Sail South Till the Easter Bunnies Melt
16 April 2019 | Bahamas
Its been a little less than 2 weeks since we dropped the lines at our slip in Washington, NC and we're now in the Bahamas! We've forgotten how cold we were last week and it felt good to shed the layers. I'm bringing Easter candy since I don't even remember the last time I had any- most other countries we've been visiting at Easter time don't have easter bunnies. And I wanted to bring some for Jan & Rich, since they wouldn't have had any either. Well, its pretty warm on the boat these days and the fridge is packed with meat & produce so the easter bunnies got a little soft in the v-berth! I had to move them closer to the hull so the cooler sea can keep them somewhat whole.
It was a good trip down overall because we really worked to use what weather we had in order to keep moving. That meant that except for the 4 days we took off to rest, we pretty much kept moving around the clock. It was near freezing the first day and we never took off a single layer all day despite it being sunny. We had planned to keep going that night right out the Beaufort Inlet but the wind hadn't switched from being on the nose yet and we feared things could get dangerous if something were to go wrong in the night and we had to actually go up on deck in the cold to manage it. So we anchored for the night and got going at dawn. By then our short weather window had changed somewhat and the wind was piping up that afternoon so we did something we hadn't ever done before which is start going in & out of smaller inlets that we haven't used before to keep moving. This allowed us to get around things like shoals that would be blown up in the winds or stay closer to shore in the ICW for a frontal passage with thunderstorms. So we went out the Beaufort Inlet and then in the Masonboro inlet, did 30 miles in the ICW and then came right out the Cape Fear river by 10pm and kept going, then came in the Wynah inlet the next morning before the frontal boundary and did a day in the ICW in heavy rain at times and then went out the Charleston Inlet to head to Cumberland Island. It worked out great! Except we both have difficulty sitting nowadays and we look longingly at shore wishing we could move around.... that is the price you pay for trying to move your home with you on the water. It pays off later... When we were in Charleston, we got a text from Frank & Deb that they had just pulled in too. They had decided to leave the Bahamas early to take care of a sun spot- the downside of so many years of sailing. We know how that works! Your Bahamas souvenir. But it was a bummer to know that we were going to miss them and we weren't stopping in downtown Charleston.
Meanwhile, everything that is really important on the boat is up and running and our outboard, which was smoking a lot at first and had us worried, cleared up now that we've been using it and its fine. And we're still really enjoying the new tri radial mainsail. This boat already sails wonderfully but now we go faster sooner. The new mainsail track is great with a tighter fit and we're no longer worried the whole thing will unzip from the mast- progress! We got the last of the fittings for the dodger delivered to Palm Beach and Jon installed them so that is complete and its nice to be able to see out of the dodger glass again! It seems our wind anemeter doesn't work anymore so we can't tell the wind speed so we just make it up!
Cumberland Island NP was as good as always and we love it there. It is its own special world unlike anyplace we've seen before and the anchorage is great. This time for some reason, we saw the most wildlife ever and its always a great place for armadillos. They don't really mind if you pat them, they just get real still. We even saw a bobcat who had sadly just gotten a deer. But that is how everything eats and we tried not to feel sad, but we did. Even though we've been there several times now, we keep finding new trails and things we haven't done yet and so every time has something new to offer. Great fun and we were glad to take a breather.
We approached Cape Canaveral early evening on the passage and we heard the coast guard talking about a restricted area on the VHF. Upon tuning in, we found out that the Falcon Heavy Lift rocket was scheduled to be launched at 8pm. We had to pull in the jib to slow down so we wouldn't enter the zone. What a front & center view it was going to be; what great timing. We were so excited. Then, as fast as we found out about it, we then found out the launch was scrapped because of high upper level winds. So pretty much my whole first watch I could see the rocket sitting there all lit up on its launch pad, pointed to the sky as we sailed by it. By happenstance, Mike & Karen on Chapter Two had just pulled in to Palm Beach a couple days prior and were now ready to head north. We were excited to see them but just like us, they are pressing to get north to make flights back to the UK so we ended up passing each other under sail on the way down! We could see each others sails and we chatted on the phone instead of in person. So we told them about the launch the following day and they got to see it and sent us a pic. We later read that everything went really well, the mission was a success and we are glad that space research is continuing despite a lack of government interest.
The whole time we've been underway, we've seen more huge sea turtles than ever before. We've seen 2 leatherbacks which we seldom see. They really do look like leather. Turns out it is nesting season and they are all hanging around off the coast getting ready to make the trip ashore to lay their eggs. On one of the days off in Palm Beach, we biked all over the place on several paths and one was out to a John MacArthur beach state park where they have a pretty piece of beachfront that is undeveloped. There are already 7 leatherback nests there and the season has just begun. In the afternoon, we biked over on Palm Beach island on the Lake Trail which runs in front of all the mansions on the ICW side and is beautifully landscaped. Its pretty interesting that a public path runs through there. It was a really nice day.
Then we had a chore day to do some final stocking up before crossing to the Bahamas as we had a weather window with an approaching cold front. It wasn't much fun and we were anxious to move on out of the area. S Florida is too built up for our taste and on a Saturday, being on the water is maddening. It turned out that the SW wind was going to come too late and stay for too short a time to make the gulf stream crossing so we needed to move to Ft Lauderdale to improve our sailing angle to take advantage of the S wind instead. And since Ft Lauderdale is due south, we needed to do 40 miles in the ICW to get there. Needless to say, S Florida on the water on a Sunday is just as bad as a Saturday. Everyone has a boat, everyone is using it on the weekend and there must have been a memo that we were passing through there so please wake us and drive us nuts. It was a most unpleasant day with I am not kidding you TWENTY (20!) lift bridges to pass under, nearly all of them on a schedule. Several times, we missed the half hour opening by less than 5 minutes and had to circle for 25 before we could get by the bridge troll. It took us over 11 hours to make those miles and all of them in a washboard of powerboat wakes, drunken pilots and a million backyards with sprawling lawns that have more chairs than I can count. At 930p, we finally got to the inlet, raised the mainsail and headed out into the waves, ready to start the crossing. I felt so happy to have the radio quiet down, the boat under sail and the waves, while lumpy, be from the wind and not a prop.
We never had any squalls, we sailed as tight as we could to the courseline, the wind clocked through the night under the moon and we made good time flying off the waves as we crossed the gulf stream. We got set 5 miles from the current but made it up easily on the other side. The boat is now cloaked in salt but it felt good to be blasting along again offshore with consistent sailing wind. By morning we were in Bahamian waters and continued till dark over the top of the Berry Island chain to Little Harbor where we anchored for the night and slept like the dead. Now we are using the last of the NE wind from the front to have a beautiful sail to the Exumas where we can finally move in to cruising mode. I've got the champers in the fridge for sunset and we hope to start spending a whole lot of time in the water.