Happy New Year, Everyone!
01 January 2012 | Great Harbour Cay Marina, Berry Islands
What a way to start the new year. Bud and I got up, got ready and left the harbor at 3:50 AM. One little slip. This is a man made channel into a basin. The marina is just off the basin. Once you’re out the channel you just continue straight out for a short while to deep water. No problem at night. However, this is the Bahamas. Once we left the area of the marina slips there were no lights; no street lights, store lights, house lights, nothing. It was pitch black and we had no way to see the edge of the basin or the turn into the channel. Bud idled along following our track on the chart while I hurried below and got out our spotlight (all the way in the back on the shelf under the nav station, cord terribly tangled) plugged it in and brought it up. I shown it around on the walls of the basin and the jetty and we eased into the channel and out between the blinking red and green lights (yes, actual navigation aids) at the mouth of the channel and we were out.
We motored the two and a half hours until dawn because we didn’t want to put sails up in the dark. We used our AIS to identify the three huge and sinister lights up ahead as a “tanker, not under command”. He was probably anchored, but was way out from shore and not near any anchorage. The other two boats moving slowly along were cruise ships, idling towards Freeport. Our course took us along the shore and across in front of Freeport. We passed Freeport before dawn and listened to the cruise ship radio operators talk to the harbormaster about coming in at 7 and 7:45 respectively. Happily we were now past the port.
The sky started to light up a bit after 6 and the sun rose at 7:04. It was a welcome sight to me! We put out all the sails in the very light wind and motor sailed. We had the engine running at under 2000 RPM and were doing over 7 knots. It was lovely, smooth sailing. At 9:30 Bud went below to rest and I took the helm. The wind picked up to over 10 knots. I didn’t want to change the speed of the engine because I knew that would rouse Bud, so I just kept going. We were ripping along at between 7.8 and 8.2 knots. I was keeping a sharp lookout for other ships as we were cutting diagonally across the Northwest Providence Channel, the main shipping channel into the Bahamas. I was hoping there would be little traffic on Sunday, New Year’s Day. I saw the top of a boat off the stern. Then I saw another off the bow. I switched views to see the large chart with the AIS and saw five little wedges of ships all headed towards us! They were still a long ways off so I didn’t call Bud. I engaged the autopilot to free my hands and moved the curser over the closest little wedge and clicked on it. Not as easy as it sounds, because we were sailing along and the autopilot is less than precise so the bow of the boat was swinging in direction somewhat. Every time that happened, the chart, which is set to display direction of travel up, would adjust and the little grey wedges would move. It was like playing a video game; only you’re standing on a heeling boat that is moving around in the waves. I finally got the first boat identified; it would come no more than 2 nm from us. Whew! Then I clicked on the boat behind it. It would come as close as a half nautical mile. That one I wanted to watch. The other three were further away and I gave up on the video game for the time being. I went back to steering the boat. After a bit I tried the closest approaching boat again. This time, as our course varied, I saw an approach as close as 0.2 nm. The other three little grey wedges were also getting closer and I didn’t think I could manage to keep tabs on all these boats and keep steering. I saw Bud moving around below. Good, he’d be up in a minute and I’d have help. He didn’t come up (it probably was all of a minute) and finally I broke down and called him. He took over the wheel and I took over the chart manipulation. Much better. We also shut the engine off because we were sailing at over 7 knots without it.
Bud altered our course up into the wind a bit for about a half hour until the closest boat passed us. Since we were going diagonally across the channel, we were going diagonally across the shipping lanes. There were two Bahama freighters headed for Nassau whose path was not far off from ours. The closest boat showed it coming within 67 feet of us at some combinations of course and speed as our boat moved with the wind and waves. Bud held us away from the lanes and the boats finally passed. The other three boats never came near us. Once that group of boats passed we had the place to ourselves again and could settle down and sail. I went up on the bow and took this shot trying to get in as much as I could of all the sails flying.
We sailed from about 10:30 until about 1:30 PM. Then the wind started to come forward and die down. We kept sailing for a while because we’d made such good time we expected to get into Great Harbour by 4PM. Another thing our wonderful chart plotter does is to tell you the expected time remaining to your target at the current course and speed. We were down to about 2 hours to the waypoint (about 4 miles outside Great Harbour) when the wind started to die. When our speed dropped until we now had 2 and a-half hours to go, we got discouraged and started the engine again.
We finally dropped the sails when we came onto the banks, and the water depth got down below 20 feet. We still had several miles to go, but we’d be turning more into the wind anyway and decided to get the sails down where there was plenty of room to maneuver. (We turn downwind to furl the jib and directly into the wind to drop the main.) We were still a couple of miles out when we heard Jon on Kasidah, hailing us on the radio. Jon and Arline had left Lake Worth just after we did and sailed all day and all night and come directly to Great Harbour, arriving this morning. What a pleasure to come into a foreign country, but to a harbor you are familiar with, with friends already there. We docked at 4:20 PM. It took us twelve and a-half hours to sail 85.5 nm. Altogether we sailed 208 nm in three days! We are beat! I tried to write this blog earlier but was just too tired. It’s now 10:30 and I am falling asleep at the computer. I hope this is still making sense. I put a couple more pictures in the gallery.
It was tiring, but a wonderful way to start the new year.