Hello, Bahamas!

Typically we cross to the Bahamas from Lake Worth and anchor at Great Sale Cay, then check in at Green Turtle (our friends on SV Cutting Class used that route for over a decade, so we copied them). We like leaving from Lake Worth because the current sets us north to enter the Little Bahama Bank at Memory Rock. Once we left from Miami and checked in at Bimini, but we didn’t like that route and won’t do it again.

This time however, we were in Vero when the Donald Ross Bridge north of North Palm broke down, preventing us from going inside to Lake Worth. We don’t have any problem with going outside between Fort Pierce and Lake Worth, but the closer you get to Lake Worth the more you start fighting the Gulf Stream which is a pain. With weather windows being what they are, often it’s easier to just suck it up and make the run inside – not an option with the bridge not opening and no sign of it re-opening for at least two weeks.

So now we were looking for a window that wouldn’t involve bashing into south winds so we could head south to Lake Worth before crossing. Amazingly we got it pretty quickly, so we waved goodbye to Vero Beach with a plan to head out the Fort Pierce inlet.

We got lucky and timed the Fort Pierce bridge perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. We had a little help from a patient bridge operator. But thanks to her we didn’t have to wait an extra 30 minutes. We were on our way with a plan to head south until we started fighting the Stream, then hang a left.

It’s always fun to finally start seeing ocean-colored water on the ICW as we approach Fort Pierce.

While we were motoring south, I commented to Jeff about how confident we’ve become over the past four years. We’ve gone from our first overnight being a huge deal of 120 nautical miles with great trepidation to “Eh, let’s see when the Stream starts pushing against us and then just go for it if we feel like it. It’s only 145 nautical miles from Vero.”

We had very calm conditions as we motored south down the coast.

Another thing that has changed for us is to start our watch system right away. We used to both stay up all day and then each take a four-hour shift for a single overnight, but that left us pretty tired. Our friends on Lone Star told us they start their watches immediately, so we tried it when we did our overnight to skip Georgia. What a difference! We both were substantially less tired in the morning, so we did it again this time with equal success.

It was an uneventful crossing, just the way we like it. The clear skies gave us plenty of stars to see by, and the bioluminescence kicked up by Pegu Club as she chugged along was so cool to see.

The crescent moon rose when Jeff was on watch, and he told me when I got up to switch shifts that he had forgotten all about it until he saw an orange dot on the horizon. At first he thought it was a ship, but as it was rising it got bigger and bigger, and he thought “What’s on fire over there??” Then the other point came up (because the crescent was at an angle) and he thought, “Duh! It’s the moon!” LOL!

Sunrise on the Little Bahama Bank.

We dropped the anchor at Great Sale around 30 hours after leaving Vero and grilled a celebratory boneless ribeye that we had bought specifically for this occasion before falling asleep around 7:30 p.m.

Absolutely gorgeous colors as the sun came up on Great Sale Cay.
The Q flag is up!

The next day we anchored at Crab Cay for the night, then we were off to Green Turtle so we could check in. Our season in the Bahamas had finally begun!

So would we cross from Fort Pierce again? Ideally, no. We were fighting the Stream quite a bit to make the necessary southing to go in at Memory Rock, and that’s not something we need to do when we leave from Lake Worth.

We could have entered the Little Bahama Bank a bit farther north, but we were coming in at night so we weren’t entirely comfortable doing that. Our route via Memory Rock is tried and true for us, so we didn’t mind entering at night that way.

Bottom line, leaving from Lake Worth works for us and it’s our number one choice. But if the Donald Ross bridge (or another bridge between Ft. Pierce and Lake Worth) breaks down again? Then we’d definitely leave from Fort Pierce vs. waiting the extra days for a repair. Under those circumstances, it’s definitely worth fighting the Gulf Stream for awhile!

What a sunset off of Crab Cay in the Abacos!

Time to head back to the states.

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.”

Hooked on Eleuthera.

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. 

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Before raising the anchor at Rock Sound, Jeff needed to get rid of this squid he found on the side deck, who had obviously seen better days.

Continue reading “Hooked on Eleuthera.”

A fortuitous decision.

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.”

A series of poor decisions.

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.

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A pretty sunset off of Rat Cay.

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.”

Escape from Red Shanks.

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.

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Passing the Three Sisters on the way to George Town.

Continue reading “Escape from Red Shanks.”

Next stop: The Exumas.

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.

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I never get tired of this view from “our” spot in Pipe Cay.

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.

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We found this lovely new-to-us beach on the northern part of Staniel Cay. Next time we’ll return with our snorkel gear and our swimsuits!

Weather can be so cool.  This picture was off the starboard side of the boat at Staniel one morning:

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And this was the view off the port side of the boat:

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A stop in Little Bay was next, along with a hike to the blow hole (which I find very entertaining) in Black Point:

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Thar she blows!

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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.

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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).  

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The water is so clear. When the wind drops off we could see the marks our anchor chain made.

 

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It’s always nice to be able to glance down and see how deep the anchor is buried.

 

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The dinghy looked like it was floating on air.

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.

Nine days in Rock Sound.

We spent almost a week and a half in Rock Sound before moving on to the Exumas.  We like Rock Sound quite a bit.  There are some things to see, it’s a very good place to stock up on groceries and supplies, and the anchorage is great – excellent holding, plenty of room regardless of the number of boats, and good all-around protection as long as you’re willing to move your boat depending on the wind direction.

It has been truly amazing at how few cruisers we’ve seen.  When we were in Rock Sound our first year there were probably 30 other boats.  This time we shared the anchorage with two others until a blow came in which raised the number of boats to a whopping six.

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We had one other cruising boat in our section of the anchorage until the day before a blow was forecasted.

Continue reading “Nine days in Rock Sound.”

Our first experience trying to buy parts in the Bahamas.

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They say that cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places, but we have been extremely lucky since cutting the dock lines.  Of course it helped that we did a complete refit on the boat before we left, but so far it’s been easy to find parts for the few minor repairs we’ve had.  Well, our luck officially ran out last month.

Over the summer we, unbeknownst to us, had some water in the gasoline that went into the water maker.  We discovered it over the summer when the water maker engine was coughing, just like the engine on our dinghy outboard did when we had water in that gas last winter in Red Shanks.  So we poured out the gas and proceeded to use the water maker without any issues.  Until. . . .

We went to start it when we were anchored in Royal Island, Eleuthera and saw that gasoline was leaking out of the carburetor.  After doing some inspecting, Jeff noticed that the bolts holding the carb in place were loose, so he carefully tightened them.  Now, Jeff used to be an air frames mechanic in the Marines so he knows how far he should tighten bolts.  So the only thing we can figure is that there was a quality control issue with the bolt, because it broke.

Continue reading “Our first experience trying to buy parts in the Bahamas.”

Moving on to Eleuthera.

Our plan for this season is to move to the Exumas via the Abacos and Eleuthera as quickly as the weather and circumstances allow.  It’s simply warmer in the Exumas.  Later in the spring as we head back north we’ll dawdle in Eleuthera and the Abacos, and we may also explore a bit farther afield in the interim. 

Regular readers may remember that our first year in the Bahamas we checked in at Green Turtle and followed the same path, having a great time and sailing most of the way.  Last year (our second year) we made the mistake of going to the Bahamas via Bimini, promptly got pinned down for a week due to weather, then had several days of lousy, crappy, constant motoring into headwinds until we finally landed at Staniel Cay in the Exumas.

This year we decided to switch back to year one’s route, and we can definitely say it’s the only way we’ll do it from now on.  Since arriving at Green Turtle it has been almost nothing but sailing.  The angle is simply better with the prevailing winds, and as an added bonus there are more places to stop along the way.

Continue reading “Moving on to Eleuthera.”