The Berry Islands
18 January 2019 | Soldier Cay
After clearing into customs/immigration at the picnic table at the marina we went and washed down the boat along with a much deserved anchor beer. Marina is very nice and the people are awesome here so we are really glad we stopped, but not sure of the future at this point since the forecast for the next week out is not the greatest, but the next couple of days look good. Our friends on Wayward Sun Cat (we are now Wayward Sun Ketch) got into Great Harbour Cay around 10am Tuesday morning. Great to see them and lots to catch up on, but lots to do before that. I got our laundry done in the morning, Capt'n and Capt'n Tim from WSC took the dinghy over to the fuel dock to fill up on diesel and drop me off for a closer hike to Batelco to get a sim card. We spotted Michele on our way back getting ready to go for a bike ride so we joined in with her and Allison, from the boat All In, and took a ride to the beach. Happy Hour (HH) on WSC later with everyone to decide where to go from here. Plans were to leave in the morning and anchor right outside the cut then head for Soldier Cay on Thursday. All went well leaving and getting anchored around noon on Wed - except our dinghy excursion later on when WSC dinghy motor crapped out on the way back - so we towed them back with the little, but mighty Selma T.
Winds were forecast to be light on Thursday, for our sail to Soldier Cay, but they were nothing near light, but a decent direction from the E. Had a good sail up to Great Stirrup, but had to motor across the top into some slightly rough seas. Sailing south on the other side we were seeing 20 knots of wind and with WS's new genny and main she was more than slightly heeled over, little rough but a good sail. Bilge pump came on, taking on water through the hawse pip that leads to the second anchor chain in the anchor locker. Normally I panic and start going nuts about it, but I'm finally used to it when we are healed so far over and the waves are breaking over the bow. Capt'n had to fix it as, of course, it got stuck on. So almost at Soldier Cay anchorage and Capt'n goes to start the motor and nothing. There is a toggle switch that sometimes gets switched off by mistake, but wasn't making a difference. Oh great another problem (as all our old and new cruising friends know - the definition of cruising: fixing your boat in exotic places). The only good thing is the entrance to the anchorage is not tricky and would be easy to anchor under sail if we had to. Went below and swear I could hear clicking, so we switched and Capt'n went below. I tried to start it, nothing but the toggle switch was turned - so moved it and started right up and has started every time after we tried. Asked him what he did and he said nothing, but it started right up that time. Had the problem last year, Capt'n changed the ignition switch when we got back and have never had a problem since, until now - of course, when we are anchoring off a deserted island in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully, we can figure this out once and for all, Capt'n has been checking things out and swears I didn't hear clicking, hope not. Either way, we got anchored behind a beautiful beach, nice walk on the beach and then Happy Hour (HH) on WSC with them and Allison and Bob from All In. Awesome HH - great food, friends and drinks!
So Friday morning the ladies went kayaking and checked out some islands nearby while the WS Capt'ns went spearfishing to bring us back dinner. Kayaking was great - nice time and can't beat walking on the deserted beaches here in the Berries. However, we are having leftovers for dinner tonight...
Saturday (Jan 19) we will move to an anchorage a little north of us to get protection from this next front. It's forecast to be pretty bad so we need really good protection from the worst wind direction, which will be from the SW & W and WNW. Not sure what after that as the rest of the week winds are high and not in the best directions for us to travel further south.
Goodbye Marathon - Hello Bahamas
15 January 2019
Under way at 6:45 am Sunday morning, got out of the anchorage and heading for the Bahamas. Little rolly with 3-5' seas and occasional 6' wave, but doing 7 knots in the beginning of the Gulf Stream, should pick up a little more speed as we get further in. We will go through the night, hopefully getting onto the banks before midnight and then into Great Harbor Cay by midday Monday. We have called and made a reservation for a slip there, but we'll see when we get there if there is one. I'm a little nervous getting in there as it is pretty shallow and tricky, but once you are inside the channel to the marina it's more than deep enough. We've never stopped there before as we really didn't think we could with our depth, but friends have told us it shouldn't be a problem, we'll see though. Charts show 6' in a couple places and hoping they are being conservative as WS draws over 6' fully loaded.
Ok, we're here... Crossing the Gulf Stream we were seeing about 7.5 - 8+ knots, not bad and as seas were up the beginning of the trip they started to lie down and were only about 2-3 after about ½ way across the stream. Did not see one other sailboat our entire trip making us wonder why since it was a good weather window, not for sailing alone, but for getting across to the Bahamas. We would wait months for a good sailing window this time of year, just not worth it when we will have months to sail the beautiful Bahamas once there. So, we reached the Bahamas Banks around 11:15 pm and entered at South Riding Rocks. We still had a little bit of moonlight left to guide us for just a tiny bit longer, but it ended up clouding up and then the moon set around midnight, making it a very black night crossing the banks. After my 2-4 AM shift on watch I told the Capt'n I could see lights a ways out and keep an eye on them. I had wanted to alter course and kinda shortcut over to our new course, but with those lights there I didn't want to thinking they could be anchored boats on the banks at night. Well Capt'n kept an eye on them and indeed they were anchored boats on the banks, but he was amazed we spotted them about 8 miles out in such darkness. Needless to say the trip was pretty uneventful, which is a good thing. We ended up at Great Harbour Cay around 11 am, radioed in and they said our slip was #8 and someone would be waiting for us - yay! We were a bit up on the tide 1.5 feet and didn't see anything less than 8'9" coming in, which is great. So even if we go out on low tide, we still have a little bit of room left. Not to mention a slip neighbor cam in after us with a 7' draft and had no problems on a lower tide. Entrance is a bit wild with the marina being tucked way back inside and a cut made through the rocks to get in. We got in and tied up with no problem, got all the salt washed off the boat and now just waiting for our friends to get here on their catamaran, also named Wayward Sun. Last I heard they were leaving Monday morning so should be here sometime today. Plans are to explore the East side of Great Harbour the next couple days and hopefully find a good place to hide and ride out the next cold front forecasted for this coming weekend sometime - supposed to be a strong one too. Bunch of boats came into the marina late in the day coming from Florida, I'm guessing they left a little later, which is why we didn't see them. CP's forecast had changed and said not to leave before daybreak, but we knew that really wouldn't bother us on our route with the wind direction. Just a little lumpy to start out with, but no big deal for WS. OH, one more thing, the boat beside us helped us get tied up and asked Dave where he was from. So guess where this guy grew up - PITTSBURGH and in Greentree not far from us. He noticed Dave's accent (Pittsburghese) which is why he asked.
12 January 2019
After a few days in Marathon a stop at West Marine, Publix and, of course, a visit to Castaways for wings and beers (35 cent wings and $2 beers, doesn't get much better) we are getting ancy to get going. Marathon is a great place with everything you need, but I can only take a few days of it. CP's forecast had a small weather window for Sunday, but should be enough to get us across the stream and onto the banks. Light winds from the SE, but we'll have to take it, doesn't make sense to us to sit here and wait for the perfect sailing day - as this time of year it could be a long wait. Our anchorage neighbors are all heading to the Bahamas too, but different times and place. New Perspective was the first to get underway on Saturday and with the winds shifted to the ESE anchors were closer or under the other boats now. They had a tough time and came super close to WS with the stern, but did a really good job of keeping it under control until they got their anchors up. WS was next to leave - midday and it was ugly too. The boat we anchored beside on starboard was now directly in front of us and since we anchored so close I was nervous where our anchor was sitting. They are heading to the Bahamas next weather window, so no chance of them leaving before us and giving us a clear shot to the anchor. Well as expected the anchor was directly under them and we were back and forth trying to get it up without coming too close. At one point we had most of the chain up and I got closer than I wanted so I went hard in reverse for a bit. Then same thing again, to my surprise Capt'n signals to go to Starboard and we were now well off the boat and then Capt'n signaled the anchor was up. I must have dragged it off and away from the other boats when in reverse, I had more than hoped it might do that, but didn't really think it would. So now it is up but Capt'n couldn't get the 60lb CQR on deck - it had a heavy line wrapped around it probably someone's old anchor line lost during Irma. He tells me to keep going for the fuel dock, I'm like really - shouldn't I just do circles through the anchorage until it is freed - NO! Ok, so now I'm in neutral heading for the old draw bridge with no steerage in neutral and I'm doing 2.5 knots with the wind and current. Capt'n finally gets the tangled mess off the anchor and drops the line. Turns out it probably was the best thing to be in neutral as we didn't then wrap the line around our prop and be in more trouble and WS drifted along just fine until we could get her underway again. No one at the fuel dock so pulled in and took on fuel and water then headed out to the outside anchorage to get a good start in the morning and have a "couple" anchor beers after another nerve racking ordeal. What's up with picking up these stray lines, hopefully that is it!. Oh, Capt'n did take a quick swim the one day to make sure nothing was wrapped around the prop and there wasn't so we must have shook that line off with Capt'n Bob's advice. Outside anchorage wasn't bad, winds finally died a bit and not too bad of a spot, little rolly but ok.
10 January 2019
Well as planned we left the marina on Sunday, Jan 6th and anchored in the Manatee close to Snead Island. Got moving Monday morning around 7 am and headed out the channel. Wind behind us and a good current running out so we flew out towards Passage Key and into the Gulf of Mexico doing 7 knots motor sailing. Nice wind in the Gulf and we shut down the iron genny and had the sails up doing about 6+ for a couple hours until the wind died out... so back to motor sailing. Beautiful day on the gulf so could not complain too much. Sun set a little before 6 so we started our shifts of 2 hours on 2 hours off. Me (Margi) taking the first shift from 6-8 since I have a strange habit of wanting to "adjust" to the darkness as it sets in and set in it did, it was pitch black and couldn't see anything ahead. Moon was a sliver and set around 7 pm, so no moon at all to light the way. Stars were out and Orion was in clear sight, which is another strange hangup - I like to see Orion while we are sailing at night. It's only been 8 months or so since we last went to the Bahamas, but still don't like the night sails and this time it was hard to adjust to, esp. since there was some creepy haze all around us right after the sun set. As luck would have it, the winds finally kicked in again on one of Dave's (Capt'n) shifts so plans were to start sailing again. Then.. as luck would have it, the winds went from behind us, to on the beam, to heading us, to right on the nose completely eliminating our chances of sailing and then died in the morning. Besides having to motor sail through the night, the trip went relatively well. Made it to the Little Shark River around 1:30 pm and got anchored, but not until after Capt'n went a little too far in. Well we didn't run aground, tide was up 1.6 and we saw 6'8", WS draws about 6'2" fully loaded so luckily the tide was up. So backed her up and got her into about 10' and anchored there. Had a wonderful anchor beer, Capt'n pictured above with his. Only boat in the anchorage and it was beautiful - another boat did come in later and anchor, but a good distance away.
Up at dawn the next day to get an early start for Marathon and hopefully beat the cold front in. Out of the anchorage, rocking and rolling a bit on the water blowing about 15-20, which was great for a downwind sail. Sailed for about an hour or so until the wind AGAIN died, couldn't believe it as the forecast was for 10-15 and to pick up to 15-20 with the front. So we motor sailed again in order to get to Marathon before dark and hopefully pick up a mooring. The Gulf of Mexico is loaded with crab pots and even 25 miles out we were seeing them here and there. Getting close to Marathon they are all over the place and we are very diligent to miss them. Got about an hour out of Marathon and was ancy about calling and getting a mooring as there are no reservations in Marathon, but you can call a little out and get one and we have never had a problem. Called and to my dismay they were full - leaving us thinking we had to anchor outside of Marathon and with the high NW, N winds predicted it would be very rough out there. Dock master suggested anchoring, inside - I'm like you're kidding right. He said no, it's wide open, but wide open to one is definitely not wide open to another. My question was what about the locals - that area was always loaded with derelict boats and locals packed in tight together, I would never try it. He said Irma got rid of most of them and for us to just to check it out. OK, but this will never work! In the meantime, Capt'n had upped the rev's to 2600 to get us moving as we seemed to be losing speed. I get back to look and they are at 2400 - what's up with that??? So, he goes to up them again, puts the throttle down and nothing - no increase in revs. OH GREAT - no mooring and now we have engine problems! Capt'n runs around checking everything and nothing wrong with the engine we can tell, water temp good - oil good, fuel good, wt? is going on? I did remember friends telling us when the picked up crab pots the speed would slow drastically, but didn't remember anything about the revs. So I suggested Capt'n call our cruising friend Bob on Caribbean Soul and see if he could tell us what happens (he's picked up a couple before) and if we did indeed pick something up. We could not see that we were dragging anything, but something was definitely wrong. Well Bob suggested putting the engine in neutral, I'm steering and I'm like NO - I'm afraid to, thinking we might not get any revs back. Reluctently I did so, held it there a few secs and put the throttle down and yes, we are getting more revs now, wow! So, next was to put it into reverse for a 10 seconds or so to see if we could shake what was on there. That seems to work, we were back to normal and we definitely owe Bob some wings and beers!!! Never have we picked anything up like that, but next time we will know what to do, although hopefully there will never be a next time. Capt'n still has to go for a swim when it warms up here, just to make sure there is nothing still wrapped on the shaft. So, anyway, we get under the 7 mile bridge and the front moves in blowing like stink, I'm watching boats go into Marathon and telling the Capt'n they are going to take the last anchor spot - that is normally my luck. Well we got to the southern anchorage, before the mooring field and AMAZINGLY we squeezzzzeeedd in between a couple boats right off the channel. Closer than I would like, but both people were on their boats and didn't complain - so okay this will have to do & could not believe we found a spot as it definitely wasn't wide open. We are at least protected in here from the waves and it's so nice not to be outside the harbor as it was pretty ugly out there in the anchorage when we were heading in. We got on a waiting list for a mooring since the moorings are $22 a night and include your dinghy dock fee. The dinghy dock fee for anchored boats is $22 a day, go figure on that one. Nice night, but winds definitely picked up throughout the night and are still howling as I type. Checked a few times during the night and we were holding well, which is good since we could only put about 75' of chain out with the limited room, still reasonable scope, but not what we would normally do with a front coming through. Our neighbor was not so lucky; he was sideways close to the mangroves this morning and must have just missed another boat while dragging back. They must have slept through the entire thing as they weren't up on deck trying to do anything until around 8am. We were just about to get into the dinghy to see if we could help them, when they luckily got the boat moving. They are anchored beside us again - a little closer than before, but I'm not saying anything as it's traumatic enough when your boat drags on anchor and we anchored close to them to begin with. So plans are now to wait out this cold front and we are hoping to get a break to head to the Bahama's this coming weekend, most likely Sunday if we get South winds to cross the Gulf Stream. We don't need a ton of time just a day's worth to get across the stream and onto the Bahama banks. It is another overnight-er and we will cross the banks in the dark, but after that none until we head back in the spring. Hopefully, there's a bit more moon out for this one and last longer than 7 PM before it sets!
As usual - long winded, but that's just the way it is - I just can't seem to type a short and sweet blog, oh well...
28 December 2018
We are getting the boat ready for departure and if all goes well we should be leaving sometime around the second week of January. Current plans are to anchor in the Manatee River, off Emerson Point, overnight the 1st night. Yes, it is a really far trip, but we think we can make it in at least 10 minutes to the anchorage. The idea behind that is we are currently experiencing the negative winter tides and every morning we are thinking of leaving it is something like a -0.6 to -0.8, which means WS will be on the bottom for a short period of time. Thoughts are to leave from the Manatee anchorage at daybreak and head for the Little Shark River, which is an overnight-er for us. Last year we left from Egmont Key and made it to Port Charlotte just before dark. So far the forecast shows winds that are not good for anchoring off Egmont during the time we are thinking of leaving. Leaving from the Manatee adds on an hour or two, depending on wind and current, which most likely would get us into Port Charlotte long after dark. While the channel is wide and easily doable in the dark, it's long and just not worth the stop at that point, esp. if the current is against you going in (or out for that matter). From the Little Shark (hopefully it is not buggy!) we will head to Marathon and hopefully get a weather window to cross to the Bahamas soon after. Right now forecasts are showing N winds for quite a while after we leave, great for pushing us South into the Keys, not good for crossing into the Bahamas. We will just have to wait and see - could be worse things than sitting in the Florida Keys for a bit in January! Oh, no pictures yet - that's just the little bird that hitched a ride with us for a little bit on last year's trip, just testing this blog stuff out...