A tale of two passages – part one.

We spent several days waiting out a weather system at our hidey hole by Green Turtle Cay before moving to Great Sale Cay where we would leave for our crossing back to the U.S.  We have spent approximately one week in this Green Turtle anchorage during our time in the Bahamas, and we really do love it.  We have had it to ourselves every time except for one night, and the protection is superb.  Turtles and rays come by every day and we discovered some nice snorkeling on this last stop.  However, it was time to go so we sadly waved goodbye until next time.

Why hello there!
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A beautiful sunset.

After many discussions over the past few months, Jeff and I agreed that we were ready to try a multi-night passage.  Up to now we had only done two single overnights.  We had the awful one down the New Jersey coast, and we had a mostly wind-free 20 hours when we crossed from Lake Worth to Great Sale Cay in early February.  We had gained a lot of confidence while sailing in all kinds of conditions in the Bahamas, so it was time to push our comfort zone a bit more.

We set up custom weather routing with Chris Parker who is well-known among cruisers for his forecasting.  Although we wouldn’t have cell service off shore and we only have an SSB receiver, he would be able to send detailed forecasts through our inReach device.  When a good weather window opened up, it was time to go.

Our hope was to go from Great Sale Cay to Georgetown, SC or even Beaufort, NC if the stars aligned, but we agreed that we wouldn’t hesitate to bail out early if we wanted to.  That proved to be a very good plan. 

We left Great Sale on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and had good wind for sailing all day.  The wind angle was a bit different than forecasted so right away we weren’t going to be able to aim for one of Chris’ suggested waypoints, but we kept chugging along with Bob (our Monitor windvane) steering like a champ.  

Continue reading “A tale of two passages – part one.”

April by the numbers.

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Below are the numbers for April, including what we spent.

We have now spent three months in the Bahamas, and while it was still a good month our expenses did creep up thanks to our wanting to replenish some provisions (note to self: bring more snacks next time) and having to pay some taxes on April 15th.  Here we go:

Days under way: 12

Nautical miles covered: 261.63

Number of countries: 1 (Bahamas)

Nights at anchor: 30

Expenses:

Groceries/Non-food Groceries: $454.91

Diesel/Gasoline: $98.00 (15 gallons at $6.53/gallon on Great Guana Cay, the Abacos)

Propane/Denatured Alcohol: $4.29

Medical: $8.97 (prescriptions)

Cell phone and internet (2 phones, iCloud storage, Garmin inReach subscription, and myislandwifi because the T-Mobile service is so slow in the Bahamas): $202.63

Water: $20.00

Laundry: $6.00

Ice: $15.72

Boat US Towing annual membership fee: $151.00

Restaurants/Entertainment: $130.00

New York Times subscription: $20.20

Two nights anchored at the Exumas Land & Sea Park: $30.00

Hair cut: $30.00

Life Insurance: $220.75

10 pack of Chris Parker custom weather forecasts: $250.00

Random: $349.22. (Turbo tax plus state tax owed, conch horn, postcards, grocery bagger and fuel dock tips) 

Total: $1,991.69

September, 2018 through April, 2019 monthly average: $3,797.38.

Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.

Spanish Wells in Eleuthera was a charming stop, and a place where we would like to spend more time next season.  It had an abundance of colorful, cute houses which reminded us of a larger version of Hopetown, and there was an amazing shallow beach that seemed to stretch out forever at low tide. Spanish Wells also had a large grocery store where we were able to stock up on more snacks.  Note to self: bring more snacks next time!

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Nice view!
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Their parking space around the corner was labeled “Parking for Crazy Frank and Margaret Rose.” 

Continue reading “Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.”

“You don’t have a refrigerator?”

As we have met other cruisers on our travels, the one thing that raises eyebrows more than the size of Pegu Club is the fact that we don’t have a refrigerator.  “Really???” is the inevitable response, followed by a look in the person’s eyes that says, “Help me.  I’m talking to a crazy person.”  Well, we may be crazy, but it’s not because we don’t have a refrigerator.

I’ll admit that when we cut the dock lines last September if you had asked me what was the thing we would be most likely to change,  I would have immediately replied, “We’ll be adding a refrigerator.”  I thought we would find it was too difficult to cruise full time without one.  So why didn’t we have one before we left?

Continue reading ““You don’t have a refrigerator?””

Farewell to the Exumas as we begin to head north in earnest.

Any place after Pipe Cay was going to pale in comparison, but we still enjoyed our stop in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. We spent a night anchored at Warderick Wells before moving on to Shroud Cay.  Everyone we spoke to who offered suggestions for Exumas stops said that we MUST see Shroud Cay, so how could we skip it?

We spent two nights in a very lovely anchorage where we were able to snorkle a few coral reefs (we saw lots of fish) and we also took our dinghy up the mangrove creek to the ocean side which was a lot of fun.

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We didn’t have any fish-sighting success while snorkeling in the creek, but we did see a shark swimming in the shallows on the ocean side and a turtle in the creek as we slowly motored along. The Land and Sea Park has so many snorkeling spots that we didn’t get to see, but the pesky calendar won’t slow down.  We’ll definitely come back next season, but for now we needed to take advantage of good weather to cross back to Eleuthera and keep heading north. Continue reading “Farewell to the Exumas as we begin to head north in earnest.”

Pipe Creek. How is is possible that the Exumas keep getting prettier?

A short sail away from Staniel Cay was Pipe Creek, an absolutely stunning spot which is now my favorite place in the Exumas. As far as beauty goes, it is the prettiest place we’ve seen so far, and that’s saying something. 

Pipe Creek runs between Pipe Cay and Little Pipe Cay, and at low tide the vast majority of the water is gone, leaving sand flats everywhere.  The water ranged from dark blue to turquoise, electric blue to clear.  

We spent several days here, simply not wanting to leave.  We watched kiteboarders (who love the shallow spots), a seaplane landed in front of us, and every time the tide went out we took the dinghy and played in the water, floating in the shallow areas, drifting along, and walking around the sand flats.  

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these pictures (which honestly don’t do it justice) do the talking:

Continue reading “Pipe Creek. How is is possible that the Exumas keep getting prettier?”

Staniel Cay

 

Our next stop after Black Point was Staniel Cay, an easy, lazy 11 nautical miles up the Exumas.  With one of the few places to get diesel and water in the area, Staniel Cay was the busiest place we had been since leaving Georgetown and it was initially a little jarring.  I can only imagine how much starker the contrast will be when we return to the United States at the end of the month!  Boats ranging from regular to mega yachts went in and out of the harbor, and the anchorage was busy with dinghies of all types and sizes zooming back and forth.

Despite all of the activity, we really enjoyed Staniel Cay.  The water was crystal clear and had the most beautiful shades of blue that we had seen so far.  The pictures really couldn’t capture it.

Continue reading “Staniel Cay”

So what IS a swell bridle?

A few people have asked me about our swell bridle, so I thought I’d write a quick post describing what it is and how we set ours up.

Anchored boats point into the wind and typically rock at the bow and stern (hopefully gently, but if it’s really windy and wavy it can be quite the ride!).  We can typically fall asleep even when the anchorage is sporty, as long as the wind and the waves are coming from the same direction.

When the waves come from the side, however, the boat rolls from side to side due to the fact that it’s still pointed into the wind.  This can happen if the waves wrap around a point of land in the anchorage.  It can also occur when a strong wind changes direction because it takes some time for the direction of the waves to shift with the wind.  As you can imagine, rolling from side to side makes it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to sleep.

Some Googling introduced me to the concept of a swell bridle.  A swell bridle allows you to move the boat so that it’s pointed into the waves instead of into the wind.  With the boat once again rocking at the bow and stern, you can mercifully fall asleep again.

To rig our swell bridle we took an old halyard and attached it to the chain below the bow roller.  In our case we still had a shackle attached to the halyard, but if we didn’t we would have simply tied the halyard onto the chain.  We then determined which side the wind would be when the boat was pointed into the waves, and ran the halyard back to the cockpit winch on that future windward side, keeping the halyard on the outside of the stanchions.  After that we let out an additional 30 feet of chain (the length of Pegu Club) and then tightened the halyard until Pegu Club’s bow was pointed into the waves instead of the wind.  Letting out the additional chain (thereby giving you more scope) will help to make up for the increased windage from being beam to the wind.

As soon as we set it up the effect was immediate.  No longer rolling from side to side, we were now bobbing fore and aft and would be able to sleep again.  Hooray!  If you search “swell bridle” under Google images you can find some good pictures that illustrate what I’m describing.

As one final tip, make sure that you have enough space around you in the anchorage before doing this.  Letting out additional chain and turning the boat will change your position in the in the anchorage, and you won’t be pointed the same way as everyone else.  Not being sure how close we would end up to the boats around us is the primary reason why Jeff didn’t want to set it up for the first time in the middle of the night.  When daylight came we saw there was a trawler fairly close to us, so it turned out to be a good call.

We really don’t see people using a swell bridle in rolly anchorages which is surprising given how helpful it is.  I suspect that they aren’t aware of such a thing, just as we weren’t.  Hopefully someone will find this post to be useful when the time inevitably comes that you’re frustratingly rolling from side to side instead of bobbing to and fro.  Sleep well!

A return to Little Bay – and our first blowhole!

As you can probably tell, we are not dawdling quite as much as we typically do.  Even though it feels like we just got here, it’s actually been a few months and we need to start thinking about the timing for sailing back to Connecticut.  We would love to stay longer, but we also want to spend some time in Connecticut and in the Chesapeake as we go south again.  As Jeff pointed out, it took us so long to get down here that in order to get somewhat back on track, something was going to have to get cut short.

We decided that a maximum of three months in the Bahamas was going to have to suffice this time.  We’ll make up for it next season.  We need to get back to Connecticut by the end of June for doctor appointments, so as a result we’re skipping up the Exumas with an eye towards crossing back to the United States by the end of April.  However, we are definitely taking notes on where we’d like to spend more time when we return at the end of the year!

One repeat visit for us already on this trip was Little Bay on Great Guana Cay.  Looking at the forecast we were going to be getting some westerly winds in the mid-teens for half a day before the wind clocked to the northwest and around.  One thing that the Exumas lacks are an abundance of anchorages with westerly protection.  Little Bay was only 10 nautical miles away from Little Farmers Cay, and while it was open to the west, we could tuck in and get protection once the wind turned to the northwest.  Bonus points for it being a lovely anchorage and a 45 minute walk into Black Point, which is a settlement where we hoped to be able to pick up a few provisions.

We had a nice, lazy, jib-only sail of 12 nautical miles from Little Farmers to Little Bay.  Although the wind was supposed to be light, it started turning west and picking up speed as we approached Little Bay.  By the time we anchored we already had two to three foot swells in the anchorage.  Good times – not.  Tom and Anita from S/V Lone Star pulled in a few hours later and although we had planned to get together that evening we decided to postpone until the next day given the conditions.

As the evening progressed the wind started to shift, but the wave direction didn’t.  This put the waves on our beam with Pegu Club rolling side to side, side to side, around 20-30 degrees at a time.  It was an absolutely sleepless night for both of us.  I wanted to set a swell bridle but we had never done it before and Jeff didn’t want to set it up in the dark.  While in hindsight this was obviously the right decision, it didn’t make the night any easier.  Finally we both fell asleep around 4:00 a.m.  The rolling hadn’t stopped, but we were so tired it didn’t matter.

The next day Tom and Anita came over and cheered us on while we rigged up a swell bridle.  The relief from the swell was immediate, and we won’t hesitate to do that again in the future.  Tom, Anita, and I decided to walk into the settlement while Jeff opted to stay on the boat and rest, feeling especially tired from our sleepless night.  I was on a quest to buy some bread from Mama, who reportedly made the best bread in the Exumas.

Continue reading “A return to Little Bay – and our first blowhole!”

March by the numbers.

Below are the numbers for March, including what we spent.  We were in the Bahamas for the entire month.

Yes!  Another low month!  We are loving the Bahamas and are budget is loving it too.  Here we go:

Days under way: 14

Nautical miles covered: 311.89

Number of countries: 1 (Bahamas)

Nights at anchor: 30

Nights on a mooring: 1

Expenses:

Groceries/Non-food Groceries: $175.53

Diesel/Gasoline: $64.00 (15 gallons in Rock Sound, Eleuthera)

Medical: $90.00 (prescriptions)

Cell phone and internet (2 phones, iCloud storage, Garmin inReach subscription, and myislandwifi because the T-Mobile service is so slow in the Bahamas): $219.26.

Ice: $9.00

Restaurants/Entertainment: $118.00

New York Times subscription: $20.20

Mooring ball for one night: $25.00

Non-Owners Auto Insurance policy for six months: $74.80

Random: $22.88.  Trash disposal in Georgetown, one Kindle book, and plastic scrapers.   

Total: $818.64

September, 2018 through March 2019 monthly average: $4,055.33