Friday, February 8, 2013

Made It!

We crossed the Stream and made it to the Bahamas. A rather bland statement because it was a fairly benign crossing. We departed Palm Beach at 5 AM. The inlet there is deep, wide and well marked making that an easy task. We also had an outflowing tidal current pushing us along. The forecasts were for south winds and 2' seas. Well, early on there was no wind; but as we got a few miles out, there was a 6' swell. For us it was no big deal but it was definitely not forecast.

As the sun came up, the swell died down and we had a beautiful morning. Still no wind so we just motored.
Later in the morning we crossed paths with the US Navy. We took this as a very good luck sign, the ship is number 77! And you can see how smooth the seas are now.

 Later in the day the wind did pick up, but out of the ESE, not south. Fortunately I had chosen a slightly more southern direction when we first left the inlet. That was partially to compensate for the north flowing Gulf Stream but also to later in the day give us a better angle to the wind by turning ENE after leaving the Gulf Stream. And in the afternoon it paid off as we were able to put up both sails and pick up speed. It was a light wind so we kept motoring; motor-sailing.
Our depth sounder is good to about 600'. We were in 2500' most of the way across, and we thought Lake Huron was deep! But we would soon enough need the sounder back. In about 1 mile the depths go from over 1000' to about 20' as you cross onto the Little Bahama Bank. Our chartbook and our electronic chartplotter concurred on where there was good depth to cross. Much of the edge of the Bank is 2' to 4' but there are some gaps. Many charts are not accurate but our research led us to the Explorer charts which have a good reputation. We'd just had a report of a brand new catamaran ripping out its bottom following a recommended course line and hitting a 3' reef charted as over 8'. We don't have those charts!!
But still, it is rather disconcerting to clearly see the bottom rise up out of the deep. I had one eye glued to the depth sounder at all times. The other kept a watch on the chartplotter. The other kept an eye on the paper chartbook. The other watched engine gauges. The extra one took in the scenery.

We finally made it to our first stopping point, Mangrove Cay, a small uninhabited island that provides protection from the east winds. There is nothing within 50 miles, but there were 7 other boats with us anchored for the night.

There might have been a cocktail glass raised to toast our first Bahamian sunset.

The next morning we got going at 7AM after listening to the morning weather report on the SSB radio. AM, FM, TV, VHF don't pick up anything out here. SSB is the only way to go.
I decided to take the longer way east by going north of Great Sale Cay with deeper water on that route. Probably cost us an hour or two extra travel time. Didn't cost us anything in piece of mind though. Second night was spent behind Crab Cay. SSB weather report was for the wind to pick up overnight from the east and Crab Cay provided good protection from south to east. All that came to fruition and we had a comfortable night with 20 knot winds. The crescent moon provided very little light overnight so it was DARK! We had 2 other boats anchored nearby otherwise we would have had no reference points as to whether we were dragging anchor. Did I say it was dark? The stars were very bright. No pictures of that!

Our third morning of the crossing was still quite windy. But the islands and reefs that form the Sea of Abaco provided good protection all the way. So we only saw waves of around 2'. We had 20 miles to go to get to our check in destination at Green Turtle Cay and the town of New Plymouth. Unfortunately the wind was right on the nose, so once again we motored. We also saw a fair bit of rain along the way, great for washing off the salt spray. With perfect timing, the rain stopped and the wind died. The channel into Black Sound has only 5' at low tide so we anchored outside of New Plymouth around 2PM and launched the dink. I ran into the town dock and walked 2 blocks to the customs house to check in. I had a very pleasant time with the customs/immigration lady and got a fishing permit, a spear permit for lobster, a cast net permit for bait and of course our cruising permit. She gave me 120 days, usually they only give 60 to 90 days! $300. I zipped back to the boat just in time for the higher tide to enter Black Sound. But one last item to attend to before getting underway. We replaced our yellow Q, or quarantine flag for the courtesy flag of the Bahamas. We hoisted the Q flag when we entered Bahamas waters. We'll now fly the courtesy flag as long as we're in the Bahamas from the starboard spreader.
Here is a pic of the clear water where you can see a starfish next to our anchor in about 12' of calm water.

We squeezed into Black Sound and grabbed a mooring ball from Black Sound marina for only $10/day. We'll stay here for about a week. High winds are expected in a few days, remnants from the blizzard in the NE, USA. Time to go exploring the town and the surrounding area. Looking for a "Yo Taco" place for dinner next Thursday!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ready or not, we're crossing in the morning

This has been a long time coming. We're crossing the Gulf Stream Tue morning, bound for the Abacos Bahamas for about 3 months. This has been a big part of our plans for a very long time. We skipped going last winter as we ran out of time.

I think we're ready!
Topped up diesel in the main tank and all 4 extra jugs.
Filled 2 gasoline jugs plus the dinghy tank.
Filled both water tanks, plus every water container and jug we have. That includes 4 brand new 5 gallon jugs and we discovered 2 have leaks!
Made yet another trip to the grocery store. We keep going back and buying more and finding we have more space left. Here are some of the provisions:
8 NY strip steaks
18 chicken breasts
3 pork tenderloins
14 hamburgers
6 veggie burger packs
8 bags cheese
24 cans diced tomatoes
12 cans tomato sauce
12 cans olives
12 cans chicken
10 boxes tofu
6 cans black beans
20 cans various vegatables
12 bags coffee
5 jars pepper rings
12 bottles soda syrup
120 soda co2 cartridges
34 rice mix boxes
6 large rolled oats packages
16 bags pretzels
4 chex mix
5 bags corn chips
9 boxes crackers
2 goldfish
5 cases beer
2 cases water
10 bottles wine
3 boxes wine
12 rolls paper towels
12 rolls toulet paper
8 boxes kleenex

And a lot more odds and ends!

I did some upgrades to the insulation and weather seal on the freezer and it seems to have helped. Our wind and solar seem to be doing better at keeping up. Plus the engine drive freezer compressor kicks some serious BTUs. It's a good thing too. Our Honda generator quit putting out 110 volts yesterday. It runs just fine, but no juice! We're pressing on anyway. We have multiple systems and so this is a relatively minor setback. I hope to diagnose the problem once we get to the Abacos. I may have to have a part brought in from USA. Shipping alone will run around $100. Parts in the Bahamas will likely run double the price. We'll see how it goes...

The weather reports are for south winds. That should be good for us. Anything north sets up nasty, rough seas against the north flowing gulf stream.

We'll need 3 days to cross the gulf and go along the empty north side of Grand Bahamas island to Green Turtle Cay where we'll check in with customs & immigration. Then 3 months of clear blue water, sandy beaches, lobster spearing, fishing, sailing and who knows what else!!

We will post to this blog when we have wifi available.