05/01/2011, Tilloo Pond, Abacos, Bahamas
We were going to go about 14 miles into Marsh Harbour today and anchor. But the wind was every bit as strong as the forecast (15 to 20 knots out of the northeast) and we decided not to go. Ed and Karin on Passages are also going in, and since they've done this at least 10 times before we were going to follow them in. They decided it was too windy to hassle with, so we readily deferred to them. We can wait. But it is the first of May already! We'll probably start listening for the weather patterns and try to figure out a good crossing window.
Since it was so windy we stayed aboard most of the day. I took the time to add names to many of the waypoints that I entered into our chartplotter early in our journey to the Bahamas and to put the waypoints into groups so we can find them and use them if we come back to any of these places next year. Bud and I both finished a book Karin lent us about Little Harbour, the place we had to skip because it was too rough to cross there. An artist and his family from Toronto by way of Massachusetts settled the area in the early 50's. They homesteaded and started a foundry for casting bronze sculptures. It was an interesting book and has made me want to go see the community. There was no road into it until 2000. I'm hoping this time when we go to March Harbour we can take the time (and money) to rent a car and drive there, since we don't want to take the boat back that way.
Besides the little "pond" that's just south of us, there's another dock just north of us, and this one has a roadway cut back from it. Bud agreed to go explore that. We had our dinner at about 4 PM, and then fed Fuzzy, so while there was still plenty of light we could take Fuzzy ashore and do our exploring. The road is cut through the brush and the ironshore flattened, but it was covered with sharp gravel that was from the crushed ironshore. I still ended up carrying Fuzzy. The road led up to the center of the island where there was another road that ran down the center the long way. It wasn't very clear going north, but was still easy to walk on heading south. It ended up leading over and then back down to the little beach at Tilloo Pond. I was able to get this picture showing the Atlantic on the left and Tilloo Pond and the Sea of Abaco on the right. You can see the wave throwing spray up over the island. We figure the island is about 30 feet above sea level at that point. Fuzzy got to walk around on "his" beach and then we headed back.
If the wind is still too strong to move tomorrow we are hopeful that at least by Tuesday we'll be able to go to Marsh Harbour. We're running low on water, we need to do the wash and Bud is almost out of beer. When we get to Marsh Harbour I'll also get Internet and be able to post these.
04/30/2011, Tilloo Pond, Abacos, Bahamas
We decided that we needed to move because it was too hard for Fuzzy to walk where we took him ashore where we were. There was a dock, and it's no problem to take him on a dock now that I've learned that I can carry him up and down dock ladders in the front pack I have for him. The problem came once we were ashore. That area was entirely ironshore. I had to walk up in the trees until there was enough leaf litter to form a bit of solid surface for Fuzzy to walk. Even there he could only go about 15 feet in any direction before the brush got too thick or the ground too rough.
Bud and I poured over the charts. We had mentioned moving to Man O' War Cay to Ed and Karin, but they couldn't remember a beach there and said the anchoring outside the harbor wasn't great. Inside the harbor there's no room to anchor, you have to take a mooring ball. We intend to do that eventually, but didn't want to do it yet. There were a couple of spots on the chart that might have been beaches further south along Tilloo Cay, so we decided to take the dinghy down and see what they looked like. It was calm so a dinghy ride seemed like a good thing.
I put Fuzzy in the front pack, because if we're going any distance in the dinghy that's easier than holding him on my lap. He tends to bounce around as the dinghy hops on the waves. We went up a bit over a mile. The two spots that looked like beaches on the chart weren't, but after we passed an opening that went back into a small bay called Tilloo Pond we came to a little beach. We decided that would do. It looked like the anchoring was OK there. As we came back we could see behind some rocks along the north entrance of Tilloo Pond and there were some more docks and beside them a nice little beach. We dinghied in to check it out. It was a pretty nice little beach. We got out and let Fuzzy check it out and he seemed to approve. The anchoring just outside Tilloo Pond was as good as where we were and probably a little better than at the little beach further down. This seemed to be the spot. The only problem was we'd be too far from the Internet antenna to get Internet on the boat.
We went back past the boat and checked out the anchorage on the other side of the little peninsula just north of us. There was a decent place to anchor, but it was very open to the northeast and the wind was supposed to swing to the northeast and build. That would have been close to the Internet antenna, too. Oh well, better shelter from the wind than Internet, if you have to make the choice.
We called Ed and Karin on the radio to let them know what we were going to do and find out if they had plans. They were going to dinghy down near where we were moving to walk the sand flats at low tide. We told them to stop by and we'd go, too. So we readied the boat and raised the anchor and motored 1.01 nm to our new spot. We dropped the anchor precisely in what looked like a sandy spot and Bud backed down on it to set it. When we checked it with the viewing bucket there was more grass than it looked like from the surface, but the Rocna was still nicely dug in.
Not long after we got things set Ed and Karin came by. We decided to change into swimsuits and leave Fuzzy behind, since we'd be wading. They went ahead and in a couple of minutes we joined them. Not too much further from where we were there was a big beach. That's where they were. We're just as glad we didn't anchor there because there were boats and people all around; it's nicer where we are. It was a nice beach for walking and we did end up wading, so it's good Fuzzy didn't come. We walked up as far as this long house with docks and a boat. We saw a young man out walking his dogs. I asked if it was a resort. He laughed and said it was his uncle's place. There were signs to keep people from walking on the lawn over to the Atlantic side. He said his uncle was very private and didn't like people walking over there. We turned back then. Karin and I found quite a few shells to add to her craft collection. I'll put photos of the non-resort and Ed and Karin in their dinghy at the beach in the gallery.
This evening we took Fuzzy back to the little beach at Tilloo Pond. It was high tide and there wasn't much of a beach left. Good thing Fuzzy's a little dog. The picture is of the beach at about 6:30 PM.
By the way, Bud fixed half of the snapper that he caught at Rock Sound for supper tonight. The two of us couldn't finish it. It was very good, but I still think the little snapper I had on Easter was better. And the wind is picking up from the northeast as forecast. It's good to be safe and snug where we are. You can see the spray from the waves on the Atlantic side over the top of the narrow island here, but all is pretty calm on our side.
04/29/2011, Tilloo Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We took it easy this morning after yesterday's big sail. By noon we were rested and the boat was more or less in shape. Karin and Ed called on the radio, as promised, to find out if we still wanted to walk across Tilloo Cay and go beachcombing with them. We did, so we got ready and met them over at the dock where we've been taking Fuzzy ashore. There is no beach on this side of the island, but there are three docks built here, evidently in anticipation of development that hasn't happened.
Ed led the way with his machete. There was a pretty clear path up the hill to the backbone of this long thin island. On the ocean side there wasn't so much a path as cleared lines that delineated large (several acres each) lots. Unfortunately, the whole island is ironshore; there is virtually no dirt so the footing is treacherous. I had Fuzzy in the front pack because he couldn't walk on the rocks. We'd gone at low tide so as much of the beach as possible would be exposed. When we got down to the Atlantic shore we found there was no beach. The picture shows Karin and Bud standing on the "beach" looking out at the waves, which may have been even higher than the ones we sailed through yesterday. I put a few other pictures of the ocean and the beach in the gallery.
There was an area that had enough sand that walking wasn't too difficult; I even put Fuzzy down for a while. There was a lot of debris everywhere, because this place is seldom visited (now we see why) and we found some good stuff. Karen collects certain shells and sea glass that she uses to make jewelry and votive candleholders. She found quite a bit. Bud wanted to find a buoy for our anchor. An anchor buoy lets you and others know where your anchor is, since if you have wind changes the boat can move around and even drift over the anchor. It also gives you a line tied to the top of the anchor that you can use to dislodge the anchor should it become stuck. Bud found a Styrofoam float and I found a small ceramic float that we brought back. I wanted to find some smaller floats that we could use on dinghy lines. Our dinghy lines are too short and are getting worn, but we haven't been able to find the woven, floating line that we bought at Home Depot anywhere else. Most polypropylene line that floats is too stiff to hold a knot. The line from Home Depot will hold a knot and still floats. We have plenty of regular rope, strong, supple and easy to tie, but it will all sink. The worry is that the dinghy line might come loose when you're towing the dinghy and get caught in the prop. We found several small floats that will work for new dinghy lines.
This evening we went to Ed and Karin's boat for dinner. Karin made two pizzas and Bud made some conch salad, which we took over. We had a nice dinner and played a game of dominoes. While we were there a squall came over. There was some wind, scary lightning in the distance and a LOT of rain. We left a bit early because we were seeing lightning everywhere and Bud was getting worried. When we went to leave there was so much rainwater in the dinghy that Bud had to bail it. Now Bud and Fuzzy are in bed and the storms are still all around us, but so far nothing more right here. The squalls are all supposed to end tomorrow. I like the rain, but sudden, strong and changing winds are not fun and lightning is down right scary when you live in a house with a 60-foot aluminum pole going up through the middle of it. Feeling so vulnerable makes it hard to enjoy the beauty of the storm.
04/28/2011, Tilloo Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We made it to the Abacos. A lot of people who cruise the Bahamas refer to crossing as coming from the US to the Bahamas or going back. However, the trip we did today, from the northern end of Eleuthera to the Abacos was almost as far as from Lake Worth to West End. And if you look at a map of the Bahamas, you'll see that to the east of us there was nothing but the Atlantic. This is really the most open crossing we have done.
There were a couple of things to discourage us. First, a small squall came through in the early morning hours. It's never encouraging to start a big day with a rainsquall. However, it was gone before dawn, so we kept on with our plans. We managed to lift the anchor (main up) at 6:35 AM. I went below to listen to the weather while Bud motor sailed across to the gap between Egg Island and Little Egg Island where we would enter the eastern edge of the Northeast Providence Channel. We listen to Chris Parker's weather every morning. After he gives the general forecasts for the areas of the Bahamas, he gives specific weather advice to boats that are subscribers to his service. We usually listen to the whole thing. It is Scott Free's request for weather for a three-day trip from Rock Sound to the Abacos that made us decide to use this weather window. Today I turned the radio off after the general forecasts to go back on deck and help get everything squared away before we left the protected water. It was somewhat disconcerting to then here Scott Free on the radio with another boat telling them that they had decided not to make the crossing to the Abacos because of the squall and the revised forecast of the sea state between Eleuthera and the Abacos.
We were pretty much committed to go at that point. Besides, as we approached the gap we saw another boat crossing in front of us on the other side of the gap and headed our way. A third boat was coming up from the side and they were headed for the gap also. So it seemed like we weren't the only ones to choose to go. When we were able to turn to the course for Little Harbor, which is where we intended to go, the wind was enough off the stern to put out the jib. We were sailing with no engine and we were making good time. Soon we heard Passages talking to someone else about the trip. They said they had just started across. I got on the radio to see if it was Ed and Karin that we'd met at Emerald Bay and it was. Turns out, they were the boat in front of us.
Not too far into the trip we passed north of the eastern end of Eleuthera. Now there was nothing between us and the open ocean. The swells got larger, much larger. We were expecting 4 foot swells. These were 6 to 8 feet and only about 7 seconds apart. Still, they were coming off the stern quarter and we were sailing quite nicely, so it wasn't bad. We had the main and jib out and spent all day sailing between 7 and 9 knots. The only problem was we had so much sail up that the wind vane wasn't working and we didn't want to take any sails in, as that would increase the effect of the waves and make the trip more uncomfortable. So Bud elected to hand steer.
A fourth boat came up and the four of us crossed within sight of each other. That was nice. Passages was making for the North Bar cut, intending to anchor at Tilloo Cay. We told them we were intending to go in at Little Harbour cut and anchor in the lee of Lynyard Cay, because we wanted to make sure we got Fuzzy ashore by dark. As the day went on, getting somewhere by dark became less of an issue with the speed we were making. What we started to worry about was crossing a cut with 6 to 8 foot seas. We asked Ed and Karin on Passages about that, and they said they were going to evaluate it as they got closer to land, but that the cut at North Bar was more straight forward and they thought perhaps the wind and waves would be fairly directly off the stern and that would be better. I went down and looked at the charts. The North Bar cut was twice as deep and twice as wide as the one at Little Harbour, and the route was a straight shot through the center of the gap. At Little Harbour you had to angle through the cut, and there were reefs on either side. I entered all the waypoints to go through the North Bar cut and to the anchorage at Tilloo Cay into our chart plotter.
There are no anchorages or harbors on the southeastern shore of Great Abaco Island. Our route took us along that shore but angled in until we would finally turn at either Little Harbor or North Bar. When we first started to see the shore of Great Abaco I really got nervous. We were probably 5 miles out and I could see huge breakers crashing against the shore. They must have been two stories high. Passages called to say they were definitely going in at North Bar and we let them know that we were going to follow them in. There's no way we'd try the trickier entry on a day like this. The other two boats were about a mile behind us but still coming our way.
We talked to Passages again as they neared the cut. They said they were going to pull their jib in (they'd used their jib and engine all day) and motor in under bare poles. Another boat hailed them after our conversation to let us know they'd just gone through the cut and though it looked pretty bad on the approach, it went well and even the 90 degree turn you have to make once inside was very doable. We both thanked them very much for the reassuring information. Turns out this was the trawler, Cheers, whom we'd all met at Emerald Bay (doing laundry, what else!). Bud and I decided to take in the jib and put a triple reef in the main and use that and the engine going in. As we were getting ready for this, a trawler came up on our stern. I hailed him on the radio to tell him that we'd be turning into the wind to reef the main and then turning back for the gap. He said that was no problem and asked if we'd like him to go ahead of us then as he'd done this gap before and could follow his old track in, then we could follow him. We agreed, told him we were also with Passages (now already in the gap) and we all agreed to stay on channel 18 on the radio.
Bud and I had no problem getting the jib in and the main reefed. However, as we started up the channel, the main, which I'd tired to ease way out to catch the following wind, was being tossed from side to side by the waves. I couldn't hook the preventer on, which holds it to one side, because once through the gap we had to make that 90 degree turn and the main would need to go to the other side. So I ended up pulling it in tight, it was less effective that way, but at least it wasn't swinging wildly. I tried to get a picture of the breakers off to the sides of us as we came through. I got one chance and got this photo. Then a sport fishing boat came roaring up on our starboard side, the chartplotter started beeping and suddenly the screen went blank. Bud was on the radio with the trawler and told him our chart had just gone blank. He assured us we were in the center of the channel. The only problem was, we weren't sure just how far to come through before we made that turn. All this was happening as we rode some really big waves in. The chart plotter came back up, I was able to get the route displaying properly again, and suddenly we were through. But I didn't have a chance to try to get a better picture. Believe me, it was all much more dramatic than it looks in this photo.
Not long after we were in we saw both the other boats that crossed with us come in safely, too. We followed Passages in and anchored near them. We were anchored at just after 4 PM and we'd come about 65 nm. After we got everything set, fed Fuzzy and took him ashore, we had Ed and Karin over for drinks and an after sail decompression. It feels really good to be here. We've made it to the Abacos, yeah!
04/27/2011, Current Settlement, Current Cut, Eleuthera, Bahamas
We left the anchorage early this morning. I was hoisting the anchor at 7 AM; the main was already up. According to the information from Karin and Ed on Passages (back at Emerald Bay Marina) the tide at Current Cut is about 2 and a half hours behind Nassau (the tide tables in our Chart Books are from Nassau). That put low tide at about 1:30 or 2. We didn't want to get there after that and we had 25 miles to go.
When we started out we had a lot of wind mostly from the stern. We ran with only the main for a while and were making 4.5 knots. After about 8 miles we saw two boats come out from another harbor and head the same way we were, but in front of us. From their radio conversation we found out it was Scott Free and Anything Goes, whom we'd followed out of Rock Sound the day before. The guy on Anything Goes said according to his guidebook the tide was supposed to be the same time as Nassau. That meant low tide was between 11 and 11:30. Still, it was 9 AM and we had two and a half hours and 17 miles to go, quite doable. Happily, although the wind dropped a bit it moved south far enough that we could pull out the jib. That added a knot or more to our speed. I took the wheel for a while and with the wind at 140 degrees off our port bow we were doing 6 to 6.5 knots.
We weren't too upset that the wind was dropping, as we had to find the channel into Current Cut. I had called the other two boats and asked them if they were taking the main channel or the alternate channel. Karin and Ed had also told us the alternate channel was actually easier. It was also more direct. The only drawback was finding the deep part at the beginning of the channel, as you crossed the shallowest water there, and you needed to find and line up on the deeper water. Both the other boats had been planning to take the main channel. After we talked to them they reconsidered, and decided to try the alternate. This was good for us because we were behind them, and we were planning to take the alternate regardless. Anything Goes is a catamaran and only draws 3.5 feet. They were going to go first and let Scott Free know if there were any depths less than 7, as Scott Free draws 6.5 feet.
We were still well behind them when they went through, so we couldn't tell exactly where they went, but we did find out that they didn't see anything less than 9 feet. We took the jib in and turned on the engine, just in case, and I stood on the bow and watched as Bud and I got close. We may have been a bit too far to the right as we started in, but Bud moved over and we got through with no problems. We did have about a knot of current running with us, so it was not yet low tide. The information we got from Karin and Ed was better than the guidebook that Anything Goes had.
Just after we passed through the cut we turned to the east and anchored off the beach. This area is protected from the east and south and will be our jumping off point for tomorrow's crossing. We had the boat all snugged down by 12:30.
After lunch, and another nap for Bud, I insisted we go ashore and check out Current Settlement. This is the last town as you travel north in Eleuthera, all the way at the northwest tip of the island. Like so many of these islands, Eleuthera has one main road that runs the length of it. The picture is of that road, as it comes through Current Settlemen; it ends just the other side of town at the government dock at Current Cut. There are even speed bumps right on the main road, but since there are no sidewalks and the buildings sit right at the edge of the road, the speed bumps are a good idea.
We walked from the north beach, past some goats, and into town. Bud bought a bit of produce and I talked to a woman (Sue) in front of the library. Then we walked west of town to the government dock and the cut. It was now 4:30 and the tide was really moving in. The wind was opposed to the tide and there were some nasty looking standing waves. I took a picture of the cut, but it doesn't look like much in the picture, even so we wouldn't want to come through in those circumstances. We figured the tide was 4 or 5 knots, at least. I will put the pictures of our walk in the gallery when I can.
Bud complained a lot about the long, hot walk, but since I didn't get to see anything else since Rock Sound I figured he owed me. Besides, it was probably less than 2 miles, total. He keeps teasing me that I did get to see the Glass Window, because as we were sailing about 6 miles off shore I thought I saw a break in the shoreline where the bridge to the Atlantic is. Bud immediately agreed, and now keeps telling me that I got to see the beautiful Glass Window, too.
Whatever we've missed, this is the last day for Eleuthera, and tomorrow we make the passage to the Abacos. Hopefully it will be a good sail and a good day and we'll be safely anchored and Fuzzy ashore and back by nightfall.
04/26/2011, Pelican Cay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
I wanted to rent a car so we could see more of Eleuthera. I wanted to see the old town of Governors Harbour, I wanted to see the Glass Window, where there is a break in the island between the banks on the west and the open Atlantic on the east, and I wanted to take the ferry to Harbour Island and Dunmore Town. But the squalls that threatened today didn't come and instead we have three days of wind from the southeast to the east-southeast. On Friday there's a day of unsettled weather and the next days are all expected to be northeast to east-northeast winds. We want to go north to the Abacos, so the three days of southeast winds are ideal. After some debate, sightseeing lost and sailing won. I was disappointed, but it gives us a reason to come back here next year.
Today we left Rock Sound and headed up to another anchorage. We chose this anchorage because it gave some protection from the south and it got us far enough north to be able to reach and get through Current Cut tomorrow before the incoming tide gets too strong. There is nothing here but a nearby airport. Not really a tourist opportunity. When we took Fuzzy ashore I insisted we take our shoes. There was a small road on the chart behind the beach and it led out to the main road. Across the main road was another road that led toward the Atlantic and along the Atlantic side was a huge beach labeled "Pink Sand Beach". The whole walk would have been a bit under a mile one way. It seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the road. It may have been demolished when they built the airport or we may just have missed it. Usually any road that gets near an anchorage has a path out to the beach at the anchorage, but if this one had a path, we missed it. So I had to be content with a picture of Earendil at anchor as seen from the beach, looking out past a little point. I also took a picture of Pelican Cay for the gallery.
We went 30 miles today, we have to go about 28 miles tomorrow (leaving as early as we can) and then on Thursday we hope to cross to the Abacos, about 60 miles - again, we'll have to leave as early as we can. I predict we'll be exhausted by the end of that day.
Most of today's sail was a broad reach. As long as the wind is far enough off the stern to carry both the main and the jib this boat will fly. We did between 6.5 and 7.5 knots with both sails up. For a while the wind was too far astern and we could only carry the main. We were only doing about 4.5 knots then. We hope the wind is from a favorable direction on Thursday. 60 miles at 6 knots is 10 hours, very doable. 60 miles at 4 knots is 15 hours, and would make us come in to anchor in the dark, not something we will do. We do have a cruising spinnaker, but we don't yet have a spinnaker pole; we might try to fly it using a block off the back of the boom if we get desperate. Otherwise, if the wind is wrong we'll have to motor-sail, which is a pain. Even with that chance it still seemed best to go now. The next opportunity may be 7 to 10 days away, and we felt we couldn't wait that long.