) decides to malfunction for the first time ever! Alarms start going off, Rach and I can't even hear each other because the rain is so loud and the windless is letting chain out on its own. I threw open the door to the engine room, killed the main breaker for the windless and headed back to the bow to check on our situation. Somehow Rach had hooked up the anchoring bridle in all the chaos at 60 feet of chain. I don't know how she did it, but it allowed for perfect anchoring and overall boat position. We pulled the rest of the chain up by hand and decided to wait to troubleshoot the windless until the weather passed (turned out our fancy remote control failed...luckily we hooked up redundant push button controls last year so we were all set). The best part is that the friends that we were headed to Green Turtle to meet up with were also anchored in Manjack! We were right next to them so it provided a great playground for us to hold up for the night and share some cocktails with our neighbors.
Day 4: Wifi and Cell Service…hmmm
flat seas, sunny with a few clouds and the typical afternoon sprinkle
May/21/2012, Great Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay, umm, nope, how about Crab Cay on Little Abaco Island instead?
So it's Monday again, which means work! Funny thing is, the Islands in Little Bahama Bank and the Northern Abacos aren't exactly "wired in". We had a light cell signal in Great Sale Cay, but Luna Sea's signal wasn't strong enough to guarantee contact with friends that were flying in for a few days, so they headed out at 07:00 toward Green Turtle Cay, the first "more" populated island in the Abacos where their friends were arriving via plane + water taxi. We slept a little longer and opted to watch the service as we circled north of Great Sale, leaving at 09:04. We made it all the way to Little Sale Cay at 10:22 and "poof" goodbye cell service! We headed back toward Great Sale and opted to drift for an hour while D called into his morning conference call. It was pretty funny watching him hold his phone in the air while on his headset trying to boost his signal. I had to make him a tent outside because if he came inside he would lose signal. I tried to fish, but was depressingly unsuccessful...there just doesn't seem to be any fish in the Little Bahama Bank, we can't even see them through the crystal clear water!
Anyway, after a few hours of drifting and "working remotely" we were clear to head East toward Green Turtle. We were 2 hours away when we made an executive decision to call it a day. We'd been motoring now for three full days (FL to West End to Great Sale, plus today) and we just wanted a chill night. Derek had started to get delirious in the heat and was starting to make his own rap videos with his phone...I think Matt is the only one who actually received and early preview of D's new single. I pulled out my charts and found a protected anchorage off the Northern tip of Little Abaco Island called Crab Cay. We radioed ahead to Luna Sea with our plans and altered our course to Crab Cay.
Crab Cay was beautiful! We pulled into anchorage to find only one monohull at anchor. The waters were clear and a light breeze allowed us to easily set anchor in the sandy bottom. The best part was we were greeted by two dolphins that playfully swam within a foot of our port hull; one of the dolphins even altered his swim and breathing pattern to quickly blow air/water at us several time as if to say "hello" (check out the video). Being that it was only 16:30, we grabbed the paddleboard and a few beers and decided to explore the waters and beaches in Crab Cay.
Let's just say I'm not the most coordinated paddle boarder when (at least not when I'm in the front contending natural water/wave movement from the front and Derek's movement behind me). Regardless of the shaky start, we were able find our dolphin friends again and paddle right alongside them for nearly 10 minutes! They headed into deeper water so we opted to head to shore. Right as we encountered small shore waves and became a little more unstable, we looked beneath us to find a 4 ft nurse shark (actually Alana and Ella are doing research to verify the shark type)! I sat down just to make sure I didn't shake either one of us off the board! After safely landing on shore we explored the shoreline which was pretty rocky, but still beautiful. It was filled with flora and the palm trees were filled with coconuts. Derek perfected his throwing arm and aim and knocked down a few coconuts. He went "castaway" style and found some knife-like and hammer-like rocks and cracked 'em open. It was ridiculous how full the coconut was! There was so much coconut water that we couldn't finish one between the two of us. The drink was so clean and quenching confirming your ability to survive on coconut juice if ever you were stranded on an island!
We finally paddled back to the boat before the bugs came out, made some drinks and Derek grilled up dinner. In the peace of the night, we slipped into sleep as the boat bobbed in the wind wondering what tomorrow will bring...
Day 2: An early morning, ridiculously calm seas, but no wind
No moon, clear until the rain storms rolled in!
May/19/2012, Lake Worth, FL to West End (Settlement Point), Grand Bahama Island
So night came and went pretty fast. By the time we set up our thermal night vision cam, ate dinner and hit the sack it was around 23:00. We were up (not bright eyed and bushy tailed) at 03:00 making some coffee and ready to pull up anchor. The anchorage was lit up by the surrounding West Palm/Reviera Beach lights, so unhooking and motoring out the inlet was a breeze. Just as we entered open ocean, Luna Sea hailed us on the radio only a few minutes behind us. With radar, gps, night vision and our VHF we set course to the West End, Grand Bahama Island.
The night sail was extremely uncharacteristic compared to all our other "offshore" night crossings. First, the seas were completely calm, actually bathtub calm and there was NO WIND, unlike our 30+ knots of wind experienced on all other night sails! While we would have preferred sailing to the Bahamas in the serenity of no motors, that wasn't happening today. We motored the whole way to the Bahamas! There wasn't even enough wind for the jib! Derek and I even had the chance to take shifts and catch up on the missed sleep the night before. We navigated around some tanker and cruiseship traffic along with a few other sail and motor vessels and we even dodged between a few thunder and lightning storms - the funnel clouds and rainbows were awesome! We did get a little wet as one storm caught up to us (sorry Steve!) but all in all it was a pretty uneventful trip
We rolled into West End and the Old Bahama Bay Marina around 12:20, right as a huge downpour hit... we could only laugh as anchoring and tying up in the rain has become a standard practice for us! It could be the most beautiful blue sky day and out of nowhere right when we want to drop the hook or pull into a marina, a single black cloud rushes in and dumps on us - only to cease raining just as we shut off the engines! Old Bahama Bay was no exception to the rule - at least we got a shower in today!
After the rain passed, D got the customs paperwork out of the way and we headed to the resort lobby to check out this quiet little town. We borrowed the resort's free, one speed beach cruisers and went for a ride around the Bahama Bay beach homes. After that, we headed to "town", which consists of a few small stores and two restaurants, all of which don't cater to the tourist...guess that's what the resort is there for. There was a somber mood in the town and everyone was wearing black on account of a funeral (which we only learned of after returning to the resort), so we felt a little out of place in bright colored shirts/shorts bopping around town among the crowded streets of locals in black, all of whom were moving from church to a local bar? We headed back to the resort as it started to drizzle a little unsure how different the Bahamas may really be from all the places we traveled before...
Back at the resort, a local fisherman stopped by with Conch and Lobster tail, so we joined our friends, Steve and Bonnie, aboard Luna Sea for a night of drinks and good food. The bugs came out and only attacked Derek (its great hanging outside with him since all the bugs eat him rather than me). We called it a night fairly early so we could get up in the morning for the second full day of motoring towards the Abacos.
Day 1: Finally, we traverse the St. Lucie Inlet!
Blue skies with 12 kt winds
May/18/2012, Stuart, FL to Lake Worth (West Palm Beach), FL
After a day delay, which we actually needed just to get ourselves packed and the boat provisioned, we had mom and dad drop us of in Stuart midday. We had already picked up a new block (pulley) and the only thing left was to hoist Derek up the mast (all the way up) for a block replacement. After knot tying lessons with me, he finally figured out the bowline knot and up the mast he goes. You realize how tall our mast is when you have to physically hoist a 165 lb man 60 feet with a line and a winch!
After an hour or so, Derek was back down on the boat deck. After a quick engine fluid check, Soul was powered up and ready for her next great leg of the journey! We left the docks around 2 PM and opted to take on the St. Lucie Inlet...never done it before, it was low tide, just dredged and we really didn't have any desire to motor all the way to West Palm in the Intracoastal Waterway. So, in a sand shifting inlet, we carefully navigated out to the open ocean, the lowest water was about 4.2 feet, so there is definitely some sand moving on the bottom, but with our 3.5 ft draw, we were out in open water in no time.
The winds were great, so we hoisted the main, unfurled the jib and shut down the engines. The Gulf Stream is only 5-7 miles offshore near Stuart, FL and its current runs NE, so we tried to grab the counter current closer to shore so we weren't fighting the current all the way to West Palm. We sailed under clear skies to Lake Worth inlet and an hour before sunset anchored up south of Peanut Island. We radioed "Luna Sea" (Steve and Bonnie) to confirm a 3:30AM rendezvous on the outside of the inlet for our sister sail to the Bahamas!!!
Day 0: Delayed a day for good reason
May/17/2012, Stuart, FL
So it is finally time to sail again! Yippee!
First, we just wanted to say "Thanks" mom and dad for letting us crash at your place for the last couple months... It's been great and we'll be visiting soon!
So onto leg number two...or at least the days coming before it...
Soul Purpose had a few weeks on the hard getting some tender love and care from Hinckley and from us. She underwent an acid wash and wax, sail drive flush on both sides, a new engine baffle, a couple new thru hulls to accept a new fish finder and an air conditioning unit (we even have heat now - not that we need it in FL, but it sure would have been nice in October in RI!). Soul Mate, our dinghy, even got a new 6hp motor which is 30 lbs lighter and has an on board gas tank, so in total it is down 50lbs making it possible for me to finally lift the dinghy's stern when we hoist it onto the boat davits! And D probably thinks the whole boat is faster too :). So, the boat was put back in the water Monday the 14th of May and we pretty much moved back on board to test all the systems, new and old.
We were debating when the next leg would start, but it was a chance meeting with another couple sailing their catamaran "Luna Sea" that pushed us toward a Thursday departure...Thursday was only a few days away, so we started putting the boat back together ~ it's amazing how discombobulated a boat can become when its being worked on...I've been through every cabinet and sorted through nearly every nook and cranny slowly filtering out the "stuff we just don't need" which was a second round of cleansing after the move to FL, but it was overdue as we had way too many blankets, books, etc on board. So as the boat came back together, we had to do a sea trial, replace our topping lift rope, provision and have the rigging checked. We needed to wait a few days for the boat to retake her shape in the water vs. sitting on her keels on land (it affects how the rigging pulls/pushes/etc). So Wednesday, Florida Rigging was scheduled to come aboard. It was great to have experts aboard that could answer all the technical questions that "Sailing for Dummies" couldn't several years ago ;). So all was good, only a few rub protectors for the cross-stays and some recommendations to replace a few lines was required. After the "experts" departed, we thought we'd be off to the races in the AM...
It was a calm afternoon so we decided to hoist the main while the boat was at the dock to ensure nothing had been messed up while she was stored away (we did have a bird nest in the boom afterall just days before, yuck!). After dropping the sail, I was zipping the sailbag and took a quick look at the main halyard block (pulley) and was very upset to find out it was cracked! Probably the most important block on the boat and Florida Rigging missed it! Derek's following up with them on the HUGE miss...regardless of how that turns out we couldn't ignore it and of course it was too late to hit West Marine for parts...guess that means we've got another day of preparation ahead of us...luckily Luna Sea called and the weather condition (T-storms) pushed us all back a day. Looks like a Friday departure now.
The next leg...
~~~~ Florida to the Bahamas and back again before hurricane season! ~~~~