Total Distance: 50 Miles Under Sail: 0
Average Speed: 5.88 kts
Conditions: Clear, 75-80 F, Wind East at 15-20 kts, Seas 4-6 ft
Long Haul - Key Biscayne to Nassau
It took five days for the weather gods to be kind for the Gulf Stream crossing. Patience' s was the order of the days as I waited, waited and waited for the Gulf Stream to lay down from 6-9 foot short wave patterns to 2-3 foot wave patterns. With the weather gods not being kind, I lost my crew, alternate crew, alternate alternate crew and reserve back-up crew for the trip to the Abaco' s. So a solo trip to Marsh Harbor was the unfortunate result.
I must digress for a moment to get into the planning of this month long trip to the Abaco' s in the Bahamas. It was extensive to say the least. It took me about 2 months to plan and execute; boat maintenance, provisioning and route planning. Provisioning gave me restless sleep. I had to provision the boat for 3-4 people for 30 days. Not an easy task when one has ever done it before.
I read many websites, talked to cruisers and have a few books on provisioning a boat for extended cruising. First, was what all to buy. What I found was to make a menu for the entire month. Then break it down into ingredients. Anne, first mate, and I than made a shopping list that was 6 pages long. The biggest problem than was where to store it all on the boat. This required a total reorganization of all storage lockers on the boat. The 10 boxes of beer I found to be the easiest, they fit under the floorboards on this boat. In fact all the liquor fit either under the floorboards or the bilge. I put socks on all the wine bottles (6) and none broke. With a shopping list made, I wrote on the list what storage unit they were located in. All in all, I was amazed on how much storage, Rhapsody in Blue can hold. I still had room for more food stuff. The next biggest problem was refrigeration/freezer or lack of it. I ended up buying a small Dometic refrigeration/freezer that now lives under the nav station. For most of the meat I went with Omaha steaks package. I love the meats and each meat comes individually shrunk wrap. This makes storing them compact and easy.
Maintenance was the standard fare what anyone would do before any cruise. Engine was totally ready with all filters, oil and fluids changed. The valves were adjusted which was a good thing because they were off quite a bit. The raw water pump was rebuilt and all belts replaced. The boat was hauled out with a new bottom, cutlass bearing and speed prop applied. The mast was tuned and boom-vang sheet ran back to the cockpit. This was huge, and I do mean huge. I have had the mast tuned twice before however, this time after talking over with the rigger, I bent the mast back another foot from what Sheldon recommended. This resulted in a whole new sailing boat. Rhapsody has never sailed so well. No more weather helm during gusting winds, constant speed I have never seen before 6.5-7.5 depending on the sailing angle. She acted like a thoroughbred horse. With the boom-vang now adjusting back at the cockpit, I was able to finally get the top 1/3 of the sail to fly.
The route plan would normally be straight forward but going to the Abaco's one has 2 or 3 routes to get there. I had 3 plans. Plan A, north over the top of Freeport, Memory Rock, Great Shale, Green Turtle, Marsh Harbor. Plan B, Bimini, Chub Cay, Little Harbor, Marsh Harbor. Plan C, Bimini, Nassau, Spanish Wells, Marsh Harbor. Each had its advantages and disadvantages. It all depended on the Gulf stream conditions, wind , crew, and weather. Since I didn't have crew my thoughts were I need a way to call it quits and safe harbor to go too if for any reason I needed too. So I choice Plan C.
I launch out of the slip at 0130 in the morning. I couldn't sleep so why not. I went out of Governors Cut with one reef in the main and the motor on. Winds were 100 degrees (on the nose of course) at 12kts. The ride was very rough out the cut due to the current and tide going in opposite directions. Once out into the ocean heading was 140 degrees, speed 5.8kts. The following is from the log book.
0405 hrs - heading 110, 5.2 kts, - dodge cruise ship and freighter, wind 090/10-12kts, seas 2'
0900 - heading 106, 6.3kts, wind 090/12kts seas 2' . Bimini sighted, 17nm out
1100 - North Rock, wind 090/12, seas 2', 6.1 kts
1140, 1216, 1300, 1420hrs, Caught Barracuda,
1410 - All sails out, wind 080/08kts, 5.5kts, Bahamas Bank
1510 - wind 060/10-13, speed 5.1kts, heading 105
1730 - Maxie Shoals, 080/08 speed 4.7kts
1735- Caught Red Mutton Snapper- 8lbs.
2215 NW Shoals, wind 095/15, speed 5 kts. Heading 110. Reefed main and rolled in jib. Autopilot having problems tacking course. Found heading mode worked best.
2230- Barge hailed me to work out conflict. Hard to tell who was who out there. Very dark, had 3 boats out there. Asked if I wanted to pass 2 lights or one. I didn't know what that meant. Said he was trailing a barge 100 yards behind him. I was so confused. Found out there was another large sailboat who was not running the correct lights. It was a heart stopping moment. Radar would have been nice.
2310 - Tongue of the Ocean - wind 090/15-20, seas 5', motorsail, getting clobbered, Not a fun ride. I am very tired and getting a beating. Head for Chubb Cay.
0230 - Chubb Cay. Looking at the harbor,, Little voice in the back on my head is screaming not to enter a strange harbor at night. I so want to quit sailing, I am tired and beat up from the sea conditions. But I listen to my voice and turn south for Nassau. Wind 100/15kts, seas 3-5' but on the 45 degrees off the port bow. Ride is better. Shut down motor and set sails. Start 20 min naps, I am cold.
0830- Arrive at Nassau. Nassau Yacht New Haven Marina. 163 miles, 32 hours, 20 hours motorsail. Cleared customs on the boat, bribe for one year cruising pass, Poppycock snack. Slept for 6 hours.
1500- cleaned up boat, bought charts for Spanish Wells.
My thoughts on this crossing. I am nuts and I know it. It was my first marathon sail, my first true night crossing x2, and I was solo. However, I did it and I did it safely. I was strapped in the boat at all times either to a padeye or the jackline. I didn't eat much which was a surprise. The only hot thing I ate was Chinese noodle soup. Sandwiches, coffee, water, snacks is what I ate mostly. The 2-4 o'clock in the morning was the toughest part to stay awake. Night sailing with big boats around is freighting without radar.