We've spent three years cruising to the Bahamas on Pegu Club, our Bristol 29.9. Time to switch it up a bit and head to Southern California for the winter, tent camping our way across the United States.
Of our three cruising seasons, this is the earliest in the calendar that we have headed north, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s been the most challenging as far as weather is concerned. Winter and spring are still battling it out, so the trip has been filled with starts and stops. Chris Parker has been saying in his emails that this pattern has been more reminiscent of early spring than of May. Great.
We are currently in Belhaven, NC and have yet to be able to travel for more than three days in a row before having to stop for weather. And believe me, some of those days have been less than comfortable. We had a particularly rolly, rollicking ride north on the Neuse River with the wind blowing 20+ knots – fortunately behind us. It wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any fun.
We had hoped to hop outside when the opportunity presented itself, but so far those times have been so infrequent that it has made more sense just to keep moving north on the ICW vs. sitting and waiting for a window to maybe open up. At times my frustration level has been high, to put it mildly. I am SO OVER the ICW. Continue reading “Will we ever make it to Norfolk, let alone Connecticut?”→
After our driving tour of Eleuthera we turned our thoughts towards going back to the states. We had been in the Bahamas for almost four months, and we were increasingly fantasizing about Publix and other conveniences. This had been the longest stay of our three trips, and we agreed that next time we would keep it to three months. That seems to be about when we are ready for a change of scenery. The beaches and the water are gorgeous, but when it starts to feel like just another beach it’s time to go.
We wanted to cross back to the U.S. from the Abacos so we picked the best day to make the 55 nautical mile trip over from Eleuthera. Of course “best day” was relative. We were looking at a solid week of sloppy, rolly, crappy conditions so we chose the day that appeared to be the least sloppy, rolly, and crappy. We prefer not to have long days in those conditions, but at least if we know that’s how it’s going to be we can be mentally prepared for it. The forecast didn’t disappoint, but we sucked it up and anchored by Lynard Cay in the southern Abacos at the end of a long day. Continue reading “Time to head back to the states.”→
We spent most of this month in Eleuthera before moving to the Abacos as we began our journey north back to Connecticut.
A big driver of our expenses this month (at 27% of the total) was the renewal of our cruising permit for $500.00. The Bahamian government changed the cruising permit renewal fee structure without publicizing it (or putting it in writing on the customs website). When we learned through the Facebook Bahamas groups that a renewal was going to be $500 instead of the $150 (for our boat size) like it used to be, we debated going back to the U.S. early since we were only planning on staying for five or six weeks past our renewal date.
But ultimately we decided to pay up. In weighing the pros and cons we felt it was too soon temperature-wise to start heading north, so we would have sat on a mooring in Vero while waiting for the weather to warm up. Between the mooring and ready access to a good grocery store, we would have spent more than $500 in a month without the benefit of being able to snorkel or swim in pretty water right off the boat. Not to mention the zero-to-single-digit daily Covid cases here – something that can’t be said about any spot in the U.S.
So we ponied up the money, but to say we weren’t happy about the unannounced change is putting it mildly.
After we waved goodbye to Rock Sound, we had a great sail to one of our favorite anchorages in Eleuthera (well, of the ones we’ve seen so far): Alabaster Bay. This anchorage is simply gorgeous, and while we would have loved to stay a bit longer, the wind direction wasn’t really cooperating with a southerly component.
Little did we know that when we decided to go to Rock Sound instead of George Town it would turn out to be one of the smartest decisions we made this cruising season. We knew that the anchorage in Rock Sound would be excellent if we ended up pinned down for several days due to high winds, and when we left Staniel Cay that was exactly what was in the forecast. What no one could have foreseen at the time, though, was that those several days of winds would turn into almost two weeks with very little respite.
The trip to Rock Sound itself was uneventful once we made it through Conch Cut. That part was “entertaining.” When the wind blows strongly from the east, the cuts between the Exuma cays can develop what is called a “rage” when the wind is against the current. While we had previously experienced sloppy departures, we hadn’t ever been in what we would consider a rage. I think now we may know what people are talking about. Continue reading “A fortuitous decision.”→
Another month in the Bahamas, where it’s easy to spend very little if you choose. We spent most of February in the Exumas before moving to Eleuthera at the end of the month. March is going to be higher because we need to renew our cruising permit so we’ll enjoy this month’s spending for now!
I think it’s almost inevitable. If you do anything long enough, you start to get a bit complacent. The only problem with doing that on a boat is Mother Nature will give you a smack in the face to bring you back to your senses. Fortunately the repeated smacks we experienced over a a few weeks didn’t do any damage except to our psyche.
Leaving Red Shanks turned out to be the first of a series of poor decisions for Pegu Club’s crew. After a rolly motor sail to Lee Stocking, we enjoyed a great day anchored in front of “our” beach, doing some snorkeling and swimming. The water was already warmer than it had been just a few weeks ago which was a welcome development – it will only get warmer as the days go by!
Looking at the weather forecast, the wind was going to clock more to the south-southeast which meant that the anchorage in Lee Stocking would be fairly exposed. We decided we would ride it out the next day – our first poor decision. The winds ended up being substantially higher than forecast so that by mid-morning it was honking in the steady low 20’s with higher gusts, bringing 3+ foot waves onto a lee shore. For non-sailors, that means the wind was blowing towards the land – not good. We raised the anchor and motored over to Rat Cay – a much better decision.
The next day we took a look at the tide tables and the weather and decided we should move north in anticipation of a front that would be arriving in several days. It was a long day but a very nice sail, and we ended up back in Pipe Cay where we anchored in our up-to-that-point favorite spot in Pipe where we planned to wait out the front. Our second poor decision. We dropped the anchor slightly west of where we had during our previous visits – something that we would find out later was our third poor decision. Continue reading “A series of poor decisions.”→
Last year we were stuck in George Town and Red Shanks for close to a month as we waited out cold front after cold front. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with George Town and Red Shanks per se. It’s just that it’s not for us. So what did we do this year? The strongest front of the winter was coming, we were 25 nautical miles away in Lee Stocking, and we let the siren calls of the most well-stocked grocery stores in the Exumas suck us back in.
We had to settle for a motor sail from Rock Sound, but it was well worth it because after an uneventful day (except for the joy of the dolphins that followed along beside us for ten minutes – they never get old!) we were dropping the anchor in one of our favorite spots: Pipe Cay. A small blow was predicted so the next day we followed our track from last year’s adventure and slid into our hands-down favorite hidey hole in the back of Pipe. Although we still play the tides, it’s MUCH less stressful being able to follow last year’s track on the chart plotter.
After the blow we moved over to Staniel Cay (another favorite spot), then proceeded to spend the next week and a half moving between Staniel and Pipe as the weather dictated. We found a great spot to snorkel in Pipe and alternated between exploring and loafing around until we saw a nice stretch of weather to continue farther south.
Weather can be so cool. This picture was off the starboard side of the boat at Staniel one morning:
And this was the view off the port side of the boat:
A stop in Little Bay was next, along with a hike to the blow hole (which I find very entertaining) in Black Point:
Thar she blows!
We then moved on to Lee Stocking where we snorkeled among plenty of fish and several rays, including one that was literally at least three feet across.
We absolutely love Lee Stocking. The water is so clear, and between the swimming, snorkeling, and hiking, we could easily spend weeks there (something we hope to do on our way north now that we have a water maker).
Unfortunately after several days a look at the weather for the upcoming week made it clear to us that it was time to skedaddle. After debating whether to head north back up to Pipe or south to Red Shanks, the desire to get more food at a well-stocked and reasonably priced (for the Bahamas) grocery store tipped the scales, so we pointed the bow towards Red Shanks near George Town.
Ahhh, if only every month could be as frugal as when we are in the Bahamas.
In January we moved through Eleuthera and into the Exumas. It was a VERY inexpensive month, even with a quarterly life insurance payment and a few annual subscriptions paid up front. We’ll see what next month brings.