Don’t these things usually happen in threes?

After checking in, all we needed to do was answer a short, daily health questionnaire for two weeks and ensure we were somewhere on day five where we could get our follow-up Covid test.  The immigration officer told us that our arrival day was actually day one (we had originally thought it was the day of check in).  Since that was the case we only had two more days before our test.  We could get tested at the local clinic, so we decided it made sense to simply hang around Green Turtle a bit longer.

We decided to treat ourselves and rented a golf cart for the afternoon so we could explore the cay more thoroughly than we had in the past.  It was a lot of fun and we found a fantastic beach for our return visit in the spring.  Green Turtle has made an enormous amount of progress since Dorian.  In fact, with the exception of a handful of buildings in the settlement and scattered throughout the island, you wouldn’t have known it was devastated 15 months earlier.

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Loved this beach on Green Turtle. We’ll spend the day here when we come back in the spring.
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It seems Dorian didn’t touch the John Lowe house from 1866.

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Thursday was test day, but on Wednesday the weather finally settled down so we decided to check out of the marina.  We have a saying on Pegu Club: sometimes you watch the show, sometimes you are the show.  Well, we were the show getting out of the slip.  It was much narrower than we were used to, and the dinghy got snagged between the boat and the piling.  There’s a t-shirt you can buy that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was docking the boat.”  That would have been a good shirt to have on Pegu Club.  Number one.  What does that mean?  You shall soon find out, faithful reader. Continue reading “Don’t these things usually happen in threes?”

The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.

The Bahamas are in the unenviable position of trying to support an economy that is heavily reliant on tourism while protecting its citizens and residents from Covid.  Many of their tourists come from the United States which is one giant Covid hotspot at the moment.  We wouldn’t have been surprised if the government had simply told people with U.S. passports that they weren’t welcome (as so many other countries have).  Instead, they came up with a plan to balance the risks.  So far, it seems to be working well – knock on wood.

Currently (and I do mean currently – there was a period where the rules were changing every 7-10 days), in order to bring your boat over to cruise in the Bahamas you need to have a negative RT-PCR Covid test and an approved health visa.  The catch is that you can’t apply for the health visa until you get your negative Covid test, and with a few exceptions you must arrive in the Bahamas no more than five days after you take the test (test day is day zero).  Winter weather windows for crossing the Gulf Stream can be tight, so the key is to find a laboratory with a quick turnaround time, along with a certain amount of luck.

When we arrived in West Palm we were actually in the middle of a three day weather window for crossing, but we had decided to pass it up.  Our heads weren’t ready for it yet and we wanted to spend a few days checking out West Palm.  We are super-careful with Covid so we weren’t able to see much, but we saw enough to know that we’d like to spend a week hanging out there post-Covid.  There are tons of different restaurants and independent shops, the beach, museums, outdoor concerts, etc.  Hopefully next year.

No matter how big your boat is, someone else always has a bigger one:

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the next window.  We were looking for a solid two days that would get us to Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, with a backup plan to check in at West End (only 50 nautical miles away from the Lake Worth inlet) if the window shrank.

What’s the big deal with taking the test and having the window disappear?  Well, at $180/person for the tests (there are free tests available, but it’s a roll of the dice as to how quickly the results come back), $60/person for the health visa, plus a rental car, we were looking at a sizeable chunk of money if the window didn’t pan out.  That being said, we would never cross the Gulf Stream without a good window so if we lost $500+, so be it.

When we woke up on Monday we saw that Friday was a possibility for crossing.  By Tuesday morning it looked less likely.  But on Wednesday morning not only did Friday look much better, but now Saturday and Sunday were also looking good.  We reserved a rental car for the next day, just in case.

Thursday morning we woke up to listen to Chris Parker’s 6:30 a.m. forecast for the Bahamas and Florida.  The window was still looking good.  Gut check time: were we ready to roll the dice and spend the money?  Telling ourselves it’s only money (yeah, right), we decided to go for it. Continue reading “The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.”

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.”

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.”

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!”

Moving into the southern Abacos.

On Friday the weather had calmed down and we saw a good opportunity to go through the Whale on Saturday, so we said goodbye to our hidey hole for a welcome change of scenery.

The plan was to anchor at No Name Cay for the day and night, but as we approached I looked over and was entranced by the beach on the southern end of Green Turtle Cay near Gilliam Bay.  Jeff asked if I wanted to go there instead, but I said that we had already decided on No Name so we stayed the course.  I couldn’t stop looking over at the other beach though, which really did look much nicer, so we made a U turn and anchored by the prettier beach instead. 

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How could we pass this up?

We had the anchorage all to ourselves, and it was lovely.

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Continue reading “Moving into the southern Abacos.”

Our introduction to the Abacos.

After a good night’s sleep at Great Sale Cay, we shoved off again bright and early for Green Turtle Cay where we planned to check in with immigration and customs.  After getting our obligatory “rip roaring argument stemming from not putting the sails up in a long time so we’re rusty* (*Trademark)” fight out of the way, we had the sails raised and motorsailed the 57 nautical miles to Green Turtle.  It would have been nice to turn the engine off, but we wanted to have the anchor down before dark.  Now that we know how casual the check-in process is, next time we’ll sail as far as we can and simply arrive in Green Turtle on day three. Continue reading “Our introduction to the Abacos.”