I just noticed that I hadn’t written a newsletter for a month – there is lots to tell you about.
We enjoyed our time in Vero Beach and even went for a swim there. The beach was lovely but I didn’t find many shells. From Vero Beach, we headed towards Lake Worth or Palm Beach area where the Vertigo I had friends to visit. We stayed in the area for a few days and then moved down the ICW to Ft Lauderdale. That was the most lift- bridges that we had ever seen in one day – 16!! Too many for us! We anchored in Lake Sylvia for 3 nights. The beach there is quite incredible and there were many people enjoying the sun and sand. The women were in tiny bikinis that Murray quite approved of. He certainly enjoyed the scenery.
From Lauderdale, we motor sailed on the outside to Miami, a distance of 24 miles. We had to go outside as there is a low fixed bridge between the two harbours. The wind was blowing quite hard and the waves tossed the boat around. Vertigo found out that they had to stow things better below as many items hit the floor.Diane said she couldn’t go below because it was “nasty down there”. The entrance to Miami is always rough and busy, but we lucked out and didn’t meet any cruise ships. Soon we were snuggly anchored off of the Miami Yacht Club. The club allowed us to use the showers and facilities for a small daily fee. We were soon given the scoop on dinghy docks, shopping, laundry and marine stores by boats that had been waiting for weeks to cross to the islands. We settled in to wait as well.
On three different occasions, we thought we had a window to head across the Gulf Stream. It is only 48 nautical miles as the crow flies, but the current forces you to sail another 15 miles at least. That still isn’t far and people wonder why it is such a big deal. If the wind is strong and against the current, the waves can be huge and very dangerous. The wind is also stronger in the stream. Each time the weather looked good, we filled the boat with water and fuel, hauled the dingy on deck, checked our grocery supply and moved the boat closer to the outlet to the sea. Each time, the window was slammed in our face!
Finally, as we were planning a dinner party, Herb the weather guru said there was a little opening. The radio came alive as boats decided whether to go or not. We opted to go. So, on Dec 21st at 9:30 at night, we pulled up our anchor. Vertigo had been in another anchorage for a few days, and hadn’t heard the radio calls until almost too late to join us. But, they decided to go for it and a flotilla of eight vessels picked their way out of Miami harbour in the dark. Tugs and pilot boats speeded past us. As we got closer to the entrance, the waves got wilder. But, Miami is always like this – at least that is what I told myself. On we went, into the dark ocean.
The waves were only 2 – 4 feet, with a large swell of approx 10 ft that tossed the boat side to side. The wind was 15 kts just below the bow and we were able to run the mainsail, which stabilized us slightly. Due to the wind and waves, we were unable to make our usual speed. With the current also against us, at times we only made 2-3 kts toward our destination. Vertigo turned back with sea sick crew, but we persisted. As dawn finally lit up the sky, we hoped to see the islands ahead but it wasn’t until 10 am that we actually made it through the cut between Cat Cay and Gun Cay. It is disconcerting to approach so close to a rocky shore after being in the deep blue. But, to safely enter the banks, it is necessary to come within 100 ft of the shore and follow the deeper water around the tip of Gun Cay. Then, you slip along the edge of a sand bar until reaching the deeper water of the Great Bahama Banks. I say deeper, but it is 10 – 15 ft deep and crystal clear!! It was wonderful to be in the turquoise water again. Now that the sun was up, we were wide awake , but attempted to nap a little.
The plan was to motor sail all the way to Northwest Channel mark ( which is only a piece of I-beam sticking out of the water ). There we would anchor and sleep for the night, then proceed to Nassau the next day. But, the weather report didn’t look good for the next few days and we needed to keep moving. So, we anchored and napped for a few hours. At midnight, using radar and computer charting, Windswept IV led the way around the marker, between the coral heads and out into the Northwest Channel. It felt as though we were back in the Gulf Stream!! The wind was still 15 + knots on the nose and the waves were “confused”. I thought to myself “These waves aren’t just confused, they are insane!!”. We used the mainsail to steady the boat again and headed toward Nassau, a distance of 50+ miles .When we were still 20 + miles out, Murray was on the ham radio with his usual morning routine calls. But, when he keyed the mike, the auto helm went nuts and took the boat around in a complete 360 degree turn. I was on watch and as you can imagine, the air got a trifle blue for a while. During the last hour or two, every five minutes a wave would crash over the head of the person on watch. Luckily for me, Murray had volunteered to keep a look-out at that time.
At approx noon, Dec 23rd, we called Nassau Harbour Control for permission to enter the harbour. By the time we had cleared customs and immigration, we were so tired that we decide to stay on a dock for the night. With unlimited water, we washed all the salt off of the boat. Then off of ourselves. And then went to sleep. We had slept approx 3 – 4 hours since Monday am. Not near enough! I was staggering as I walked down the dock.
Many of our friends had been in contact with us on radio as we arrived in Nassau. As soon as we left the dock in the morning and anchored in the basin, dinghies headed our way. Very shortly, there was an impromptu party here. A group of friends had Christmas dinner planned and included us in the invitation. So, Christmas Day after a little swim around the boat we joined 12 other boaters for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It was lovely. Earlier we had managed to call my mom, Steve and Murray’s mom to exchange greetings. We left a Christmas message on Jeremy’s phone.At 830 am, I served as net control for the Cruisheimers Radio Net on 8152 SSB. I was very nervous as this was a new experience for me. It went well. All in all, it was a lovely day spent with good friends.
That night was Junkanoo. Junkanoo is a sort of Mardi Gras- type celebration with parades, music, and costumes. But, it takes place in the middle of the night. That’s ok, cause we are now used to being up all day and night. We napped for a while,and set the alarm for midnight. How do I describe this scene? We walked towards downtown until the sidewalks became almost impassible. Then, we found a spot where even I could see. The costumes are made of crepe paper, feathers, sparkles etc and some are the size of a parade float. But that float is carried by one man – spelled off by many others. There would be 3 or 4 such huge floats followed by many walkers with huge structures on their shoulders. Some even had lights flashing on them. Then there would be bands of drums, cow bells, whistles and conch horns. The marchers would dance down the street. It was an incredible sight. We stayed for 3 hours and then the vee-berth called to us.
Boxing Day excitement was provided by a 50′ catamaran anchored nearby. Well, he thought he was anchored and left the boat. Murray realized that the boat was drifting past our stern ,being carried by the strong current. He dinghyed over and saw that the anchor didn’t even touch the bottom!! He climbed aboard and with many other dinghies pushing on the hull, steered the boat to a new spot and re-anchored it. A digital photo was taken of the event and we hope to have it sent to our web site.
So, here we are in the islands again and e-mail with be difficult . We will try to connect monthly to up-date. The current plan is to spend 10 days or so in Nassau and then slowly travel down the Exuma chain towards George Town, Great Exuma. We should arrive there by the end of Jan or early Feb. But, the web site should have updated position reports, so you can track our progress.
All is well with us here and I hope that everyone had a great holiday and wish all the best for ’99.
Love to all, Heather
Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV
Ham Radio VE3 ZUA