Our trip …April 2016
As previous blogs have described, our maiden trip to the Bahamas this past April that Mike and I made in the Caliber (on our own, with no help…ok a little help from Chris Parker…weather router) was delayed a few days leaving Florida, due to northerly winds against the Gulf Stream. We had finally made our way to the blue waters of the Bahamas. Our plan was to pick up friends (Jeff and Cynthia) off Green Turtle Cay, make a few island stops, do some fishing and then return to GA. Much of our first 2 days was spent motoring into the wind, for every small change we made in the direction of the autopilot toward our destination, the wind seemed to follow right on our nose. We were fine with that, we remembered John’s advice for patience with the wind so knew the sails would be ready when the wind was. First stop was Great Sale Cay.
Our first anchorage in foreign waters. The island was mostly scrub bush and rock, but it was gorgeous to us. We had just completed an overnight sail out of West Palm Beach, 60 open ocean miles, then another 30 miles crossing the Little Bahama Bank. We found others there as well, sailboats and trawlers. As we anchored I wondered what their stories were. Where were they from? Had they done this before? Were they as excited as we were to be sailing? In the Bahamas? I would say that after that first 24 hours we could have shouted “we made it!”. I will also admit that this crew of 2 did some definite high fives that day.
We made our 4 pm radio contact with family to report our safe position. I was also enlightened to listen to radio traffic from as far away as North Dakota that afternoon in trying to make family contact.
We prepared a great dinner that night in celebration and shared a few glasses of wine as well. We slept soundly (no critters on the hull here!) regenerating our sleep batteries for another day of sailing (or motoring, depending on the decision of the wind gods as to which direction they will blow) to come. We slept well with the knowledge that all systems worked well. We had made a full day without any failures or malfunctions!
We awoke early the next morning to a beautiful sunrise across the bay. How great to arise rested, in peaceful waters. No cell phone alarms hailing the start of a new work day, no teleconferences, no appointments. It was a wonderful feeling…vacation. Thinking…. isn’t this is what vacations were made for? But we did have a destination and an appointment the following day to pick up friends who were making their way from the Midwest, and Florida our way. We needed to make hay while the sun shines as they say. We raised the anchor and were on our way. As usual, coffee was steaming not long after we made our way from the anchorage. Now this is not made in the usual fashion. We use a stainless coffee press, but of course must boil water on the stove while underway. Under good conditions this works well with fat seas, but with active waves and any wind this may be a challenge. We unlock the gambled stove and she moves with the motion of the ocean , as they say. So we can be at a 30 degree heel or take on a few waves or swells and we can successfully make hot coffee.
We passed several sailboats that day and made radio contact with a few inquiring about our boat and us about the conditions and weather reports. We played a game of guess that boat. We tried several times to get close enough to spy with the binoculars to identify the sailboat maker. Aside from keeping a navigation log, monitoring the clouds and wind, its what you do on a long day motorsailing. We tried to share nap time in the cockpit and below thru the day, resting up from our previously long sail out of Florida.
We had managed to travel about 50 miles that day, before we dropped anchor at ManJack Cay. (remember pr. “key”) We had read up on the hiking trails to the Atlantic side and up the bluff, but we were restricted to the boat because we had not checked in at customs yet. So, we planned instead to make this a stop on our way out of the Bahamas in several days. We finished our day planning our short sail to customs on Green Turtle Cay the next day.
We had a shorter sail the following morning to Green Turtle Cay where we planned to check into customs. It was a cloudy morning, and there was little wind as we motored into the anchorage on the west side of Green Turtle.
We spent part of that morning repairing a broken cockpit speaker. We had noticed it was not functioning several months previous, but it was probably the lowest on the list for repairs…get to it when we have downtime. Not an essential. More on fixing things to come in a future blog…..Once that was completed by noon Mike had decided it was time to head for customs.
We deployed the dinghy and he set off as I made preparations for guests that afternoon. He arrived during lunch hour and had to wait for their return. He presented our papers (passports, US boat documents, completed Bahamas cruising permit application ) and received our first cruising permit for the Bahamas!! We felt it quite ceremonious to be official cruisers of the Bahamas. It is then customary to raise and display the flag of the country where you are traveling as you take down the yellow quarantine flag (which you must display until you have cleared customs.)
Our destination to pick up friends was across the bay. We needed to anchor off the ferry dock, deploy the dinghy (again) and retrieve our guests. What could go wrong, we were experienced in doing this….
Just a Reminder……Boating Basics
#1: Ensure the anchor is set before leaving the boat.
#2 : Avoid anchoring where you might drag into a lee shore (that is the shoreline to which the wind is blowing, and there may be rocks which could wreck your boat).
#3: Assure all lines are on the boat when you engage the motor (to prevent wrapping of the prop.)
We had a bit of a south wind to tend with and headed off for the ferry dock on Great Abacos to pick up Jeff and Cynthia.
They had flown from Minneapolis to Orlando the day before. They then attempted to board a flight from there to Great Harbour, Abacos and were delayed (of course!), because they just had a one way flight, (they were leaving the country on Lost Loon back to GA, I guess not your typical expected departure mode) and being US citizens, they were not allowed to enter the country without proof of a way out.
We were out of contact (fixing things and actually checking into customs coincidentally) and could not give them any proof that we were transporting them back to the US. A simple refundable ticket out of the country sufficed to get them on board their final flight.
Although quite windy, we managed anchor successfully (we thought) just off the ferry dock and Mike went to retrieve them. Now, it is prudent to send the dinghy or a diver to check the anchor location to inspect the holding, but we figured we had a good hold and were only going to anchor for the short time it takes to retrieve our prospective guests. I will remind you again….it was pretty windy, and when there is wind in an anchorage , you worry about drifting or dragging anchor….
We all know, that as excitement takes over, the attention to detail takes second place and bad things happen. As Mike and the new crew approached I thought it funny they were coming in slow and to starboard, not where I thought they would land the dinghy. There was shouting…”Throw us a line!”, “Get the boat hook!”…now I know they were excited, but I can see the dinghy is loaded with gear, and I’m thinking, were all happy to be in the Bahamas…….saying to myself…(maybe out loud?) “don’t fool around, get the gear and people on board.” No, it wasn’t going to be easy. As they traversed the 200 ft from the ferry dock, the painter ( the rope from the bow of the dinghy) fell into the water and happily engaged itself to the dinghy prop. (this will invariably ALWAYS cause the forward motion of our secondary transportation to stall) The 2 became 1 and the dinghy was essentially helpless. The wind luckily sent them the way of Lost Loon where I was able to throw them a safety line and haul the wayward crew safely to the stern. Once aboard, we were stowing the new provisions and gear, I made notice out the starboard port that the trees were different on the shoreline, as I gazed to the stern and it seemed we were terribly closer to shore …….and I mentioned this to the Captain (Mike) that we were drifting and the anchor had come loose. He wasn’t able to attend to this issue because he was currently wrapped up in getting the dinghy up on the davits. So with Jeff at the helm, I pulled the anchor and were successfully motoring. Unfortunately, as much as success comes in 3’s so does disaster. About the time we thought the dinghy was safely stowed, something came loose as we began to motor and the whole thing tipped caddy-wampus and we came close to ripping our only transportation from ship to shore apart. Well…..maybe not that dramatic, but close.
We did manage to re-tie and secure the dinghy to the davits, pull the anchor from the depths, find a place for all the new gear, and were able to head off for our anchorage that afternoon with sails up!!!!!! It was glorious. We finally had a heading in which we also had a favorable wind to the starboard giving us a great beam reach. We celebrated having friends aboard and headed for Manjack Cay. We had heard the snorkeling spearfishing was pretty good there.
We ended the day with a great meal aboard, beautiful sunset, and belted out Purple Rain in memory of Prince that evening.