05/03/2011, Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas
The wind was supposed to be blowing about 18 knots this morning, but decrease to about 12 or 13 knots by evening. Or, if you believed the other weather report, it was supposed to blow at about 18 knots all day. In any case, it was around 14 knots this morning, so Passages and we decided to go to Marsh Harbor. They said they were pulling up anchor at 11:00 AM, so we decided we should pull up ours at about 10:50, since we had just under a mile to go to get back to where they were.
We pulled up the anchor on schedule. This was a short sail so we decided not to put the main up. Once we were headed out I started to pull the jib out, but it wouldn't come. We looked for something it might be fouled on and couldn't see anything. Then Bud noticed that we hadn't moved the spinnaker halyards from the bow pulpit. When we stop for more than a day, we usually hook the spinnaker halyards (we have two) to the bow pulpit so the wind doesn't make the halyards slap on the mast and make noise. One of our setting out rituals is to move those back to the mast. We usually do that as we are unzipping the main cover, but since we didn't unzip the main, we forgot about the halyards.
I went up and took a look. One of the halyards had gotten caught in the jib furler and was wound around the jib. At first I thought I would have to go up the mast to release it. It wasn't too windy and I was able to unclip the halyard and walk it outside the jib and unwind it once. That still didn't free it, so I did that again. It was still caught right at the top. Bud tried to use the furling line to wind the bit of the jib that had come out back up, but it wouldn't come. However, when he did that it released the halyard and I was able to pull it free and get it properly stowed at the mast.
After that it was a pretty nice sail. Most of the way we were going down wind, so it wasn't very fast, but we were keeping up with Passages, it was a nice day and we didn't have that far to go, so we were content. Actually, Earendil sails faster than Passages under the same conditions, so we were slowing down to stay behind them. It was very nice to be able to follow them in to this harbor, as it's shallow and they've been here many times. It was also nice that the wind dropped to about 10 knots by the time we got here. I took this picture as we approached the anchorage. Not long after this was taken I was busy with the anchor. We got it wet with no problems, and although Bud was a little worried that we were too close to the boats on either side, when he got away from our boat in the dinghy, when we went to check the anchor, he could see that there was really plenty of room.
Once the anchor was set we went in to town. I did two loads of wash and Bud did some grocery shopping. We have to do more of both, but figured to wait until we went in to a marina to finish. Tomorrow we're going to rent a car and go see this island. We decided it made no sense to pay for a dock and spend the day away from the boat. Thursday we'll go into the dock and finish our errands and get water (and probably top off the fuel, though we've only used about 15 gallons of fuel since Emerald Bay where we last filled the tanks).
05/02/2011, Tilloo Pond, Abacos, Bahamas
It was just as windy today as yesterday so we decided to stay put one more day. It's not that we couldn't sail on a day like this; it's fine for sailing. But we're only going 14 miles and in the end we have to maneuver around a crowded harbor and either dock or anchor. There's just no sense in adding to our stress by trying that in 18-knot winds. Tomorrow the wind is supposed to start to diminish by midday, so if it looks like it will, we'll head on over.
Meanwhile, Bud suggested we see if Ed and Karin had any plans and if not suggest a cookout on the beach we visited with them two days ago. They thought that was a good idea. We set it up for mid-afternoon, and they asked us to call on the radio about a half hour before we wanted to go.
Bud wanted to make a Chinese salad, with cabbage and Ramon noodles, but a pretty main ingredient is slivered almonds, and we don't have any of those. So he settled on macaroni salad. We had a couple of burgers and a piece of smoked sausage; we still had some hamburger buns. Both Karin and I got rashes that look like they might be from poisonwood. That made Bud worry about collecting wood to do the grilling (poisonwood smoked sausage is scary) so we took the grill off our aft rail to use.
We called them at 2:30 and at 3:00 they came by in their dinghy and we quickly loaded up and took off for the beach. When we were there the other day some folks in small boats had been having a party in an area that had a kind of beachcombers picnic ground. We went there. At first we thought we were going to have company, as some people in a small powerboat seemed to be coming right to the beach. It's really shallow here though and their engine hit the bottom when they were still a hundred yards from shore, so they pushed the boat out a bit and then took off. We were just as happy for the seclusion.
There were a couple of counters made from plywood on frames attached to trees, a few plastic lawn chairs and a frame with a tarp for shade. There were two grills there, but our little cans of propane wouldn't fit on them, so we set up out boat grill on some cement blocks, and that worked well enough. Karin brought placemats that we put on the wooden counters where we laid out the food. Karin and Ed brought Kielbasa and macaroni salad! They also still had some snacks aboard and brought some trail mix and some Pringles. Ed and Bud ate the two burgers. I had two kinds of sausage and two kinds of macaroni salad. It was good, though. Fuzzy had a great time as Karin and Ed brought him Pupperoni. He also had his supper while we ate.
I almost forgot to take a picture, so this shot isn't great. That's Karin and Ed picking up after the meal. Bud is bending over our grill, taking it back apart. You can see the shelter and what a nice spot it is. I was walking Fuzzy. When everything was packed up and we were ready to leave, Fuzzy was determined to go with Ed and Karin. I hope it was just that he was still looking for some Pupperoni.
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!