01 September 2013 | Jamestown, R.I.
29 August 2013 | Jamestown, R.I.
03 May 2015
Well most of you have heard that we made it safely across the dear old Gulf Stream - technically the Florida Straights, but you haven't heard the details. We've been in "go mode" for several days - it's time to get back to the States, Roger has a couple of job interviews that are a little difficult to conduct from the Bahamas and the new house desperately needs our attention.
The weather was a huge question mark. Whenever we got together with friends over the last week, invariably, the first topic - the only topic - was the weather. Where's the front? Where's the window? Can we make it before it really gets bad or are we here for another 3-4 days? We left Treasure Cay on Thursday so that we could get a few miles closer to Great Sale Cay and so we could put The Whale Cay Cut behind us. We stayed at Manjack Cay which we really didn't do justice to - need to come back and do some shelling, snorkeling, and exploring in the dinghy.
The initial plan of heading to Great Sale Cay on Friday and then to Port Canaveral on Saturday was amended twice as we decided to skip Great Sale and head straight to Ft Pierce. No - we didn't consult with Casey as it would be a full 24 hour trip - yikes. After pulling down weather GRIBS and consulting with Chris Parker, it looked like Friday would be the milder day with lighter north wind while Saturday and Sunday had lots of east wind. We changed to Ft. Pierce solely because it was closer - Casey won that argument.
For the first 16 hours of the trip we looked like rock stars. The weather was just as predicted - mild breezes out of the northwest - calm seas. We were even greeted by some good luck charms: dolphins swimming in the bow wake and a full moon. We made it to Great Sale - went blasting right on past- and across the Little Bahama Bank. Roger had the helm as Sanderling emerged from the Bank out on to the Florida Straights and turned it over to Chrisy and went below for a little shut eye. The conditions were pretty perfect - 10 knots out of the north - a lite chop - no big deal. Time to sleep.
Not so fast. Twenty minutes later a rather anxious voice came through the companionway, "Roger - can you come up here and check this out?"
Why certainly dear!
I emerge to find that the wind has gone from 10 to 20 knots with gusts of 22+ and there's this dark ominous thing where once there were stars. Hum?
I take a seat in the cockpit - leave the driving to Chrisy as its her shift and desperately try to recreate my dream from ten minutes earlier - now where was I?
Nothing changes and I offer to take the helm. We eased the main as the wind had clocked to fully out of the north, and as I check the radar I'm told that there's a boat moving from our starboard to our port. If that's a boat it certainly creates the funniest radar image. Maybe it's one of those new circular aircraft carriers. That's not a boat. It's a full on squall. Funny, don't recall hearing anyone talk about those from the forecasts - then again - I don't recall anything about the sustained 25 knots of wind and gusts to 28 - from the north - which for the uninitiated is the worst wind direction for the Gulf Stream as it opposes the direction of the current and generally makes a mess. Fortunately, thanks to our friend Rick Butler and Chrisy's insistence, we were well prepared with a reefed main well before dark.
Well, there really wasn't any turning back. We travelled 16 hours across the Little Bahama Banks. We needed to deal with it and finish the trip. The only good thing about north wind heading west in the Stream is that you can foot off - head below your waypoint which gives you more boat speed and drive through the waves and use the current of the Stream to push you back on course. I began a little countdown of the miles until we reached the axis of the stream where the current is the strongest and the sea conditions would be the worst. Fortunately, the axis came and went without conditions deteriorating much past eight foot seas with a five or six second period.
The reality was that it wasn't all that bad when you consider that we had consistent winds of 25 knots and squalls that were strong enough to show up on a radar. The reason it wasn't all that bad is that Sanderling was born for these conditions. She won't be the first boat to the weather mark but give her 25 knots of breeze and eight foot following seas and she handles them like a champ. We love to complain that Sanderling is too big: too much teak to varnish, too much fiberglass to buff, too heavy to push around the docks. On nights like last night, we are thankful for every inch of her.
The postscript - I record all the forecasts and my conversations with Chris Parker. I recently listened to those forecasts again and the reality is that Chris didn't miss the forecast by much - maybe 5 knots. He consistently said it was a crossing opportunity for "Salty sailors" - guess we became a little more salty last Friday/Saturday.
It's time to leave the Bahamas
30 April 2015
Sanderling has passed through the Whale Cay Cut in the Abacos. The only reason that you head west through "The Whale" is to head to Great Sail Cay and eventually to cross the Gulf Stream on your way back to the States. It's time to leave the Bahamas. We are not only saying goodbye to one of the most spectacular cruising grounds in the world, we are saying goodbye to some of the most hospitable and fun loving people we will ever meet. The sad part is that we're not really sure when we will return - but we will return.
We've been pretty lucky this year. We had spectacular weather all winter. While our Stateside friends were enduring one of the toughest winters in a long while, we enjoyed consecutive weeks with moderate trade winds from the east without any cold fronts. We had wonderful visits from family and friends. We were fortunate to explore some of the Bahamian outer islands that we hadn't visited before - Long Island, Cat Island and Eleuthera. We met incredibly nice cruising friends who we were able to stay with for a few days - part company and go our separate ways - and then meet up again. Our fellow cruisers have been such a highlight for us that it's tough to think about not cruising next year. Finally, we've met and made great friends with some of the native Bahamians. We all have so much to learn from the Bahamians about the essence of happiness. While they might not have unbounded material possessions, we've never met a Bahamian who didn't have a smile on his/her face, a nice comment, a wave from a passing car - you get the picture.
If all goes well we arrive in Port Canaveral either on Sunday or Monday morning. From there it will be overnight hops to Brunswick, GA and from there to Charleston, SC. We'll be cruising with all the creature comforts - showers, plenty of water and fuel, grocery stores with lots of fresh veggies, but we won't have deep blue water and coral reefs that provide spectacular snorkeling and we certainly won't have the company of the wonderful Bahamian people.
Goodbye to the Exumas
27 March 2015
Well, it has been 2 weeks since we last wrote in our blog. We spent an incredible week with Roger's sister, Betsy, husband Rick, daughter Schuyler and Schuyler's BF Ilona. We had beautiful sunny weather with calm seas so the snorkeling was at its peak and the clarity of the water was like none other. Only negative was there was very little wind to sail. We did hoist the sails a few times, but truth be told, the engine could have been on as well.....
We introduced our guests to some of the "wonders" of Georgetown: Chat 'n Chill; a Bahamian rake 'n scrape at Eddie's; a hike to the monument and the beautiful beaches of Stocking Island. We then headed north up the Exuma chain, exploring Lee Stocking Island; Leaf Cay and the iguanas; Black Point and Scorpios; and finally Staniel Cay, visiting the swimming pigs and snorkeling the grotto. The highlight of the week was renting a motorboat for a day and cruised all the snorkeling favorites north of Staniel Cay, seeing a nurse shark and several barracudas, rays everywhere, pools of beautiful fish and many large starfish.
We now find ourselves on Cat Island, one of the outer family islands, about 53 miles east of Staniel Cay. We had a great sail to The Bight on Cat Island and have been here for several days now. We have joined up with our friends Cathy and Kim on Quiescence, rented a car and explored the island, enjoyed an evening of rake 'n scrape on the beach and have taken many long walks with Casey on beautiful white beaches all to ourselves! One evening a fellow cruiser who had caught 2 Mahi Mahi was willing to share the delicious fish with us. One of the "fry shacks", Hidden Treasures, cooked them up, and we had a feast. It felt like a very Bahamian cruising moment, a fellow cruisers generosity, fine cooking from a local chef, delicious drinks, a nice sunset, and good friends.
Now we await our first northerly in over a month. Boats are scrambling all over for coverage. Cat Island has nice protection from the north, east and south - not so much from the west. Several boats flat out left the island in the last few days - heading back to the Exumas where they will have 360 protection. Others headed into a local marina on the southern shore. We decided to stay on the banks side but move to the south where we get nice protection from the east and south. When it clocks to the west we'll head north and get protection when it continues to clock to the north. Fortunately it's not supposed to blow too hard or too long from the west. There are five other boats in the anchorage, and we assume they're all doing the same dance. Once the northerly passes, we will head north and spend a week exploring the island of Eleuthera.
George Town and beyond
13 March 2015 | George Town
After a fantastic ten day visit with our daughter, Courtney, we thought that we would make a jump across to Cat Island, then down to Conception, Rum and Long Island before coming into George Town to meet up with Roger's sister Betsy and her family. Well the weather had other ideas. The wind was coming out of the east and showed no signs of letting up so we took a few days and headed down to George Town.
We made most of the trip with the protection of the Exumas on the Banks. The final trip into George Town, however needs to be done out in the Sound. With winds of 20 knots gusting to 30 pretty much right on the nose it was a long -wet - day. We took lots of water over the bow but made it into the harbor safely.
We weren't too sure how we were going to feel getting back to George Town. Fifteen years ago, we spent a month in George Town so there are lots of wonderful memories. On the other hand we know that George Town can be a bit of a black hole for cruisers - it lets you in but doesn't let you out. We really didn't want to get stuck. As you enter the harbor, there are at least five anchorages to drop your anchor, with over 370 boats. It sounds a bit daunting but you actually can find a place to anchor and more importantly, find a beach or a hiking trail all to yourself if you want. We quickly fall into the routines that make the harbor so attractive. The cruisers net in the morning gets you oriented - providing news on the activities and answering your every need. The Chat 'n Chill tiki bar is a gathering spot for all the cruisers, and it's good fun to see some boats that we might not have seen since November in the ICW.
We just missed the Cruising Regatta - a weeklong series of events, activities, races, etc but there is a cruising rally to Long Island that we are able to join. The Rally worked well for us because it gets us to one of the outer islands that we were hoping to visit and it also allows us to get back to George Town to stage for Betsy's arrival.
While not quite as brisk, the trip to Long Island was a bit more of the same slog that we had down to George Town a few days before. Again, we made it in good shape - just a bit wet. With over 40 boats, the Rally was very well organized and there were lots of fun dinners and activities. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to do the race in the harbor. It was pretty much a tailored Island Packet race - beam reach out - beam reach back. There was an open starting line for 15 minutes so no big maneuvers at the line. Oh well - We had a fix it project - changing the propane solenoid. Roger has done it a couple of times but it's never fun. We decided that it takes priority over the race. Sanderling's race debut will need to wait.
Nonetheless, we did take a bus trip to the southern part of Long Island; highlights were Clarencetown, the capital of Long Island, and Dean's Blue Hole. Although Long Island has many blue holes, this one was spectacular as it goes down 600 feet. You can snorkel the hole, filled with beautiful fish- even squid!- and can jump from the cliffs if you are so inclined. But this is the spot where free dive championships are held twice a year. No, we were not adventurous with free diving, nor cliff jumping, but we certainly took in the beauty of this place. A "must see" if you ever come to Long Island.
Another special treat for us..... We were taking Casey for a walk and before we knew it, we were being driven around to some of the most spectacular beaches on the eastern side of Long Island, down all these amazing dirt roads that aren't on any maps. Our tour director was Mr. Willis Harding, a spry 78 year old, who is somewhat considered the "mayor" of Long Island. This is just one example of how well the island natives treat the cruisers.
The only good thing about banging against the wind is being able to have a nice downwind sail back to George Town. We decided to make it a two day trip of it and stop at Hog Cay, a private cay on the northern part of Long Island, with a gorgeous crescent shape beach filled with beautiful shells and snorkeling reefs. This was a beam reach in 20+ knots with gusts to 31. Sanderling loved it and we made fantastic time - averaged 7 knots and saw 9.56 - briefly. We head back to George Town today which will be another beam reach - nice... And get ready for the Edies' arrival on Sunday.
Cruising with Courtney!
25 February 2015 | Exumas
It's been 2 weeks since we last posted on our blog, primarily because we have been in areas with no wifi. The price you pay when you are sailing in "Paradise" throughout the Exumas....
We have "weathered" 4 "northerlies", i.e., enduring 25-30 knot breezes with gusts up to 35 knots at times, while the majority of you have been digging yourself out of snow banks so we know we won't get any sympathy from you all. When a northerly passes through the Exumas, we make sure we are either on a Exuma Land and Sea Park mooring or in an anchorage that has close to 360 degree protection from the wind, the latter which is quite challenging to find.... So, we have basically spent quite a few nights at the northern anchorage at Warderick Wells, an idyllic paradise in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Our last northerly, we "weathered" the storm with Courtney who arrived 12 hours before the northerly hit us.
Courtney's "journey" to the Exumas was an athletic feat that only she could endure - 4 train rides, 2 plane rides, with a lot of running in between each route to make up for the various delays throughout the day....but fortunately she made it safely to Staniel Cay last Tuesday! We were so thrilled! And we have been thrilled to have her on board for the past 10 days! Such a treat!
Many of you might recall that we sailed throughout the Bahamas back in 2000 with Eric and Courtney. Courtney was in 2nd grade 15 years ago so this week has been a walk down memory lane for her. We have spent the majority of the time exploring the various cays of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, snorkeling coral reefs, a sunken plane, sea aquarium, Rocky Dundas; playing frisbee on the beach; hikingBoo Boo Hill and the environs; exploring the mangroves by dinghy; having beautiful beaches on the sound all to ourselves; and oh yeah, having some awesome sails along the way. Before Courtney heads back to the snowy east coast, we plan to visit two of our favorite Bahamian settlements, Black Point and Staniel Cay, grab a conch burger and conch fritters, visit the swimming pigs in Big Major and the iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay. It has been fun to re-live some of our experiences 15 years ago with Courtney, just as we did last year when Eric and Janna came to visit us.
Drama Drama All Around
12 February 2015 | Black Point, Exumas, Bahamas
It feels great to be across the Gulf Stream and safely in the Bahamas. "The Stream" is always a tough weather forecasting problem - trying to make sure that you have wind out of the south so that it doesn't build up the steep seas created when north wind opposes the north flowing current. The problem is trying to fit between cold fronts that create the north wind. We squeezed it in nicely. There actually were some north winds, but they followed several hours of calm winds so the stream was rather benign.
After a few relaxing days in North Bimini, we were ready to tackle the next leg of our trip to the Exumas. The route to the west side of New Providence Island (Nassau) would be a new one for us. We planned out an overnight across the northern part of the Great Bahama Banks - down the Northwest Channel and into the west side of New Providence Island - West Bay. A 1 PM departure worked perfectly, and we arrived in West Bay at about 11 AM the following morning. West Bay served as a quick pit stop on our way to the the Exumas. We needed to get there in time to get coverage from the next cold front that was due to arrive in 24 hours.
Unfortunately, the following day, we got "a bit" of a late start - spent way too much time socializing with fellow cruisers who did the overnight with us. We were thinking - "no big deal - only 45 miles to go - and we end up in a marina - how much of a hurry do we need to be in?" Well - we knew there was a cold front coming. We weren't too aware of the squalls that can proceed a cold front. An hour out from Highbourne Cay we were literally swallowed by a squall. Fortunately, we saw it coming and got our sails down, our foul wether gear on and Casey down below before we were hit by rain and 30 mph winds. The marina at Highbourne Cay suggested that we slow down a bit as the entrance to their harbor was very rough with wind opposing current - see previous discussion on the Gulf Stream. Great - we're happy to slow down and spend some more time out here with 30 mph winds and rain. The marina actually gave us great advice. By the time we entered, the entrance was nice and calm, and we had no issues getting into our slip.
It felt nice to be in North Bimini - to have made the Gulf Crossing and be in the Bahamas. It feels even better to be in the Exumas - a spectacular chain of islands that is a destination for many cruisers. We promised ourselves that we would do a better job this year with weather and getting ourselves in a position to weather the elements a day before we needed to be there. Being tucked into Highbourne Cay was the first part of that. While we aren't big on going into marinas, this was a good call.
Unfortunately, there's been a little more drama around us. Two nights ago there was a big cold front that came through. We were safely on a mooring in Warderick Wells. A boat up in Allens Cay (pronounced "key") lost their dinghy. The poor dinghy is probably 50 miles away on Eleuthera. Another boat at Emerald Rock broke free from their mooring at 4 AM. Fortunately, they were awake, noticed that they had broken free, and were able to get the engine started and anchored safely. Another boat down at Farmer's Cay wasn't as lucky. They dragged their anchor and ended up on a beach. They had the bad fortune of hitting a small piece of coral on the beach which put a hole in their hull at the waterline. Salvage operations are still underway.
All quick reminders that while we are cruising in Paradise - this is actually very serious stuff.