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

Rudder Cut Cay and Little Farmers Cay.

As we head north we are trying to sail on the shallower Exuma Banks side as much as we can so we can enjoy the beautiful colors of the water.  To get from Leaf Cay to Rudder Cut Cay we were going to need to go around the Pimlico Cays which have low water depths of under 4′ (which is less than our draft).  Additionally, the chart indicated that the sand shifted so it was possible it could be shallower.

After asking about it on a Facebook group we belong to, we were encouraged by our friends on S/V Duchess who had been through the area a few weeks earlier with a draft 2″ deeper than ours.  High tide was in our favor so we decided to go for it, and we were glad we did.  It was a nice route, and once again it boosted our confidence a bit.

Dropping the anchor at Rudder Cut Cay, we found to our delight that we had it all to ourselves.  That hasn’t happened since we left the Abacos.  We were a bit surprised because Rudder Cut Cay offered good protection from a strong front that was going to be passing through, but no one joined us until the day we left.  Works for us!

Rudder Cut Cay is a private island owned by David Copperfield.  While we weren’t allowed to walk on the beach, we were still able to enjoy one of the prettiest anchorages that we have seen on this trip.

Continue reading “Rudder Cut Cay and Little Farmers Cay.”

Iguanas!

Our first stop after leaving Georgetown was Lee Stocking Island.  After motoring out of Georgetown harbor, we enjoyed a lovely downwind sail to Rat Cay Cut.  We motored through the cut (better safe than sorry), but then switched off the engine again and sailed the rest of the way to the anchorage.

As we ghosted between cays and over shallows, I marveled at how much more confidence we’ve gained over the past seven months (wow – can’t believe it’s been that long already!).  It’s a little thing, but I’ve wanted to sail into Block Island’s Great Salt Pond for awhile.  We sailed in once with Little Bristol, but we had the outboard on (in neutral) just in case.  After this sail, I looked at Jeff and said there is absolutely no reason why we can’t sail into the Pond this summer.  We had just sailed between unfamiliar rock islands that are narrower than Block Island’s entrance.  We’ve had the skills for awhile – we just lacked the confidence.  Now we KNOW we can do it.

On our way to Lee Stocking Island:

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Dropping the anchor at Lee Stocking Island, we were joined several hours later by our friends from S/V Lone Star and their guests.  Over the next few days we enjoyed nightly card games on Lone Star, floating on our noodles in the beautiful water, and exploring the abandoned facilities on the island.

Lee Stocking Island was the home of the Caribbean Marine Research Center which was one of six National Undersea Research Centers affiliated with NOAA.  The facility was one of the most productive marine laboratories in the world until it closed due to funding cuts in 2012.  All of the research buildings and residences remain, along with an airstrip, slowly being reclaimed by nature.  It was eerie walking around in what was essentially a tiny abandoned village.

Continue reading “Iguanas!”

Rock Sound and Georgetown

When we decided once and for all to go to the Exumas, we determined that our strategy would be to get to Georgetown quickly and then explore as we slowly worked our way north.  We are thinking that for our return visit this fall we will start in the Exumas, so we wanted to see if Georgetown would be a viable base for us in the winter months.  But before we could get to Georgetown, we needed to wait out some weather in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.

Rock Sound proved to be a nice place to spend several days.  The harbor was large with great protection and holding, perfect for riding out several days of winds in the mid-20’s.  Our friends Jay and Tanya from S/V Minx were also in the anchorage so we were able to hang out several times with them (we had last seen them in Vero Beach) which was a lot of fun.  There is a blue hole in the middle of the settlement that we checked out (our first one), and we joined a group of cruisers for lunch at Sammy’s which had good food for a VERY reasonable price.

I have been charmed by the homemade signs all over the Bahamas pointing the way to various attractions.

 

Continue reading “Rock Sound and Georgetown”

Turtles!

I had hoped on this trip that we would get to see a lot of sea turtles.  We had seen a few so far, but not as many as I had expected.  What happened our first morning in the Royal Island anchorage more than made up for it.

Hearing a motorboat pass us rather closely, I popped my head out of the cabin to find a guy on the bow of the motorboat holding a net and another guy steering.  When they came by again I asked them what they were up to. “Catching turtles!” the net guy replied.  “TAGGING turtles” came the quick correction from the driver.  We laughed about that being an important distinction, and the driver said they would come by when they were finished.

After about twenty minutes they puttered up to Pegu Club and tied off on our rear cleat.  It turned out that the boat was affiliated with the Bahamas Sea Turtle Network and the University of Florida.  The guys had two turtles and we were welcomed onboard to watch the tagging process!

Continue reading “Turtles!”

We’ve finally decided to head farther south.

We’ve had such a nice time in the Abacos that we repeatedly asked ourselves whether we wanted to stay for the remainder of our time here or move farther south to the Exumas.  On the one hand, we’ve covered a lot of miles over the past six months and it would be nice to stay in one area for a few months.  On the other hand, while Jeff continues to do well, we can’t just assume that we’ll be able to come back again in the fall, so perhaps we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Exumas.  If we went to the Exumas we could finally see our friends on S/V Lone Star, and deliver the chocolate, almond milk, and whey powder that we picked up for them in Lake Worth.  But if we stayed we would see them as they passed through the Abacos.

Back and forth, back and forth.  We literally would change our mind a few times a day.  Every time we decided to stay, we would think that maybe we should go.  When we decided to go, we thought it was lovely here so why don’t we stay?  Finally I decided to put our dilemma on the Facebook Bahamas Cruising group.  The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of going to the Exumas.  With the decision made, it was time to start making some tracks south.

Continue reading “We’ve finally decided to head farther south.”

Junkanoo!

After enjoying several lovely days in Hope Town, we backtracked to Marsh Harbor for the Junkanoo event.  According to the Bahamian government website, a Junkanoo is a Bahamian national festival with roots that can be traced to West Africa.  Participating teams spend months working on a theme, developing costumes, musical compositions, and choreography.  Judges roam throughout the groups, scoring them on a page-long list of categories.  The Marsh Harbor Junkanoo is on a much smaller scale than the annual event held in Nassau on Boxing Day, but we still very much wanted to see it.

The posters in town said that the Juniors event would be held at 6:00 on Friday, with the Adults the following night at 7:00.  So being typical Americans from the northeast, we showed up slightly before 6:00 on Friday evening.  This being the islands, the fencing was just going up when we arrived.  Looks like we were a little early!  

Continue reading “Junkanoo!”

February by the numbers.

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Below are the numbers for February, including what we spent.  We crossed to the Bahamas on February 3rd and have been there ever since.

Now that’s more like it!  Nothing like spending most of the month in uninhabited places to keep the cash outflow down!  March should be even better because we won’t have the extra grocery provisioning that we did before leaving Florida, and we also won’t have the check-in fee.  Here we go:

Days under way: 14

Nautical miles covered: 282.43

Number of states: 1 (Florida)

Number of countries: 1 (Bahamas)

Nights at anchor: 28 – our first month where we anchored every night.

Expenses:

Groceries/Non-food Groceries: $327.85

Diesel/Gasoline: $120 (we topped off in Lake Worth and also paid $5/gallon in Hope Town for 15 gallons)

Cell phone and internet (2 phones, iCloud storage, Garmin inReach subscription, $10 in Skype credit, and myislandwifi because the T-Mobile service is so slow in the Bahamas): $247.63.  This will go down next month because we had to pay $50 for the myislandwifi router.

Mail: $5.00

Water: $14.10 (approximately .35/gallon in Hope Town for R/O water)

Ice: $4.50

Restaurants/Entertainment: $90.00

Uber/Bus: $40.00

New York Times subscription: $20.20

Clothing: $32.00

DAN Boater Evacuation Insurance: $50

Check-in fee at the Bahamas: $160 (it’s actually $150 but I didn’t have the exact amount and the customs/immigration officer didn’t have change).

Random: $128.54.  This includes a haircut for Jeff, DVD’s, a book on the Abacos, and a swim noodle to replace the one that was lost.   

Total: $1,239.82

September, 2018 through February, 2019 monthly average: $4,594.78