And just like that, the weather turned.

We had been at the marina in Belhaven for a week and had a one-day window to get up the Alligator River and across the Albemarle. If the weather was accurate, we’d be in Elizabeth City by the end of the day. If not, we’d be at the Alligator River Marina for at least three nights – if not longer.

Albemarle Sound is 50 miles wide (from east to west) and anywhere from 5-14 miles long (north to south).  It’s deepest water is only 25 feet, but the route cruisers follow to get to Elizabeth City or Coinjock is generally about 10 -15 feet deep and 10 miles across.  Because it’s so long and so shallow, any wind over 15 knots creates a nasty chop and tends to be a no-go for most boaters.  On our first trip south we had 15-18 knots from behind and we surfed our way across, making a note never to cross it in winds over 15 knots (although we’d be willing to bump it up a tad once again if the wind was on our stern).  Our forecast was for 15 knots from the northeast and dropping throughout the day, so with a reservation in hand at the Alligator River Marina in case it proved necessary, we set off with all of our fingers crossed. Continue reading “And just like that, the weather turned.”

Shaking off the cobwebs.

Yes, it’s true.  We finally had a window and we could hop outside, bypassing Georgia entirely.  We had debated stopping at Cumberland Island but decided we wanted to get to Vero sooner rather than later.  It wasn’t a long window so we weren’t going to be able to come inside further south than the St. Johns inlet (which leads to Jacksonville), but that was good enough for us.

The night before we left was going to be our coldest of the trip at 42 degrees.  Since we planned to leave at dawn and anticipated a travel night with temperatures in the mid-50’s, we dug out our cold weather clothes for the first time in a year.  We don’t use them much any more, but we sure are glad we have them! Continue reading “Shaking off the cobwebs.”

Back to the U.S.

Once we made the decision to head back to the U.S., we had to get the boat ready for a passage. The forecast showed excellent conditions for sailing most of the way which was good because we wanted to make the trip non-stop from Lee Stocking, and we didn’t have enough diesel to motor the whole way. Some of the marinas in the Bahamas were closing so access to fuel wasn’t guaranteed.

Being able to use the white floppy things on our boat is always our first choice, and now we were REALLY glad we had them vs. owning a motor boat and being dependent on fuel. An added bonus was that our weather window was several days longer than what we needed, giving us added flexibility to creep along under sail if the wind was lighter than forecast. We really couldn’t have asked for a better situation, giving us the additional confidence that we were making the right decision.

The wind had been blowing 20+ knots for several days (a theme for our stay this year), so we wanted to stay on the bank side of the Exumas. We were going to need some help from the tides to pull that off because heading north on the banks from Lee Stocking requires boats to go through the Pimlicos, which is shallower than what our boat draws. Fortunately a quick check of the tide tables showed they were in our favor, sparing us from very boisterous conditions on the Sound side. With everything stowed and the jacklines installed, we set the alarm to leave at sunrise on Saturday.

Continue reading “Back to the U.S.”

An unholy body of water.

It was another fun ride down the East River from Port Washington.  High winds the day before had stirred up the water but it wasn’t noticeable until after we went under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.  Then it was VERY sloppy for a few hours with the wind on our nose and against the current until we were inside the tip of Sandy Hook.  45 minutes later we were anchored in our regular spot behind the Atlantic Highlands break wall (I think three visits makes it a regular spot, don’t you?).

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Getting closer.
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Rikers Island

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We’ll just stay out of this guy’s way as he makes his way towards New York Harbor.

Now I will readily admit that I was NOT looking forward to going down the Jersey coast.  Even though we had a windless, uneventful trip from Cape May to Atlantic Highlands a few months ago, this was going to be the same direction as our trip from hell last fall, and it was absolutely messing with my mind.  My nerves were NOT helped when I saw the waves near the hook as we went inside towards Atlantic Highlands.  

Continue reading “An unholy body of water.”

A tale of two passages – part two.

We had hoped to get off to an early start for our second passage, but the slip that Beach Marine had put us in was bit too shallow for our draft.  We were going to need to wait for the tide to float us off.  On the plus side, we knew this ahead of time so we were able to sleep in a bit. 

By 10:00 a.m. we were off, fighting the current up the ICW towards the St. John’s inlet.  It took us much longer to get into the ocean than we had hoped (making only 3.5 knots against the current will do that to you), but finally we were out and on our way.  Well, almost. 

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

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.”